Chaplain Daphne Marsden with woollen hats destined for babies at Christchurch Women’s Hospital.Newborn babies at Christchurch Women’s Hospital will be cosier this month after Christchurch Women’s Prison donated one hundred baby beanies hand-knitted and crocheted by prisoners.

The prison’s ‘Knit Project’ involves around nine novice and experienced knitters and is growing.

Poppy is one of the prison knitting group, and a very keen knitter. Over the past few months she has knitted 83 of the baby hats.

“I enjoy knitting and through my knitting I can do something useful and give something back to society while I am incarcerated,” she says. “I am approached by other prisoners and teach them to knit from basics to cables. I think it is good for the younger women, keeping them busy.

Tracy Tyro, Christchurch Women’s Prison Residential Manager, says that knitting is a constructive activity for prisoners. “They appreciate being able to do something positive with their spare time. It can be a very therapeutic activity. The knitting group can be a good quiet space for the women.

“This is a project that really appeals to the women, many of whom have children and grandchildren of their own. They appreciate the difference a hat can make to keeping little ones warm. It offers the women an opportunity to create something pretty and practical for some of our community’s most vulnerable.

“In addition to helping someone in the community, the women have learnt some new skills along the way. They learn to work and be in a group, to take instruction and share their knowledge, they can be creative and express themselves in new ways. All of these skills will be useful for when they are released.

“While this is about the knitting, it is mostly about getting together and using your time to do something that benefits others – a community of knitters in the community.”

The ‘Knit Project’ has been running for around eight months and is supported by prison staff and chaplaincy, and the Hope Church.

The Hope Church group was formed after the Canterbury earthquakes with a mission to support those in need in the community.  As well as supporting the prisoner knitting, the church’s ‘Knit and Stitch’ group have donated their own knitted and sewn items to mums and babies in the prison’s Mothers with Babies unit.

If anyone has wool they would like to donate wool, please email Jen Hardy, Acting Regional Volunteer Coordinator at Christchurch Women’s Prison.