North Shelby knitters spread hope

Published 3:26 pm Monday, August 2, 2010

A serious group gathered at North Shelby Library on Tuesday, July 13.

I observed as Library Assistant Michelle Johnson instructed Libby Miller on ancient knitting technique, a loom known in the 1700s as the “knitting Jenny,” and a hopeful remedy to oil-slathered creatures on the Gulf.

“Knitting for the Gulf” is a project to provide cloths used in cleaning oil-drenched wildlife.

While more attendees gathered, I chatted with Miller, her fingers active, bright needle bringing soft, absorbent cotton yarn around the loom.

“I’ve written a children’s book about loggerhead turtles,” she said. “Of course, I’ve been watching the Gulf being destroyed, and jumped at this chance to help.”

Tahirin Osborne of Florence seemed right at home with the loom, her nimble fingers having been trained long ago, using two needles to knit freestyle.

“I’m just a teenager with a big heart,” she said. “It’s all about helping the animals.”

A table laden with lemonade and cookies were ignored. Latecomers arrived, grabbed looms and commenced knitting with fervor.

Johnson moved among them, teaching, guiding, encouraging and keeping their rhythm going.

Talk kept going to the Gulf, a tragedy for wildlife, crushing the local economy, a trickle-down effect that is sure to hit the nation.

With this event, the library is participating in Craft Hope Project 8, Gulf Coast Oil Spill.

If you missed this knitting session, the library plans another later. Craft Hope has a history of helping in compromised situations and was already “tooled up.”

According to its website,, 30,000 towels have been collected for the Gulf. Craft Hope has partnered with The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, Audubon Nature Institute, and the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge to assist in their efforts in caring for and cleaning oily animals, dolphins, birds and sea turtles.

As I observed, taking notes, scrub rags formed. One example lay on a table, small as a bath cloth.

My optimism for the Gulf tragedy rose, seeing the eagerness of those who helped, “spreading seeds of hope one stitch at a time,” as Craft Hope decrees.

Explorer Jacques Yves Cousteau once remarked, “If we were logical, the future would be bleak indeed. But we are more than logical. We are human beings, and we have faith, and we can hope, and we can work.”

An inspiring group of knitters at North Shelby Library proves his statement true.