Monday, December 14, 2009

Smaller crowd, all are knitting or almost knitting

Thursday we had an additional volunteer, sip and knit's own Lea Hiers, so there were four volunteers. Sheila took those needing more lessons, Lea had those as well. JoAnna circulated but mostly stayed with her buddy from BCDC. Ann opened up the session with a guilded imagery and some music and guess what? It worked. The smaller crowd immediately calmed down and allowed the few minutes of centering to work.
Lynn took the ones who had knit just a bit the last time.
But the very best was that one of our participants, volunteered to teach his fellow inmates how to crochet.
I looked around and all, every single guy was actively knitting and intent upon beginning to make our Comfort Dolls.
Those learning to crochet were circled around our volunteer making circles. Yes circles.
Just having our inmate volunteer has made this project a success!

Thanks to the volunteers and a goodbye to JoAnna who will be traveling but who will also continue her Knitting Behind Bars program in the Baltimore County Detention Center.

Ann went home and began practising and she has now officially joined the ranks of the knitters!

Thursday we'll arrive again and hopefully some of the dolls will be underway.

Hopefully Ann will take some photos and I will post them here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

One lonely doll looking for comapny

4 Brave Volunteers are set to arrive at Jessup Pre-Release Unit on Thursday

Here’s the plan. We’ll arrive at Jessup Pre-Release Unit at 5. Sheila, JoAnna and I will meet at the Panera’s in Dobbin Center near the Wal Mart at 4:15 so we can all go together. The road is windy and dark and I had a fit getting there two weeks ago.

All the supplies will be packed in my rolling suitcase. Supplies have been cleared by Ms. Chippendale, the warden, but I am expecting a bit of a shakedown at the entry point. Remember bring only your picture id, lock your cell etc in the car. The first few times through security will be alittle confusing but once they get used to us, it will not be a problem.

I will make a chart of how the doll is constructed and we’ll display it somewhere in the room.

Once we get there, we’ll have introductions and then we’ll have the participants count off, 1 to 4. Each of us will be assigned a group. How I see it is this,
Sheila will teach her group how to cast on.
JoAnna will do a mediation, a yoga or breathing exercise.
Lynn will begin teaching her group to knit. ( will have cast on 8 sets of needles)
Ann will take her group aside and begin planning how we can hand off these items to the community.

The goal of this first session will be to get those knitting skills locked down. We’ll talk about the dolls, but basically we’ll learn to knit and build a confident group of knitters.

After a period of time, say 20 minutes, the groups will rotate to the next station, 8 new participants to JoAnna for a meditation and yoga section, 8 to Sheila for casting on, 8 to Lynn for knitting and 8 to Ann for discussion of what’s up with the project, where it goes and how it works. We do this every 20 minutes or so until everyone has been in everyone’s group.
Hopefully there will be some knitting going on and all of us will circulate, encouraging the knitters and helping those who are struggling.

We’ll end the session with comments, hopes and a general debriefing. We are responsible for getting all supplies collected and that’s where the zip locks come in. We cannot let the participants leave until we have all of the “needles” (which actuatilty are 13” long, almost as thick as pencils and pretty innocent, badly named as needles, I think we should refer to them in the future as sticks or pins.)
Sheila will again go over the basics of casting on, I will give my in through the front door mantra, Ann will summarize the discussion of the future of the project. And finally JoAnna will give a closing breathing exercise and we’ll leave with our plan to return next week with more of the same.

How does that sound?

Knit and Be Happy,

Thursday, November 19, 2009

So, here's what a Comfort Doll looks like

Please note that no two dolls are alike. Each has its own character and style.

25 guys are ready to begin The Comfort Doll Project

Twenty five guys, all inmates from the Jessup Pre-Release Unit, decided tonight to begin The Comfort Doll Project. This project is a program under the auspices of Power Excel.

The Jessup Pre-Release Unit is located at the intersection where Howard County meets Anne Arundel County.

All participants will learn to knit and make these small and comforting stuffed dolls to be distributed to the Howard County and Anne Arundel County first responders. These comfort dolls will be offerred as an aid to communicate with and comfort traumatized children.

When asked why he would like to start making these comfort dolls, one inmate expressed the desire to give back to the community. Another explained that there is nothing but time "behind these wall". Others wondered if they might be able to make a doll for one of thier children.

After all explained, Lynn, the driving force behind this project, you guys won't be incarcerated forever and here's an easy, small step to help you jump back into the community. But we're starting small. First, we'll learn to knit, then we'll make a doll or two and see if we can finish enough to invite those first responders in to accept this community gift.

The guys were familiar with knitting and almost all admitted to having seen a grandmother knit. Amazingly many already knew that knitting wasn't "woman's work" and that it had originated as a male skill, maybe when a fishman started by knitting his nets to catch fish.

Knitting is not for the faint of heart but hopefully patience, anger management, goal setting and pride will be the result of learning this new skill.

The goal of this blog is to document this program; to encourage the community to accept and understand these gifts and to reward the inmates for the effort to produce these dolls.

Here's a call for bamboo needles, size 7 or 8 in a short length. And of course any donation would be appreciated.

Yarn is not an issue, but volunteers would be wonderful. Simply contact

At it stands, we will be meeting at the Jessup Pre-Release Unit, weekly on Thursday nights from 5 until 8. Anyone interested need only identify yourself, provide me with your full name and your social security number and jump in.