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Home : Community : Newsletters & Stories

Newsletters & Stories

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Stories from the Prayer Shawl Ministry
Charity Stories

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Memorial Knitting: Many Hands Working Together

"Our Warm Up America afghans are made up of many colors, patterns, knits and crochets, and many more hands have contributed to getting them completed. I like to think the recipient will have as much fun looking at the afghan as I did as a child on a visit to great aunts, waking up and studying the squares with birds and flowers for each state on a hand-quilted coverlet in their tiny guestroom." - Connie, Warm-Up America email

Genie McCliment "Let's turn our grief into afghans," suggested Connie. Earlier that hot August day, we both attended the funeral of my dear friend and good neighbor, Genie McCliment.

"There are so many Warm Up America squares that need sorting," she continued. "I could use your help. Come over tonight."

Connie was the new leader of our synagogue's WUA group. I was a very fringe member. Occasionally, I contributed a stack of squares. Rarely did I stay for a meeting. But this wasn't a scheduled meeting. This was a kind invitation to soften my sorrow with simple chores.

Summer evenings are long out here in Iowa City. It was still light when I passed Genie's house on the way to Connie's. I glanced at her living room window, already missing my old buddy.

Connie and I got right to work. No doubt, Genie would have approved of our efforts to provide afghan comfort for our community. She understood comfort and dispensed it often. She welcomed the invited and uninvited to relax in her home. She understood community, too. She valued being a good neighbor and found reasons to gather us together -- birthdays, starry evenings, St. Patrick's Day.

Later that night, I decided in Genie's honor to leave the sidelines. Taking a more active part in our WUA group would be my way of remembering her caring ways.

Our group meets every other Sunday. Many are on the membership list, only some are regulars. All do their best to attend when they can. Our mascot, Fred George, a sassy-looking toy sheep, is always there to cheer us on.

"It's great to see you again" is the usual group greeting. We share scissors and trade stories about our children, our travels, our childhoods. Over time we have become acquainted. I look forward to my visits with the group, as I once did to my visits with Genie. I'm eager to hear the next installment in their lives. Is Connie's dad's health improving? What about the cow Jean shares with her young neighbor?

Many hands make light work. And many tasks make a WUA afghan. Laying out the squares, for example. We choose color themes, solicit opinions, swap squares in and out. Then we tag the square with a letter and number indicating its position. Each row is slipped into a plastic bag and all are put in a larger carrying bag along with selected yarns for stitching them together.

Before the sewing up, a square is sized against the WUA 7- by 9-inch template. Some need to be corrected, the easiest way is to crochet an inch or so on a side. Whatever it takes. I like that job and I know just enough crocheting to do it.

This winter, in my stint of correcting squares, I inherited an afghan rich in golds and reds. By late spring, I had started sewing it up. Square by square, row by row. As I work on it during our meetings this steamy summer, it offers the promise of a cool fall days.

Soon it will be the one-year anniversary of Genie's death. Once again, many squares need to be sorted. The afghan I have worked on is almost done. It will bring warmth to someone at our local homeless shelter or in a new Habitat home. And one Sunday soon, among my group of WUA friends, I'll start another one.


You may have already met Genie and Ed McCliment in an earlier essay, Ed's Hat: Form, Function and Ultimate Winter Warmth and its companion pattern, Ed's Hat. A pattern for Genie's Hat, as well as her recipe--Genie's Killer Devilled Eggs--is in my book, A Knitter's Home Companion.

If you'd like to honor the memory of someone who has enriched your life and your community, consider joining a charitable knitting or crochet group. Check out Lion Brand's great Charity Connection to locate a group near you.

You can also be involved by donating yarn. In these hard times, many knitters and crocheters are on a tight budget. Having a group stash, saves embarrassment and gives all knitters yarncrafters options to try out new colors or yarns. Do ask first about specific color and fiber needs.

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Authored by

Michelle Edwards is the author/illustrator of A KNITTER'S HOME COMPANION and many award-winning children's books including CHICKEN MAN and STINKY STERN FOREVER. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys talking about books in schools throughout the US and beyond. Her newest book, Room for the Baby, will be available from Random House in Fall 2012. Visit Michelle Edwards at her website or on Facebook.
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