Or how to keep in touch with your best knitwits when you live 3,000 miles away from them

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

How about a yarn swap?

I mentioned in my earlier blog (the bad news (no knit night 8/24) good news (yarn giveaway)) that I'm inspired to give my yarn more respect and actually put it away in the many areas that have already been designated for yarn. I told Marcy to be sure to bring swappable yarn next Wednesday and that I would encourage Raleigh-based KnitWits to do the same. In pure Marcy fashion, she added the "great" to this idea.

Anything we can't talk each other into taking home will be donated to the Knitters of Magnolia Glen. Marcy wrote about their charity knitting last December in Notions. I'll insert the text of her article at the end of this blog.

News for anyone who checks this out in the next bit (it's 8:45ish EST 8/23), we are anxiously awaiting the call from Beverly who will deliver to all KnitWits news of Baby Silberman's arrival. Baby's been quietly working on her debut since last evening but word went out today around 11 that they had gone to the hospital for the final details of her delivery.

I'll be back to blog details of the Green Day concert Thursday. For the really curious, here's their website: www.greenday.net They are scheduled to perform Sunday on the MTV Video Music Awards.

Marcy Smith Rice - Gift Offers Warmth, Inside and Out December 25, 2004:

This is a love story. I'll come right out and tell you that in case you were hoping to get tips on turning wrapping paper and ribbons into Valentine's Day cards. So put away the glue gun and pour some cocoa.

Our story starts and ends with a blanket. Lots of blankets, really. They're piled on a table in a sitting room at Magnolia Glen, a retirement community in Raleigh.

Susan Holmes has stopped by to collect blankets for Project Linus, an organization that provides blankets to children in need. Some go to children in the hospital. Some go to children who have lost someone close. Some go to children in other traumatic situations; for instance, after the shooting at Columbine, students wrapped up in Project Linus blankets. The blankets are distributed in the area where they are produced. And there is always a demand.

It is the fifth time this year that Project Linus has collected blankets from Magnolia Glen, where the needle-arts group, One Stitch at a Time, has made 125 blankets for Project Linus this year.

Lillian and Frank

Lillian Desiderio, 92, begins to talk about her knitted blankets, then points to some brightly painted wooden trains and wagons on the nearby table. "My husband makes the toys," she says.

Frank Desiderio, 95, talks a bit about the toys, then says: "My wife's name is Lillian. She's the one that does the knitting."

The Desiderios have been a team for 67 years. They began charity work right after the war, Frank says, when Frank was running a gift shop and Lillian was organizing polo matches for the U.S. Polo Association.

"Lillian's been knitting since she was knee high to a grasshopper," he says, and she got involved in a knitting group that made things to send to the Indian reservations or give to the Salvation Army. "One woman would make hats, another woman would make sweaters." Lillian made all sorts of things, but her specialty is a cunning hooded sweater that zips up the back. You put the baby in, Frank says, then zip it up. "You see the little head sticking out," he explains, framing his own face. "It's so cute."

So the women gave the knitted goods away and if there were little children, "I'd give them a toy of some kind," Frank says.

"That's the way it started and we've been doing it ever since." Frank says. "And we enjoy it."

Therapy of giving

The Desiderios don't have any children. But they have 29 nieces and nephews. And every one of them has woodworking projects from Uncle Frank: a dollhouse and doll rocking cradle for the girls, a barn for the boys and a desk and chair for both.

These days, between the toys - wagons, train engines and tractors, doll beds and cradles -- Frank makes birdhouses. Since the Desiderios arrived at Magnolia Glen in October 1993, Frank has made a dozen bluebird houses that are placed around the grounds and two wintering bird condos, with room for 30 to 40 birds.

"I'm down there [in the workshop] almost every day," he says. "I go down for an hour or two. For me, it's therapy, same as the knitting for my wife. If we didn't do this, you go crazy, you know."

He looks around his little workroom, with too few tools to do the work he wants to do. But it's good.

"I come down here, I'm relaxed," he says "This is part of my life."

Later in the day, he spends time reading. "I read three, four books a week," he says. "I just finished the new one by Danielle Steel called 'Echoes.' The best book she has ever written. It's marvelous."

But his real love is wood. And Lillian.

In the sitting room, Lillian waggles her fingers at Frank at the next table. He waves back and smiles. Lillian returns to talking of knitting.


It all started with the picture of the sleigh, Lillian says, with the two little sweaters on top.

Every Christmas for the past three years, residents of Magnolia Glen have filled a sleigh with toys to give away. They give the toys to the Methodist Home for Children in Raleigh. They don't usually include clothes, but last year, Lillian put two of her trademark sweaters on the top of the pile. A photograph of the sleigh in the newspaper caught the eye of Diane Wallace, Project Linus' talent scout and resource coordinator.

"All these bags [of yarn] came in," Lillian says, "from Linus."

Project Linus found Lillian, but Lillian sees it the other way around.

"It was wonderful to find Linus because I needed an outlet," she says. You see, Lillian will knit anyway, to keep from going crazy, you know. Linus gives shape and destination for her knitting.

Since February, Lillian has knitted 43 pieces. And her friend, Mavis White, 87, sewed quilts.

Holmes takes the blankets home, then Wallace shuttles them to Cardinal Gibbons High School or Our Lady of Lourdes School, where students sew on tags that read "Made with Tender Loving Care for Project Linus" and pin on a poem. Wallace returns them to Holmes, who delivers them to hospitals.

Recently, while Holmes was with her injured daughter at WakeMed's pediatric ER, she noticed that the kids there didn't have blankets. She dropped some off the next week.

"I think everybody needs a blanket sometime," says Holmes.

Indeed. Lillian and Frank have each other for security. The children need the blankets. Project Linus needs Lillian and Mavis and Gladys Mowery and all of the other blanket-makers, as well as the network of volunteers that make Project Linus work.

At every moment, from the time Mavis chooses her fabric and Lillian casts on her yarn to the time a child selects his or her own security blanket, those stitched coverlets are handled with love that surely permeates the fabric for all time.

Have a warm Christmas.


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