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Ewe Knitters keep each other in stitches

Published: Monday, Feb. 25, 2013 2:47 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Feb. 25, 2013 3:03 p.m. CDT
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(DOUG OLESON | doleson@shawmedia.com)
Ethel Nessen, Roberta Dahmer and Norma Spagnola enjoy the camaraderie of fellow knitters during a recent Ewe Knitters meting at Plano Public Library.
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(DOUG OLESON | doleson@shawmedia.com)
The Ewe Knitters are, front row, from left, Ethel Nesson, Roberta Dahmer, Norma Spagnola and Jane Kubisak; back row, Eleanor Thomsen, Loni Kogol, Cathy Tribby and Louise Kramer.
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(DOUG OLESON | doleson@shawmedia.com)
Loni Kogol is crocheting, with Elanor Thomsen in the background.
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(DOUG OLESON | doleson@shawmedia.com)
Cathy Tribby works on a fancy scarf.

They meet for two hours every Thursday, from 10 a.m. to noon, in the conference room at Plano Library. They come from all over the area, about 8 to 12 women, depending on the weather and other obligations.

Sitting around a large table, the women – who call themselves the Ewe Knitters – tell stories, “solve the world’s problems,” talk about everything but politics and laugh – a lot. And, except for Loni Kogol, they even knit.

“I’m doing a no-no,” the Plano woman laughed during a recent meeting. “I’m crocheting, and this is a knitting club, so I’m going to take some ribbing.”

The laughing can get loud enough, Kogol admits, they have to keep the door closed so they won’t disturb the other library patrons.

But there’s also a serious side to the group. Every year at Christmastime, the women donate knitted items to a local group or organization. In the past, they’ve knitted Christmas stockings for Safe Passage; hats, scarves and mittens for Open Door; lap blankets for Open Door; and caps for preemies at Valley West Community Hospital.

Last December, the women knitted 13 lap robes for the shut-in members of the Leon Burson Post 395 American Legion in Plano, which were delivered along with fruit, cookies and goodie baskets just in time for Christmas. Since there were only nine Plano veterans, the other four robes were delivered to the veterans’ home in LaSalle.

“It was wonderful,” Plano Auxiliary President Melody Herreid said. “Anyone that does anything for our veterans is wonderful.”

The women of the Ewe Knitters say they are open to suggestions for holiday projects from anyone who might know of someone in need. They usually start their projects in early fall.

Although club members are working on whatever personal items they want right now – “It’s a good time to work on blankets,” said Ethel Nesson – they are involved in other projects, such as Operation Snowball.

Jane Kubisak explains that members donate leftover scraps of yarn to the program in which high school students are building affirmation scarves. Whenever a teen says something to someone new, Kubisak said they can add to their scarf.

According to its website, Operation Snowball is “a prevention and teen leadership experience founded on the belief that given correct information, teens can make good decisions.”

Another member, Eleanor Thomsen, and her daughter are knitting objects for the Wheaton College football team’s mission project.

“It means knitting day and night,” she said.

For some members, like Cathy Tribby, knitting can be therapeutic. At the advice of her neurologist, Tribby took up knitting after a serious car accident to get her hand coordination back – essential for her job as a hair dresser.

“(Doing this) tells me I have no problems anymore,” she said.

Another plus to the club, Tribby said, is that it helps to have more experienced knitters around so if someone gets something wrong, there is plenty of help and advice available.

Another member noted that “it’s fun to see all the different colors and projects” group members are working on.

Most of the members, Kubisak points out, are blue – and even purple – ribbon winners at the Sandwich Fair, all of whom are willing to teach newcomers to the club to knit or even crochet.

The women began meeting on a regular basis in 2005 at Debra Burket’s yarn store in Sandwich. Among other things, Burket – who was behind the annual holiday donation – taught some of the members to knit, like Kubisak and Norma Spagnola.

“Mom tried to teach me, but it didn’t take,” Kubisak said.

When Burket closed her store a couple of years ago, Kogol was able to secure the Plano Library as a meeting place free of charge.

“All the other libraries wanted to charge us,” she said.

Nesson said the group also meets once a month in the home of a former member, who has gotten a full-time job but didn’t want to miss out on the camaraderie. They also meet once a month for sock knitting at the library in Sheridan, thanks to Debra Smith. There are also occasional road trips to yarn shops, which one member said can be memorable.

One of the more colorful members of the group is Louise Kramer. A member of the Society of Decorative Painters, Kramer’s chapter painted an ornament that was hung on the Christmas tree in the vice president’s mansion a few years ago. Each member, she said, got a thank you note from Al Gore, who was vice president at the time.

The problem was, Kramer’s card was addressed to Luis, not Louise. Since that’s the name of a relative she wasn’t too fond of, Kramer said she wrote Gore back, asking if he could send her another thank you card, only with the correct name on it – which he did.

A few years later, during George W. Bush’s administration, Kramer and others in her chapter were invited to an elegant luncheon at the White House for another ornament they painted that was hung on the White House tree.

“I almost didn’t go,” she said, “because I didn’t like him, but my daughter wanted to.”

It would have been ironic if she hadn’t gone since the former Queen of the Cuyahoga County Fair was once stood up for lunch by the Ohio governor.

Kubisak said anyone interested in joining the group can do so by attending one of their weekly meetings, which are free. Members of the group range in age from 13 to 85.

When their meetings are over, the women do what most sensible groups do – they go to lunch.

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