Monday, August 9, 2010

Sheila has started a forum on

Knitting Behind Bars, a program developed by LynnZ to bring the zen of knitting to male inmates at the Jessup Pre-Release Unit (JPRU) in Jessup, Maryland.
group details
Join us as we knit with our Thursday evening Knitting Group, the men of Jessup Pre-Release Program in Jessup, Maryland.

We would like to share with you the friendships we have made, the accomplishments of the men and their adventures through the process of returning to the outside world.

Jessup Pre-Release is a facility where the men may spend up to 3 years before they are released from their incarceration. It also houses men who are handicapped and serving longer sentences.

We have never asked these men what they did to put themselves behind the razor wire. They often tell us what they did when they are ready to trust us. We accept them as they are now, and help them establish friendships and the satisfaction of learning an awesome skill…….KNITTING!

We would like to share with you their personal triumphs and their life accomplishments. We hope you are as proud and astounded as we are. There is no prison reform in Maryland or much of the United States. Certainly not many programs that promote self-esteem, personal development or anger management. We also have begun to develop a mentoring program

Often the conversations we have with them are the same ones we find ourselves having with our other knitting friends in our various other knitting groups! Ooh! What yarn is that? What makes this fiber so soft? Can you teach me to pick up stitches after I drop them? Do you have a pattern for that scarf? How many beads do I put in this section? I just know I need to learn how to knit socks!

Through the generous contributions of the Knitters in Columbia, Maryland, we have contributed over 2,000 books to their once non-existant library, including a full law library! This is a on going venture.

We are self-funded. If you would like to help support our endeavor, you can visit our Etsy shop or our blog, Knitting Behind Bars.

We have been sponsoring this weekly group since November 2009. It is the highlight of our week! Please join us in our journey with the men of JPRU!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

We have opened an Etsy Gift shop

Please go to
Donate $25 and receive a Comfort Doll while supporting our project. We are self financed and purchase yarn so that only clean, unused yarn is used. We also purchase the needles and fiberfill so that we get a consistent doll to give away to traumatized children
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A prison in NY state has asked to join our project.

We've sent the Comfort Doll pattern and will love having them join us in this project.
Below is the pattern:

Comfort Doll Pattern - adapted from

Materials: Dark brown worsted weight, assorted bright colors for clothing
Needles- size 7 or 8-
Yarn needle
Fiberfill for stuffing

To begin: The basic method for making each doll is the same. Begin at the feet and knit a rectangle with a decrease at the top for a hat, (stockinette stitch- knit 1 row, purl 1 row), changing colors for each body segment. The head is stuffed and the neck formed by pulling in with a gathering thread. When the body is stuffed, the feet are formed by pulling in a gathering thread at the ankles. The arms and legs are defined by stitching through all layers after the doll is stuffed. The number of rows in each section can be increased or decreased depending on the individual design. The finished height as written is about 5 inches.

To make: Work in stockinette stitch throughout. Cast on 32 sts.
Work 4 rows for feet. Change yarn.
Work 14 rows for pants. Change yarn.
Work 12 rows for shirt. Change yarn
Work 8 rows for face. Change yarn.
Work 11 rows for hat as follows:
Rows 1-4: Work evenly.
Row 5: Decrease 5 sts evenly across row (27 sts). Row 6 P across row.
Row 7: Dec 5 sts evenly across row (22 sts). Row 8: P across row.
Row 9: Dec 5 sts evenly across row (17 sts). Row 10: p across row.
Row 11: (K1, K2tog), k last 2 sts.
Cut yarn leaving long tail to sew up back. Draw yarn thru remaining stitches on needle and gather.

To finish:
1. Fold inside out and sew down back to form center back seam. Turn right side out.
2. Stuff head. Weave a strand of matching yarn thru first row of face. Gather in to form neck and secure ends.
3. Repeat for body, drawing in at the ankles.
4. Stuff feet and sew up bottom, gathering is as much as possible.
5. With matching yarn, form arms with small stitches thru all layers from waist to 2 rows below neck. Define legs the same way, from bottom to just below waistline.
6. Embroider hair and face as desired.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Here are some recent photos taken at JPRU

We have had some new knitters join us and they are all doing well, learning to knit and also learning to relax. They cannot believe me when I tell them that knitting is relaxing. The regular knitters say it's the best 2 hours they have all week.

Below are some recent photos

Monday, May 3, 2010

News and press

In order to see the photos, once you open the link, use the arrow at the top of the article to scroll through the pictures.

Also an article from an Eastern Shore newspaper. Open this link to read

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Press release

Contact: Lynn Zwerling
Knitting Behind Bars
Phone: (410)997-3965
Mobile: (410-868-5129

12110 Blue Flag Way
Knitting Behind Bars:
Inmates are knitting toys for children and learning vital life skills in the process
Columbia, April 6, 2010: Walk through the corridors of the Jessup Pre-Release Unit on a Thursday night and you may come across a scene that has shocked even the guards and inmates of this all-male minimum security facility: Gathered before you are about a dozen inmates. They’re holding pointed sticks and hooks, and they’re determined to get what they want—to learn how to knit and crochet.
The men are crafting “comfort dolls”—knitted stuffed toys that first responders will give to children in crisis situations. The project is part of Knitting Behind Bars, a program launched by local volunteers to help incarcerated individuals learn social skills while making a contribution to the community. Knitting Behind Bars was the idea of Columbia-resident Lynn Zwerling, the organizer of a large local knitting group. She launched the project in 2009 with the sponsorship of Ann Hosmer of Power Excel, a Baltimore non-profit that helps at-risk youth increase achievement and reduce anti-social behavior.
For 2 hours each week, Zwerling and volunteers Sheila Rovelstad and Lea Hiers meet at the 600-man facility and provide knitting lessons, support and encouragement to the men. The men use the gathering time to not only master the craft, but to also share stories about their families, the books they are reading, and their plans for the future. They are meticulous about their art—carefully choosing their yarn and not satisfied until their work is nearly perfect. They find the repetitive, yet creative, act of knitting to be a calming meditative process. “I tell them that knitting is the ‘new yoga’”, says Zwerling.
Photos on the Knitting Behind Bars blog,, tell the story best. One former participant, recently released to a halfway house, uses the blog to keep tabs on the progress of his knitting buddies.

Knitting Behind Bars is currently competing in the Pepsi Refresh project, an effort that helps fund ideas with a positive impact. Zwerling’s knitting group, Columbia Sip and Knit, has also contributed more than 300 books to the Jessup facility.
The men don’t want the program to end. “Who are you kidding?” said Ryan Barber, who made woven crosses and a star of David to show his appreciation to the volunteers. “This is the best part of our week.”
# # #

Thursday, April 1, 2010

And the results are in.....

Knitting Behind Bars has made the finals for the Pepsi Refresh grant competition.

Now, there is the voting....which takes placed all month. Please give me your vote go to
You will have to register but it is painless.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Saturday Sheila and I were the guests at Toastmasters

We brought our husbands and we all were so impressed with how well our guys communicate. From composing a song to the perfect first date to a talk on Shakespeare, it was a terrific morning spent at JPRU. They even managed to get me to give an impromptu speech.
These inmates never cease to amaze us. There is so much potential.
So many of the Toastmasters came forward to thank us for the gift of books. They really do appreciate this small gift.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

In appreciation

Sheila and Lea, thanks for giving so graciously of your time.
And to Ann Hosmer, I really appreciate Powel Excel's efforts at getting our Knitting Behind Bars Project established. Without your effort, Ann, I would still be wandering around trying to sell this excellent idea.
To all the knitter at the Columbia Sip and Knit, I thank you for collecting and passing on all of those books. You cannot know how greatful the men are having these books. If you are housecleaning and looking to rid yourself of magazines in addition to any books you have, think about sending them our way as well. We will be careful to remove all personal information.

Friday, March 5, 2010

More Comfort Doll photos to share

We have ten completed Comfort Dolls, all finished with faces and hair and many 5 or 7 more that need finishing. I marvel at how unique and special these dolls are becoming.
We are eager to plan a reception where these Comfort Dolls can be presented to the first responders.
Some of our knitters will be writing stories to accomply each doll into the hands of a traumatized child.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Here are some more photos

Featured is Lea working with Mr. Moody, who is the one of the crochet-ers. There's also a photo of Sheila who is our quality control department. She stuffs the Comfort Dolls with fiberfill and sews them up. Lea leads the cosmetic department, working on hair this week. Eyes and mouths to follow.
Lynn is showing both Jeremy and Mark how to "purl".
When you hear that one picture is worth a million words, I think these radiate with the pride our knitters are feeling.

More photos



Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Just wanted to share some photos with you.

As you can see, there is a great deal of pride in how the Comfort Dolls are coming along. The guys are so proud to have learned how to knit and look forward to our weekly sitting and knitting.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Pepsi Refresh Project

Pepsi Refresh Project

4 dolls are now complete

We have completed 4 or 5 Comfort Dolls. Photos are problematic. It's a prision after all. But we have consent forms and hopefully I will be able to post photos soon.

One of our participants told me how much, no kidding, how much this knitting behind bars has changed his attitude and relationships. I accuse them of kissing up to me, but many have told me that they have shared their knitting stories with wives, oh, okay, their old ladies, and grandmothers. One of my favorites, Mr. Cheeseball (they all have nick names)told me his wife went to his probation hearing and told them he has been knitting.

Sheila, Lea and I all admit that going to our project is a highlight of our week.
It's just so simple and so gratifying.