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The Place I Go: Michelle’s Project Knitwell Story

October 26th, 2015

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The Place I Go: Michelle's Project Knitwell Story
In conjunction with launching Project Knitwell Presents: The Comfort of Knitting, we asked members of Project Knitwell to share their stories on how knitting helped them through a difficult time. Here, executive director of Project Knitwell Michelle Maynard shares how knitting a pair of socks for husband came to mean much more.

When my husband Matt, then a fit, healthy 53 year-old called me from our home in Virginia to tell me he had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, one of the first things I did was head for the yarn store.

It was December 2009, and I was in Rhode Island helping my mom who had undergone a lumpectomy.  After hanging up the phone, I left my mom in my dad’s care and headed for a Providence yarn store.  I was looking for a dose of “yarn therapy.”  I knew I would feel calmer after squishing some alpaca and merino, and that I would walk out of the shop with some yarn ready to tackle a project and be productive.  And I knew that project would be a pair of socks for Matt.

I had been promising Matt handknit socks for several years – ever since he started teasing me about how he was going to give me $5 for a package of store bought socks so I didn’t have to spend hours knitting them.

But my need to turn to my knitting in the wake of this news wasn’t just about the socks.  For me and many others, knitting is a way to cope with stress, increase focus, and engender a sense of accomplishment during uncertain times.  Scientific research has started to back up what we knitters already know about the positive effects of knitting on the brain.

I am a life-long knitter.  My mom taught me when I was a girl, and I have turned to knitting during times of stress:  I knit Icelandic sweaters during during exam study breaks in college.   I made scarves and baby sweaters for friends in the 1990s as I traveled to international hotspots for work.  A year or so after adopting our daughter from Russia, I started an evening knitting group at a local coffee shop to help deal with the stress of being home all day with a very active, headstrong three year-old who had spent her first 17 months in an orphanage.  In those years, I knit mostly fun fur scarves and little girl ponchos.

During Matt’s cancer journey, I knit a lot of thank you gifts: hats, shawls, cowls, and fingerless gloves for friends who offered meals, rides, and other support.  Of course, I knit several pairs of socks for Matt, who after receiving that first pair, never again offered me $5 for a store-bought pair.

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I did a lot of knitting over the last 5 plus years in medical waiting rooms where inevitably from a screen overhead the local news is issuing a live report on the latest shooting, or the talking heads are screaming about health care or a fake judge is yelling at some guy about how he needs to pay his child support.  Knitting never failed to calm me during those waits.  I could always count on someone to start up a conversation about the color of the yarn or how they’d like to learn some day.

Medical staff usually got in on the conversation too:  “What are you knitting?”  “Is that knit or crochet?”  “How can you do that without looking?” “My wife makes fingerless gloves.”  Amid conversations about test results and scans and surgery, it was reassuring and calming  for both my husband and me  to have these humanizing, equalizing encounters with the doctors and caregivers.  I think it was to the doctors too.  My knitting provided an icebreaker, and leveled the playing field a bit.  It helped me be a quiet, supportive presence to my husband.

In Matt’s final weeks, I didn’t knit much because of the demands on my time that his care entailed.  In those last couple of days of his life, however, there were more quiet moments.  I picked up the needles again as I sat by his bedside, and clicked away on a pair of socks.  It gave us both great comfort.

Michelle Maynard is the Executive Director of Project Knitwell, a Washington, D.C. area non-profit that provides knitting instruction and quality knitting supplies to people facing stressful situations  in hospital, community, and other settings. Her husband Matt Sunter died in May 2015.


Knitting to Heal: Carol's Project Knitwell Story
Project Knitwell Presents: The Comfort of Knitting, is a unique book that focuses on  how to alleviate stress and offer comfort to families and caregivers facing difficult situations. More on Project Knitwell’s mission, as well as 7 new patterns are included in this publication. All proceeds from Lion Brand’s sale of this book go directly to Project Knitwell and the Alzheimer’s Association.


Counting Down to The Flower Run with David Babcock, the Knitting Runner!

October 23rd, 2015

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Lion Brand® is sponsoring David in not one but TWO marathons this fall! David is running to raise money for Alzheimer’s research and he needs your support – last year, with your help, David raised $10k, will you help David beat that?

Please donate today: http://lby.co/1Kl24cG.


I love running the New York City Marathon. I get to run through all 5 boroughs and be cheered by enthusiastic spectators for the entire 26.2 miles of the race. Last year I ran while double-finger-knitting a scarf with the words, “I’ll Remember For You!”. This year I’ll be making crochet flowers!

Once again, to respect security restrictions, I will be running without tools or bulky bags. Each flower uses about 12 yards of Wool-Ease® Thick & Quick® yarn which I will wear on my arm as individual crocheted bracelets. I’ll use my fingers to crochet flowers while I run and once a flower is completed I’ll give it to a spectator and start another. My flower-per-mile pace is a little slow, maybe one every mile and a half. I’m hoping to finish the race in about 5 hours having made 20 flowers.

 

 

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I created a pattern with simplicity and good definition in mind. It makes a five petaled flower about 5 1/2 inches across. Because my finger is replacing the hook the super-bulky yarn weight is necessary. Hometown USA® has my favorite flower colors, but I’ll be using Wool-Ease® Thick & Quick® because I feel it works better with my sweaty hands. Crochet can be hard, athletic work 😉 . My favorite yarn for this pattern is the cotton Bonbons with a tight 2.75mm hook. It makes intricate, clear and tight flowers that would look great attached to a hat, headband, or scarf.

 

:: Can’t see the video above? Click here to watch – https://youtu.be/59Cr3EzepzM ::
 

Why am I doing this? Because it is crazy fun! and I am hoping that it will help bring attention to Alzheimer’s disease and support for caregivers. At “Walk To End Alzheimer’s” events participants hold up flowers for a “Promise Garden” moment of silence and commitment. The color of the flower that they hold represents their connection to Alzheimer’s. A blue flower represents someone who has Alzheimer’s, purple for those who have lost someone to Alzheimer’s, yellow for caregivers, and orange for those who recognize the importance of support and working to end the disease.

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I don’t have a specific plan as to how I will choose who to give a flower to. I’ll try to follow inspiration rather than hallucinations from exhaustion. I think that I’ll probably be biased towards people wearing hand-knit items or purple in support of the Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s affects far too many people’s lives. I hope that you’ll join me in making some flowers for people that you know who are affected.

—David Babcock, the Knitting Runner and Running Hooker

:: Donate and support Alzheimer’s research — make a
donation to David Babcock’s Alzheimer’s Fundraiser today!
::

 

 

David Babcock

David Babcock ran the 2014 NYC Marathon in 3:56 (a PR) and raised just under $10k for Alzheimer’s research.

 


Provide Comfort During Challenging Times: A “Healing Shawls” Giveaway!

October 23rd, 2015

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We’ve appreciated your stories about knitting and crocheting for friends or loved ones during challenging times, and in response, we’re bringing you a book filled with beautiful crochet shawl patterns, Healing Shawls (Crochet) by Leisure Arts.

We understand that words may not always be enough when it comes to expressing concern or hope for someone else’s well-being. When friends and family are faced with difficult circumstances, sometimes the best way to show or tell them you care is to make something for them. Giving someone a handmade gift is a great way to show your support; a handmade gift is always heartfelt and appreciated.

Perhaps you know someone who is ill, has faced a financial setback, or is working through a personal difficulty like a job loss or divorce — a comforting shawl can be a great gift to give. The shawl is symbolic of the hug you’d give them if you were there. When knitting or crocheting the shawl, it’s also a nice to think positively about the recipient to transfer the energies of well intentions; it becomes a meditative process.

In addition to 15 beautiful shawl designs, this book also features personal stories from people who have made and given healing shawls for people they care about. Today, we’re giving two lucky winners the chance to win a copy of the Healing Shawl book along with 6 skeins of Landscapes® in a color of your choice, to make the Striated Triangles Shawl.

(THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED)

Congrats to Julie T. of Florida and Mona K. of Georgia! Please check your inboxes, if we do not hear from you within 7 days, new winners will be selected.

Rules & Guidelines:

1. Entries must be received by November 6 at 11:59pm EST

2. US entries only.

3. Must be 18 and over to enter.

4. One entry per person.

»Click here« to enter the giveaway if the form below does not work for you.

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How-To Tuesday: A How-To-Knit Guide for Project Knitwell

October 20th, 2015

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How-To Tuesday: Project Knitwell
With our latest publication, Project Knitwell Presents: The Comfort of Knitting, we aimed to bring our craft to those who could benefit most from stress relief. We were inspired by Project Knitwell’s commitment to bring knitting to caregivers in hospitals, and developed the book as a how-to guide for first-time knitters. Whether you yourself are a caregiver, know a caregiver, or want to take up knitting, this book acts as both an introduction to the craft and a wellness guide. You’ll learn firsthand how therapeutic knitting can be!

In this How-To Tuesday, we’ve compiled tutorials tailored to beginner knitters. With these skills, anyone can start on one (or more!) of the seven new patterns found in The Comfort of Knitting. All projects included in the book are portable, so they can be worked on both at home, in a waiting room, or during breaks in your day.

Click on the links below to learn…

How to Make a Slip Knot

How to Start with a Knitted Cast-On

How to Knit the Knit Stitch

How to Knit the Purl Stitch

How to Bind Off

How to Seam Two Garter Stitch Pieces Together

How to Seam Two Stockinette Stitch Pieces Together


Head over to lionbrand.com to buy Project Knitwell Presents: The Comfort of Knitting; all proceeds from Lion Brand’s sale of this book go directly to Project Knitwell and the Alzheimer’s Association.

 


Knitting to Heal: Carol’s Project Knitwell Story

October 19th, 2015

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Knitting to Heal: Carol's Project Knitwell Story
Carol Caparosa is the founder and board member of Project Knitwell, an organization dedicated to bringing comfort and therapy to people facing stressful situations through the joy of knitting. In this piece, Carol shares the story of her first born, and how a difficult time led to her back to knitting.

After 19 hours of labor, my first child was born, a beautiful, healthy little girl we named Emily.  She was discharged in two days and life with a new baby began.  Sleepless nights, lots of staring in the crib, holding and soothing her, navigating the early days of nursing and figuring out what she needed – not an easy task.  At one week old, I noticed that Emily seemed to be breathing funny, a little labored and her coloring a little paler than the day before.  I called the pediatrician’s office and the nurse didn’t seemed to be alarmed but said I could bring Emily in.

My Mom and I drove to the doctor’s office and they took her to a room immediately.  Within a few minutes, several doctors rushed into the room with their stethoscopes and started asking me multiple questions about Emily and my pregnancy. The mood in the room was serious and hurried.  The senior pediatrician scooped Emily into his arms, ran out of the office, down the hallway, out the door, across the street, and into the emergency room.  My Mom followed him, while I went to an office to hysterically call my husband.

The Longest Wait

The ER doctors were uncertain what was going on but they knew that Emily was in kidney failure and shock.  One smart neonatologist had a hunch that it might be a certain heart defect and administered medication that provided some relief.  She was transferred to Georgetown University Hospital and rushed to the pediatric intensive care unit.  We waited as specialists examined our tiny daughter and tests were given.  We called our families and asked for prayers.  Finally, two cardiologists’ and an intensivist sat down with us and one of the cardiologists said “if she makes it through the night, her first surgery will be.”  That cardiologist made a drawing, which I still have, of a normal heart and a drawing of Emily’s heart.  He numbered 4 areas that were defective.  I asked for a priest who came and baptized Emily that night.

The surgery was the next morning and she survived it.  But within 2 weeks, she was losing weight and in cardiac failure due to one of the other defects.  At 3 weeks old, and 5 pounds, she had open-heart surgery.  They kept her in a coma for days after the surgery so she could begin to heal.  She did heal, but faced more surgeries during the next 5 years.

A Welcome Distraction

I lived at the hospital and only came home for very brief periods.  I couldn’t stand being away from her, even though in those days, parents could only be in the ICU’s at certain times.  I spent a lot of time in waiting rooms and slept on a cot with other random parents in a room down the hall.  I couldn’t read, watch television, or talk on phone, when I was at the hospital.  I could literally stare at the same sentence in a book for hours.  There was no internet, cell phones or caring bridge website to let concerned family members know how she was doing.  I could only worry and I did that well.  One day, my husband brought in the mail from home and there was a package with a hand-knit sweater that my sister-in-law’s mother knit for Emily.  I opened it and thought that it was the nicest gift anyone could give a baby.  I knew how to knit but hadn’t in a long time.  A light bulb went off and I thought that I would start knitting for the rest of the time Emily was hospitalized.  Not sure why, but somehow, I imagine this would help me.

The next time I went home, I found some yarn, and needles, because all knitters, even when we aren’t knitting, have a stash.  I knit my way through the rest of her hospitals stays.  At first, I just knit, without really making anything – it was the process, not the end product for me.  Eventually, I got patterns and started to make things for Emily.  Her surgeries were long – 7 plus hours and we didn’t get a lot of updates, but somehow I could manage waiting by knitting.   I knit when I couldn’t sleep and when she was sleeping.   I felt productive when I was knitting even though I never finished anything in the hospital. But once she was home, I continued to knit and completed many sweaters that I still have packed away.

A Happy Present

Emily’s surgeries continued for 5 years, we had another baby, a son, and our life eventually took on a normal pace.  After 15 years, I went back to Georgetown Hospital to volunteer.  I volunteered in the in-patient pediatric unit and told the Child Life Specialist that I would be happy to teach Moms to knit.  It took off, and so did the idea of Project Knitwell.  I wanted to build an organization that would provide knitting instruction and quality materials to people who were in stressful situations in healthcare settings in hopes that they would gain the benefits that I had gained.

Emily, at 21, had to have another heart procedure.  It was suppose to be out-patient, but it turned out to be more complicated and included a stay in the ICU for a few days.  The day of her procedure, I brought with me music to listen to, sudoko puzzles, a book I was reading, my knitting, and, of course, the waiting room had a television.  I tried it all, my book, sudoko, TV, but the only thing I could do was knit and listen to my iPod.  Hopefully Emily won’t need more surgeries but, if she does, I’m only going to pack my knitting and iPod.

One last thing… Emily is now a healthy 25 year old, recently engaged, and a pediatric intensive care nurse in the same unit at Georgetown Hospital where she was cared for as an infant.  I still volunteer at Georgetown and love seeing her in her new role  on the days we are there together.  She knows how to knit too!

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Knitting to Heal: Carol's Project Knitwell Story
Project Knitwell Presents: The Comfort of Knitting, is a unique book that focuses on  how to alleviate stress and offer comfort to families and caregivers facing difficult situations. More on Project Knitwell’s mission, as well as 7 new patterns are included in this publication. All proceeds from Lion Brand’s sale of this book go directly to Project Knitwell and the Alzheimer’s Association.

 

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