In an airy room, six women sit in a circle. They’re catching up and laughing, but with a closer look at their fingertips, crochet and knitting needles move through colorful strings of yarn. An even closer look, and some of the women are wearing hand-knit clothes themselves.
The Sally Griffin Knitters originates from a group called the Whatevers, a club where people could learn to knit in a social setting. Over the years they changed their name and now, instead of knitting for themselves, they knit for others, donating hundreds of pieces of handmade clothing, blankets and accessories to cancer patients, needy kids or people who are homeless.
There are no prerequisites to join. Member Catherine Bazley joined with a baseline level of knowledge and out of practice, having learned how to knit in fourth grade. “I’d occasionally pick up some yarn,” she says. The group helped her make knitting a new hobby that stuck.
Similarly, Gisela Nobinger learned the craft young, and it appealed to her appreciation of self-sufficiency. She rarely used the skill in adulthood, but joined the group and remembered the skill quickly. “It was like bicycling,” she says. “The fingers never forget.” She is one of the most productive members of the group. Halfway through the session, she’s finished one piece and is half done with a scarf.
Every Monday the group meets at Sally Griffin Active Living Center to work on personal projects and to create pieces to be sold or donated to charitable causes. Current member Jill Haylings was a recipient of one such project. She was gifted a knitted cap to cover her hair loss while she was in the hospital for cancer treatment. She tracked down the group to connect them to a friend who feeds the homeless, figuring she might as well distribute hats and scarves too. Eventually, she joined herself, wanting to contribute directly (through crochet more than knitting). “It was a chance for me to return the favor and make someone feel special,” Haylings says.
Linda Wink joined when it was the Whatevers to learn how to knit throw blankets. To date she’s knitted approximately 50 blankets for Project Linus, a nonprofit that provides blankets to young children. “It was more of an outlet at first,” she says. “Suddenly I had 12 throw blankets. There was no excuse not to knit for others.”
The annual goal is to knit enough items to sell at the center’s Holiday Treasure Sale. In 2019, they raised $2,000. In 2020, they raised $2,200, selling between 150 and 200 pieces. And nothing goes to waste: “Everything that doesn’t sell, we donate to other groups” member Elly Waterman says. “Blankets, hats, scarves – there are no leftovers.”