Hamline Midway Elders knit through pandemic

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The Hamline Midway Elders Knitting and Crochet Group is live on Zoom for two hours every Monday afternoon. The 6-8 members who have stuck with it have gotten used to this new kind of knitting circle.
According to Judy Gibson, one of the regulars, Zoom has made it possible for the group to stay together. She said, “Being able to keep up our knitting circle during this last year has met a need. The regular members expressed great appreciation for that.”
The group is unique in that everything they make is donated to Our Lady of Peace Hospice, Hamline Elementary School, and Keystone Community Services – all within about a one-mile radius. At last count, the group has given away more than 1,000 prayer shawls, winter scarves, pairs of mittens and hats.
According to Gibson, members of the group provide instruction for beginners, as well as yarn and needles. She said, “It’s a lot easier to teach someone in person, but we can manage over Zoom. The group tends to be made up of women, though it doesn’t have to be. The average age is 65-70 years old.”

Donated yarns complete circle of giving
Most of the yarn for their projects is donated, either by the knitters themselves or by friends and neighbors who have extra yarn on their hands. According to Hamline Midway Elders Program Director Laurel Collins, “It’s a wonderful circle of donated yarn being turned into handmade wearables – and then being given back to the community.”
Gibson described the weekly meetings as relaxing. She said, “The atmosphere is pretty close to what we had when we were meeting in person. There isn’t pressure to talk all the time. Sometimes we just work on our projects quietly, and sometimes we visit. If someone has a question, chances are good someone else can answer it. We have several very good knitters.”
It’s common knowledge that knitting and crocheting (along with needle work) are healthy brain exercise. Keeping track of counting rows and stitches is mental stimulation; small repetitive motions can help with manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination. Hand work can also be calming in stressful times, and these are surely stressful times.
Gibson said, “A lot of us in the group like to experiment. We’ve been knitting long enough that we don’t always like to use patterns. This winter I knit a shawl made with something called the ‘Serendipity Design.’ You have six different colors of yarn, and assign a number to each one. Someone rolls a dice to see which color of yarn to start with. Then you flip a coin to see whether you should knit or purl. You keep doing that throughout the shawl – and you can’t predict what it will look like until it’s done.”

Rare bipartisan group
In crafting groups, there can be a funny separation of knitters and crocheters, something like downhill and cross-country skiers. Gibson said, “Our group is ‘bipartisan.’ Beginning instruction is available in both knitting and crocheting, and all are welcome to join this friendly group of yarn crafters.”
To join the group or to make a donation of yarn, knitting needles, or crochet hooks, contact Laurel Collins at laurel@hmelders.org.

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