A KIND-HEARTED knitter who has helped provide premature babies at the John Radcliffe Hospital with 10,0000 tiny handmade boots, hats and blankets, is hanging up her needles.

Margaret Fell, from Grove, has been coordinating the efforts of up to 100 nimble-fingered knitters across the county since 2007, when she was asked to drop off a donation from Wantage Day Centre at the Oxford hospital's special care baby unit.

The 71-year-old said: "When I got there they were so grateful because not as many people donated knitting back then as they do now.

"I knew then that we needed to do more."

What started as a one-off donation of a few tiny caps, booties, and blankets, has grown to sackfuls of thousands of brightly coloured baby items – each smaller than can be found in regular shops.

There is a constant need for freshly knitted goods as, due to stringent hospital safety and hygiene rules, the items have to be repeatedly steamed to make sure they are completely clean before and after every use, and have to be thrown away after about 10 uses.

The grandmother-of-five has been keeping a detailed record of every item given to the hospital over the last decade and was delighted when she hit the mammoth milestone this week.

She said: "I was so excited when I totalled up the last set of Christmas donations and realised we had hit 10,0000, which is what I had been hoping to achieve before stopping.

"It takes so much time to organise and there are plenty of people to keep the donations coming in now, so I felt after this final donation was the time to step down."

"The ladies who I organised originally have set up their own groups now so that is a legacy I am proud of."

Mrs Fell will be turning her desire to help others towards doing more volunteering in local schools, where she helps to run drama workshops based on Bible stories for children.

She will make her final donation at the hospital on Monday.