LOVELY YARN: The Fenland knitters who send teddies to needy children across the globe
SWAMPED in her lounge by a bundle of jumpers, blankets and teddies, this is the 88-year-old leader of Fenland’s knitting army.
For the last 14 years, Grace Pepper, of Wisbech St Mary, has been coordinating a group of more than 20 keen knitters from the Fens.
Together they have sent more than 2,000 hand-stitched jumpers, 1,700 teddies and hundreds of blankets to children living in poverty across the world.
Their needlework has been shipped to countries all over the globe, including Hungary, Romania, Kosovo, Turkey, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Serbia and Sri Lanka.
The knitters donate their work to children who have nothing through charities such as Teddies for Tragedies, Hamlin Fistula and Mercy Ships.
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Grace said: “I couldn’t tell you how much time we’ve spent knitting over the last 14 years. The ladies love doing it.
“Even after all this time I still love to knit as much as when I first started, perhaps even more.
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“It’s just unbelievable to think that things we knit in the Fens have gone to children all over the world. It is fantastic.
“Some people say it can be as a good as a dose of medicine for the children to get a teddy. They have never had anything. No toys, nothing.”
The group started their charity knitting through rotary and inner wheel clubs.
Grace has a folder full of thank-you letters which have poured in from children and charity leaders over the last decade.
Her home is submerged in wool, with Fenland knitters frequently dropping off their handiwork ready to be shipped out.
Fellow Wisbech St Mary residents Jan Cole, Joyce Roughton and Dorothy Bryant are among the prolific contributors.
Jan said: “I think one of the most magical things is that with each teddy bear we make, we also produce a bag to keep it in. These are for children in terrible places and the idea of the draw-string bag is so that it can hang on their beds.
“Grace is 88. She still goes dancing and indoor bowling and she is still as passionate about this as ever. She deserves some recognition.”
Grace often spends money buying special stuffing for the teddies. She has even created her own trademark - stitching a scarf on all the bears she knits so that she can recognise her work.
The knitting group takes donations of wool and material to help them continue their work. Donations can be made by contacting Grace on 01945 410794.
Grace said: “If anybody ever offers me wool I don’t refuse it.
“Thanks to people past and present who have knitted for me and all those who have donated material. Without them I couldn’t do it.
“I’m very proud of all the knitters who have spent so much time doing this. Some of them knit in the middle of the night.
“I knit until 11pm every night. I keep the television on but I’m never looking at it!”