Want to be a Knitterondacker?

From left are Knitterondackers Pat Martz, Eleanor Sweeney, Elle Finocan, Cheryl Culotta, Lynne Ulicki, Susan Hoffman, Ellie Leedom and Janis Beatty in the Cantwell Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library. Photo provided — Barry Lobdell)

At age 17, Lynne Ulicki got tired of counting ceiling tiles in her hospital room after being hit by a drunk driver, so she taught herself to knit. She was in a body cast for six months, giving her plenty of time to learn the craft. She’s been knitting ever since and is so skilled at it that she sells her projects on Etsy, the site for handcrafted goods. Almost two years ago, Lynne wanted to share her love of knitting with others, so she started a knitting group that meets in the Saranac Lake Free Library’s Cantwell Room on Thursdays, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.

The Knitterondackers, the name the group coined itself, varies in size from week to week. Some people show up every week while others attend only occasionally. Some come for the full three hours while others pop in only part of that time. The group varies in talent, too, from the highly skilled to struggling beginners. All are welcome, with the skilled eager to help the beginners. I myself am part of the group, and I’m so grateful that there are other knitters who know what they’re doing and who are patient enough to help me. Otherwise, I’d feel completely hopeless.

Elle Finocan, a native of Ireland, moved to Saranac Lake one-and-a-half years ago. She didn’t know anyone in town and was looking for things to do where she could meet people. Elle explained, “I found out from the library that there was a knitting group there. My mother was an amazing knitter, but I hadn’t knit for 30 years. I grabbed an old ball of yarn and some of my mother’s old knitting needles and patterns from Ireland, and went to the library. Everyone was so welcoming that I felt right at home. I didn’t have to go into a room with a large group of people, something I find hard if I don’t know anyone there. I couldn’t even remember how to cast on, but with Lynne’s help, I knitted sweaters and hats for my grandchildren. I just completed my first pair of socks, which was quite challenging.”

Members work on their own individual projects, or the group knits projects together. The group has knitted colorful crate pads for the dogs and cats at the Tri-Lakes Humane Society. No, the animals themselves can’t appreciate the bright colors, but potential adopters can, and they just might be what a homeless animal needs to be noticed. Another project the group took up was knitting a variety of cat toys for the summer book fair, earning almost $200 for the library. The Knitterondackers are thinking about their next group undertaking, perhaps hats for the hospital’s nursery or afghans for the homeless shelter.

Susan Hopkins’ interest in identifying mushrooms got her started in using the fungi to dye wool, from which she knits hats, sweaters, and other items. There’s a whole world of mushroom enthusiasts out there, and Susan travels all around the world to International Fungi and Fibre Symposiums to meet them. She’s been to Spain, Australia, British Columbia, Scotland, all the Scandinavian countries, to name some of the symposium sites she’s visited. The next symposium is in Oslo, Norway. You can see her projects in the making at the Knitterondackers’ Thursday meetings. The colors she creates from the mushrooms are astonishing.

Lynne Ulicki instructs Janis Beatty. Photo provided — Barry Lobdell)

The Knitterondackers are looking for more people to join the group, even if you’ve never knitted before and would like to learn. There are always knitters willing to help someone get started or assist someone who’s in the middle of a project and just needs some expertise and encouragement. If you think you’d like to give it a go, you just can show up sometime between 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. on Thursdays in the Cantwell Room of the library.

Janis Beatty lives in Saranac Lake.

Cheryl Culotta winds yarn. Photo provided — Barry Lobdell)

Pat Martz knits socks. Photo provided — Barry Lobdell)