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1,000 cardies and counting: Marianne’s colourful cardies brightening kids’ lives

11 July 2022

1,000 cardies and counting: Marianne’s colourful cardies brightening kids’ lives

This 87-year-old Queenslander knits up a storm to help kids in need Marianne loves helping needy children by putting her fingers to work.

Marianne Garland has been knitting since she was five, growing up in Germany. “After the war there was no food or firewood,” she says. “My dad was a prisoner-of-war in France. But my mum was a country woman and nothing stopped her feeding her two kids.

“We used to take orders for knitwear, and then knit in exchange for food.”

Today, 87-year-old Marianne lives in a residential aged-care facility on the other side of the world, in Townsville. And she’s still knitting – not in exchange for food but for children in need.

Over the past 20 years, Marianne has knitted more than 1,000 cardigans for charities that donate to children in Australia and overseas. Since her third husband passed away in April, she has become more prolific than ever, and is now producing them at a rate of about 80 a year. Each one is unique. And bursts with colour.

“Just because the kids are poor doesn't mean they can’t enjoy some colour,” she says.

First-hand knowledge

Marianne has empathy for children who are doing it tough. “I know what it’s like to be poor,” she says. Not only did she grow up in poverty in the tough post-war years, she fell on hard times after moving to Australia.

She came to Australia from Germany as a 20-year-old with her first husband. But after he turned to crime, he was deported. “I had the option of going with him but I didn’t want to be married to a criminal, so I stayed on with my little girl, who was two,” she says. “I can tell you, we were bloody poor. No English, no money, nowhere to stay, no family, or friends. Nothing.”

Now, she is all too happy to give a little comfort to people who are struggling. “If I can help somebody, I will do it,” she says. “Because people have helped me when I needed it badly. And you have to give back. You can’t just receive all the time.”

Staying supple

Marianne knits at every opportunity. “I knit everywhere I go: in the doctor’s surgery or any time I’m likely to sit somewhere,” she says.

She also does crosswords, reads and sews for other residents of the aged-care facility. But there’s no doubting what her passion is, and she gets an important benefit from it.

“My spine is riddled with arthritis,” she says. “And it’s also in my hands. But I can move my hands like a 10-year-old. The constant knitting keeps them supple.”

Marianne knits the German way, putting the yarn over her forefinger to control the tension, which she says is 20 per cent faster than the English method. And she has no plans to slow down.

“My last husband used to say if he survived me, he’d make sure they put knitting needles and wool in my grave,” she laughs.


Story of Help