Every Tuesday morning 94-year-old Ruihi Waldrom is picked up by her friend Avila Allsop from her home in Huapai and together they head off to the Waimauku Spinners and Weavers group at the Glasgow Park Hall in Waimauku.
On the agenda is a morning of conversation, a good bout of weaving and knitting, and asparagus roll (or two), a sweet slice and a good cup of tea to wash it all down with.
Ruihi has been a member of the group for nearly three decades and her fingers are as nimble as ever. “Knitting has helped keep my fingers mobile,” she says.
Her knitting needles and bag of wool are never far away. She says whenever she can she’ll sit down and knit for half an hour or an hour, although her eyesight means it’s getting harder to knit while she watches TV.
Her knitting prowess may not be widely known around the community, but there’s a strong chance that if you had a baby at Helensville Birthing Centre over the years you may have taken your newborn home dressed in a woollen singlet or hat handmade by Ruihi.
How many singlets and hats does she think she’s made over the years? It’s impossible to say, but the original Plunket pattern she uses is firmly memorised, “It’s a basic knit two, pearl two pattern.”
The knitting of hats and singlets for newborns came about as part of a project she was involved with through the women’s division of Federated Farmers many years ago. The project itself fell by the wayside, but Ruihi kept on knitting.
She remembers the first thing she ever knitted. She was about 12-years-old and it was an outfit for her Cupie doll. Her grandmothers taught her how to knit, but she says it’s not a skill she’s passed on to others because no-one has ever really asked her to teach them.
A lost-skill perhaps, but she doesn’t blame the young mothers of today. “There are just so many different types of materials these days that are so much easier to wash and care for than woollen garments.”
As well as providing singlets and hats for babies at Helensville Birthing Centre she also knits rugs and children’s clothing which is sent to the poor in East Europe through an organisation called Cover Up.
Ruihi Waldrom is proof that even at the age of 94 you can still make a difference in the world - both in your own community and in those half a world away.
Published in Helensville News, April 2017