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Close-knit group

94-year-old leads knitters who give away their work

April 5, 2009
By RICHARD NILSEN, The Leader-Herald

JOHNSTOWN -At 94, Hulda Pfeiffer is passing her knitting expertise to a circle of friends - as well as passing on the finished goods to needy children in local schools.

Pfeiffer's daughter, Betsy Waldron, said the group formed four years ago from a quilting circle at Gloversville Sewing Center. She said the members decided to call the group "The Knitwits," and later found the name wasn't original, with several yarn shops and knitting groups that use a variation of the name.

"I mentioned my mother was having difficulty finding other knitters when I was at quilt class," Waldron said.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
Linda Pintuff of Northville looks on as Hulda Pfeiffer of Johnstown demonstrates knitting techniques during class Wednesday.

The group formed with Pfeiffer as "the driving force," meeting from October to April to make hats, scarves and mittens for local schools to give needy children.

"There was no quilting class in winter," Hugo said. "So we started knitting."

Several in the group said they knit at times during the summer, so there are items to stockpile when they meet in October.

"We probably made about 300 pieces to give out this past year," Waldron said.

On Wednesday, Pfeiffer and Waldron were joined at Waldron's home in the city by regulars Denise Walsh, Maureen Skoda and Judy Hugo of Johnstown, Linda Pintuff of Northville, Diana Seeley of Broadalbin and Stephanie Hoff of Scotia.

Walsh said she had been working on the same scarf for three years. It is made up of purple and gold yarn to reflect Greater Johnstown School District colors.

"I provide the entertainment," Walsh said.

Waldron said the group gets yarn donated by ladies who frequent garage sales, as well as providing their own. She also said they received $50 from a local McDonald's shops for supplies.

"That buys a lot of yarn," she said.

The group uses four-ply, worsted weight, washable yarn, Waldron said.

"Anyone who knits knows what that is,' she said.

Pfeiffer was working on a four-needle knitted hat.

"I use double-pointed sock needles for no seams," she said. "I've been knitting since I was 10 or 12."

Hoff said Pfeiffer was the "leader of the pack."

"[Pfeiffer] and [Skoda] know the most here," Hoff said.

She said she had consulted the book, "Knitting for Dummies" for extra research.

Pfeiffer said she "picked it up over the years" when it came to her knowledge of knitting.

"I knitted two-piece suits in college," she said. "I've knitted afghans for my grandchildren and Christmas stockings for all the family with their names stitched at the top of each."

Waldron said she brings finished products to various elementary schools, usually through the nurses offices.

"We dropped off a bunch of scarves, hats and mittens at one school and a little girl who recently moved here from Florida was almost in tears with gratefulness," she said.

Waldron said each item is unique with different colors, patterns and stitches. The ladies trade stories and light conversation while they work. They also have tea and cookies.

"Walsh has the best stories," Hugo said. "I almost fell off my chair laughing the first time she came to the group."

Glebe Street Elementary School Nurse Deborah Ruggeri said the group provides a service to the community.

"They are the most wonderful group of ladies," Ruggeri said Thursday. "They provide a service that fills a gap. If they didn't make the donations, I'm not sure who would provide these things."

Ruggeri said it is "beautiful to see the children with all the colorful scarves, hats and mittens."

Waldron said she cherishes the stories and thank you notes that come back from the schools.

"The kids are so excited to get the scarves and mittens," she said.

"We go for variety," Walsh said. "Every piece is different. We use whatever we have for yarn."

Waldron said she calls the schools to see what is needed. For instance, there have been requests for black for some of the older boys.

"[Seeley] makes pom poms as well," Waldron said.

Pfeiffer said knitting needles come in sizes 0 to 17 and she is happy to demonstrate basic stitches to knitters she is mentoring.

"Mostly we use basic stitches, knit and purl," she said. "It's a straight stitch. Knit one, purl one. When you knit, the needle is behind the yarn, when you purl it's in front."

Hoff said Pfeiffer is not afraid to tell one of the knitters when they should change styles.

"She will watch a novice knitter and say, 'It's time to change to something else."

Hugo said all those Pfeiffer is mentoring have adopted her as "their mom."

"[Waldron] sometimes has issues with that," Hugo said.

Walsh said Pfeiffer was "the glue that held the group together."

As for helping with their work, the ladies said donations of yarn or money to purchase yarn were welcome, but they weren't sure they needed more knitters at present.

"We're a little particular," Waldron said. "We like fun people."

Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at ga@leaderherald.com.

 
 

 

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