Sharon Williams has excellent hands for someone her age.
“She can knit hats in the blink of an eye,” said Nola Leaman, activities assistant at St. Mary’s Wilkinson Residential Facility.
“It comes from a lifetime of practice,” Williams replied.
Thanks to her hands and those of a half-dozen other knitters at Wilkinson, 30 of Amsterdam’s less fortunate residents will be sporting warm new homemade stocking caps this winter.
About a year ago, Leaman was looking for a winter activity for her first-floor residents at the facility. She noticed many of them knitting and crocheting, and decided to make a social event of it.
At first there were just a few women meeting every Wednesday for an hour or two, but it grew from there. A year later, there are 10 regulars, drawn to the camaraderie and conversation.
“It’s something to get us out of our rooms,” said Kay Glamm. She’s not actually a knitter and not all that interested in learning. “I’m more interested in hammers and nails,” she said. So instead of knitting, her job is to wind yarn for other knitters and enjoy the conversation.
It’s not necessarily the fastest way to create warmth. It took a full year for the group to create 30 hats and a few scarves, all distributed by the “Comfort Zone” project at Trinity Lutheran Church at the end of October. But for the knitting ladies of Wilkinson, it feels good to help out.
“This is a way for us to give back to the community without actually being out there pounding the pavement,” Williams said.
Making hats is something they are still able to do, In fact, it seems more and more like it’s something only they can do.
“It’s really a lost art,” said Clara Gapodiferro, “People aren’t learning anymore.”
She learned to knit and crochet with a few friends many years ago in nursing school. They all pitched in to hire a teacher.
“We just thought it would be a nice thing to know,” she said.
Within the Wilkinson group she was the exception. The rest were taught by their mothers, who were taught by their mothers, and so on.
Bernice Kiszkiel recounted how her grandmother would crochet decorative baskets at Easter time, dunk them in starch to make them rigid, and pile them high with fruit and candy for the children.
“She was always so good at that,” Kiszkiel said, “We couldn’t wait for Easter.” Now, a lifetime later, she is still making doilies for her own kids every holiday season.
Many of the ladies represent the last loop in their knitting tradition, which gives the hats they passed along a little extra meaning.
With their last year of work warming area heads, Leaman said the ladies are starting in on their next charity project, knitting loose fitting-caps for women who have lost their hair to cancer.
To donate yarn, just bring it by the Wilkinson Residential Facility, behind the Medical Arts building at St. Mary’s Memorial Campus on Route 30 in Amsterdam.