By Alice Leader
An ardent knitting group comes together every week to embrace their dexterity in sewing squares upon colourful squares, dozens of which have gone to displaced families in Syria and Iraq.
Since The Purlers began in 2014 they have used their flair for crafting hundreds of woolly wonders, some patterned, some plain, at St Mary’s church in Kemp Town to help families both at home and abroad.
Organiser Jane Chetwynd-Appleton, from Black Rock, said: “I like to think they’re useful to mothers with children in refugee camps because they’re up in the mountains and it gets very cold in the winter.”
What originally started as a donation of second-hand clothes to the families has evolved into an earnest society creating handmade blankets for refugees.
Creator Margaret Green, from Queens Park, said: “They had fled with nothing and we thought we could make blankets for them.”
Despite not getting to meet the people they help, Mrs Chetwynd-Appleton said they came across one photograph of a lady alongside a delivery lorry, in Iraq, holding a woolly blanket that looked very much like one of their own.
She said: “She looked absolutely delighted.”
However, last year the government stopped the group from sending their knitted blankets to Syria because of the dangers of them reaching terrorist groups.
Mrs Chetwynd-Appleton said: “I can’t imagine they’d be very interested in woolly blankets.”
Wendy Greenford, a member since 2014, from Kemp Town, said it is possible they have been hindered from sending their crafts to Syria due to the risk of smuggling.
She said: “The only way to contain that would be to put a stop to anything that is not organised and understood by the government.”
The blankets are sent to families via the Samara Aid Appeal and it is Samara herself who will apprise the Purlers as soon as they can send the blankets to the refugees again.
Luckily, the group has still been able to continue with their warm-hearted gestures by knitting blankets and hats for premature babies for the Trevor Mann Baby Unit at the Royal Sussex County Hospital.
The group also make twiddle muffs – therapy mittens for people living with advanced dementia.
Mrs Chetwynd-Appleton said: “They have buttons and bells sewn inside and outside so they have something to fiddle with because they tend to have restless hands.”
Not only have the Purlers used their knitting finesse to create tiny hats, cardigans, and blankets for a charitable cause, but their presence at the church has also benefited the community as well.
Mrs Greenford said: “It gives anyone the opportunity to drop in, they don’t have to knit and if they just want some company, we can talk to them and offer biscuits and coffee.”
Mrs Green said it has been a good experience and when visitors see such activities going on, it helps them feel that Church is not only a holy place but also where ordinary pursuits take place too.
The Purler’s knitting group takes place Mondays between 10am and midday at St Mary’s Church, 61 St James’s Street, Brighton.