Knit one, purl two: Common interest brings Marco Island group together for good

Jean Zaccaria holds up a child's sweater. Each member knits at least three items a year for charitable giving. Sharon Yanish / Eagle Correspondent

Jean Zaccaria holds up a child's sweater. Each member knits at least three items a year for charitable giving. Sharon Yanish / Eagle Correspondent

Beverly Farwell knits a gift for a former kindergarten student. She's kept in touch through the years and learned he's about to become a grandfather for the first time. Sharon Yanish / Eagle Correspondent

Beverly Farwell knits a gift for a former kindergarten student. She's kept in touch through the years and learned he's about to become a grandfather for the first time. Sharon Yanish / Eagle Correspondent

Fingers fly and needles click at Mackle Park on Wednesday afternoons. This local group of knitters began 30 years ago with only seven or eight ladies, and today they’re still going strong with a roster that has blossomed to 40. Over conversation and coffee, women of all ages and skill levels work on various knitting projects for family and friends, plus charitable ones for the community.

If they first arrive by themselves, it’s not long before their common interest in knitting leads to making new friendships and forming strong bonds.

“We socialize outside of knitting and often have lunch and dinner together,” said Carol Senica, a member for 15 years. “I’ve found most people who do crafts are very giving, caring people.”

Giving and caring are understatements. These ladies knit baby blankets and preemie hats, scarves and slippers for seniors, helmet liners for soldiers, sweaters for children and lap robes for hospice patients.

“We each try to make at least three things a year for charity,” said Judy Borrowdale, one of the original members of the group. “A lot of people will donate yarn and we feel that should be used for charity.” Sometimes tucked inside a bag of donated yarn is an unfinished garment. “People drop off sweaters that are half finished and somebody will pick them up and finish them.”

“Mostly I buy the yarn I use,” said Mary Lou Thomas. She can’t resist buying pretty yarn and has built up a “stash.” For non-knitters she explains that a stash is exactly what it sounds like—a stockpile of leftover or unused yarn just waiting for the right project.

Barbie Preston and Maureen Dorsey are sisters who were raised in England and learned to knit as children. At age three, Preston was taught to knit by her father. “We didn’t have wool, so he taught me using matchsticks and string.”

“My sister, Barbie, taught me to knit when I was in kindergarten,” said Maureen Dorsey, hardly glancing at her fingers as she works. “We can knit in the dark.”

There’s no formal membership for the group. It’s casual and open and people come and go, although they keep a current list of telephone numbers if they need to contact each other. All skill levels from beginner to expert are welcome, and there’s always an extra skein of yarn from the group stash if someone wants to sit and chat and try their hand at knitting and purling. There’s an endless supply of help and advice, too. Out of just 23 women present, there was an extraordinary amount of knitting experience in the room: a grand total of 984 years and 10 minutes to be exact. Joan Mooers, who with the help of her friend, Kate Cady, was well on her way to creating a blanket out of a skein of pink yarn. Mooers smiled. “I just started ten minutes ago.”

Mary Courtemanche, the most prolific knitter in the group, rarely finds herself without knitting needles in her hands. By her own admission she knits everywhere she happens to be—at home, by the pool, even while she’s playing bingo. “I’m a compulsive knitter. I made 27 sweaters last year.” She never stops. In New Hampshire during the summer, she’ll mail finished items south for distribution by her friends. Courtemanche and her husband don’t use a car in Florida; instead they ride their bikes everywhere. She laughed and said, “I haven’t figured out yet how to knit when I ride a bike.”

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