Knitting Ninjas – stealthily sparking memories and joy

A stealthy gang of formidable locals is meeting weekly at Connect Health & Community to revive slumbering skills from their past and build a bright new outlook for the future.

Our crafty Knitting Ninjas are ready to tackle anything (left to right): Jean Darby, Rita Mayevsky,  Peter Sundernann, Fay Kayser, Rita Polasek, Zygmunt Braun, Val Marney and Vicki Collins.

They’re The Knitting Ninjas and after a year of re-connecting with near-forgotten talents, this impressive group has seen a re-embraced hobby turn into a powerful force for good, happiness and wellbeing.

The art of knitting was quickly rekindled for our crafty ninjas.

One of our Social Support Groups, the project developed in late 2019 as part of an effort revive some older clients’ prior interest in knitting.  Many had not knitted for up to 30 years, but after the needles and wool came out it was like they had never stopped.

Social Support Group co-ordinator, Brooke, said the project was the perfect activity to spark memories and joy.

“The good thing about reviving and old skill is that it is not affected by short-term memory loss.  Often our clients live with dementia so their short term memory is impaired and they have trouble learning new skills.  But knitting taps in to their long-term memories and skills, so we could support them as they reconnected with these memories and were able to begin knitting squares,” she said.

Brooke said that seeing the clients so engrossed in the activity and so happy with their finished squares, prompted us to investigate how we could turn the activity in to a meaningful project.

The Ninjas decided to use their rekindled skills to help others.

“We spoke to our clients about what we could do with these newly rediscovered skills and decided to continue knitting squares so we could create blankets to donate to both homeless support groups and animal shelters (depending on the size of the blankets),” she said.

Brooke said the enthusiasm was overwhelming, with all day centre-based social groups getting on board.

“Even some of the men have had a try at knitting and those who didn’t knit, helped by sorting and placing squares into blanket designs,” Brooke said.

Jean and Vicky enjoy a laugh while getting crafty.

And to pull all the squares together, the team called on its two Ninja Masters who crocheted the pieces together, in between knitting blankets of their own.

But like all things that kicked off in 2019, a little thing called COVID reared its ugly head and threatened to thwart the great work of the team as our social groups were suspended.

However, the word ‘ninja’ derives from the Japanese characters "nin" and "ja" – meaning ‘persevere’ and that is exactly what these Knitting Ninjas did.  Not even a world-wide pandemic could stop them.

“Our clients were hooked and wanted to continue the project, so we began sending out wool and needles with the fortnightly activity packs we delivered to clients. This enabled them to while away the lockdowns with a meaningful activity and provided a great distraction from the challenging times,” Brooke said.

Social Support Group co-ordinator Brooke and Vicky prepare for another stealth knitting session.

And as we emerge through the other side, the project is back up and running in person, having offered so many benefits to the Social Support Group clients taking part.

“The benefits of The Knitting Ninjas has been overwhelming. Our clients have received validation of life skills, they have gained an opportunity to give back to the community, been given purpose and value, and the group has created a sense of belonging and a common goal for everyone taking part,” Brooke said.

“On top of that, the act of knitting is great for dexterity, hand-eye coordination and cognitive function. It is also relaxing and fun!” she said.

As we head into winter Brooke said the group would welcome any donations of wool the community might have to share.

“We have been so lucky to have had much of our wool donated but we’ve used so much yarn and as things get cooler we would greatly appreciate any more wool that people have spare,” she said.

And as the chill sets in, the Ninjas will soon be providing their woollies to Sacred Heart Mission and a local animal shelter – enabling this project of passion to bring love and comfort to others too.

If you are able to donate wool to The Knitting Ninjas, or are interested in a Social Support Group please call us on 03) 9575 5333.

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