100-year-old knitter makes teddy hugs for sick children

STITCH OF THE CENTURY Centenarian knitter Kate Smith

A 100-year-old woman from Crowborough is reaching out across the generations with knitted hugs to help children in hospital face their tears and fears.

Kate Smith started making bears for Tunbridge Wells Hospital during lockdown.

She said: “People gave me a load of wool, so I thought, ‘right, this is where it’s got to go’.”

Knitting bears became a family project after her granddaughter, Tracy Taylor, a junior sister at the Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust (MTW), had the idea as a way to help children cope with anxieties about staying in hospital.

Tracy said: “All my Grandma and family want to do is give a child a teddy when staying in our Paediatric A&E unit, to help ease their distress and comfort them.”

Kate’s daughters Jacqui Taylor and Kate Smith, and the younger Kate’s husband Bernard, are also involved in the project, knitting, sewing, packing and delivering the bears to Tunbridge Wells Hospital at Pembury.

The family have produced over 300 bears so far, including 50 knitted in Union Flag colours during the period of the late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

Teddies come with an encouraging message from the bear’s maker in their pocket, where children can also put their own message.

“They can put their own anxieties or worries on this little note, pop it in the teddy, and the teddy takes it away,” Tracy explained.

Children’s A&E can be a distressing place for children, she admitted.

“Sadly, we do have to do things which aren’t very nice but will make them better.

“We give them a bear to say we care. I’m really proud of our team,” she said.

Kate is now urging other people to pick up the inter-generational stitching.

She said: “I think a lot of young people should start knitting.”

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