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A 'tight knit' group: Residents in The Village's knitting group create 'tree huggers'

The lull of the clicking of knitting needles and the soft murmur of quiet conversation absorb the room. It's Tuesday at 2 p.m. and the craft room at local retirement community The Village in Summerville is once again greeted by the familiar faces of its knitting group.

They have been meeting for nearly a decade, knitting together fuzzy creations for loved ones and having weekly chats about life.

But more than all of that, the hour serves as a deeply therapeutic time for residents. Patricia Essinger, who volunteers at the community as the knitting instructor, has been involved with it for all 10 years.

“We are a, no pun intended, tight knit group,” Essinger said laughing. “We just come here every week and sit and talk and find out a lot about each other and help each other.”

Essinger says that the group has taken on many projects throughout the years, including knitting and donating more than 4,000 hats to chemo patients at Hollings Cancer Center. Recently, they started working on a project that involves "yarn bombing," which originated out of Houston, Texas in the early 2000s. The trend involves covering various objects with knitted materials, from doorknobs to structures as large as cars and park benches.

Inspired by the idea, Essinger decided to bring yarn bombing to The Village. Essinger and the 10 or so members of the knitting group began creating their own yarn bombs to hang on trees around the community.

Soon, they had created several “tree hugging hands.” The knitted creations are about five inches in width and four feet in length, all in various color schemes. At both ends, knitted hands were connected, creating the appearance of long arms. When wrapped around the trees outside, it looks as if arms are stretched around a tree to hug it.

Although making “tree huggers” may have been a first for the group, they are no newcomers to the art of knitting. Several residents in the group have been knitting for more than 70 or 80 years. One member mentioned memories of knitting together garments for soldiers at war during World War II.

“I've been knitting since I was 4 years old,” said Harriett DaSilva, who lives at The Village.

The process of sitting down with yarn and needles serves as more than a craft for residents to take part in. It promotes a unique sense of wellness for the group as well.

“There's a lot to be said for how this is therapy,” Essinger said, noting that knitting benefits the mind and the body through its rhythmic movements.

“If I have a rough day or something and I start knitting, it helps relax me,” said Elizabeth Schneider, a resident at The Village.

For some residents, knitting is an exercise that encourages hand mobility. 

“It's good for people like me. I had a stroke in February and I still can't do it quite right, but it helps my hands,” one resident said.

When COVID-19 caused restrictions nationwide, volunteers like Essinger were temporarily banned from coming into the building.

“With COVID, it was like a year before I could get in here,” said Essinger, whose mother is also a member of the knitting group. “I was able to come back in May. I was really thrilled.”

Now, the group is able to meet regularly again, and the conversation picked up as if it never stopped. 

With the holidays on the horizon, the group already has several projects planned in the coming months.

But most importantly, they plan to continue knitting.