Knitters share gifts and yarns with elderly

Knitters share gifts and yarns with elderly

After distributing handmade legwarmers to the residents of Greenwood House in Ewing Township, women philanthropists who call themselves the “Knitzvah” group shared their own knitting stories with about 50 residents of the nursing, rehabilitation, and assisted-living facility on Feb. 6.

Wielding their needles as part of the Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks’ Women’s Philanthropy division, members of Knitzvah make scarves, hats, and blankets for local hospitals and other area recipients in need.

The Greenwood House event suggested that knitting also connects generations.

Carol Pollard of Princeton, whose father worked for several knitting companies, remembered, “When I was a girl, I went to Long Island City and counted pins and put them in plastic bags so people would have enough in their kits.”

Taught to knit by her Nuremberg-born mother, Pollard knits the “European way,” which she shared with both her daughters. Then on a vacation in Florida when the power went out, her bored teenage son asked to learn, and she also taught him. Recently Pollard’s eight-year-old granddaughter joined the crew of family knitters. “Now she will knit scarves for people who don’t have homes and are cold,” said Pollard.

Debbie Gross of Princeton recalled learning to knit as a little girl, using a ball of red yarn. “When I was sick, I would knit and then take it out. I never made anything until I was in college,” she said.

Princeton-resident Joyce Sokolic’s boyfriends benefitted from of her knitting skills. “When I was a teenager and dating,” she said, “I thought it would be neat to make argyle socks for my boyfriends.” And she did.

In Princeton-resident Joan Rosenfeld’s family, knitting skipped generations: She learned from her grandmother and taught her granddaughters — her three daughters were not interested. Her grandmother’s specialty, she recalled, was mittens: “So everybody in the family has mittens from Grandma.”

Merrye Shavel, also of Princeton, learned to knit from her aunt, “who could knit at the movies in the dark without a pattern.”

Thanks to Paula Joffe, director of Women’s Philanthropy, Knitzvah has a corporate sponsor for events like the Greenwood visit.

She contacted Jack Blumenthal, senior vice president of marketing and sales at Lion Brand Yarn, who first regarded her idea as just one more of the requests he is inundated with all day, every day. But when he heard the name “Knitzvah,” he was hooked. “This one really struck my heart,” he told NJJN.

Part of the family that has owned and operated Lion Brand Yarn Company for 135 years, Blumenthal agreed to donate many skeins of yarn as well as knitting needles to Knitzvah.

“The whole knitting/crocheting community loves to give back,” said Blumenthal, who has a Lion Brands outlet in New Jersey near the Meadowlands, as well as a store in Manhattan and a new one in the Albany area. “Sometimes I think more people make for others than for themselves.”

The Greenwood residents shared their own knitting stories with NJJN.

Harriet Rubin learned to knit from an aunt who had “golden hands.” Back when Rubin was a chunky 10-year-old, her aunt knitted her a beautiful skirt, but, Rubin recalled, “It was too tight and I didn’t want to wear it.”

Evelyn Schenfeld, whose own craft is needlepoint, not knitting, reminisced about how she used to walk by knitting stores on the Lower East Side when she visited the bridal fabric store at 97 Hester St. owned by her husband.

Roz Friedman, who said that she knitted many years ago but over time had forgotten, took a pair of needles and a ball of yarn donated by Lion Brand Yarn and started to knit again during the program.

Another resident, Janet Landy, has not knitted much, but recalled a time when she did, as a teenager. “During the war we used to knit squares for the boys,” she said.

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