Nimble fingers, open hearts tie knitting group together


Their hands are filled with colored yarn: filmy pink, eggy yellow and white, thick, warm turquoise, beige or maroon. The 20 women seated around long tables turn it all into lap robes for nursing homes, or tiny caps for babies so small you wouldn't believe they could live.

"This is God's work," said Betty Roberts, who coordinates the women's knitting and crocheting group at Kiwanis-Wallas Recreation Center. "We take blankets [to Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center] because when they get people on their feet and started again, that is their going-away present. It gives them a little incentive and dignity."

The 7-year-old group meets for two hours on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month. Wednesdays and Fridays are senior activity days at Kiwanis-Wallas, Roberts said.

"A lot of them just come for this, because it makes them useful again," she said. "That's how I got into it. The family was grown." Her only son, an Apache helicopter pilot, is waiting to go to Kuwait.

"He's 36 years old and he's been flying since he was 15. I just thank God for every day he's in the country," she said.

Roberts came to the United States from London in 1958. "Everybody in England knitted," she said. "You knit - it's just a thing we did. I didn't have a store-bought sweater until I went to work. It gives the women something to do. You get nervous, and those needles would fly."

The yarn is donated, some in small lots with surprising colors. This year and last, yarn supplies were low and Howard County General Hospital, which receives many of the group's items, gave money to buy more. "We were growing and the yarn was waning," Roberts said.

When the hospital opened its new neonatal unit, she delivered 500 little hats, she said. When Springfield Hospital Center offered yarn if the group would knit hats for patients who had none, the women made 57 in two weeks. "I guess over the seven years, we've made about 3,000 items," Roberts said.

It was Helen Johnson's 81st birthday Wednesday, and a small ice cream cake was put on the table at her place. Eight candles stood around its perimeter, with a single candle in the middle.

"Make a wish," someone said.

"Now you can see the expression on the faces of these dear ladies," Roberts said. "They have such a good time together. They're a wonderful, talented group with hearts as big as themselves."

The knitting and crocheting volunteers meet from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Information: 410- 313-7279.

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