KNITTERS are picking up their needles to help “fish and chip” babies born thousands of miles from Wearside.
E Kemp Knitting Yarn Shop in Sea Road, Fulwell, is encouraging customers to make hats and vests for African newborns, so poor they are sent home from the hospital wrapped in newspaper.
The shop, which has donated to the neonatal unit at Sunderland Royal Hospital in the past, is handing out free knitting patterns of baby vests and beanie hats to those who want to help.
So far, it has collected about 150 sets, which are taken to a distribution centre in Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria, before being sent to Africa.
Shop manageress, Jennifer Henderson, said customers have been keen to help out.
“It’s really taken off,” she said. “People who say they can knit, but have no one to knit anything for, have been pleased to pick up a free pattern.
“It’s an ongoing thing, so we will keep encouraging people to make them, and make sure they get to where they need to be.”
Jennifer, who is being helped by shop assistants Ally Forster and Janice Keeling, said making the clothes has been good for the community.
“It’s nice because people feel as if they are really doing something,” she said. “And it touches their hearts because lots of them have children and grandchildren.”
Sea Road shoppers have been finding out about the plight of the fish and chip babies from a sign in Kemp’s shop window.
“It’s made them come in to ask about it,” said Jennifer, who has been collecting the clothes for about two months. “And it’s spreading by word of mouth. It’s nice because they know they are helping these babies who are wrapped in newspaper.”
Staff jumped on-board with the cause after a customer who collects the hats and vests told them about it.
“She picks up the batches for her church, then they get sent to Cumbria.
“We’ve got about 80 to package up, which will be sent away on August 5.
“It’s a really simple pattern that anyone can make.
“And the only colour that they ask that you don’t make them in is white, because that is the colour of mourning in their country.
“Anyone who wants to do a little bit of knitting should come in and pick a free pattern up.”