A great-grandmother who has knitted thousands of poppies, scarves and teddy bears for charity says she would “go crazy” without her beloved hobby.
Myrtle Russell, of Friern Barnet Lane, Finchley, uses her talents to create woollen wonders for Marie Curie Cancer Care, the Lifeboat Foundation and the Council of Christians and Jews.
The 89-year-old first realised she was a whizz with the needle at the age of four, and at the age of 14 she took on a job knitting costumes for soldiers during the Second World War.
But Mrs Russell, who has been widowed twice, first decided to put her talents to good use four years ago to help keep her brain active.
She said: “I am a satisfied person and I love my life. I want to spread that joy around.
“It makes me very happy and it gives me something to do. I’ve always been good with my fingers I knit whilst watching television. I say money is made to be spread around, so it’s a win win situation.
“My family think I’m crazy but the truth is that I would go crazy if I didn’t have my knitting. It’s what keeps me sane in my old age.”
Although she does not keep tabs on how much money she has raised so far, she estimates the figure to be well over £5,000.
Her teddy bears, aimed at adults, have caused quite a storm in the community and she is often inundated with requests from people asking for football-themed toys.
She met her first husband, Raymond Wolf, on the last day of the Second World War and the couple had two children, Sheila, Diane and Marion, before Raymond died of Asian Flu.
Over the next five years, she struggled to make ends meet and she often had to sacrifice her own meals for the sake of her children.
However, five years later she married Alfred Russell and they had two more children – Adam and Simone – and the couple were together for 11 years before he passed away from lung cancer.
At the age of 41, Myrtle went back to university to become a nurse before retiring at the age of 60. Her son, Adam, was killed in a car crash in Australia 14 years ago.
And at the tender age of 86, she did a charity abseil for the Fireman’s Benevolent Fund, despite having had two hip replacements.
Nowadays, she is often seen selling her creations outside Waitrose, in North Finchley, or volunteering at the League of Friends, in Barnet Hospital.
She added: “I am prepared to knit for any charity that asks me. It gives me a lot of pleasure.
“I’ve been knitting for 85 years, there’s nothing I can’t do with knitting needles.”