Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Growing group spins yarn into divine stitches

Growing group spins yarn into divine stitches
By Chris Worthy

From The Tribune-Times, July 5, 2006

It started with the knitting needles of Five Forks area resident Iris Whatley.
Whatley, who was profiled in the Oct. 26 Tribune-Times story, “Purls of Compassion,” spends countless hours knitting sweaters and blankets for orphaned children and desperately poor families in Ukraine. Her friend and fellow knitter Camilla Madding introduced Whatley to the idea of knitting for needy children and followed the Tribune Times story with a Nov. 2 “My Turn” column in which she offered to send a sweater pattern to knitters who were willing to help.
Madding was overwhelmed at the response. Knitters volunteered their talents while those with projects gone awry donated yarn. Simpsonville resident Edith Canna is an avid crafter who knits and crochets. She was touched by the story of Ukrainian families in need.
“It’s hard to believe that in this day and age their problems are so acute,” she said. “We’ve got so much here in the States.”
Canna viewed photos from Theresa Garrett, known to many as Pinky the Clown, who is part of Ware Shoals-based The Master’s Mission, a Christian missionary group that travels annually to Ukraine. The pictures touched Canna’s heart.
“They are hard to look at,” she said.
Canna moved to the Golden Strip from New York about five years ago to be close to her family. For many years she has volunteered her talents, making lap robes for hospitalized veterans. She also knits and crochets items for nursing home residents, Meals on Wheels’ clients and expectant mothers who contact crisis pregnancy centers. One of her most difficult projects has been the small burial blankets—five or six dozen of them—she created for parents whose children are stillborn or die in early infancy. The knitting was easy for Canna but she felt the sorrow of each stitch.
“They weren’t hard to do but it’s a labor of love for the little person who isn’t going to be,” she said.
But Canna’s joy is evident when she speaks of the kindred spirit she has found in Whatley.
“Iris is an amazing lady,” Canna said. “We do things the same way. We’re both old school. We’re both in our 80s. It’s a delight to do something and know that someone is going to use it.”
Canna and Whatley both use donated yarn and they make each bit count. They turn scrap yarn into brightly colored warm sweaters that can make all the difference in the life of a child who may alternate attending school with a sibling because there is not enough warm clothing for both children.
“Whatever I have left, I put colors together,” Canna said. “We don’t waste anything.”
Madding said the knitters who responded to her plea for help have contributed dozens of child-sized sweaters, dozens of baby blankets and countless knit caps, gloves and scarves. And they show no signs of slowing down as long as the yarn keeps coming.
“The thing that surprised me is that they are interested in making so many things,” Madding said. “I am amazed at the volume of baby afghans, scarves and everything else they are making. And they are still making things. God has just gone crazy with this thing. I don’t know how much yarn we had donated, but they have almost used it all up.”
Madding credits Whatley with encouraging her to help get the word out about the project.
“Iris just kept saying, ‘I know there must be people who know how to knit or crochet who would like to help out,’” Madding said. “It’s been really fun. I’ve enjoyed seeing what God does with something.”
Henrietta Christiansen, a 91-year-old Simpsonville resident, crochets baby afghans–several each month.
“I saw (Madding’s) picture in the paper and I contacted her,” Christiansen said. “I told her I make these afghans, but I have nowhere to send them.”
Now Christiansen’s handwork fulfills an additional purpose.
“I have to do something,” she said. “It’s very easy to do. I make each one a little different. I have 12 or 13 right now to give her. I just keep making one after the other. I’m glad to have some place to give them.”
Madding is thankful for the work of giving hands.
“They are all beautiful scarves and sweaters and I picture the children in them in that cold, cold weather when they have nothing,” she said.
For crafters like Canna, the ability to give to others is itself a gift.
“It’s my pleasure and it’s done with a lot of love,” she said.

The Master’s Mission and Theresa “Pinky” Garrett travel to Ukraine each year to teach clowning to others and to minister to families who live in the shadow of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The group sends boxes of sweaters, blankets and other items in advance of the trip and also sends filled “joy boxes,” gift boxes for Ukrainian children, and “mommy bags,” bags of supplies for new mothers.
Supplies and yarn are needed, as well as knitters who are willing to volunteer their time and talents. Filled “joy boxes” are also needed. For more information, contact Camilla Madding at 967-7948 or The Master’s Mission at (864) 456-3055.

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