While lockdown may have separated them for now, one group of students in County Cork have stuck to their knitting, putting their crafty hobby to good use.
Students in Glanmire Community College, together with help from their local community, have knitted more than two dozen ‘Blankets of Hope’ for people undergoing chemotherapy.
Many people mightn’t associate teenagers with knitting, according to Marie McInerney, a teacher at the secondary school in Glanmire: “Sometimes people think that teenagers are only ever on their phones but when you're knitting, your hands are busy and you'll always chat away."
As school chaplain, she accompanied a group of students to the cinema last year, bringing with her a piece she was knitting together with her friends.
When some of her students expressed an interest in taking up knitting, she thought they might have been having a laugh at first: “After the cinema, some of the students saw me with my knitting and said ‘Oh Miss, we’d love to do that'. Now, I thought they were having a laugh, but I said — ‘No problem girls, this is the wool you need to get, these are the needles, you can get them in Vibes and Scribes in town' and low and behold — they did."
When the school's local Active Retirement heard that the students had taken up knitting, its members also decided to start its own knitting circle. Soon, the students began to visit them weekly.
"Every Thursday we would travel up to the parish centre in Glanmire, and the members of the Active Retired group would teach our students how to knit. We’d have the cup of tea, and we’d have the chats. Just as the coronavirus started to pick up in the news back in February, they were telling us their memories of the polio epidemic, and how everything was shut down for a year. We thought that would never happen now. Here we are now, more than nine weeks later and no sign of the schools reopening!"
"They would knit, we would knit and we would sit and have the chats. It was a chance to connect with older members of our community and it was fantastic. We love it, everybody loved it. It was just a special hour and a half in the week where we all came together.”
“I remember one Monday a student came in with 10 whole squares knit and I asked her if she knit them all herself over the weekend. She said no, her gran had come over that weekend and they had spent three hours with her mam knitting together and chatting in their sitting room. It's just such a lovely image, of the three of them together."
The aim was to knit blankets for Blankets of Hope, an initiative run by Cork Cancer Care Centre. The project sees handmade blankets given to cancer patients of all ages when they are undergoing chemotherapy.
As well as the students and the members of the Active Retirement group, Ms McInerney's friends also chipped in, and her mother's bridge club also started knitting squares for the blankets. The GCC Parents' Council then helped to sew the patches together.
Together they created 25 blankets that have been presented to the Cork Cancer Care Centre.
The blankets created by the students will be set aside and sterilized. In three months' time they will be distributed to Cork hospitals. More than 21,000 ‘Blankets of Hope’ have been created since the project began five years ago.