Review by Jane Cochran
"This is Nell. She knits...a lot." I was completely enchanted the minute I read the first sentence of Knitting Nell, a new children's book written and illustrated by Julie Jersild Roth. We knitters understand, don't we? Insert any of our names, and we're described perfectly. I turned the page, already smiling.
The author's charming watercolor illustrations tell the story of Nell, a little girl who takes her knitting everywhere, even into the bathtub. She's shy, though, and she doesn't talk much, especially since her classmate told her she had a voice "like a cricket with a pillowcase over its head." So Nell listens and knits. The clear colors and simple drawings throughout the book's 30 pages illuminate Nell's quiet, generous nature.
Nell knits beautiful scarves and socks and hats and mittens, and she gives most of them away. A blanket for her aunt's new baby, scarves for her family, and warm things for the Children's Home fly from her needles. She even finds the time to make a sweater for herself that she decides to enter in the County Fair.
Each page of this sweet book is filled with Nell's shy smile, and with the good thoughts she's having as she knits and knits...and knits. Not many people seem to understand, but Nell's not bothered. Her simple message, at first not recognized by her friends, eventually spreads warmth and love like a soft knitted blanket. As I turned the last page, I was still smiling.
Knitting and Sharing
We're knitters. We knit with process or product in mind, and it doesn't always matter which. We'll knit practically anything; just hand us the needles and yarn. We just love to knit, and we use our skills to adorn and warm ourselves and our loved ones. We can identify with Nell, who "knits...a lot."
Lately I've found myself wanting to be a little bit more like her. I have a little time to spare, and more than enough yarn to share, so I'm knitting for others, too.
Many of us participate in charitable knitting projects, either on our own or as part of a group. We knit for our neighbors as well as for people we'll never meet.
We know, as Nell does, that the deep satisfaction we derive from knitting can be shared with anyone. From within our own close circle, or out into the wide world, the work of our hands can help make someone feel warm and loved. Our knitting matters.
Where to Begin
We have the yarn, and we have the desire. How do we find organizations who would like our hand knitted offerings? There are many charities seeking donations of hand knitted items, and the choices can be overwhelming.
Good information is available, though. Interweave Press has recently updated its Knitting for a Better World pages. It's an alphabetical listing of about 75 organizations that need our knitting help. Some of them, like Project Linus and Afghans for Afghans, might be familiar names.
Lion Brand Yarn's Charity Connection is a large and searchable knitting charity registry. My simple query for "blankets" in my own state of New York returned 36 results!
Look around the Internet, at your fellow knitters' blogs, or right here on the Knitter's Review Forums and youíll find a charity or an organization that's worth supporting. That's how I found out about the Red Scarf Project, which collects red scarves to send in Valentine's Day care packages to college students who have aged out of foster care.
Each year Clara invites those attending the Knitter's Review Retreat to bring an item or two to donate to a designated charity. In 2006 we'll be supporting, for the second time, the Dulaan Project, which collects and sends warm knitted items to children in Mongolia. In 2005, we collected an amazing 97 items, a small but significant portion of the astonishing 12,085 items contributed by knitters all over the world.
How to Continue
Once you find a charity or a project that you'd like to participate in, what's next? Why not invite your knitting group to join you, as Nell does, to make and send your beautiful work to people in need of warmth?
Many yarn shops sponsor charity knitting groups, or you might help start one. Perhaps your church knows of a program in your area. Spread the word, and let other knitters know when you find a worthwhile cause to knit for. You can even join online groups to share your progress.
How about sharing Knitting Nell with your favorite young knitter? Nell is bound to be an inspiration. Or, knit on your own, with Nell's smile to keep you going. You really can make a difference.
The Good Scarf Project
Knitting Nell's message of giving and kindness has inspired the author, Julie Jersild Roth, to create the year-long Good Scarf Project. Each section of a virtual scarf, made up of photographs of knitted contributions, will honor something good—a thought, a cause, or a person—that is chosen by each participant as they knit.
Children and adults, whether in groups or individually, can knit a scarf and submit it to the project. I like the idea of turning my knits and purls into a scarf to honor someone or something, and Iíll look forward to watching my scarf be connected to everyone else's.
Now, which yarn to choose?
About the Author
Bookseller by day, knitter and spinner by night, Jane Cochran lives on the east end of Long Island in an apartment full of yarn and a Rick Reeves 30-inch split-bench production spinning wheel. Read her blog, Not Plain Jane.
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