Chemistry Department's Knitting Outreach Initiative Warms Hearts and Tiny Heads

04 Oct 2023 | By Laa-iqa Rylands
knitting wool and woolen patches
04 Oct 2023 | By Laa-iqa Rylands

In a heartwarming tale of camaraderie and compassion, the UCT Chemistry Department has turned lunch breaks into a time of creativity and community building through their knitting outreach initiative. What initially began as casual "Thursday lunchtime stitching sessions with Jo" quickly evolved into a remarkable effort with profound impact.

The Chemistry Department's knitting initiative, started by Jo Polzin, commenced in March 2023. Staff and students were invited to the department's tea room every Thursday during lunchtime, where they were offered free knitting and crocheting lessons. This simple idea blossomed into more than just a knitting club; it became a space where colleagues could come together, share stories, and form connections beyond their academic roles. Conversations flowed freely, research challenges were discussed, and triumphs were celebrated, all while the sound of needles clicking filled the air.

The initial goal of the Thursday lunchtime stitching group was to create 15 x 15cm squares, which were expertly stitched together to craft beautiful blankets. Some members who couldn't find the time to knit generously donated funds, which were then used to purchase additional wool. To raise money for more supplies, a raffle was organized, with the coveted prize being a stunning crocheted blanket sponsored by the talented Blommie Filmer.

As the initiative gained momentum, it extended its reach to include knitting baby beanies. The entire department rallied behind this noble cause, including the friends and family of staff and students who enthusiastically joined in. Notably, two laboratory assistants, Carol Stanley and Joey Paulse, went above and beyond by knitting numerous squares and beanies. Their commitment was so unwavering that they even knitted during their bus commutes and during periods of loadshedding, making this project a true labor of love and dedication. Blommie Filmer, known for her exceptional crochet skills, contributed to the initiative by donating exquisite blankets that her late mother had lovingly crafted. 

In the end, the Chemistry Department's knitting outreach initiative yielded an impressive bounty: 154 baby beanies, 15 vests, and 21 blankets, all handcrafted with love and compassion. These warm and cozy items were donated to the Oncology ward at Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital and Mowbray Maternity Hospital, providing comfort and solace to the tiniest members of the community. 

The Chemistry Department's knitting outreach initiative serves as a beautiful reminder that small acts of kindness can have a significant impact. Beyond the warmth these knitted items provide, the bonds formed among colleagues and the sense of purpose fostered within the department are invaluable contributions to the academic and social fabric of the university community. Jo's simple idea has truly turned into something great, knitting together not only blankets and beanies but also the hearts of those involved.