Invercargill Prison Volunteer Co-ordinator Jane King with crocheted teddies.At home because of COVID-19 restrictions, Volunteer Co-ordinator Jane King is embroidering eyes on over a dozen teddies, crocheted by men in the Invercargill Prison knitting group, prior to delivery to their new homes through Plunket.

“Each one has its own personality,” she says. “We can't sew on buttons for Plunket (as they can be a choke hazard for babies), so I’m giving them all their final touches before they can go to their forever homes.”

Run by a prison volunteer, the ‘Threads for Life’ group has been going for over two and a half years, and in that time over 25 men have been involved.

“Crochet is an excellent pastime for people in prison,” says Jane. “It is something the men can do in in their cells. It keeps the hands busy and relaxes the mind. It’s excellent for wellbeing and rehabilitation, and at the end, you have made something special and unique."

Jane says Threads for Life is a group of six men who would, pre COVID-19, meet for an hour and a half a week, do their craft and talk about crocheting, and life.

“I am constantly amazed how many toys the men crochet,” says Jane. ”A large number of community groups have benefitted from the men’s creative talents.”

”On returning to the prison after lockdown in 2021, I had a few bags of toys waiting for me. I had also made some teddies in my lockdown and these were all delivered before Christmas to community groups, including Riding for the Disabled, Jubilee Budget Advisory Service (for their pregnancy packs), with other items made by The Nattering Knitters in Gore (who distribute their knitted goods to the community) and to Number 10 Youth One Stop Shop. There is now another box of teddies waiting for delivery when we go to Orange (setting).”

Jane says the men also send their creations home and really love that they can create something to send to their family.

“They are grateful to be able to give, as they say, they only ever ask for things,” she says.

A letter from one of the men thanks the knitting group for showing him he had a creative side, and making him feel better in his cell, as he had something to do rather than sit and worry.

Jane says he told her he had given his wife a toy at visits and it was really emotional and pleasing to see her reaction of pleasure.

“These teddies have already brought happiness to their creators and we hope they will continue to do so for their new owners,” she says. “Our thanks to Threads for Life Volunteer, Judith (who has now left us), for her hours of helping with crochet and other classes, and to Suzanne who is staying on to help the Threads for Life group.”