Claudia’s knitting club combines conversation and charitable deeds

Published on 13 June 2024

AccessCare client Claudia.

AccessCare client Claudia isn’t exactly sure how she came to manage her retirement village’s knitting group.

“I didn’t start the group; it was already here when I moved in. Then the lady who was running it needed to move into permanent care, and for some reason, I got the job,” says Claudia.

That’s not to say Claudia wasn’t a qualified candidate for the position – on the contrary, she came with a very impressive resume filled with knitting exploits.

“I started life knitting during the Second World War, when I was only little,” says Claudia with a smile. “Over the years, even when I was working, I used to make rugs for homeless people and for women's shelters. And I knitted teddy bears for the emergency services, which they give to children so they’re more comfortable with what's happening.

“At one stage I also ran a business with a friend of mine knitting garments, which we sold at the Dingley Market.”

Upon accepting the top job at the knitting club, Claudia decided to shake things up a bit. While the group had previously focused on knitting blankets, Claudia, with the support of her neighbour, suggested that the club should instead start knitting beanies for premature babies at the Monash Hospital.

“And so that’s what we’ve been doing [for the past few years],” says Claudia. Each month, the group will come together to knit and chat, and then each member will continue knitting at their own pace until the next meeting, when all the beanies are collected.

Every month, Claudia will contribute about 30 to 35 beanies herself.

“Knitting is very relaxing,” she explains. “I taught both my sons to knit when they were little, and one of them still knits, particularly when he needs to unwind after a horrific day at work.

“It's a repetitive thing, which just eases life.”

Claudia explains that a shared love of knitting is one of the reasons she looks forward to visits from her support worker, Narelle.

“Narelle knits and does a lot of craft, and she shares those interests with me when she's here doing the cleaning. She'll bring along things that she's done, which is good. She makes these little houses, and every time she finishes one, she brings it along to show me. It’s nice to share crafting activities.”

After a pause, Claudia continues with a laugh, “I have to add, I can't sit and do nothing. I can watch television, but I still have to be using my hands.”

This constant restlessness might also explain why Claudia finally relented and somewhat reluctantly took on the management of her village’s gardening club as well.

“I inherited that too. After the lady who ran it left the village, people kept on saying, you know, we had a gardening club, would you like to run it? And I held off and held off and held off and then in the end, I said, ‘Okay, I'll try’.”

As Claudia explains, the gardening club doesn’t do any manual work, but instead, they approach gardening from historical and social points of view.

“One of the talks I've done was about plants in our life, and the fact that when you’re born, mum gets flowers, and when you're married, you get flowers, and then when you die, you get flowers. Throughout the whole of our lifetime, plants in some way are ritually a part of our lives.”

This new role has also enabled Claudia to learn a few fun facts herself.

“Last week I did a talk on trees, and found out things like the Quandong tree is actually a sandalwood, and that a palm tree isn’t a tree, it’s a tall grass,” says Claudia. “Just funny things like that.”

On top of this, Claudia is also a member of her village’s discussion group, which meets for an hour and a half each month for members to talk about anything and everything – just “no religion, no politics.”

“All the clubs here are social, which is important,” says Claudia. “We do more chatting than knitting when we come together each month!”

However, what little spare time she does have, she dedicates to writing books and letters for her two grandchildren, who live in England.

“When our first grandson was born, [my late husband] and I together recorded our childhood: what Christmas was like, what going to school was like and all those sorts of things, and put them into a book for our grandson. And I also made up stories and illustrated them and put them in the book, and then we sent it over to him,” says Claudia.

She’s currently working on a similar book for her second grandson, although this one will be from her son’s point of view. “I'm going to tell him all about his father's childhood and the naughty things he got up to,” laughs Claudia.

In addition to these very special keepsakes, Claudia also likes to write her grandchildren letters, which she sends to them in the post.

“We do Skype a lot, but every now and then I'll sit down and write them a six-page letter. I love the English language. I love words. And I can explain myself better on paper.

“Some people have trouble writing, and I've always said to them, ‘Just pretend you're talking to that person, and write as if you’re talking’. And it just comes out. You don't have to sit there and design a story, you just have a chat with them.”

While Claudia’s calendar might be busier than ever these days, she’s not complaining too much about the abundance of social clubs available in her village.

“I love people. I worked until I was 73 [as a nurse] and that’s what I miss the most. I miss people. I don’t know why but I do,” she says with a good-natured chuckle. “I just like being around people and doing things with people and having fun with people.

“So, I’ll manage these groups for as long as I can. I’ll moan and grumble, but I’ll do it!”

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