Feeling their way with toys
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.