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    « Dinner with Louis | Main | Hayes Theatre alive with musical hits »
    Monday
    Sep222014

    The Kings Cross Knit Wits

    Morning tea with the Kings Cross Knit Wits

    Gina Machado meets a group of women knitting to help the less fortunate ... Needles and yarns working to create warming Wraps with Love 

    THE table is a jumble of balls of yarn. Around it sits a wealth of local knowledge and history.

    Each Monday morning the ladies of the Kings Cross Knit Wits gather at the Rex Centre to spend time together, share stories of local goings-on and, most intentionally, to knit. 

    They work with all colours of yarn but here they knit only one thing: 25cm squares.

    Those squares are batched into groups of 28 and sewn together as four rows of seven - the size and shape chosen to be suitable for a single bed. The end products are destined for Wrap with Love, a not-for-profit organisation that arranges for the "wraps" to be distributed to those who need warmth, both in Australia and overseas.

    The Kings Cross Knit Wits have been knitting squares and sewing them up into wraps for 10 years, having started at the Reginald Murphy Community Centre in 2004. 

    So far this year, they've produced 40 wraps; last year, 66. Their record is 139 in a year.

    Group founder and convener Annette Bennett, who moved to Potts Point in 1966 and has been a local ever since, says there are typically 10 to 15 women at the weekly sessions. Mostly they're aged 60-plus; the oldest will soon be 90. 

    "It's a bit of a women's circle," she explains. 

    They're certainly a convivial group, with ready smiles and good-natured banter - even as they check their stitches. They advocate the benefits of knitting - one even recommended it for those at risk of diabetes as "they get busy knitting and don't go to the fridge so much". 

    Another volunteers to take-up the task of knitting special kangaroo squares that have often been included, one per wrap, to reinforce the gifts' Australian origins. 

    Wrap with Love was created in 1992 by Sonia Gidley-King, an Elizabeth Bay local, who was inspired by a TV news story about the effects of civil war in Mozambique. 

    From then, until her death in 2010, Gidley-King worked tirelessly to recruit volunteer knitters and build the distribution partnerships necessary to get the wraps to people who need them. 

    Her work was recognised with the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1997 and she was a finalist in the Senior Australian of the Year NSW nominations in 2008. 

    Wraps with Love are sent all over the world

    Since its inception, Wrap with Love has dispatched nearly 370,000 wraps - that's more than 10 million knitted squares - that have ended up in about 75 countries, as far afield as Argentina and Mongolia, South Africa and Ukraine. 

    Within Australia, wraps have been distributed to organisations such as the Salvation Army's Oasis network for the homeless and to the SISTER2Sister program for vulnerable teenage girls.

    Annette Bennett was one of Sonia Gidley-King's early recruits, having struck-up a friendship after meeting at a fete in 1993. Now she's a "proselytiser" for Wrap with Love and is just as keen to promote its founder's memory and achievement, suggesting that someone ought to write a book about her life.

    It's an enthusiasm clearly shared by Gidley-King's children, Annie, Fiona and Robert. All three, along with Fiona's daughter Sarah and grandson Oliver, turned up to support a recent "knit-in" at the Kings Cross Library, bringing along old family photographs. 

    They took turns reading from the speech that Annie had given at their mother's funeral; memories of entertaining at Elizabeth Bay Road and active involvement in the neighbourhood. 

    The project relies on some 25,000 knitters around Australia making the wraps to donate to Wrap with Love. Of course, that means not just labour but having the yarn too.

    "Each wrap uses $30 to $40 of yarn," Annette Bennett explains, so donations are much appreciated. "Yarn must be acrylic, as it's easier to wash, and 8ply is the best." 

    Local women are welcome to join the Knit Wits at the Rex Centre on Mondays from 10am to 12:30pm. Knitters who can't attend may donate loose squares and finished wraps that fit the specifications. 

    Gina Machado reporting

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