Northborough – As conflict and poverty plague the world, one group of women knits to improve the lives of others and spread world peace. The First Parish Knitwits, an organization of 20 women who belong to the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Northborough, meet once a week to knit for fun as well as complete projects to benefit local and international organizations.
It all started with a book titled “Knitting for Peace” that was donated to the group by Judith Wright, the minister of the church, after her six-month trip to the Kopan monastery and nunnery in Kathmandu, Nepal. After reading a story from this book about a Maine farmer working to create fleece out of Soviet and American wool to demonstrate the need for cooperation during the Cold War, Doris Tivnan, a member of Knitwits, conceived the idea of the Knitting for Peace project.
The inspiration came from the idea that two opposing groups can create something together and forget that differences exist. The goal of the group is “reaching out across imaginary boundaries that we put between ourselves and other people,” Tivnan explained.
So far the group has completed five projects, the first being sending hats and mittens to nuns at the Kopan monastery in Nepal through Wright's connection. The nuns are often 10 to 12 years old and come from poor families.
“[You] learn a lot of fascinating and interesting things by doing this. [The projects have] been both local and international. It's been a great thing to do,” Tivnan said.
The second project that Knitwits undertook included donating blankets, bonnets and sweaters to the School Age Mothers (SAM) program in Worcester, which operates a day-care program and high school for teenage mothers.
All of the hand-knit items are personally delivered to local programs and the ideas for the projects originate from members” personal connections through work or volunteering.
The group has also participated in a sock project through the Ethiopian-based Selamta Project, which they discovered through a member of the First Parish Church. The Selamta Project's goal is to construct families in AIDS-affected regions of Africa where large numbers of children have been orphaned.
Sally Manning, a founding member of Knitwits, said that knitting the socks was her favorite project because the women were able to pick specific children for whom to knit a pair of socks.
Tivnan appreciates the personal connections with the projects that make the donations less anonymous. For example, the group received a photo from the children in Ethiopia wearing the socks that the women created.
“[It is] amazing what you learn when you do something like this because the last thing you would have thought of would be socks,” Tivnan said. Socks are needed in Ethiopia during the rainy season because it becomes cold, and they are also the best prevention for Elephantiasus, a disease contracted from contact with certain soil.
Tivnan's favorite aspect of Knitting for Peace is how much the projects give back to the group in that they acquire knowledge about different parts of the world and gain new contacts.
“[It] gives back just as much or more than what you give to it.”
The Knitwits meetings themselves are casual, and the group includes a range of talents, from women who have just learned to knit to others, such as Tivnan, who started knitting when she was a child and picked up the hobby again about 12 years ago.
Currently, the Knitwits are deciding which project to pursue next. It works so that any member who wishes to contribute to the specific project can join in while often working on other items, from sweaters to shawls, simultaneously.
Nancy Goodhue, a member of Knitwits, enjoys the “camaraderie of the group while [helping] others.”
The meetings are also an opportunity for the members to learn how to craft new articles of clothing, such as socks or baby sweaters.