Lunch-time group knits for charity

knitting group

The Needle Knockers include, from left: Patricia McDonnell, senior business analyst in Information Technology Services; Sharon Smith; Jo Stewart and Gail Higenell. In the foreground are samples of the dolls they are knitting for Swazi children.

Sometimes they talk about vacations. Sometimes they talk about their families. Sometimes they talk about their projects, whether it be shawls or sweaters or wool hats for their friends.

Lately, though, they’ve been talking about Africa.

In a quiet, remote classroom in the Thistle complex, a group of Brock women meet to knit. Two lunch hours a month, they gather under the informal moniker of the Needle Knockers, meeting to chat while labouring on their works of art. The group is currently working on knitted shawls, dolls and animal toys for Brock Nursing students to take to Swaziland in the spring.

The group, which ranges from two to six people depending on the week, was formed about six years ago. Jo Stewart, administrative officer in the Faculty of Social Sciences, held a knitting workshop for Wellness Day. At the end of the session, she invited anyone interested to regularly meet for an hour of camaraderie and knitting. They have met two Tuesdays a month ever since.

In early July, Stewart read a Brock News story about a group of Nursing students who traveled to Swaziland to do home visits and clinics in the underserviced country. The students distributed knitted dolls, and a photo of a mother and child with one of the dolls appeared on the Brock News site.

The image was moving, Stewart said. “It made me realize how much we have to offer just sitting around a couple of hours a month.”

She contacted Professor Melanie Stansfield, one of the trip organizers, to volunteer the group’s efforts. Stansfield suggested shawls for the grandmothers, many of whom are caring full time for young children because the middle generation has been devastated by AIDS. Stewart and company are also knitting animals (they have lion and elephant patterns) and dolls.

The group would like other knitters at Brock to join them. They welcome new regular group members or fair-weather knitters who would just like to help with the Swaziland project.

They also welcome donations of scrap yarn, said Gail Higenell, a senior lab instructor in Oenology and Viticulture.

“I’m sure there are lots of knitters out there with one spare ball of yarn.”

The group has knitters of various skill levels. The women enjoy the reprieve from their busy days.

“It’s truly a break,” Higenell said. “There’s a rush of creativity in the room and I feel invigorated when I go back to work.”

Sharon Smith, circulation clerk in the Faculty of Education’s Instructional Resource Centre, agrees.

“It’s a type of meditation.”

Anyone interested in the project or the group can contact Stewart at

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