Who knew that live knitting had become a spectator sport?
A small circle of Taihape knitters and needle crafters have found themselves a source of fascination to tourists as they meet for regular sessions at Taihape town venues.
“A lady from the Netherlands said she had never seen people doing knitting and needlework in a public place and asked if she could take our photo,” Monique Sole said.
“The locals all enjoy seeing us and stop to say ‘hello’ as well. It’s heartwarming.”
Monique does needlepoint work rather than knitting and said it was her mum Lesley who was the knitting champ.
“I’ve never learned to knit but Mum can finish a jersey in a day.”
Lesley, Monique and their friend Carolyn Leslie are a regular sight in the window seat at the Crystal Bar Tearooms & Bakery on Taihape’s main drag, Hautapu St. They meet several days a week to work on the items they make for charity.
Following a kitchen fire at the Crystal Bar in September, the business had to close for three weeks so the group were offered a temporary venue at Caught Short Secondhand Shop around the corner in Tui St.
The Chronicle found them there with a small Christmas tree and tea tray on the table as they busily plied their needles.
“When the Crystal Bar re-opened, [Caught Short] said they’d miss us so we come here one day a week and other days we go to the tearooms,” Lesley said.
“We are very well looked after at both places. Everyone knows that we’re doing the work for charity and they cheer us on.”
The charity they are supporting, Challenge 2000, is a Wellington-based youth development, community and family social work agency.
Lesley said she discovered the organisation while teaching literacy classes at Rimutaka Prison.
“I mentioned to one of the staff that I wished I‘d brought my knitting with me and he said if I wanted to donate my work he knew of a worthwhile charity.
“Every year my husband and I drive down with jerseys we’ve made and the donations we’ve collected. We collect bedding, clothing and things suitable for Christmas presents and take it all down to their premises in Johnsonville.”
Working with impressive speed, Lesley barely looked at her needles and said her knitting went everywhere with her.
“I knit in the car while my husband is driving and while I’m watching the stockcars. I very seldom go anywhere without my knitting.”
Carolyn said she was not a constant knitter until she met Lesley, who had inspired her.
“I love the company and all the people we meet when we’re here or at the tearooms,” she said.
Caught Short assistant Tania Paikea said customers loved seeing the group at work while browsing in the shop.
“We love having them here,” she said.
“It’s heartwarming for us and for our customers.”
Crystal Bar owner Meng Keo said the group had a similar effect at her premises.
“We missed them while we were closed and it was very nice to welcome them back when we reopened.”
Liz Wylie is a multimedia journalist for the Whanganui Chronicle. She joined the editorial team in 2014 and regularly covers stories from Whanganui and the wider region. She also writes features and profile stories.