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Knitting for charity warms hearts, heads

MIDDLEBURY — Students at Middlebury College are putting down their pencils and picking up knitting needles this month in a volunteer effort to keep Addison County residents warm.
The students are part of a Winter Term workshop that is meeting once a week in January to create hats and scarves they’ll donate to the Middlebury nonprofit Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects (HOPE).
For AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer Carrie Pratt, who works at the college, the project was a way to combine two of her favorite things: knitting, a hobby she’s enjoyed since high school, and community service.
“I can make all of these things for myself,” Pratt said, “but what’s the point of that? There are people who don’t have a nice warm scarf they could use.”
The workshop is designed for beginning knitters as well as those who want to improve their skills. Students paid a fee to take the workshop, which covered the cost of their knitting needles and wool. The class is also using wool donated by the Middlebury-based Vermont Organic Fiber Company. Originally, Pratt said, the goal was to have each student donate one item at the end of the month, but the speed with which those needles are flying means several students have already churned out multiple scarves.
Now, Pratt said, she hopes students will associate knitting with doing good for the community.
For first year student Maya Barzilai, a New York native, the course has been a great way to brush up on her rudimentary knitting skills.
“I have knit before,” Barzilai said, “but I’ve never really finished anything, and I rarely like things that I make. I decided that if I committed to doing it for charity, then maybe I’d finish something.”
Barzilai hurt her knee earlier in the month, which meant she’s been laid up for a few weeks. The upside of the injury, she said, is that she’s had plenty of time to knit.
“I finished a scarf yesterday,” she said, “and I’m starting another one.”
She likes the idea of creating something practical for someone in need, and said the project helps take the pressure off beginning knitters concerned about making mistakes.
“At least it will keep someone warm,” she said.

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