When tragedy strikes, knitters respond.
It’s a way to heal, said Cheryl Lavenhar, owner of Knit on Old Northern Boulevard. It’s a way to do something constructive.
Perhaps that’s why the knitters who communed at her store Sunday to contribute to a project for families affected by the Tree of Life synagogue shooting are only a tiny fraction of those knitting squares for the project.
There are people knitting in Japan, in Canada, in the United Kingdom, in Ireland and there are thousands of emails coming in to the shop that organized the project, said its manager Natalie Belmont.
“We thought maybe it would be local,” said Belmont, a member of the small staff at Yarns By Design, which is receiving creations to create blankets for the families of shooting victims.
The store is 15 minutes from Squirrel Hill, the location where a gunman killed 11 at the synagogue on Oct. 27.
“We did not have any idea that this was going to span as big as it did,” Belmont said.
Lavenhar heard about the project through Ravelry, which she calls “Facebook for knitters.”
The digital community along with Yarns By Design began coming up with pattern suggestions, so Lavenhar took one of the patterns, a Star of David, and started organizing an event for her knitting community to come together and contribute to the project.
Knitting Fever in Amityville donated yarn, and Lavenhar donated the rest from her own store.
The Sunday of the event, the two worktables at her store were full. Women of different faiths and races came together to enjoy each other’s company as they contributed to the project. Some brought in sweets to share.
“I have a really nice group of women who come in, and I knew they would do it, but I had a lady come from Bay Shore, somebody came from Queens – people traveled here to sit here for the day and do it with other women,” Lavenhar said.
So far, she’s collected between 35 and 40 squares, which she will knit together before sending off to Pennsylvania.
The day of the shooting, she felt disgusted, Lavenhar said.
“It could have been the temple in my neighborhood,” she said. “[It] hit too close to home.”
Belmont also said she found the shooting horrific.
A knitting instructor at the store, Vanessa Picard, came up with the idea to donate blankets to the families affected.
“Her daughter wanted to do something to comfort the people,” Belmont said. “She was very upset.”
This is not the first time these two stores have knitted for a cause.
The knitting community that Lavenhar has cultivated at her store in Roslyn has created hats and blankets for neonatal intensive care units, pink hats for the women’s march and blankets that composed a wall of blankets in Chicago, a statement against President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.
Yarns By Design has made welcome blankets for refugees, Belmont said.
“It’s not like you can just read the news and do nothing,” Lavenhar said. “I’m sure in a couple weeks somebody’s going to come up with something for people in California. That’s how the knitting community is. There’s a disaster, they rally around it.”