The Knitters Guild of Incline Village: Knitting to serve the community

Those who showed up to knit and get things ready for the Winter Warmth & Wellness event
were, from left, Yangqin Zhao, Laurel Underseth, Carol Coughlin, Barbara Nutting, Jamie
Sidells, Dianne Berglund, Mary Mosher-Armstrong and Millie Szerman. | Kayla Anderson

At St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Incline Village, Nev. on a snowy afternoon, members of The Knitters Guild of Incline Village filtered in and out of its library, pulling yarn and handmade goods out of the closet to donate to the annual Winter Warmth & Wellness community event. I stopped to admire the beautifully knitted and crocheted beanies, scarves, mittens, blankets and sweaters, to touch the soft wool and admire the artisanship.

This group has been together for 20 years; they meet informally every Wednesday from 1 to 3 p.m. to knit, crochet, give each other advice and make warm clothing and accessories for underserved community members.

Several hundred items are made and donated to nonprofits throughout the year, such as blankets and lapghans that go to Tahoe Forest Hospital and the senior apartments in Truckee, layettes for newborns and warm clothing to the Eddy House in Reno. The guild takes donated yarn and knitting supplies and turns them into soft caps for those undergoing chemotherapy treatment at Gene Upshaw Memorial Tahoe Forest Cancer Center and warm hats for elementary school children. They donate to silent auctions, knit doggy sweaters for Pet Network and give purple hats to the National Shaken Baby Campaign.

Everything is donated to them — the yarn, the needles, et cetera — and in turn the members spin them into usable items that go back to the community in an endless karmic cycle.

We do a lot of scarves and hats and blankets and we sit here and socialize; that’s what we do — and then we give away stuff every time there’s a need.”     –Millie Szerman

Peggy Harrison started this group in 2002 and met with fellow knitters at the church on an informal weekly basis to share patterns and knit together. The guild grew and soon they began donating their blankets and warm clothing to those in the North Lake Tahoe and Incline Village area. Although Harrison moved to Reno a few years ago and is not quite as active, the guild has picked up so much momentum that it continues to meet regularly since there are always people who need warm and cozy wearables especially when the temperatures start to drop. Karen Barney has become the main organizer.

“It started with just a handful of gals who liked to knit and several members of the group belong to the church,” says longtime member Millie Szerman.

Knitters Guild

1-3 p.m. | Wednesdays

St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church | Incline Village, Nev.

She explained this as the group took everything out and organized it; separating out booties, caps, and mittens to go to the Sierra Community House or items ready to be deployed to the Winter Warmth & Wellness event.

As a crocheter, Szerman became involved with the guild when she started a sweater for herself, but she ran out of yarn mid-project. She looked all over town but couldn’t find what she needed to finish the sweater when someone told her about The Knitters Guild of Incline Village. Szerman went to an event and there was the color and texture of yarn she was looking for in the closet.

There are no dues to join the guild, everyone is welcome. There are some people who come just in the summer or some who can’t attend meetings but still donate their knitted work. On that winter day, members from Tahoe City, Tahoe Vista and Truckee were there — and some drove from Reno and Sparks.

“Usually everyone brings their projects with them and when something’s finished then we do like a little show and tell. Everyone comes from all walks of life,” she said, pointing to a member who makes cute beanies. She showed me one of her signature items, a cap with a green stem on it like a pumpkin top.

A lot of times yarn just shows up or an unfinished item that needs to be completed or redone.

“We do a lot of scarves and hats and blankets and we sit here and socialize; that’s what we do, and then we give away stuff every time there’s a need,” she said.

After I left the affable and generous group, I went home and started knitting, something I hadn’t done (ironically) since the pandemic. And when I came close to finishing a scarf, I realized that it wasn’t quite long enough — and I didn’t have more yarn. Fortunately, I knew just where to go to find more. |,