Mrs Tillie Kirtland has been knitting since she was seven years old. Now aged 94, she is still going strong, and using her knitting talents to create beautiful hand-crafted dolls for those in need.
Tillie’s love of knitting began when she was confined to bed with scarlet fever, and she knitted to keep boredom at bay. The finished doll’s dress at that time was full of holes, and not quite the shape it was meant to be, but it was the start of a passion that would last a lifetime.
Tillie made sure her seven children always had beautiful, hand-knitted jumpers to keep them warm. She continued knitting when her grandchildren started arriving, even knitting a baby suit in Crows colours for her grandson (whose mother was a faithful Port supporter!).
When her great-grandchildren arrived, Tillie knitted for them.
In more recent years, Tillie turned to smaller projects. Anyone visiting the Mt Compass IGA last winter would remember the basket full of cute knitted footballers in SA team colours sitting on the counter. Proceeds from their sales went to support the local CFS.
At Christmas time, Tillie changed from knitted footballers to knitted Christmas decorations. Tillie guesses she made at least sixty of them.
Proceeds from their sales supported St. Vinnies, who do such good work to make Christmas special for those in need.
Today, at ninety-four, Tillie is still knitting, with her much-loved dog, Millie, watching on. She has created thirty-five dolls since April, with still more in production.
It’s posing quite a challenge for the Resthaven Murray Bridge, Hills & Fleurieu Community Services carers who visit Tillie, and are asked to pick the new arrivals (often three in a week!) on the display shelf since their last visit.
Each doll is unique, given a different colour, dress pattern, and even hair. With a little bit of help from her daughter, Tiera, Tillie thoughtfully selects all the details.
But Tillie doesn’t knit for her own entertainment, or to keep Resthaven staff on their toes. Apart from a few special dolls set aside for family members and her doctor, Tillie knits for children in need.
The dolls will be sent out in Christmas hampers distributed by St Vinnies, the Adelaide Children’s Hospital (Women and Children’s Hospital), and Ronald McDonald House. With each stitch she knits, Tillie imagines a happy child cuddling a beautiful doll, individually crafted with love.
Tillie is supported by Resthaven Murray Bridge, Hills & Community Services to continue to live independently in her own home, where she can knit as much as she pleases.
Established in 1935, Resthaven Incorporated is a not for profit, South Australian aged care community service associated with the Uniting Church. Every day, Resthaven shares the lives and wisdom of around 10,000 older people and their carers, working together to provide outstanding care and support.