Representatives from 11 different Kootenai County nonprofits and service agencies came by the Lake City Center on Wednesday to haul off bags filled with lovingly created, warm and cozy goods crafted by the ladies of the Knit Wits group. Mittens, scarves, shrugs, socks, afghans, and newborn layette sets will be making their way to new homes as the ladies of Knit Wits gear up for a whole new year of projects.
They begin every year just after the holidays, creating items that are requested by the agencies to help those that they serve. Charities like Meals on Wheels, ICARE, area food banks and Early Head Start distribute the items where needed.
Group leader, Jan D’Arc has been with the Knit Wits for about 19 years. “Everyone is really nice and we have a great time together, plus they’re always willing to do whatever I nag them to do,” she said with a chuckle. The group meets the first Wednesday each month at the Lake City Center to socialize and create. It gives them a chance to keep making new things, even when their own closets get too full or family members are done with sporting their woolen wares.
“I think I have about 20 pairs of socks in a drawer at home,” said D’Arc. “A lot of us knit things for our relatives,” she said. “But what did your kids tell you,” she asks across the table to fellow knitter Linda Jo Park.
Laughing heartily Park answers, “‘Please don’t knit any more things for us Mom!’ Because you know, you can only wear so many sweaters and then it just gets ridiculous. That’s why I joined this group, so I could keep knitting.”
Park has been a member for about 20 years. She has been knitting for close to 50; her father taught her when she was young. Today she can sit down and knit a pair of socks without really even thinking about it.
“I know plenty of experienced knitters who never get to a point where they can knit without looking at it, and if it’s a complicated pattern then you sure as heck have to keep your eyes on it,” explained Peggy Appleman of her craft. She has spent about 10 years with the group.
1,850 items were completed by the group for this year. Sara Welch, a teacher with NIC Head Start Lakeland, came to pickup on Wednesday and was excited to get the requested items. She was mostly picking up hats and mittens that would be given to the children of low-income families that the center serves. Many parents would not be able to buy warm clothes for their kids, and getting something handmade is pretty special she explained. “I have worked there for about 10 years and this is really a big deal,” she said. “We always try to do a really big thank you for them. Love the program!”
Crystal Balback of NIC Head Start Post Falls said, “Just like today, it was pretty cold outside and a lot of the kids did not come with mittens or hats, and when we receive this we are able to not only give them hats and mittens to take home with them so they have them, but we also have some that we keep at the center in case they forget theirs. And we go outside everyday as long as the temp is above freezing.”
While they don’t tie Christmas into the gift getting, as not all families they serve celebrate, in the past they have incorporated it into a lesson with reading “The Mitten” and other stories by Jan Brett, who’s beautifully illustrated classic children’s stories often take place in winter months.
“There’s another Jan Brett book that we usually read along with giving the items,” said Balback. “One year they made little matching booties for all the kids and we had a little celebration and it was just so cute!”