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Blind woman knits over 100 blankets for charity

Madge Moodie, 91, has knitted over 100 blankets for charity since she was registered blind, four years ago. (The Orcadian/Sarah Sutherland)

A 91-year-old woman from Westray, who thought she might never knit again, has now completed more than 100 blankets for charity — despite having been registered blind four years ago.

Madge Moodie has been knitting for more than 80 years now, having learnt the skill before she went to school, but when she was diagnosed with macular degeneration, she thought she might have to give up the habit of a lifetime.

Fortunately, through a bit of trial and error, and some helping hands on side, Madge has been able to get back into knitting with great fervour.

“I started knitting when I was five years old,” Madge, who recently celebrated her 91st birthday, told The Orcadian.

“I first knitted a kettle-holder on steel wires, but I’d have great pains with that now.

“I had knitted it that blinking tight that I had to take loops off of it, and I mind it was green squares.”

Madge, who grew up in Dounby, before moving to Westray, aged 13, used to make a fair trade off of her knitting skills. With two knitting machines on the go, she spent much of her life selling her gansies and scarves to shops in Kirkwall and Thurso, as well as delighting friends and family with her Fair Isle patterned products.

But when she was declared blind in 2016, some of Madge’s favourite pursuits, such as reading and knitting, seemed impossible. But, with a bit of encouragement from sensory impairment rehabilitation officer, Helen Quelch, it wasn’t long before she had her knitting needles back in hand.

“The first winter, I couldn’t knit — or I thought I couldn’t knit anymore,” she recalled.

“But then Helen Quelch came over and she said, ‘well, if you were a knitter before, you would manage to do it again.’ So, I was told to look for pins and a ball of wool, and she got me under way.

“That will be three years past, and I’ve knitted over 100 blankets since then.”

Madge’s blankets are made from colourful strips she has knitted, which are then sewn together by a few helpers. Her blankets have made their way to people in need of them in Romania and in Africa.

“It was Helen that said I should knit it in squares, but I tend to knit it in strips, because it’s less casting on and off.

“I’ve managed to master the casting on, but not the casting off yet — somebody has to do that for me. I’ve fair improved since I first started, for I would let down loops and make holes in it.

“I just have to keep count of what I’m doing.

“It’s good the blankets are going where they’re needed. There will be some folk who are awful cold without.”

With the power of knitting she’s been doing, Madge is ever keen for any donations of wool that folk can spare.

“I’m always looking for wool,” she said.

“It takes a lot of wool for a blanket!”

If you’ve got a few balls spare from a complete — or long neglected — knitting project, which you would like to donate, you can give Madge’s daughter Maureen Hume a shout on 07900 231956.

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