Written by Dorothy
Almost 18 years ago my husband and I had our first child, a little boy. Then we found out that he has Opitz FG Syndrome. This began a journey of doctors visits, specialists, and questions. Lots of time spent at the IWK in Halifax.
One thing we noticed at the IWK was finger puppets. Cute little puppets that seemed to be everywhere. A child had to get blood drawn, they were given a finger puppet to help ease the tears. Going to see a doctor and a bit scared… they were often given a puppet to help ease their fears. What’s that little basket on the information desk? Why, it’s finger puppets.
One day I asked about the puppets. Who made them? Where did they come from? I was told at the volunteer office that there are people who knit the puppets for them. I wanted to be a part of that group. They told me that puppets were used not only at the IWK but also overseas. When doctors went to other countries to do volunteer work, they brought puppets with them to give to the kids there. The number 3000 sticks in my mind as to how many they were using a month at that time.
I was given a basic pattern: cast on 12 stitches, work one row of k1p1, then work about 12 rows in stockinette stitch. K2tog across the next row, purl one row, draw yarn through the stitches and finish it off. Sew up the seam, add a face and voila… a puppet.
So, almost 18 years ago I started knitting puppets. Got my mom and sister in on the act. A few years later my mother-in-law joined in as well. Then my mom got a couple of other ladies knitting them. Sadly, my mom and mother-in-law are both gone now. And the other ladies still knit, but not as much. My sister still knits them like crazy. On Thursday, March 1st, I’ll be making a delivery of puppets that will include the last ones my mother-in-law knit. And the rest of them are knit mostly by my sister.
We have her 5-year-old helping out now too; she trims off the ends of yarn, and will be helping to count them from now on. We’ve decided to keep track of how many we make from now on. 3500 puppets in this delivery… my husband and I just counted them all… phew… big job!!!
Over the years we have knit countless puppets. Would have been fun to keep track of that number. There was one time we took 2000 in, they were all in strings of 100 puppets. Looked like a bunch of snakes. Took a full blue recycling bag in one time. Another time was only a plastic grocery bag full. The amount didn’t matter; what mattered was that it was puppets. This next delivery is in a bag that a double sized duvet came in … and it’s stuffed full. We have had friends do deliveries when we’ve had a bunch to go, getting them to stop at the IWK. Or if someone was going for an appointment, we asked them to drop the puppets off. A friend’s little girl loved carrying the “suitcase of puppets” in with her.
One time I took puppets in, there was about 4000 in the bag. I walked into the volunteer office, and the lady there just beamed. Told me how happy she was to see me. Told me that they were almost out of puppets, and asked to look in their storage box. I looked in, and there were only 6 lonely puppets at the bottom … I filled it.
As you can tell by the pictures, our puppets are simple little guys. Nothing fancy about them… but we know they are appreciated.
I do not like sewing seams. So I knit mine on 4 needles. Yup, 12 stitches on 4 needles. I am that crazy! My mother-in-law would knit hers on 4 needles… and then use 2 washers to make little pompoms to put on top of them. See, here’s a picture of them; see those pompoms?
I couldn’t tell you the last time yarn was bought to make them. Friends who knit will save me their scraps. Other people will pass on yarn from inherited stashes. I have so much yarn for puppets in my craft room that I could supply many knitters for quite some time. I also pass on bigger balls of yarn to a friend who knits vests, socks, mitts, etc. for her church’s mission work; and she saves me her small balls for puppets.
So, if you are looking for a simple way to make a big difference… I recommend knitting puppets for the IWK or your local hospital. There are lots of fancier puppet patterns you can find online; knit them as plain or as fancy as you want.
Puppets can be dropped off at:
IWK Volunteer Resources
5850/5980 University Avenue (Maternity Ward Entrance)
Halifax, NS B3K 6R8