August 6, 2009 in Washington Voices

Knitters’ handiwork benefits cancer patients

By The Spokesman-Review
 

When Mary Lindeblad opened A Grand Yarn on South Grand Boulevard almost five years ago, her goal was to provide great yarn, but also to create a community of local knitters who sometimes knit for people other than themselves.

Last week, 174 knitted hats in a rainbow of colors sat in neat stacks on a big table in the store. Knitted by more than 125 women, the hats were donated to Cancer Care Northwest, where they will be given to patients in chemotherapy.

“They are called pi-hats and I’m not really sure why,” Lindeblad said, holding one of the soft, round, beret-shaped hats. She got the pattern from a listing on the Internet that said it’s designed by well-known American knit designer Elizabeth Zimmerman.

“It’s a little unusual because with this hat you start at the top, and then you go round and round,” said Lindeblad. “With most other hats you start at the bottom.”

The hats were received with much joy at Cancer Care Northwest’s North Side office.

“They are adorable, they look like they came out of a store,” said Jean Galovin, clinic manager. “To our patients, donations like this mean a great deal, and I can tell you these hats will go fast.”

Galovin said losing one’s hair during treatment can be very traumatic.

“You also lose your eyebrows and your eyelashes. It makes it even more important to have something colorful to wear,” Galovin said. Galovin explained that patients wear a smaller hat size once they’ve lost their hair. Often stocking caps are the easiest choice for warmth, but the pi-hat has a bit more shape and looks more like a beret.

“They just look better,” Galovin said.

A Great Yarn sponsored another “Knit One, Give One” project last fall.

“Back then our goal was to knit 50 hats and 50 wrist warmers for CrossWalk,” Lindeblad said. “We provide the yarn and we make these kits people pick up. It was very successful, and when it was done everyone was asking, what’s next?”

That’s when the idea for chemo caps came up.

“We wanted to make 150 hats, but some people donated their own yarn so we ended up with more,” Lindeblad said.

Yarnmaker Cascade Yarn donated a third of the yarn used for the hats; the rest came from A Grand Yarn.

It was Lindeblad’s mother, Jane Cumming, who taught her how to knit.

“I knitted when I was a teenager, and then I got away from it,” Lindeblad said. “It was my daughter who got me interested again.” Her daughter, Ingrid Finstuen, and Cumming both worked at A Grand Yarn when the store opened.

“I found it interesting how it was my daughter who became the connection back to something I did when I was younger, and then my mom became part of it, too,” Lindeblad said.

A Grand Yarn opened at the height of the last knitting craze, yet business remains steady no matter how trendy knitting is.

“I am a firm believer in the therapeutic effect of knitting,” Lindeblad said. “The popularity comes and goes in waves, but some people always knit.”

The shop hosts many classes for beginners and advanced knitters, in groups or with individual instruction. There are also ongoing “sit and knit” sessions on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

“I think it’s just wonderful to watch people as they learn,” Lindeblad said.

And the cap project has been very popular.

“Knitting these caps has brought so much joy to the people who have knitted them,” she said. “They come in with tears in their eyes and ask if there’s more they can do.”


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