If you have a few minutes to spare, stop by the high school and check out the colorful knitted patchwork blankets displayed in a case by the cafeteria. Not only do they look warm and cozy, the story behind them is bound to warm you, as well.
When Muriel Conforti took the job of substitute teaching Candy Brickley's textiles class at CRHS this past September, she asked her friend (and expert knitter) Laura Francis for project ideas for her class of 14 girls (plus one guest!). Most of them would be learning how to knit, but Conforti was looking for some kind of team project, as well, hopefully one that would provide a sort of "immediate gratification" and sense of pride for the group.
"I have the perfect thing," Francis quickly responded. The "thing" was to complete a project organized last winter by Francis and Kim Garvis. The two brought together residents who met every Wednesday night at the Durham Community Center to knit squares as part of "Warm Up America." This national organization, started in Wisconsin in 1991, encourages communities to come together and knit blankets for the homeless.
Over the course of the six months that the Durham residents met, quite a collection of squares – all patterns and colors – emerged. Some squares were also donated by knitters who worked on the project at home. But, as can happen with the best of intentions, a final product was never forthcoming.
Now, Francis reasoned, here was the perfect opportunity to complete the assignment – compiling the (literally) boxes of seven-inch squares into blankets. She volunteered to come into the CRHS textiles class to show the students how to stitch them into strips of seven, then stitch the strips into 7x7 blankets. Since school started in August, Francis has visited the class twice, and steady progress has been made.
The result? Six colorful (not to mention comfy) blankets. Francis recently added the final touch of crocheting a border around each of the stitched-together blankets. According to Conforti, after being displayed at the high school for several weeks, they will be donated to Mercy Housing and Shelter in Middletown.
In the meantime, the students have learned a lot about knitting, stitching and working together to complete this worthwhile effort for charity. Now they are working on individual projects, and, says Brickley (now back at CRHS and teaching the class), one of the girls has decided to make her own knitted, patchwork blanket as her assignment.
Great things happen when a community comes together, even if, perhaps it wasn't quite planned that way.