The women of the Knit and Chat group that meets weekly can turn a ball of yarn into just about anything – a hat, a scarf, a blanket, slippers, a bed jacket – but they don’t keep any of it. They give it all away to Project Warm-Up, a program that distributes the items to 54 agencies serving the poor and homeless.
The group started under the umbrella of Edgecliff SCOPE, but now meet on their own. They meet at the Brookdale Park Place retirement community or, when the weather is nice, in Edgecliff Park in Spokane Valley. There they knit and crochet while they talk.
During a recent meeting Brigitte Hall was knitting a pink baby blanket, but she frequently makes bed jackets. They keep the shoulders warm and can be tied on so they won’t fall off when people move around.
“I make those by the dozens,” Hall said. “I love them.”
Hall, who grew up in Germany, learned to knit as a child. “You don’t sit around with idle hands in Europe,” she said.
While she worked, she didn’t have time to keep up the hobby and didn’t knit a stitch for more than 20 years. But she soon found herself going back to it.
“I got all the leftover stuff out of my corners,” she said. “I guess it’s like riding a bicycle. You never forget it.”
She joined the group three years ago, but Claudette Mills has been attending since 2011.
“We have anywhere between four and 14 show up,” Mills said. “We never know how many will show up.”
The one thing you don’t see many of the women doing is following a pattern in a book. “A lot of the gals just make up the pattern as they go,” she said.
The women are also all about recycling. They make odds-and-ends blankets made from yarn scraps in a rainbow of colors. Mills is crocheting a sleeping mat out of the bags her newspaper is delivered in. She cuts them into strips before crocheting the strips together.
“This really crochets nice,” she said as she handled the blue plastic.
Last year the group made just over 2,000 items for charity, putting in an estimated 10,000 hours.
“They go to the needy, not just the homeless,” Mills said. “No matter what you make, it’s going to fit somebody. Everything we make stays in Spokane County. I think that’s really special.”
Sometimes Mills gets to enjoy the fruits of her labors. It’s not unusual for her to be out in the community and see someone wearing one of her creations. “It’s pretty exciting,” she said. “You recognize your own work.”
Mills said she has been knitting and crocheting all her life. “I prefer to crochet because if you make a mistake you can tear it out or cover it up,” she said.
Back when she and her husband owned a pontoon fishing boat, Mills found a way to do both pastimes at the same time. She’d throw out her hook, then put a bell at the end of her fishing rod.
“I’d sit and crochet and when the bell rang you put your crocheting down and brought in your fish,” she said.
Judy Deguire joined the group a year ago shortly after her sister, Carol Bell, died. Bell had been a founding member of the group. It was a medical issue that caused dexterity issues in her hands that led Deguire to the group on the advice of her doctors.
“I had to use my hands,” she said. “They said to start crocheting.”
She likes to make bags that hook to walkers and blankets for the premature babies at Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital. Her hands are better now, but she hasn’t stopped crocheting.
“Once you get into it, you sort of get addicted to it,” she said.
The yarn the women use is donated through RSVP Project Warm-Up, which is run by the YMCA. The project collects donated yarn and distributes it to groups of knitters across the county.
“We are in bad need of yarn,” Mills said. “We’ll take it. We don’t care what color it is.”
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