On a cloudy and damp afternoon a few days before the beginning of the second annual knit-a-thon sponsored by A Great Yarn in Chatham, it’s cozy and warm inside Chatham’s two-year-old knitting store and bookstore, where a group of women is knitting together at a big round table.
Many of these women, if not all, participated last year in the knit-a-thon by knitting long panels that were eventually crafted into blankets distributed to the homeless in Hyannis.
Ron Weishaar, who co-owns the store with his wife Mary, predicts that, based on inquiries, about twice as many knitters will participate in the knit-a-thon this year.
“From word of mouth, other things, participation is really mushrooming,” Weishaar said during a telephone interview last week.
The idea is this: For three months, starting Feb. 1, you are encouraged to knit a panel that will eventually be incorporated into a blanket donated to the homeless shelters in Hyannis. While last year about 100 knitters participated, mainly the store’s “core customers,” Weishaar says this year many others will join in, bringing the total number of knitters up to around 200. Last year the knitters produced a total of 29 blankets and raised $1,500. This year Weishaar anticipates completing at least 50 blankets and raising $2,500.
“I’ve been spending a lot of nights following up emails,” Weishaar says. He is fielding queries from knitting groups around the Cape including one from a 95-year-old woman in Pocasset. Harwich’s Brooks Free Library knitting group, Knit Lit, which has about 40 members, will knit panels. And the Monday knitters at the First Congregational Church of Chatham will participate. Weishaar has also heard from two teachers who want their classes to participate.
“Both teachers are knitters and want to get kids enthused,” Weishaar says.
Yes, this means that young people are learning to knit.
Staff member Antonia DaSilva of Chatham, a sophomore at Smith College majoring in studio art, is taking a semester off and working as a consultant knitter.
“My mom taught me to knit when I was seven or eight and I’ve pretty much been knitting since then,” she says. Her off-Cape high school banded together to knit hats and scarves for the homeless.
“It was a pretty big thing at my high school,” she says. Freshman year at Smith she joined a knitting group.
“I love color—that’s part of what I love about knitting,” she says.
With the arrays of yarn on every wall, this store features color galore. DaSilva and staff member Cecilia Bassett, also of Chatham, unfurl some knitted panels already sewn together into a blanket. The delicious swirl of color is what hits you.
Anyone can participate in the knit-a-thon—from beginning to advanced knitters, young, old, women and men—all are welcome.
Here’s how it works: You're going to knit the equivalent of a scarf (or two), not an entire blanket. Using worsted-weight yarn, cast 50 stitches onto size 8 needles. Knit in the simple garter stitch (that's just knitting, no purling) until you reach a six-foot length. Your finished panel should measure about one-by-six feet. (If it’s a bit off, don’t worry, Weishaar says.) In addition, if you find numerous sponsors to contribute $1 or $2 per foot, you can also donate cash along with the six-foot stretch of knitting.
Advanced knitters who might find garter stitch boring have added cables, or even American flags to their panels. “All sorts of embellishments,” Weishaar adds. “It really becomes their own.”
As for yarn—this is a great way to work down the yarn in your stash left over from various projects. Also, “we do have donated yarn, so if somebody needs some they’ll get it,” Weishaar says.
After the staff knitters sew the completed panels together, they will again “yarn bomb” the store, which is located in the Munson Meeting complex on Route 28. Last year on May 1 “that was a neat, colorful event,” Weishaar adds. “The colors that people came up with were unbelievable. Fluorescent pink and yellow. They just looked fantastic.”
The blankets and cash will be donated to the Housing Assistance Corporation-Cape Cod and through that group given to the homeless. Last year homeless people were given baskets containing the blankets as they left the shelter.
A Great Yarn opened in March 2015, selling new and used books (with a good supply of knitting books) and everything knitters need.
To participate, phone the store at 508-348-5605 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The store will provide promotional materials, fliers and sponsor sign-up sheets. If you don't knit, you can be a sponsor. A Great Yarn is located at 894 Main St. The store is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and sponsors Saturday morning Knit-Arounds and winter classes. For more information visit agreatyarn.com.