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Crafting handmade items labor of love for Knit Wits

"I've been knitting all my life," said Delores Neustel of Coeur d'Alene as she gathered yarn during the monthly meeting of Knit Wits, a knitting club that meets at Lake City Senior Center (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Robin Heflin Correspondent

Like Santa’s elves, the Knit Wits already have begun production for Christmas 2005.

In December, the Coeur d’Alene knitting and crocheting group donated 1,400 items, a year’s worth of work, to 14 organizations that distributed them to needy individuals.

Now the Knit Wits are starting over.

The group is composed of 30 women with one thing in common: They love to knit and crochet and have maxed out their family and friends with knitted and crocheted items. The women met Wednesday at the Lake City Senior Center for their regular monthly meeting to knit and chat, pick up donated yarn and drop off completed projects.

“We get joy out of doing what we like, and it goes to a good cause. Our families have too much of everything.” said Janice D’Arc, coordinator of the group. D’Arc collects the completed items and stores them until donation time – once a year at Christmas. “Organizations use them as Christmas presents. That’s how they like to do it. They know they can call us if they need something sooner.”

Each September, D’Arc sends out a form to organizations asking what their needs are. The organizations list their wishes: lap robes, sweaters, mittens, hats, scarves, afghans and “shrugs,” a cross between a sweater and a shawl. “They fill it out, and we do our best to fill it,” D’Arc said.

Recent organizational recipients include several food banks, CASA, ICARE, Birthright, Head Start and Meals on Wheels.

Donations were down in 2004, said member and founder Joan Blatchley, because Knit Wits has lost knitters to attrition and arthritis. “We’re not making as much as we used to. We used to make 3,200 (items). …We weren’t able to give organization as many as we usually have.”

“We have seen the need increase,” D’Arc said. “(The organizations) asked for a lot this year, and we couldn’t fill it all.”

For this reason, the Knit Wits are looking for more knitters and crocheters to join the organization, and as always, still need donations of yarn or money to buy yarn.

New to North Idaho, Teri Grubbs heard of the group’s need and showed up at the January meeting. “I saw that you needed help, and we just moved here from California. I wanted to do something,” she said.

Maria Getek came to North Idaho from Belgium and got involved with the group. “I’ve knitted since I was 5 years old. When I came here to a new place, my daughter saw an ad in the newspaper asking for knitters. That was seven years ago,” she said.

“Ever since then, I knit and I knit and I knit and I knit.” Getek’s specialty is children’s sweaters.

Mary Ann McCleary knits and crochets lap robes, shrugs, neck warmers and scarves. “I just wanted to provide something back for the community,” she said.

Knitting and crocheting “is relaxing. Instead of sitting in the front of the boob tube you’re accomplishing something,” Blatchley said. “Most of us are always knitting and crocheting. It’s like breathing.”

People like receiving the handmade items, she said. “It’s a purpose. It’s really appreciated. You should see the thank-you cards we get.”

“There’s a lot of labor of love here,” McCleary said. “These women are fantastic to do it.”

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