To Russia, handmade with love

Conversation among the knitters and crocheters who gather monthly at the Mercer Island Covenant Church drifts from what pattern to choose next to the challenges and adventures of overseas missions, all the while interspersed with laughter and light-hearted banter.

Knitters at the Mercer Island Covenant Church share a laugh as they make warm clothing to send overseas to needy children in Russia. From left: Beverly Harris

Knitters at the Mercer Island Covenant Church share a laugh as they make warm clothing to send overseas to needy children in Russia. From left: Beverly Harris

Conversation among the knitters and crocheters who gather monthly at the Mercer Island Covenant Church drifts from what pattern to choose next to the challenges and adventures of overseas missions, all the while interspersed with laughter and light-hearted banter.

The women make quick work of the yarn and needles in their hands with an overseas-minded purpose: send warm sweaters, hats and blankets to orphaned children in Russia.

“We are praying for the children who receive these things. Our motivation is our love for Jesus,” said Nancy Dings, a group member.

The group, called “Loving Hearts and Hands for His Little Lambs,” was formed in the spring of 2008 when Sallie Tuttle, a member of the Mercer Island Covenant Church, felt a desire to begin charitable knitting while recovering from a knee replacement surgery.

Ranging in number from 10 to 30 women altogether, the knitting group is a mix of beginners and those who are more advanced. It also includes quilters.

The women use acrylic and wool yarn that is donated or purchased with monetary gifts from the congregation.

“When I got started and wanted to include the church ladies, I realized that wool yarn is very expensive per skein, so I made contact via the Internet with various yarn companies to see if any were charity-minded,” said Tuttle, 73, who spoke with the Reporter from Hilton Head, S.C. She was able to procure yarn donations from two such companies, Cascade Yarns and Brown Sheep Wool.

The Island community has also contributed to the project, donating yarns, knitting needles and crochet hooks. Materials are often dropped off on the church’s doorstep. And the women sometimes dig into their own supplies — as group member Carla Kepler admired a boy’s brown wool vest during the meeting, she said that her father-in-law’s Merchant Marines buttons went to Russia.

As for how long it takes to complete an item, no one can say for sure. The women find time here and there to work — whether listening to audiobooks, watching TV or even attending church. Their pastor, after all, gave them “permission” to knit during Sunday services, they said, smiling.

But the women look forward to coming together during the morning of the last Monday of every month.

“Our meeting time is for encouragement and support, and then we go home and do our own thing in our own time schedule — there’s no pressure about getting things done or not getting them done,” said Tuttle.

After searching the Internet for giving opportunities, Tuttle found Warm Woolies, a nonprofit organization that provides knitted items for children in foreign orphanages — her inspiration for choosing Russia.

“Someone said to me, ‘Why Russia?’ And my reply was, ‘Why not?’ A child is a child,” she said.

However, Tuttle wanted to find a way to give items in the name of Jesus, which meant that she would have to find other means of delivery apart from Warm Woolies and other such organizations.

Through missionary connections in Moscow, Russia, and one group member’s travel arrangements, that delivery became possible. In October of 2008, a container with over 100 items of children’s clothing, blankets and quilts was personally delivered by one of the knitters, Carmen Bullard, to a nonprofit charity in Moscow: Yuzhno Butovo Community Center, part of MiraMed, which provides aid for orphans along with education, social adaptation and training programs, and operates shelters for rescued victims of human trafficking.

Now, more than 100 items are once again ready to be shipped; this time, to Chicago, Ill., where the Evangelical Covenant Church headquarters will coordinate the items’ shipment to Russia.

But future shipments are uncertain. The project may need to stay local instead of going overseas, due to the lack of funds.

“There is no budget for [the project],” said Tuttle.

The project cost approximately $1,450 in 2008, including shipping.

The women, however, are not without hope.

“Our strongest card is prayer, and we’ll have to see what the Lord does for us,” Tuttle said.


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