The afghan glows with 49 bright patches of color, a symphony of knitted wool. It makes you feel good just looking at it. It's kitten-fur soft to the touch and very, very warm. It's surprisingly heavy, too, if a little on the short side for a man.
And that's as it should be. The afghan is destined for the Rainbow House in Columbia, Mo., a children’s shelter, to cheer and warm child victims of abuse, violence and neglect.
Nancy Lombardi, director of Student Support Services (SSS), said 14 students and staff, including two men, contributed to knitting the squares. The individual works of art were then stitched together into the larger whole, seven across and seven deep. Lombardi said she found a reference in a book to a program called Warm-Up America, and it lit a spark in her.
"It just seemed like such a good thing to do," she recalled. "But I didn’t realize how long it would take to finish it! We started last spring, and kind of fell off the wagon in summer [when students are gone]. We only finished it in early December 2008."
Dawn Ross, SSS advisor, added, "It was a labor of love, and we really enjoyed making it. We almost didn't want to give it away!"
Lombardi added that she, Ross and a few others had to teach some students how to knit – but that once started, students became both interested in knitting and invested in the project. "Knitting is not complicated," said Lombardi. "The tools are needles and yarn. There's only two activities – knitting and purling. That's it. It's repetitive. But it can yield lovely things."
Brenda Crosby, a forensic science and biology student who graduated in December, was one of the students who did not initially know how to knit. She said she knitted her bright blue square in one-to-two hour increments until it was done.
"It was hard at first!" said Crosby. "But eventually I was able to knit and watch TV, and not have to look at what I was doing. I got a sense of great accomplishment out it."
Crosby added that she since has knitted scarves for gifts, which can take up to five hours each. "And people love them!"
Some warm, safe child at Rainbow House echoes her sentiments.