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Friday, Jan. 03, 2014

Knitters pool efforts to send newborns home with warm caps

Special to The Star

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Hands fly and knitting needles gently click-clack on Mondays as residents of Claridge Court led by Helen Taliaferro meet in a conference room to work on knitting and sewing projects.

With fresh cookies and hot coffee or tea on a broad table at the senior community in Prairie Village, the women continue a weekly tradition that began in 2009. Because of their efforts, babies born at six area hospitals during the holiday season were able to go home in hand-knit newborn caps.

Each year the group creates special white caps with colorful holiday-themed tassels providing a festive welcome to local newborns. After more than six weeks of assembly they are delivered by early December.

While doing good is rewarding, the women also enjoy their Monday meetings because of the friendships they have developed.

“I enjoy being with everyone,” said Millie Brown. Ramona Walker agreed. “I think that’s the main thing — just being with people,” she said. And the newest member, Ann Stevens, has found participating in the group is a wonderful way to meet people.

But their work isn’t only a holiday project. The women make at least 10 pastel pink and blue caps each week — year-round — for local hospitals. Each cap takes nearly seven hours to complete. After every two-hour gathering the women donate their time to individually finish the tiny head coverings. Every hat is a little different, reflecting the creativity of its maker.

Taliaferro has sewed with the Village Church for 25 years, and that’s where she delivers completed caps.

When she and her husband moved to Claridge Court Taliaferro brought that spirit of giving with her. What began as a group of five women working on knitting and sewing projects in her apartment now includes 14 residents and two non-residents. There’s a similar group at Lakeview Village, another senior community in Johnson County.

Village Church send most of the handiwork from the Claridge Court group to St. Luke’s Hospital, Truman Medical Center, the University of Kansas Hospital, Shawnee Mission Medical Center, St. Luke’s South Hospital, the Family Conservancy and Cancer Action.

The group also has created tiny dresses from lightly used pillowcases, embroidered other pillowcases for hospice patients and made adult caps and scarves for Alpha Point residents. They have even made caps for men who live beneath one of Kansas City’s bridges. “But we don’t do mending,” Taliaferro said with a twinkle in her eye.

Much of the yarn in the caps comes from Village Church, but others also contribute supplies. Several group members hadn’t knitted in more than 40 years, and their participation has stimulated completion of long-forgotten personal projects.

But it all comes back to the group’s focus.

Katherine Wilhelmsen likes keeping busy and doing something for somebody else while Bernadette Weber considers this work her mission. Taliaferro agreed. “I feel very satisfied when a project is complete. It’s nice to have a purpose and a group that we enjoy.”

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