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Retirement can prove to be a busy time for many people; if you thought that cutting down on work was going to give you a quieter life, the chances are that more time with family, hobbies and friends have made you busier than ever! If you’re a keen knitter, or a whizz with a crochet hook, you’ll probably have also wondered if your skill might have a more useful outlet than making garments and cushion covers. Did you know that there are countless charities who would be delighted to make use of your services?

Here are a few of the ways in which your skills with yarn and needle can both cheer and comfort those in need:

yarn skillsOne for animal lovers

If you have a local animal shelter or veterinary surgery, it’s worth getting in touch with them to see if they’re in need of hand knitted blankets. You don’t need to have a particularly high skill level to make a useful blanket for a sick or abandoned animal, and if a whole blanket seems daunting, you can always knit or crochet it a square at a time – or even enlist friends to help. Setting the grandchildren a task of knitting or crocheting a single square is also a lovely way to pass on your skills and spend valuable time with them.

For the more ambitious, some charities such as SPANA – whose work helps working animals all over the world – sell knitted animal kits. Not only do they benefit from your kit purchase, you also end up with an appealing animal which you can either give to someone else, or make further funds for the charity at a local sale of work.

Providing comfort

If you are a more skilled wool crafter, charities such as SANDS – the stillbirth and neonatal death charity – are keen for you to help. They require pure white blankets for their memory boxes, and sadly, demand usually outweighs supply. Many bereaved parents speak of the comfort that the charity’s memory boxes provide, and the blankets are a huge part of that. The patterns – for both knit and crochet versions – are available from their website. If you don’t have access to the internet, they can also send you a copy through the post.

Along similar lines is Woolly Hugs’ blanket project – they have many links with hospitals across the UK, and also have links with refugee centres around the world, where a knitted blanket can provide emotional comfort as well as physical warmth. They also regularly have craft sales to raise funds, so if blankets aren’t your specialty, do get in touch to see how else you can help.

Helping your peers

It’s a sad fact of getting older that you probably have at least one close friend or family member who is starting to suffer the early effects of dementia. Patients can offer experience fidgeting movements and distress at various stages of the progressions of the disease, and many healthcare trusts and dementia charities are beginning to realise that having something safe for a dementia sufferer to fiddle with can help to calm them and relieve anxiety – step forward the Twiddlemuff. Literally taking the form of a muff, each is decorated with buttons, beads, zips and other items both inside and out, providing a distraction from repetitive anxious movement. Get in touch with your local hospital or with residential care units to see if they are running a scheme in your area.

Enlist your friends and get knitting!