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Students, teachers knitting for Shelter House

Teacher Trisha Pendill crochets the pieces made by the school's knitting club members into a blanket Tuesday at Willmar Junior High School. The blankets will be given to the Shelter House in Willmar. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

They've gotten together since last fall, these teachers and students, to work together to help someone else. They've learned how to knit, chatted and had fun. And by the time they're done next month, they expect to have at least four patchwork blankets ready to give to the Shelter House in Willmar.

It all started with math teacher Trisha Pendill reading about the Warm Up America Foundation. The organization of volunteers makes handmade afghan blankets, clothing and accessories to help those in need.

Pendill and several other teachers got together last summer to knit, and they talked about the idea. A grant from Pact 4 paid for yarn, needles and snacks, and they were on the way to a knitting club at Willmar Junior High.

Pendill and her friends chose to make blankets for the Shelter House. It takes 35 blocks 7-by-9 inches to make one blanket.

On Tuesday this week, six girls came to Room 109 after school and settled in at a table with their yarn and needles. Most were doing a straight knitting stitch. A couple of them had just learned how to purl and were trying it out.

A few teachers sitting nearby noticed that the girls all sat together. "Now that they know how, they don't have to sit with us anymore," said teacher Crystal DeVore with a smile.

The number of students has fluctuated with the sports seasons. More than a dozen students have participated since the group started, and it's been a mixture of girls and boys.

"We've had some real faithful ones," said teacher Darcy Michener.

DeVore participated in the group so she could learn how to knit. Most of the students learned to knit at the club, although seventh-grader Tami Frederickson had knitted before.

Mary Goulson, an eighth-grader, had crocheted before. It was hard to get used to knitting, but she got the hang of it, she said.

The experienced knitters were always available to help out if someone encountered a problem. Teacher Sue Thell has spent the past few weeks finishing blocks that had been left behind by students when their spring sports seasons began.

The students said they like the multi-colored blankets that are already finished. Two are displayed in a glass case near the Junior High office.

"I think they're cool," Mary said. "Since we started this year, it's amazing what we've gotten done."

The blankets are colorful, with each block unique.

Pendill takes the variety of blocks and crochets them together with cream-colored yarn. There's no real color scheme to follow in the blankets.

"We threw them on the table and moved them around until they looked good," she said.

The girls who were there on Tuesday have been some of the most faithful ones, their teachers said.

What kept them coming back? "It's something to do that's kind of fun, and you get to be with friends," said Taylor Frost, an eighth-grader.

"And eat snacks," added Anne DeVries, a seventh-grader.

Alexa Rieck, an eighth-grader, had another answer. "You get to help people that maybe don't have blankets of their own," she said.

May 12 will be the last day for the knitting club this school year. A representative from the Shelter House will visit them that day and tell the students a bit about the programs and the people who will receive their blankets. They'll also have a pizza party.

Jodi Loseth, one of the faculty members involved in the project, said they achieved the three goals they had in mind when they started the knitting club.

"We wanted to teach a skill, we wanted to do something good, and we wanted socialization," and Loseth said she considers it a success.