Rainbow piles of yarn spilled across the table at Saint Saviour’s Center on Friday as a dozen women knitted and crocheted, laughing and chatting as they worked.
They made blankets, hats, scarves and sweaters – not just for family and friends but for a towering tree on Glenwood Avenue.
Early next month, the tree, which rises above the two-story Duncan-Parnell building, will be wrapped from top to bottom in a colorful, wooly patchwork sweater made by dozens of knitters.
It’s the follow-up to a community project last year that wrapped 150 scarves around trees along Glenwood South’s busy strip of restaurants, bars and condominiums.
The idea was to create a show of unity in the neighborhood, a place where late-night partiers and early-to-bed residents haven’t always gotten along. About 50 people, including those who had never knitted a stitch in their lives, joined in.
This year, the project led by the Glenwood South Neighborhood Collaborative has grown, bringing in new business owners and residents, including those from Glenwood Towers, an affordable housing high-rise for seniors.
When the scarves came down last winter, volunteers cleaned and stitched them into blankets, then donated many of them to residents at the apartments on Glenwood Avenue.
“You would have thought they had won a million dollars. They had the biggest smiles,” said Sharon Hayes, executive director at Saint Saviour’s, a health and wellness organization focused on helping babies and older adults.
Glenwood Towers residents wanted to give a little something back by making the project part of their knitting group at Saint Saviour’s. Each week, they’ve invited community members to join them for a morning of knitting and fellowship.
The effort has brought together longtime residents of the neighborhood and newcomers, all excited about the chance to meet their neighbors and work together. This year’s blankets will be donated to Love Wins Ministries, a nonprofit that works with the homeless in Raleigh.
“The spirit of the community and the willingness to work together and inspire each other has just skyrocketed,” said Donna Belt, the project organizer.
Belt has collected dozens of scarves from more than 60 knitters as far away as Texas and Ontario, as word spreads about the project. She expects to use at least 100 scarves on the tree, which already is wearing a small portion of its sweater.
Three large fiber sculptures made by local artist Amanda Snavely also will hang from the tree.
Ann Conlon-Smith, who moved downtown this summer, said she’s thrilled by the way the group has diversified since she first picked up a pair of knitting needles to help with the project last year.
“This is just such a welcoming environment,” she said.
Halfway through the knitting circle Friday, Muriel D. Coleman, who lives in Glenwood Towers, had an idea.
She asked each of the women in the room to say what they were grateful for on their last meeting before Thanksgiving. High on her own list was the chance to meet new people who she’s comfortable around and who have taken the time to get to know her.
“It makes you laugh,” Coleman said. “It’s a joy to be with people.”