Clothing the needy: Margaret Pettit has made thousands of clothes for underprivileged people overseas. Picture: Everard Himmelreich MARGARET Pettit first started making clothes as a teenager when she knitted socks and mittens for soldiers fighting in World War II.
As a married woman with three children, she honed her sewing and other craft skills makingclothes and household itemsfor her family.
When the Warrnambool Baptist Church wanted to start a “Come and Do” craft group in 1981, she stepped in to pass on her skills.
Thirty five years later, 87-year-oldMrs Pettit is still doing so.
During that time, Mrs Pettitestimates she has made 17,000 articles of clothing for overseas missions, including those supported by the Baptist Church and Missions Without Borders.
First she started knitting garments using donated woolfor people in New Guinea and then moved on to making clothes formissions in Cambodia supported by Deaconess Doris Fletcher.
When Deaconess Fletcher retired, Mrs Pettit transferred the bounty from hersewing and craft skills to Missions Without Borders, for which her Warrnambool neighbour Heather Wiltshire was the local coordinator.
Her creative largesse has included T-shirts, dresses, panties, nighties, windcheaters, shorts and track pants.
She uses donated materials “from friends and strangers” to make the clothesand said she never ran short.
Apart from her work for the missions, Mrs Pettit also works for Anglicare in Warrnambool on Thursday afternoons, doing knitting and finishing off crocheted rugs that go to people in need of some warmth.
Six years ago Mrs Pettit also responded to Missions Without Borders’ request for sewing machines for sewing workshops in eastern European countries such as Bosnia, Romania and Bulgaria.
The workshops not only teach women how to sew for their own families but to produce items for sale to boost their incomes.
When her friend Heather Wiltshire died about four years ago, Mrs Pettit pledged to lift her donations of sewing machines to the workshops to 100 as a tribute.
Using money saved from her war widow’s pension, she has so far bought 86 sewing machines.
She said she chased specials from retailers to usually buy basic sewing machines for under $100.
Friends had helped her buy another six and the Spotlight retail chain, from which she has bought the bulk of the machines, has also given her four.
Mrs Pettit said she was often making clothes and other items for 12 hours a day, testing her ageing body,but “it keeps me sane.”
“I am not a social bee. This is my outlet,” she said.
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