Great Yarmouth woman weaves the perfect smile for soldiers

SITTING amid her balls of wool and knitting needles in her peaceful town centre shop, Heather Carpenter jokes about a plaque from soldiers in Afghanistan thanking the “Knitting Nanas” of Great Yarmouth for supplying them with hats and scarves to keep them warm during the harsh cold desert nights.

Yet from her unobtrusive King Street store More to the Point, the mother-of-three has started a trend that has seen young and old alike wielding their knitting needles to do their bit to help our boys and girls fighting in the desert state, many of whom are serving locally with the East Anglian Regiment.

So far she has sent 250 hats alone to the regiment, but also many more scarves and gloves all woven at home by her customers and donated to the shop.

The inspiration for Mrs Carpenter’s campaign was a letter sent to the Mercury’s sister paper the EDP in November 2009 by Maureen Leggett from Trimingham asking for readers to donate woollen items in the army’s green khaki colours to help troops serving in Afghanistan. The letter was picked up by one of Mrs Carpenter’s who brought it into her shop asking if she could help out.

Since then, she has diligently asked her customers if they would be willing to help out by knitting for the appeal and has had a positive response with up to 1,000 people coming forward to volunteer their services.

All items received are then forwarded to Mrs Leggett, who passes them on to the soldiers.

However, knitting skills are not essential and Mrs Carpenter accepts �1 donations to pay for balls of wool so her other customers can knit more winter wear.

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And her customers’ efforts have woven a smile on the soldiers’ faces as she has received a numerous letters from Mrs Leggett describing the troops’ joy at receiving their new knitwear.

“It isn’t the physical hat itself, it is the fact that somebody has knitted it for them that brings them most pleasure,” she added.

The grandmother, 58, who lives with her husband Steve, 62, above her other knitwear shop in Lowestoft, took on the Yarmouth shop four years ago and has since seen her number of customers grow considerably due to a revived interest in knitting as more people learn the craft to avoid buying expensive clothes during the recession.

“I would never have thought that it would have taken off in the way it did and carry on as long as it has because so many people have been willing to do it,” Mrs Carpenter added.