By Sharon Coy
Blade Staff Writer
It all began with a baby hat.
Several years ago, Ann Barnett, Concordia, had knitted a baby hat that she wanted to donate to someone but didn't know where to go.
When she visited with Mary Anderson, certified speech-language pathologist at Cloud County Health Center, she found the answer. In addition, the idea for Needles and Stitches was born. It is a group of people who meet every Thursday evening at the hospital to knit, crochet and create various items to donate to different organizations.
Anderson learned from Lori Lowell, head of the OB unit at CCHC, that hats could be used to give to the newborns. With this in mind, along with Barnett's lament that Concordia had no place for people to hang out just to knit and crochet, Anderson obtained sponsorship of the CCHC Rehab Department for the Knit and Crochet Group. She then printed flyers and placed a notice in the Blade announcing the meeting time and place which happens to be from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursdays, in Room 106 at CCHC.
Within a short time, anywhere from six to 16 women were gathering weekly to work on projects both for their families and friends and to meet needs of the hospital and the community.
Not long after, they were joined by Tony Anderson who likes to knit and crochet and who has learned the art of bobbin lace making from the Sisters of St. Joseph. When asked if he minded being the only man in the group, Anderson who had worked with many women nurses before he was injured in an automobile accident, said he is used to being outnumbered.
With his bobbin lace making skill he has made a number of cross bookmarks. He has crocheted hooded cocoons for newborns, a diaper cover and matching hat and, doing loom knitting, has made teddy bears which he donated to the hospital. His latest project is crocheting a chicken and broken egg which could be used as an Easter decoration.
"I do this for fun, making things to give away," he said. "I look forward to Thursday nights."
In addition to knitting baby hats, Barnett has another project which she calls her "mission." She knits pocket size squares in assorted colors of yarn and attaches copies of a short prayer with a tiny safety pin.
These "pocket prayers" are given to patients at CCHC or whoever she thinks might have a need for them. She leaves them in motels whenever she travels and also sent 150 of them to an aunt in California who she said has been "having a ball" distributing them.
Donna Nelson has made many blankets and hats for the hospital's new babies, She also has made cocoons including one fashioned like a Santa hat. CCHC didn't have any Christmas babies to wear it but Anderson said it was still used in December.
Nelson said cocoons are ideal for men to use because most don't know how to wrap babies. The snug wrap can be knitted or crocheted and comes in many different patterns including a football and an Easter bunny.
Nelson also has been tatting and making beautiful cross bookmarks. Her goal is to have 200 made for her upcoming family reunion so there will be one to give to each person present.
Lila Clark who has been coming to Needles and Stitches since its early beginnings, has performed a much appreciated service the past three years, crocheting hats for the pre-schoolers at Head Start. She gives them to the school as soon as it begins to get cold and always includes several extra ones in case new children enroll. "I just use my leftover yarn," Clark said. "It doesn't cost me anything."
Recently Clark has been crocheting necklaces and ruffled collars for t-shirts. She said she has a number of them hanging in her closet to have ready whenever she needs a gift.
Vicki Menard began coming to Needles and Stitches shortly after her husband Tim died last fall. "I've had so much fun," she said of her Thursday night outings. She has crocheted at least a dozen baby hats.
Martha Thomas said she had been knitting since she was in junior high. "It relaxes me," she said. Thomas has made afghans for all of her 11 grandchilden. Like Barnett, she also enjoys making and sharing pocket prayers.
Both Nelson and Mary Anderson emphasized how the women help each other with their projects and Monica Hartsel will testify to that. "When I didn't know how to read a pattern Lila showed me how," Hartsel said. Hartsel has been crocheting delicate pastel flowers to make hair ornaments.
The women have also helped 4-Hers who have come with their projects, some of which found their way to the Cloud County Fair. "If you come with a problem, someone here will help you," Mary said. "We'll help anybody who wants to come.'
While the group has a number of hats in many different colors made ahead for newborns, Mary announced they had received a request for a blue one from a woman who is expecting a baby in one month and no blue ones are in their stash.
No doubt the busy stitchers will waste no time reaching for their blue yarn. Speaking of yarn, several of the women mentioned how they always seem to have a plentiful supply. Some received leftovers from friends. Others found bargains at garage sales. Buying yarn at a store seldom seems necessary.
In addition to the baby hats, other projects for the hospital that the Needles and Stitches group have helped with include chemo caps and prayer shawls.
Marci Rogers, the mother of a former chemo patient, said that a variety of hats to choose from was fun for her daughter Erin and lifted her spirits while she was sick. The group keeps a basket of hats in Partial Day Surgery where patients come for treatment.
They have made prayer shawls for patients undergoing chemo or for any other person in need.
The women and Tony say the enjoyment of what they do is in the making and once a project is finished they want to give it away.
Needles and Stitches always welcomes new members. It's not a club with dues and roll call. People just show up when they can on Thursday evenings.
For people who are new to knitting or crocheting, they have simple patterns and several experienced people who are happy to teach the basics. They also have lots of yarn and some needles and hooks.
"If you have a project you are working on for your grandchildren or for a friend, bring it along so we can admire your work," Mary said. We learn from each other. It is not important that everything you bring to work on is for 'charity' as long as 'charity' is in your heart."
Needles and Stitches is a diverse group of people with an equally diverse selection of projects. They enjoy working together as they exercise their creativity with their needles and, best of all, they like giving away their creations