Lansdale woman, crocheting crew plan major giveway
ST. PAUL -- The dance of Elizabeth Sammons' crochet hook is mesmerizing.Tucked in the corner of her living room couch in Lonsdale, Minn., with Stitches, her black-and-white rat terrier, on her knee, Sammons explains how she turns a skein of multi...
ST. PAUL - The dance of Elizabeth Sammons’ crochet hook is mesmerizing.
Tucked in the corner of her living room couch in Lonsdale, Minn., with Stitches, her black-and-white rat terrier, on her knee, Sammons explains how she turns a skein of multicolored yarn into a scarf. Her hands are a blur.
“I’m doing a half-double crochet,” she said. “I just yarn over and go through a stitch, yarn over again and then go through that stitch, and then I yarn over and go through all three hoops on my hook. I usually chain 18. It’s quick. I can do it my sleep. In fact, I have done it in my sleep.”
Sammons has crocheted and collected scarves - an extraordinary 1,021 since February - preparing to give them all away Saturday in St. Paul.
The scarves - carefully rolled and placed in Rubbermaid storage bins stacked to the ceiling in a back bedroom - will be tied to trees in 21 parks in and around downtown St. Paul. A tag tied to each will have this message: “I am not lost! If you are stuck out in the cold, please take this to keep warm!”
The tags also say “2 Corinthians 1:3-4,” referring to one of Sammons’ favorite Bible verses. “It’s the one about comforting others in their time of trouble, as God has comforted me in my time of trouble,” she said.
She calls her project Crocheting with a Cause.
Sammons, the advertising coordinator of the Faribault Daily News, said it all started after she read a Facebook post about someone who made scarves for the homeless and left them tied to trees in a local park.
“I showed my co-worker … and she said, ‘Well, we could do that here in Faribault,’ ” Sammons said. “I crocheted, like, five scarves, and I said, ‘Let’s go do this.’ ”
The scarves were snapped up within a couple of days. So Sammons made 20 more and put them out again.
When KMSP-TV aired a story about the project, Wendy Maslowski of St. Paul reached out to Sammons - and the joint venture was born.
“Wendy emailed me and said she wanted to do it in St. Paul,” Sammons said. “I said, ‘Well, why don’t we try for 1,000 scarves in St. Paul?’ … So I started a Facebook page, and it just blew up.”
An army of volunteers pitched in, knitting and crocheting 1,021 scarves. Sammons said 211 miles of yarn was used - enough to stretch nearly from Duluth to the Iowa border.
Sammons, 31, crochets two to three scarves a week. She works at night while binge-watching “Bones” on Netflix. Each scarf takes about two hours.
Sammons learned to crochet from her mother, Sandy Uhlir, when she was 10. But as she grew older, Sammons said, she set aside her crochet hooks “because I thought it was an old-lady thing.” She didn’t pick them up again until after she married in 2004.
“Dustin (her husband) was helping with his brother’s band, so I had a lot of time with nothing to do,” she said. “I don’t like to sit still.”
Born with a heart defect, Sammons suffered heart failure at age 25 in 2009. Six months later, she had a pacemaker implanted. Last June, Sammons underwent a heart transplant.
Crocheting scarves and working on her volunteer project helped with her recovery, her husband said.
“I just am blown away by all the different things she has kept doing even before the heart transplant,” Dustin Sammons said. “I know a lot of healthy people who don’t do that much.
“I was skeptical at first when she said 1,000 scarves. I thought that was a pretty high number. But a lot of people rallied, and it happened.”
A woman from Texas heard about the project and sent 100 scarves. A man named Dave saw Sammons on TV and sent $100 for yarn in memory of his late mother, “who used to crochet and give away scarves,” she said.
“When his father died,” Sammons said, “he donated another $100 in honor of him.”
Sammons, a member of Triumphant Life Church in Lonsdale, prays regularly about her mission.
“When I asked God what he was trying to teach me, he directed me to a passage in Romans where Peter talks about knowing what it’s like to be poor and what it’s like to be rich, and what it’s like to have money and what it’s like to have nothing, and the secret to being content in all things,” she said. “And I’m, like, ‘OK, God, what’s the secret?’ To be still and know that I am God.”
Although the scarves Sammons and Maslowski will leave out in St. Paul are intended for the homeless and needy, they realize others might take some, too.
“I’m sure that some people will take them for gifts, which is fine, we did it before Christmas,” Maslowski said. “Someone said, ‘Yeah, but what if they take a bunch more?’ I said: ‘You know what? Once we put them out there, that’s it. We let it go.’
“If they take them and sell them and it gives them money for a meal, great. Great. It doesn’t matter.”
Maslowski was diagnosed in June with a rare autoimmune disease. She said Sammons’ story inspired her to ask to bring the Crocheting with a Cause effort to St. Paul.
“You know you can tend to kind of feel sorry for yourself when you get sick,” said Maslowski, who is on medical leave from the Ramsey County attorney’s office. “I thought, if she can do it, I can do it.”
Maslowski, 56, has crocheted an average of 30 scarves a month since she joined the effort. Her two children and four grandchildren will help tie the scarves to the park trees in St. Paul.
“My mother taught me that you can always change your corner of the world,” Maslowski said. “It’s just those simple acts of kindness that make a difference.
“If each person did that, what an incredible world we’d have.”
The women have worked with the St. Paul’s Parks and Recreation Department to choose the parks where they’ll leave the scarves.
Cy Kosel, the department’s natural resources manager, said the selected parks are “areas where there are people who might be in need and could use the scarves.”
“Tying them on to trees in the holiday season is an easy way for people to see them and kind of understand the meaning and what they are for,” Kosel said. “It’s a wonderful gesture.”
The women have been asked to return to the parks Jan. 1 to remove any unclaimed scarves; Sammons doesn’t think that will be an issue.
She hopes the project will spread to other cities and even other states. Next year, she’s thinking about adding mittens and hats.
“It’s the kindness of a stranger. They’re not coming from an establishment. It’s just a stranger who is thinking of them and their needs,” she said.
Sammons sees the scarves as a double blessing - both in the giving and in the receiving.
“I really love the joy that it gives - for me and them,” she said. “I hope that they feel comforted by the kindness and, really, I want them to feel the love of Christ.”
Each scarf will be “prayed over” before it is tied to a tree, she said.
“I’ll ask God to protect whoever takes one and ask that they would keep warm with it and that they would be blessed.”