Library Knitting Group Finds New Purpose in Knitting for Cancer Patients, Homeless
Bearbel Rogers, a member of Peoria Public Library’s knitting group, loves to knit stuffed animals. Her cherished pastime fills her heart—and her house.
“I had fifteen of them in my spare bedroom,” Rogers said. “And my husband said, ‘What are you going to do with them?’”
Rogers isn’t the only member of the group who faces confusion from their loved one about the numerous creations they make, often with no recipient in mind. “Our husbands are looking at us [asking] ‘What are you going to do with that?’” said Kathy Hermes, one of the co-founders of the group. But the ladies who come here every Sunday don’t just knit out of necessity, to make a gift or clothes. “I just have to make something,” said Hermes. “I want to create.”
Then in 2016, the Peoria Library received an LSTA grant to create a makerspace and expand opportunities for makers in the community. With the increased capacity from the grant, the knitting group took on new projects and found new recipients for their knitted creations—those in need in the community.
It started with a call for an unusual knitting project from a charity that serves breast cancer patients. “My family, along with many others, has been touched by breast cancer,” explained Marcia Hammett, who joined the group this year. ”On one of the lists that I belong to, the head of the Knitted Knockers organization put out a call…and we answered the call because they really, really needed them.”
Knitted Knockers are soft prosthetics for mastectomy patients. They require very specific standards for materials and design. “[You have to use] bamboo or silk,” explained Bobbie Yowell, the group’s community outreach representative. “It’s on [the patient’s] skin, and on a sensitive area.”
The library used the grant funds to provide the needed yarn, and the knitting group went to work. In three months, they produced over seventy pairs of knitted knockers, all of which went directly to breast cancer patients in Arizona.
After their first success, the group started seeking out other opportunities to serve the community. For their next project, they spent two months knitting hats and scarves to help Eve’s Place, a shelter that serves victims of domestic violence, prepare for the cold winter months. When Yowell came to collect the donation of over a hundred hats and scarves, she was overwhelmed. “The table was full [of hats],” Yowell said. “These guys [are] willing to spend…hours doing this.”
The group now takes on new community projects every two months, and has started receiving outside requests for donations. In the New Year they will be knitting hats and booties for premature babies in Thunderbird Hospital’s NICU. The community projects have become a source of pride for everyone who participates. “It means a lot to know I have helped kids who have cold heads…or helped our sisters who have breast cancer,” said Hammet. “It’s nothing we take lightly.”
And Rogers’ husband won’t have to worry about those stuffed animals in the spare room much longer—they’ll be on their way to children in Thunderbird Hospital in the New Year.