South Dakota woman knits scarves for vets, blankets for kids
DEADWOOD, S.D. | By JACI CONRAD PEARSON, Black Hills Pioneer (AP) – Each and every wrap and stitch Robin Carmody put in to 24, 5-foot by 8-inch hand-knit scarves over the last eight months turned into a Christmas “purl” to be opened and enjoyed by veterans in Oregon.
“Besides the fact that I joined my friend (Jean Allen) in thanking veterans by adding to their holiday gift bags, my dad was a Marine and in the Air Force,” Carmody said. “Tipping the scale, I suppose, is that my birthday is on Veterans Day.”
In addition to this connection, Carmody explained an additional impetus for the kind Christmas gesture; that a friend of hers from high school just moved to Oregon, where her husband recently became the director of the Veterans Administration Hospital there.
“She was telling me how they were planning to have goody bags for veterans, and I asked her if she thought, perhaps, that veterans would enjoy having a hand-made scarf,” she said. “And she said ‘Sure.’”
As she finished the two dozen scarves, Carmody shipped them in batches so her friend could put the goody bags, which contained hygiene items, cookies, and the hand-knit scarves, together.
“They were delivered to the veterans on Christmas day,” Carmody told the Black Hills Pioneer. “They had rolled up in the gift bag, my scarves, so that was pretty awesome.”
Definitely willing to share her wares, in the past, Carmody has knitted baby blankets and baby booties and given them to local churches for young children.
“I was told that a child that had to go for cancer treatment at Mayo in Minnesota was given a blanket and booties to take with them, which cheered up the family, so that was a wonderful thing,” she said.
An affinity for helping and for knitting soon merged, as Carmody spends her evenings contributing to both causes.
“At night, when it’s time to relax, after work, you know, feet are up, jammies on, TV’s going,” Carmody said. “I just pick up something. I’m making a quilt for my cabin now for myself finally. But I knit. I knit a lot.”
Carmody picked up the craft when she was a teenager and has been knitting ever since.
“Mostly donating what I knit,” she said.
Carmody said knitting keeps her hands busy, it’s relaxing for her, and that she doesn’t have to think about it.
“So my scarves, I just cast on and I start knitting,” Carmody said.
In years past, Carmody owned sheep and was afforded skeins of yarn made from their shearings to create family items.
“So I knit my children blankets out of them and myself,” she said. “I still have mine. Those were very heavy and very warm.”
Wishing to participate in hanging scarves on the presidential statutes on the street corners in Rapid City, Carmody began knitting for that cause.
“I was knitting and I was knitting and I was knitting and then, we had some really bad weather and I couldn’t get to Rapid and then I saved them,” Carmody said. “And my friend was telling me about the gift bags that they were going to put together and I thought, ‘Well, this would be a really good fit.’”
Once the number of scarves the VA hospital needed was determined, Carmody kicked her knitting needles into high gear.
“I put the pedal to the knitting metal and I managed to get another four out in one month,” she said. “It’s not that it’s tedious. I think that it’s very relaxing.”
In crafting her creations, Carmody said she always knits with two yarns together, unless the yarn is large and prohibits that.
“Sometimes some of my friends will send me yarns as donations,” she said. “Sometimes folks have asked me to make baby booties for someone they know and then I’ll ask them if they’ll just donate the rest of the yarn to me and it goes in another scarf. It’s always this turn-around.”
Clearance yarn is a godsend for the scarf project, as skeins normally cost at least $4.99 each.
“I normally use worsted yarn,” she said. “It’s washable, dryable. That’s what I feel is most practical. If I do have a lighter yarn, often times that will be the third yarn that I knit in with it.”
Quilts are another of Carmody’s creations, but those are serious business.
“We’re talking years on those,” she said. “Because those are true labors of love for me. I’m working on one now that’s in panels because I’ve decided I’m not doing big anymore. I just don’t have the room for it. But I made quilts for my grandchildren and the center of each quilt was a cross-stitched baby quilt. Those cross-stitchings took me a year each to do. And then, I took my time and picked out coordinating fabrics from wherever I went and did the sashings.”
In the past, Carmody has given demonstrations on technique, as well.
“Because I do a lot by hand,” she said. “I’d rather do any kind of embroidery stitching or fancy quilt stitching by hand,” she said, adding that she learned several handicrafts years and years ago. “I started with embroidery. My first piece of embroidery was a Boston Bruins patch for my dungarees. From embroidery, I went to crewel, which is embroidery with yarn. And then I went to needlepoint, which is working on canvas. Then I went to latch hook rugs. Somewhere all in there, I tried crocheting. But I crocheted in circles. So I gave that up because I couldn’t just get it to roll out and I didn’t have the patience for it. So knitting has always been my thing. I’ve done just a couple of fancy stitches, but basically, it’s just knit and move on to the next project.”
The next project will likely be a continuation of the scarves for veterans.
“They give them out now as bingo prizes,” Carmody said. “So now they’re going to be bingo gifts.”
So the cycle will continue and knitting needles will continue to be in motion.
“So, other than the veterans, just to keep doing those, and then, every now and then, if I hear of another situation where someone, through their church knows a baby that needs treatment or something and they need something for that family, because those take a lot longer, obviously. It’s a baby blanket and then the booties that match the blanket.”
And friends have come to her side to help further the cause.
“My friend said, ‘Now you’re starting the knitting and yarn brigade,’” Carmody said.
In an effort to get more of her friends and pretty much anyone else who would like to join her, Carmody came up with a cleverly laid plan.
“What I decided I’m going to do is start one, give them the yarn and the needles, and say, ‘Finish this,’” she said. “That way, they don’t have to go buy yarn. If they have the time, even if it’s just a few more. I mean, that would be great because my goal for next year is obviously to give more than 24.”
Oh, and one more thing. “Anyone who wants to join in can get in touch with me,” Carmody said, adding interested parties should stop by the Deadwood Welcome Center, her place of employment. “If they want to donate yarn, that’s good, too.”
Photo: Courtesy of Brittany Schoenfelder