It was evening. My parents were away and Mrs. Summers was babysitting us. Keeping guard on our den couch, bathed in the blue light of the television, she sat knitting mittens. I had assumed that the mittens were for one of her grandchildren. She had three and sometimes she took my siblings and me to play with them.
LIn the knitting universe of my childhood, people knit for their families. Usually one project at a time. Children and husbands got the usual stuff; scarves, socks, sweaters, hats, and mittens. Sometimes extended family members received baby blankets and booties, possibly an afghan.
Mrs. Summers was making mitten after mitten. I noticed she had filled her knitting bag with them. More pairs of mittens than her grandchildren could ever use. So I wondered. Who was she knitting all those mittens for?
Her answer was my introduction to charitable knitting. I remember it like a Kodak snapshot. Mrs. Summers stopped knitting. She looked straight at me. Her glasses caught the light from lamp next to her. They were the old fashioned kind, with a thick metal frame on top and a cats eye decorative corner. Her hair was permed and dyed a dusty reddish blonde. She wore a yellow floral shirt with a Peter Pan collar.
Our church group sends mittens to the children on Indian reservations. They are very poor, she told me over the chatter of the TV.
Babysitting after a working all day at a bank, Mrs. Summers sat knitting mittens to keep a childs hands warm. Not a grandchild, but an anonymous child in need. Not one pair of mittens for one set of cold hands, but one pair after another. It took me many years to find my knitting way into the universe of those who knit for others. Mrs. Summerss mittens were breadcrumbs on that path.
Charitable Knitting. Knitting for others. Knitting unto others. Knitting for Peace. Community knitting. Putting your needles to work. Knit your bit. It doesnt really matter what we call it, what matters is the making, the giving and the gift. And there is testimony to the fact, that once you begin on this path, it will become part of your knitting life. It has for me.
Im not a member of any organized group of charitable knitters although I admire many of them. Membership is not a requirement to contribute. Over the years, I have sent wooly warmth from my needles to those in need, filling baskets with mittens, draping shoulders with shawls, covering heads with hats, and bundling babies in blankets.
We all know the restorative power in the rhythm of our hands working and the beauty of what they can create. But theres something different that happens when you do this for others. Your needles and whatever you are making becomes a purpose greater than yourself. You may not have the power to repair a broken world, stop war or end poverty, but you can create a something that will bring another soul comfort. And there is a great joy in that.
From Guidepost sweaters to Warm Up America squares, from chemo caps to preemie hats, there are so many opportunities and needs for handmade items. Welcome to the world of knitting for others. Everyone is invited. You can enter it by sitting in your favorite chair, with the simplest of patterns, and the humblest of yarns. One stitch at a time.
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