knitting small things with great love

better world, knitting


When we traveled to China to meet our daughter in 2002, we were also permitted to travel to the orphanage that had overseen her care from the time she was three days old until we adopted her at 10 months. The American interpreter who had been to many orphanages throughout China, said of this particular orphanage, “I’ve been better and I’ve seen worse.” To me the children appeared well-cared for but seven years later I still wish I had been able to do something more personal and direct-to-the-children than writing a check to the orphanage. We have sent them boxes of art supplies, made donations to various charities that work to improve the conditions in Chinese orphanages and an employee at Mrs. Grossman’s Sticker Company factory store once tearfully and generously gave me her annual allotment of free stickers when I explained to her why I was buying so many stickers, so I could send a huge box of stickers to the orphanage. But for the past few years I haven’t known what else I could do.

My answer came through the wonderful charity-knitting group I joined this year. One of the women in the group told me about Warm Woolies, an organization that sends hand-knitted wool garments to orphanages around the world. They have free patterns that you can use for the donations and because the patterns are knit with double strands on 10 ½ needles in the round, they knit up very quickly. Above is my very first Warm Woolies vest, made with Lion Brand 100% wool bought for $2.50/skein at Michael’s on sale. It took about three skeins to complete the vest. So given that this vest will probably be handed down from child to child, that $7.50 and my time feel really well-spent. Mostly it feels as though I’m fulfilling a small part of the silent promise I made to those children I met at that orphanage so many years ago. I promised that I would do what I could to make the lives of orphans better. It’s that great Mother Theresa quote I love: “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.” I will never solve the Israel-Palestine land issue but I can knit a vest in the evenings for an orphan. Small things with great love I can do.

Now Warm Woolies is teaming up with Land’s End to make garments for homeless families on tribal reservations. Land’s End will donate 7-10 lbs of yarn to a group if they promise to knit and ship the garments by Dec. Our group found out about this project through the Warm Woolies July newsletter which does not appear on the website, so contact Warm Woolies for more information. The offer is limited to the first 150 groups to apply. Our group is anxiously awaiting our allotment of yarn next month. Between getting our daughter back to school, making quilts and finishing a book, I’m going to try to knit a few things to contribute to our group’s box of donations. By December, it will put all of my other holiday preparations into a really healthy perspective. Stay tuned and I’ll post my progress.

trees in the hood

design, experiences, general crafts, good laughs, knitting


I live in Oak Park, Illinois. It’s a wonderful place to live if you’re of a certain mindset. Most people know Oak Park because it’s the home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio and the home of Ernest Hemingway. In recent years it’s become a community known for its diversity and acceptance. Bill and I always say that one of the things we love about Oak Park is that you can’t match up the kids with the parents at the public pool because there are so many mixed race and adoptive families and families with two mommies or daddies. There’s a lot of people with a lot of opinions in this village of 50,000, next to the City of Chicago. You’ve got to be open-minded to live here and that includes liking public art on the village trees.

In the neighborhood business district are trees with themed knit and crocheted sweaters. The sweaters are made and donated by residents and designed to reflect the nearby businesses. The sweaters stay up all year round. The Oak Park Women’s Exchange and the Art Council of Oak Park and Forest Park are the sponsors of the tree sweater project, which is formally known as Knit Knot Down the Block. Sponsors wisely sought and received approval from the village forester, which is important because there’s a vocal crowd who take the health of the trees seriously. What I particularly love about these tree sweaters are the details both in design and in the dedication of the crafter to  knit numerous branch sweaters as well as the main one that goes around the trunk.

Stroll with me down Oak Park Avenue, won’t you, and I’ll give you a tour of my favorite tree sweaters.


The Oak Park Bakery is one of those charming family-owned bakeries that gives out free tea cookies to kids and there’s a long line for coffee cakes and doughnuts on Saturday morning. Their gooey cakes appear at many birthday and block parties. In a recent Chicago guidebook, we noticed that Oak Park had two mentions: the twentysome Frank Lloyd Wright buildings and the Oak Park Bakery. The bakery beat out Hemingway. Hmm…






Across the street is the Parent Teacher Store, which sells educational games and supplies for teachers and parents.



Just beyond the train station is Pan’s, an independent grocery store. You can always get a ripe avocado at Pan’s.



Across the street is a 24-hr. childcare center so they got a big doll on their sweater.


Keep traveling north and you’ll find Lalo’s, a popular Mexican restaurant that has really good margaritas and live music on the weekends.




A few doors down is Nola’s, which serves Cajun food and boasts a fabulous Mardi Gras harlequin on its tree sweater.


If you’re in the area and want to see the Knit Knot Down the Block project yourself, take the Blue Line L to Oak Park. The project is on both the north and south sides of the station.