A tight-knit network

Thursday, February 1, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:04 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

When baby Katie was born in Boone Hospital Center, the first present she received was a hand-knit hat donated by the Knitwits, a local group that knits for charity.

“Having a hand-knit hat really meant a lot,” said Jenny Melenbrink, Katie’s mother, who is also a member of the Knitwits.

The Knitwits are a close-knit group of friends who meet weekly for knitting sessions. All members are interconnected — one friend will tell another who will tell another. Members’ ages range from late 20s into their 60s.

After a group of friends took a knitting class together six years ago, they formed an official knitting group. They shared an interest in knitting for their loved ones, and some decided to knit for charity, too.

They met at the public library initially, but they “outgrew the library,” said Alice Kimble, one of the early members of the group. Today, the Knitwits is a 40-member organization which meets at a variety of locations.

Members of the group knit for local and overseas charities, such as the Red Scarf Project and Afghans for Afghans. Red scarves were part of care packages sent to American orphans, and knitted hats, mittens, sweaters, socks and afghans went to the needy in Afghanistan. In addition, the group regularly donates baby hats to Boone Hospital Center and Columbia Regional Hospital.


Bette Struckhoff, a member of the Knitwits, works on a baby cap for her niece’s newly adopted daughter. (ANDREI PUNGOVSCHI/


The opportunity to enjoy each other’s company brought the group together as much as the knitting. The group allows members to meet with old friends and make new ones while knitting for a good cause.

“I like to sit and fiddle with my hands while chatting with friends,” said Paula Koebel, who joined the group just before Christmas.

For Mary Gillespie, a member since the group’s inception, knitting is therapy. “The repetitive motion of the needles and yarn is very relaxing and calming,” she said.

Knitting in a group means there’s always someone to turn to with a technical question or any knitting problems, especially for newcomers like Koebel. “Being with this group I’m going to do a lot better. When you’re on your own and you have a problem, you ignore it and continue knitting. But with this group, I can get help, and they’re very willing to stop whatever they’re doing and help you out,” Koebel said.

The atmosphere at the weekly sessions is relaxed.

“There are no rules, and that’s the rule,” Nancy Belcher, founder of the group, said. “We don’t care what (the members) do as long as they’ve got something to do and have fun.”

“Or undo,” added Kimble with a laugh.

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