Earlier this month, Merrilyn Allen delivered a large garbage bag overflowing with nearly 200 soft, itty-bitty knitted hats for infants at WakeMed Hospital.
Her knitting group, a coterie of women learning skills with needles and thread have dubbed themselves the “Knit Wits” with a laugh and aim to donate their creations for newborns.
“I had to wash all of the hats after we made them,” Allen said about the donation. “It took them three days to dry.”
Allen, 81, a lifelong Wendell resident, inherited her love of quilting, knitting, crocheting and embroidering from her mother.
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In 1998, she launched “The Quilting Group,” a dozen women who gathered to artistically patch blankets for themselves and their children for weddings and other special occasions.
“And I’ve made a lot of Christmas stockings,” she said.
In 2002, the group re-branded, half the size with some of the same participants and a few additional recruits.
Since starting the Knit Wits this year, which her daughter and granddaughter attend, Allen has taught more than a handful of friends and acquaintances how to create clothing and accessories.
It’s a mix of working and retired women. Her 18-year-old granddaughter is the youngest.
“She’s made a pound of hats,” Allen said.
She outfits each new student with needles, thread and a handmade pattern.
“We’re having fun,” she said. “But the first two nights we met several people who were learning and it’s really hard to help more than one person at the same time ...They’d get so bundled up trying to get stitches out.”
After her twin great-grandchildren were born at Rex Hospital last year and were discharged with a complimentary toboggan, she decided to donate the hats to WakeMed, a project she quickly realized would take a lot of hats.
“I asked the lady, ‘if we took it on as a project to make enough for the hospital for a year, how many babies do you have a year?’’ she said. “I was guessing 300 a month. She said between 7,000 and 8,000 a year.”
Although Allen can whip out a hat in three hours, she wants the ladies to learn their craft, both on their own and during their occasional evening knitting sessions at Allen’s home. The 200 donated hats took the group three months.
But the point of knitting isn’t how long it takes.
“Anyone who does this kind of work doesn’t measure what you can do in an hour,” she said.
Want to learn more?
If you’re interested in learning to knit, contact Merrilyn Allen at 919-266-2077.