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Emanuel Congregation Stitching Ladies Knit Thousands of Cold Weather Accessories For Those In Need

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Photo: Emanuel Congregation Stitching Ladies

There in the 5900 block of North Sheridan Road, inside a temple where men and women come to vote on election day, a group of roughly 15 knitters gather every Tuesday to knit themselves, and other things, into a variety of stitches.

They make hats, scarves, mittens, sweaters, baby blankets, booties, shawls, ponchos, skirts, aprons, bags for walkers, and lapghans, too, as part of an organization called the Emanuel Congregation Stitching Ladies. Since 2011, according to coordinator Sandy Pakin’s records, the Stitching Ladies have knitted thousands of items. The knitted items are donated to various organizations. Only the hats, scarves and mittens are dropped off at 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman’s office as part of the 48th Ward School Hat Drive.

“They take it from there,” Pakin wrote to the Edgeville Buzz. The other knitted objects meant to keep men, women and children warm in the winter and during other times of need are delivered to places like the Jesse Brown VA Hospital, Northwestern Hospital Women’s Cancer Center, Care for Real, St. Joseph’s Hospital Neonatal and Adult Rehab units, and The Ark.

The Stitching Ladies wear many hats. During World War II, when the group called itself the Emanuel Congregation Sewing Ladies, it sewed for the American Red Cross.

Carrying on that tradition, a flyer from the organization said, the Stitching Ladies now knit, crochet, and sew items that they then donate to local hospitals and social service agencies. Just in terms of the 48th Ward School Hat Drive, the group donated 50 items in 2011; 111 in 2012; 93 in 2013; 268 in 2014; and 382 in 2015.

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Photo: Ald Osterman delivers the items to Goudy School Principal and Vice Principal

Prior to 2013, the Stitching Ladies didn’t keep specific counts of what it donated except for what it counted as part of the hat drive, which Ald. Osterman’s office initiated. Instead, the group only counted the number of bags it delivered to be donated. Then, the group started counting items by type. This means that in 2013, it donated 700 items; in 2014, it donated 1,181 items; and in 2015, it donated at least 1,194 items, though a few more items will be given away before the year’s official end.

“Item counts are a bit misleading because it takes a lot more time and yarn to make a lapghan than to make a hat,” Pakin said. A lapghan is a small blanket used to cover the knees and legs. “All in all, though, we are pretty excited by our productivity.”

One member is 110 years old. A Stitching Lady Emeritus, Ruth Adler “is no longer able to attend (the knitting groups), but she is very engaged, and when one of us visits her, she is always interested to hear about what we have been doing,” Pakin said.

If these ladies give of their time and talents to create objects to help others, others give their yarn, fabric and tools to help them do so. Sifu Design Studio in Edgewater, which will close at the end of January 2016, as well as Windy Knitty in Andersonville, Knit One, and Montoya Fiber Studio in Evanston have either donated yarn and sample skeins to the group or have passed the Stitching Ladies’ group name on to their customers.

Pakin said her group has also received yarn samples from a yarn distributor, and the group has used the plush, soft fibers it’s received to make caps for those undergoing chemotherapy.

“One woman who came in to vote saw us knitting and came back later with yarn for us,” Pakin said, adding that the group also once received a package of yarn from Guam. The knitters also greatly appreciate donations of yarn in the form of full or partial skeins.

“I am so impressed that so many talented women are willing to contribute their time and skills to help others,” she added. “Occasionally, we receive a ‘thank you’ note from a person who received one of our items. They are always so grateful. We are a fun group and always have lively conversations about current events.”

Pakin said there is always room at their knitting tables for more volunteer knitters and crocheters. The group supplies the yarn and the tools.

The Emanuel Congregation Stitching Ladies meets every Tuesday morning at 5959 N. Sheridan Road from about 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., though some come later and others stay a bit longer, Pakin said. The Temple provides coffee or tea around 11 a.m.


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