FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — The knitting group at Country Meadows Retirement Community estimates that, altogether, they've been knitting for 500 years or so.
For an hour every Tuesday morning, they put those combined centuries of experience to good use.
The group is now partnered with Frederick Memorial Hospital's Survivors Offering Support program, which connects newly diagnosed breast cancer patients with survivors, said Angie Hylton, director of community life at the center. The women make shawls, hats, blankets and scarves, then send them to the hospital every three or four months. In the past, they have also supported Heartly House and Care Net.
"When I finish something ... it makes me feel like my free time has accomplished something that can help somebody," said Fran Davis, 91, who has been knitting since high school.
"We try to think of different things to do so we're not just doing the same things all the time," she said as she showed off some of her creations — a shawl with a collar that ties and a hat with an extension to cover the necks of patients who have lost their hair.
When she first came to the center, Davis did not think she could knit anymore because she'd had pins put in both her index fingers. She is thankful that her older sister Winnie Marx, who already lived in the community and encouraged her to join the group.
"It's a good cause, and it's good for me because I'm a cancer survivor," knitter Carol Rose said. "It makes you feel great because you know you're doing a good deed."
Anna Kowalewski, who is 93, said she stopped counting the pieces she made for charity after the number surpassed 200.
In addition to feeling good about contributing to the causes, "when you knit, it's relaxing," she said. "You don't think about anything else." And "I think it's very good exercise for the fingers."
"Busy hands are happy hands," agreed Betty Spungen.
The only crocheter of the group, 86-year-old Elinor Jacob said her craft helps ensure that no yarn goes to waste.
"I use the scraps that they don't use," she said, pointing to a multicolored blanket.
Hylton buys the yarn, but the women usually help her maintain a modest budget by supplying her with coupons, she said.
"It's truly amazing to see the results of our knitting time together," Hylton said.
At the last drop-off, between 100 and 150 items were donated to FMH.
"The ladies can make anything, I think. I'm very confident in their ability," Hylton said.
According to Amanda Changuris, an FMH spokeswoman, the group's efforts are appreciated.
Chemotherapy patients often have to spend one or two hours at a time in an IV outpatient room receiving treatment.
"The hospital blankets are fine," Changuris said. "They're functional. But there's a feeling you get from something handmade. ... There's something more comforting about something that's handmade and made with love ... our patients feel it."
Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, http://www.fredericknewspost.com