Feel­ing their way with toys

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By MATTHEW DAL­LAS

Blind chil­dren in Christchurch will ben­e­fit from the handy, but in many cases, sight­less sewing of a Ti­tahi Bay ladies group.

Each Tues­day about 18 women meet at St Ti­mothy’s Hall to sew and stuff soft toys.

All are mem­bers of the Royal New Zealand Foun­da­tion of the Blind, and are vis­ually im­paired in some way.

Nor­mally the ladies make teddy bears and other cud­dly crit­ters for grand­chil­dren, great-grand­chil­dren, or for them­selves, but co­or­di­na­tor Hazel Dry­burgh says they ‘‘de­cided to have a change and do some­thing for some­one else’’.

When Kapi-Mana News vis­ited last week, there was just one more toy to stuff be­fore 15 items were shipped to Christchurch and do­nated to the Blind Chil­dren’s Char­i­ta­ble Trust.

Also head­ing south were knit­ted dolls and cloth­ing made by mem­bers of the lo­cal Care and Craft Cen­tre, which amal­ga­mated with the Foun­da­tion for the Blind group in the late 1980s to con­sol­i­date mem­ber­ship.

Hazel says her group has spent the last two to three months mak­ing the toys for Christchurch kids.

Given the toys are made for the blind and by the blind, tac­tile qual­i­ties are to the fore.

‘‘Some new mem­bers say they can’t sew be­cause they can’t see, but they can feel their way.’’

Hazel buys the ma­te­rial and cuts out the toys, while an­other wo­man tacks the fab­ric. An over­sewing tack is used, which loops over the edge of the fab­ric, rather than a run­ning tack in line with the edge, so the ladies can feel the thread bet­ter.

‘‘For each toy there is about 90 min­utes’ work be­fore they’re given to the mem­bers to sew, so it’s quite a process. But I en­joy help­ing peo­ple achieve some­thing they wouldn’t or­di­nar­ily achieve.’’

Be­tween the sewing and the stuff­ing, there is con­stant chat­ter among the ladies, and no doubt there have been as many friend­ships made as nee­dles threaded.

One wo­man, Doris Finch, has been go­ing along for 20 years – as has the odd man out, Gary Smith.

He doesn’t sew but drives some of the women to and from the hall, and at­tends to guide dogs in need of a walk or re­lief.

‘‘He’s one of the best blokes around,’’ says Ann Mc­Kee, co­or­di­na­tor for the Care and Craft Cen­tre.

The kind trib­ute does not pre­vent a cheeky Mr Smith warn­ing Kapi-Mana News our cam­era would shat­ter if we pho­tographed ‘‘all these old ducks’’.

The Foun­da­tion of the Blind also runs an in­door bowls group at Onepoto Do­main on Tues­day morn­ings.

Soft touch: Be­ing vi­sion-im­paired doesn’t stop Heather Tofts and Natalie Clarke from mak­ing teddy bears and other chil­dren’s toys. The lat­est batch from their group is be­ing sent to blind chil­dren in Christchurch.

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