Prisoners crochet their way to a world record
Cape Town – Hundreds of excited inmates and wardens were on Monday honoured for their role in making the world’s biggest blanket.
They group at the Drakenstein Correctional Facility in Paarl were awarded official certificates in recognition by the Guinness World Records for setting the new record.
The attempt was orchestrated by Carolyn Steyn, founder of the 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela campaign.
The campaign asked people to contribute handmade blankets towards creating a giant world record-breaking blanket, while contributing to a good cause.
In the end, it was South Africa’s jailbirds who set the record straight, making a giant 17 128 square metres blanket - big enough to cover four rugby fields.
The group at Drakenstein - 120 inmates and 200 wardens - made 139 of the blankets, and also stitched together the 10 000 other pieces received from the public and 65 prisons around the country.
Drakenstein Correctional Facility inmates and wardens stitched a giant 17 128 square metres blanket - big enough to cover four rugby fields. Photo: Bertram Malgas
Carolyn says she gets emotional when she sees what the inmates have accomplished.
“It’s really touched my heart, the fact that inmates in cold cells are making warm blankets for the communities in need on the outside,” she says.
“I think it was beautiful of them to pay it forward for Madiba, so even in the confines of the tiny cells, one can make a difference,” says Carolyn.
The previous record was set by a group of women in India, whose blanket measured 11 000 square metres.
In April last year, the blankets were taken to an open field on a farm opposite the jail, where they was stitched together.
Warder Manfred Jacobs, 42, says it was amazing to see the inmates and officials working together.
“Inmates and officials sitting next to each other, in the rain, sowing together and carrying on."
“We even used the vehicles lights to light up the area, working through the night to complete the blanket,” he says.
On April 23, after two days of stitching, they completed the giant technicolor blanket.
Once Guinness officials verified the new record, the blanket was taken apart, and sent back to the correctional centres, from where it was donated to underprivileged communities.
Inmate Samkelo Booi, 25, was awarded a trophy for crocheting the most blankets – 13.
“I felt happy to be a part of this, because it was a chance for me to do the right thing. It only took me five days to make the blankets, my hands were sore but I carried on,” he says proudly.
Samkelo Booi crocheted the most blankets. Photo: Bertram Malgas
Samkelo, who works in the textile section in the prison, says he wants to use his new skills to create a better life outside.
“When I leave prison, I will start a business and teach others how to crochet,” he says.
Correctional Services Regional Commissioner Delekile Klaas praised the project for empowering inmates.
“We are showing them that their brains can do something better than planning crime, instead contributing positively to the community,” he says.