Knitting for Mariners by the Light of a Lighthouse

Nov 19, 2008

Knitters from around the country craft items to send to the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) each year. The volunteer knitting program, Christmas at Sea, has, for 110 years, been distributing packages of warm, handmade garments to mariners working at Christmastime. On November 15 a group of these volunteer knitters gathered for a special event in Greenport, Long Island. The local yarn studio and store in the center of town, Now and Zen Yarns, sponsored the event, bringing together over 30 knitters to Greenport’s historic East End Seaport Museum.

Program Director, Jeanette DeVita, spoke at the event, where knitters gathered to share some time and knit a few stitches with yarn donated by Cascade Yarns. DeVita talked about the historic connection between knitting and life at sea—a sea history shared by Long Island’s North Fork and Shelter Island from where many of the participants for the day’s event hailed. She also told knitters of the hundreds of thousands of knitted items that have been a part of making the holidays warm for mariners working at Christmastime since the beginning of the volunteer knitting program.

DeVita said, “It was great to partner with another maritime organization and bring awareness to both organizations. There are many components to making the Christmas at Sea knitting program work—yarn, people, maritime companies and organizations—and when you see all of them come together, it is tremendous.” The Director of SCI’s knitting program said that participating in “joint ventures” is what drives the success of any charitable organization.

After DeVita’s talk, she shared with the attendees the necessity of warm winter clothing for workers on the cold seas and rivers. DeVita handed out knitting patterns from SCI’s program specifically designed for wear in these harsh conditions. The exciting part came when yarn donated by Cascade Yarns enabled people to try knitting a few of the garments on their own. Knitters began creating Mariner’s Scarves, Watch Caps, and other winter seafaring garments. The group will complete their projects in time for SCI’s 2008 gift giving.

Knitters at this event were crafting their new garments among maritime displays and exhibits housed at the East End Seaport Museum. “It was really inspiring to knit for mariners in a place where maritime history lives. I've never knit by lighthouse light before,” said DeVita. Museum Director Che Sabalja was happy to host the event. Deeming it a success, Sabalja welcomes knitters back in the future.

SCI’s Christmas at Sea Volunteer Knitting program is receiving knitted items up until December 15, 2008, for distribution this year.