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One good turn

Delmar Progress Club’s Knitting Group prepares all year for Giving Tree

Each year, Delmar Progress Club’s Knitting Group displays a Giving Tree in the lobby of the Bethlehem Public Library adorned with winter ware they made by hand throughout the year.

Each year, Delmar Progress Club’s Knitting Group displays a Giving Tree in the lobby of the Bethlehem Public Library adorned with winter ware they made by hand throughout the year. Photo by Marcy Velte.

— Each piece is made with extreme skill and care. Although the pieces are functional, members also work to make sure the winter wear is up-to-date fashion wise, so the work isn’t wasted.

Knitting woven into identities

Most members of the Progress Club have been knitting since they were girls as part of a family tradition passed on through generations. Sigrid Narr said she began knitting when she was just 6 years old.

“I grew up in Germany during the war and we were being evacuated to what was supposedly a safe zone,” she said. “It took us a week to get there, which would normally take five hours because all of the train tracks had been bombed, so we had to walk 10 miles to get to the next train but my mother had some yarn and some knitting needles and she taught me how to knit.”

The new hobby kept the young girl’s mind off of what was happening around her and eventually she knitted a sweater for her “dolly.” She was taught how to crochet and quilt at around the same time, so by the time she was 7 years old, Narr had learned several new and useful skills.

Other women had similar, although not quite so dramatic, stories of learning to knit at an early age from their mothers or grandmothers. Many have passed on the tradition, but simultaneously fear it is becoming a skill that is becoming lost in the younger generations.

“They just aren’t as interested,” said Joan Barron, 81, one of the oldest members of the group. “They have other things to occupy their time.”

O’Brien said she tried to teach her daughter, who wasn’t interested, but her granddaughter now knits.

More than just a club

Members of the Knitting Group are sometimes spurred to competition — depending on who you ask. O’Brien said she competes to learn the same patterns done by Narr, who most in the group agree is the best knitter. Narr disagreed, explaining O’Brien is the most talented.

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