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Grandmothers: For Mothering Sunday, 3 April

To celebrate the skills passed on by grandmothers.

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To celebrate the skills passed on by grandmothers.

Preparation and materials

  • Images of knitted animals (Shamwaris) from
  • Knitting needles or pins, or something in the process of being knitted.
  • (Optional) Set of 4 knitting pins (e.g. for knitting socks).
  • (Optional) Maps to locate Ireland, Orkney and Zimbabwe.


  1. Talk about the giving of cards associated with Mother’s Day.
    Identify that a card or a small gift is a way of showing appreciation for what mums do for us.
  2. Ask the children if any of them send a card to anyone else on Mother’s Day. (The answer you are hoping for is ‘to Grandma’, but be sensitive to those who may have step-mums.)
  3. Identify the involvement grandmothers have in the children’s family life.
    Tell the children that nowadays many grandmas step in and look after their grandchildren if mum needs to work.
  4. Tell this story about a grandma who taught her granddaughter to knit.

    Grandma Olive was Dad’s mum and she lived in Ireland. (Optional – locate Ireland on map.)

    Her granddaughter, Julie, lived in Orkney. (Optional – locate Orkney on map.)

    Whenever Julie went on holiday to Grandma Olive’s, she would find her knitting or working on some craft. When Julie was just seven she asked Grandma if she would teach her to knit lovely things too. She soon found out that what looked so simple for Grandma was in fact not at all easy!
    Show knitting needles and item of knitting. Hold pins awkwardly and get into a bit of a ‘raffle’!

    When you are beginning to knit you can easily get frustrated. The pins are awkward to handle, the stitches take concentration, and sometimes the cat can decide to play with your wool! And there were times when Julie got very frustrated, as all those learning to knit will do, but Grandma was a very patient teacher.

    Today Julie is an adult and is almost at the other end of the world. She is working in Zimbabwe. (Optional – locate Zimbabwe on map.)
  5. Explain that Zimbabwe is a very poor country where it is very difficult to find work and, therefore, to be able to care for your family. Julie found many poor women who were struggling to feed their families and to have enough money to send their children to school. She wanted to help, but how?

    One day Julie came up with the idea of teaching these women the skill that grandma had taught her: to knit. Knitting would only require basic materials and can be done anywhere and at anytime, which suits the life of a Zimbabwean woman.

    Julie began with a group of six women. To knit means ‘to join or be joined together closely’, and so these six women learned this new skill together, no doubt with many frustrations, but with much laughter too. Today there are around 50 women involved in the project.
  6. What could they knit that would be sold in Zimbabwe, and other countries of Africa, and even in Ireland and Orkney?

    It was Julie’s other grandma, Grandma Nan, who came to the rescue here. She was also a knitter and had some patterns for socks. The only trouble was that these were knitted on not just two needles but four. Can you imagine how difficult things could get with four needles? (OptionalShow set of four knitting pins.)But Julie thought that if she could help the women to master this skill, she could then introduce them to some ideas for creative designs that she had up her sleeve. These are what the women are now making.

    (Show knitted toys.)
  7. They decided that they would have to come up with a name for this new business. Julie wanted to show her appreciation to her grandma. If it hadn’t been for Grandma Olive, Julie couldn’t have passed on this skill that was helping so many families. The name ‘Olive’ also made her think of the Bible story about Noah and the ark. In that story, a dove brought back an olive branch after the flood, as a sign of hope that life was going to get better. Julie was hoping that, with God’s help, life would get a lot better for these women and their families. Hopefully, there would be food to eat and the children would be able to go to school.

    And so the business was given the name Gogo Olive. ‘Gogo’ is the name used in Zimbabwe for a grandmother, and is a term used in respect and affection. The cute toys were given a name too, Shamwaris, meaning ‘friends’ in Shona, the main language of Zimbabwe.

Time for reflection

Think about your grandmother or your mum.

Identify any skills that they have taught you and for which you are grateful.

Dear God,
Thank you for mums and for grandmas.
Thank you for the part they play in bringing us up.
Thank you for all the skills they teach us.
Please help Julie and the women in Zimbabwe as they knit their little shamwaris.


‘The Best Gift’ (Come and Praise, 59)

Publication date: April 2011   (Vol.13 No.4)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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