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Creature comforts

Jack Brockley | May 28, 2019

A row of crocheted octopi display a colorful selection.

Premature babies usually need assistance to get through their first few days. Tubes deliver air and oxygen into their still-developing lungs. Patches on their bodies are wired to monitors that check temperature, pulse and breathing.

But tiny hands can accidentally detach these devices.

In Italy, hospitals have found a solution: soft, cute, crocheted octopi. Preemies’ fingers play with the tentacles, instead of the equipment around them.

Having heard about volunteers making and donating toy octopi to a hospital in Amiens, President Virginie Ploton suggested that her Saint Quentin de la Tour Kiwanis Club support efforts to provide the cuddly creatures in their community’s hospitals.

“For that, it was necessary to recruit knitters, purchase kits and organize three training sessions, because there are very precise specifications for making these octopi,” says Kiwanian Isabelle Corfa.

The workshops attracted volunteers of all kinds: women, men, parents and their children, retirees, homemakers, Kiwanians and knitting club members.

All that hooking, looping and knotting can be difficult. To pass the hospitals’ quality-control requirements, the head’s diameter must be between 5 and 6 centimeters; the bodies, between 8 and 10 centimeters and the tentacles must be a minimum 10 centimeters non-stretched and a maximum 20 centimeters stretched.

“It’s like a bustling beehive,” says Corfa. “The volunteers are very busy trying to follow the instructions, focusing on counting and measuring and helping their neighbors. Our role as Kiwanis members was to generate a happy relation between the volunteers, give them advice and help them relax by offering coffee, tea, croissants and fruit juice.”

The needle workers made 300 octopi. Each was checked for quality, size and colors, and all were sterilized.

During the last workshop, the Kiwanis Club of Saint Quentin de la Tour presented an 800-euro check to two women who decided to form an association, Créa Coeur, to help continue making the octopi.

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