Today, Jeanne Dykstra continues the tradition at Elegant Stitches, the yarn shop she owns in Miami. Customers gather on Wednesday mornings to knit for American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every week she ships boxes filled with thin beanie hats, warm hats that troops can wear while sleeping. and thick knitted socks. As one soldier commented in a thank-you note, "It's nice to have something on your feet. A sleeping bag doesn't keep them warm."
Ms. Dykstra devotes a wall in her shop to a sampling of the thousands of letters, e-mails, and pictures she has received from troops. "It's quite heartening to make friends with these people, and to realize that you're making their lives a little bit better," she says.
One American nurse in Afghanistan thanked Dykstra for the children's socks, sweaters, and caps she has been sending. "It really helps the camaraderie," the nurse wrote. "If we give them warm clothing, their uncle is not so likely to shoot us."
Another charity-knitting program, afghans for Afghans, is collecting 900 wool sweaters and vests for schoolchildren between the ages of 7 and 18. Contributions are due in San Francisco Friday for a shipment that will arrive in time for Afghanistan's harsh winter. The group also collects hats, mittens, socks, and blankets.
"People feel really grateful to have the chance to do something constructive and tangible in response to the news of such violence and deprivation and need in Afghanistan," says founder Ann Rubin. Donors range from third-graders who produce "superb" woolen hats to people in their 90s. Men also knit for the group.
"They're giving sweaters that they would be proud to have their own children wear," Ms. Rubin says. "It's a sign of respect and friendship for the Afghan people." One woman, a sailor heading to Iraq, just sent a beautiful hand-knit Aran sweater.