Knitting: Music For The Soul

By Mary Beth Roach

Brenda Rath, 73, also of Cicero, knits sweaters for stuffed teddy bears for the CNY Bear Team, which distributes the animals to sick children in the area.

You take a couple of needles and yarn and you come up with a beautiful item.

This is one reason why Deborah V. Gardner, 73, of Cicero, said she has been knitting for 65 years. A certified master knitter, she is also the founder of a knitting group that meets at the Northern Onondaga Public Library in North Syracuse and a member of several other such groups, as well.

On Monday mornings, Gardner and about 15 other knitters gather in one of the library’s large meeting rooms, work on their individual projects, share tips and expertise and simply enjoy one another’s company.

“We help each other. We can learn new skills and then we chat. It’s just the camaraderie,” Gardner said.

Samples of work by Knitted Knockers of Auburn. The group’s mission is to create handmade breast prostheses for women who have undergone mastectomies or other breast-related surgeries.

But knitting is so much more than a craft in which beautiful pieces can be made. It brings people together, it can provide warmth and comfort to others, and it can be beneficial to the knitters’ physical and emotional health.

While socializing with their fellow knitters, the members in this group all work on individual projects and very often they will donate them to charitable organizations in the area. For example, Brenda Rath, 73, also of Cicero, knits sweaters for stuffed teddy bears for the CNY Bear Team, which distributes the animals to sick children in the area. She estimates that she has done about 300. Louise Cone, 59, a Cicero-North Syracuse area resident, makes scarves for patients at the Hematology-Oncology Associates of Syracuse. Others in the group knit blankets and other baby items for the Birthright organization in Syracuse.

Meanwhile, in Auburn, new knitting programs are starting up in conjunction with the Sew What shop, located in Willard Chapel.

The store, established in 2021, is a fiber arts center, and is run by volunteers. Auburn resident Doris Lindsay, who calls herself an addictive knitter, had had her volunteer hours cut at a local outreach program. She admitted she was bored, so one day, while visiting Sew What, she offered to help start some classes and at least one special project, sharing with others the skills she has honed for 70 of her 75 years.

Some members of the NOPL knitters’ program.

One class includes both teens and older women. She is hoping to offer knitting to an area Girl Scout troop in the spring.

In addition, together with the founders of Sew What, Lindsay is bringing the national Knitted Knockers organization to Auburn. The group’s mission is to create handmade breast prostheses for women who have undergone mastectomies or other breast-related surgeries.

One of the owners of the shop learned of the Knitted Knockers group while in Florida and brought the idea back to Auburn. While many of the knitters in this project are experienced and can make the knockers at home, Lindsay said, she wants to create a monthly meetup. Lindsay said that the yarn they use for these items are chemical-free so they are safer for the women to put on their skin. Sew What has this yarn available at the shop.

Among those helping Lindsay in the local Knitted Knockers group is Debbie Leone, 64, of Auburn. She was interested in being part of this endeavor because she has had several friends who’ve had mastectomies.

Auburn resident Doris Lindsay, left, calls herself an addictive knitter. Next to her is Debbie Leone, also from Auburn.

“I just want to help the people that need it most,” she said.

Leone has been knitting since she was 19, and loves the craft not just because it’s relaxing, but it also gives her aha moments.

“When I’m finished, I’m ‘Ah, I made that!’” she said. The pandemic has helped to kick-start all sorts of crafts, including knitting, since people were quarantined at home and looking for ways to occupy their time. Being stuck at home however, didn’t stop Gardner’s group. They zoomed on Monday mornings; when the weather got better, they gathered at a nearby park. Later, as the weather turned cooler, Gardner was able to set up meetings at a large space, where they all stayed masked.

Deborah V. Gardner, 73, of Cicero, says she has knitted for 65 years.

Besides keeping people busy during the pandemic and providing the sense of accomplishment in creating items, knitters also enjoy the hobby because it’s so portable and one that can be done while watching television or while a passenger on a long road trip; others have picked it up because it makes them feel closer to a loved one who knitted but has passed.

Many experts agree that knitting offers both emotional and physical health benefits — helping with cognitive function; allowing individuals to set and reach goals, boosting their self-confidence; relieving stress; improving concentration; keeping hands and fingers more nimble, and enhancing socialization.

These benefits seem to be well summed up in the line that Gardner uses on her website, deborahsknitting. com: “In the rhythm of the needles, there is music for the soul.”



Interested in Knitting?

For those interested in finding a knitting group, there are several in the area. Please note that instruction is not always offered at these gatherings. Some groups in the area are listed below.

  • Baldwinsville Public Library, 33 E. Genesee St., Baldwinsville. 315-635-5631.

Quilting and Knitting with Friends meets every other Friday on a drop-in basis from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

  • Fulton Public Library, 160 S. First St., Fulton.315-592-5159.

Open arts and crafts program — Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to noon.

  • Liverpool Library, 310 Tulip St., Liverpool. 315-457-0310.

Hooks and Needles, an informal knitting and beading program, meets the first Thursday of every month from 10 a.m. to noon. Attendance is limited to 15, due to the size of the room, so attendees are encouraged to register through the library’s website,

NOPL Knitters

  • Mondays at 10 a.m. – Northern Onondaga Public Library, North Syracuse, 100 Trolley Barn Lane, North Syracuse. 315-458-6184.
  • Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m. at the Northern Onondaga Public Library, Cicero, 8686 Knowledge Lane, Cicero. 315- 699-2032.
  • Paine Branch Library – 113 Nichols Ave., (Eastwood Section of Syracuse). 315-435-5442.

Informal group on Mondays at 2 p.m.

  • Sew What, 17 Nelson St., Auburn, and Knitted Knockers. 315-704-4180. Web address:
  • Twisted Stitches Knitting Guild at Grace Episcopal Church 110 Oswego St., Baldwinsville.

Meets second Saturday of each month from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. from September to June.