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Power of Wool Leaves Members in Stitches

May 25, 2006 By:
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Intergenerational activity: Group knits one, purls two, as folks weave their way into a hobby that offers a yarn of a good time.
The length of their experiences may have varied - from just a few months to more than 70 years - but for the more than 70 people gathered in the dining room of Martins Run Senior Life Care Community, they all had one thing in common: They knew how to knit.

The women - joined by a couple of men - came to the Monday gathering at the Media-based retirement community to share techniques, talk about the hobby, and even learn a thing or two.

"I am always ready to learn new things," said resident Esther Korman, who, though she has been knitting for more than half a century, said she still had some questions about the art. "Knitting is the easy part. The trick is putting the project together so it looks professional."

Answering such questions - and at the same time bringing together fellow knitters to discuss projects - was exactly Sheri Von Urff's vision when she created Wool Power. A retired teacher, Von Urff volunteered at the Hickman, a Quaker-sponsored independent and assisted-living residence in West Chester, and started knitting with seven of the women there. Soon, the small group expressed interest in meeting other knitters, and a nonprofit organization was born.

For the group's public kick-off event,Von Urff invited nine students from West Chester Friends School's knitting club - which she started - to mingle with the elderly and share some of their thoughts about why they love to knit and how the hobby makes the world a better place.

"Knitting is important for kids for historical reasons, and for psychological and educational reasons," said Von Urff, who noted research showing it helps youngsters learn math. "It's important because it gets our kids communing together. It takes them away from computers, and that singular technological focus that they are so drawn to."

Some of the grade-school students sat at a table, comparing yarn and projects. Others walked about, helping residents with certain stitches or removing snags.

"It's really fun," said 9-year-old Gabrielle Metzger, as she worked pink and purple yarn into what she said will be a scarf for her babysitter. Earlier, Gabrielle told the audience that knitting aids the world because the products keep people warm.

Martins Run resident Natalie Gray, who learned the craft during a rainy summer 70 years ago by watching an older girl do it, used the opportunity to work on an old project.

"The person it was supposed to be for is now 11. I started it when he was 8," explained the 78-year-old as she held up pieces of what's to be a sweater with a red firetruck on it, now intended for another grandson. "This morning, I vowed I was going to cancel my New York Times subscription so that I can finish it."

After some free time to chat and stitch, Cathy Finley, owner of a yarn store in Swarthmore, showed the group some project ideas for stash - or leftover pieces of yarn - including small coin purses and dish towels.

No matter the age, most in attendance noted that the hobby allows them time to relax and keep their fingers going.

"When they ask, 'What do you do at Martins Run?' this is it," said Korman. "You laugh, you enjoy, you knit."

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