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The Knitter - Our Waikato 100

Wednesday March 20, 2013

Knitting stops Thelma's shakes
Maryanne Twentyman

waikato times - Thelma Parkinson has been knitting for fun for more than 80 years - but now her favourite hobby is keeping a debilitating disease at bay.

The Te Aroha 88-year-old was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease about three years ago and says knitting is the one thing that stops her from shaking.

"My son said to me one day, 'Mum your head keeps shaking' and I said 'no it's not' and he said 'it is Mum, you do it all the time'.''

''So I thought I better see the doctor and sure enough - Thelma Parkinson has Parkinson's," she laughed.

But while the disease is no laughing matter, Mrs Parkinson is thrilled that deserving children around the Waikato are reaping the rewards of her condition ''because for some reason knitting stops me from shaking,'' she said.

Her doctor believes the relief from shaking comes from the focus required to knit.

''My brain is concentrating on the knitting so the symptoms seem to stop.''

That comes in handy when Mrs Parkinson wakes in the night from excessive shaking.

''I've been known to sit there in the dark and knit away quite happily until I fall asleep again - I'm pleased no-one comes in and sees me because they would probably think I'm daft,'' she giggled.

The result is a virtual production line of expertly crafted children's toys that are bagged up and taken to charities such as St John, Salvation Army, Child, Youth and Family and Adoption Services.

A recent visit to drop off goodies to Child, Youth and Family's Hamilton office saw Mrs Parkinson swamped by office staff who wanted to meet the lady who knitted children's toys.

''Honestly, I felt the Queen, they made such a fuss, it was lovely,'' she said.

And Mrs Parkinson has kept every letter of thanks ever received. ''It's so nice to get them - it makes it all very worthwhile,'' she said.

At the age of seven Mrs Parkinson told her mother she wanted to learn how to knit. ''But my mother told me she couldn't afford the needles because there were nine of us kids.''

Not prepared to give up on her quest, the then seven-year-old approached a local butcher about giving her some wooden skewers.

''They were the closest thing's to knitting needles I could find. I even started knitting with string,'' she said.

More than eighty years, hundreds of needles and thousands of balls of wool later, Mrs Parkinson now buys he wool and toy stuffing from Spotlight.

But she would never turn down any offers of ''good, clean, wool''.

''No way,'' she said. ''Someone's unwanted wool could become someone else's treasure.''


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