Anna Katherine Scott raced to finish up the scarf she was knitting. It was one of only a few she had left to pack, scarves which will, by her count, bring her to a total of 870, or close to it.
These hundreds upon hundreds of scarves are now stuffed in large black travel bags in the garage of her Vienna home. But come Sunday, they will be en route to the Ukraine, to warm up children in orphanages for Christmas.
“We all want to make a difference,” Scott said. “How crazy is it, to think that you can knit a scarf and make a difference? But now I truly believe that you can.”
In 2009, Scott and her husband Ron started trying to organize a charity trip to Moldova, a repeat of a trip they took a year earlier. One of Scott’s three younger sisters, looking to help, gave Scott her 37 hand-knitted scarves to hand out while abroad.
While the trip fell through, the scarves took on a life of their own.
Still looking for some way to help the children she had seen in Eastern Europe, Scott decided to send the scarves, and any others she could get, in her stead. Scott and her sisters all knit, so it seemed a natural way to give back.
Spreading the word through knitting groups, churches and community centers, Scott ended up with more than 300 hand-knitted or crocheted scarves to ship to Moldova for Christmas.
The project, now called Knit, Purl, Love, and supported by Vienna Presbyterian Church in Vienna, has continued each year since then, and the number of scarves has increased each year.
Scott’s only stipulation for donations is that scarves must be hand-made, either knitted or crocheted. The color, pattern, and style is left completely up to the individual maker.
“Use your artistic freedom,” Scott said. “Think of a child that’s living over there and make a scarf. That’s as simple as it is, and that’s the beauty in it.”
Still, Scott is astounded by how quickly her small effort has grown. Other than an informational page on the Vienna Presbyterian Church website, she maintains no online presence for the project. Rather, it is spread largely through word of mouth.
This year, she has received scarves from California to Louisiana to New York, from knitters age 8 to 93.
“It’s an opportunity to give a lot more than money,” Scott said. “People are giving a part of themselves. I think that’s really resonated with people. I know the time and love all the knitters put into it.”
Scott works with the charity New Hope International to determine where the scarves need to go. In 2009 and 2010, the scarves were sent to Moldova. Last year and again this year, the scarves are going to the Ukraine.
Last Sunday, baskets of scarves filled the altar and wide back windowsill of Vienna Presbyterian Church. After being blessed by the church’s pastor, they were packed for travel. The scarves were first shrinkwrapped to save space, then stuffed in the travel bags, which in the end weighed more than 200 pounds all together.
Burt and Lisa LeJune, who with Scott are members of the church, volunteered to travel with the scarves. The LeJunes, with their daughters Niki, 13, and Alexa, 11, will leave for they will be leaving for Lviv, Ukraine, this Sunday.
Upon their arrival on Monday morning, they will team with New Hope International. Scarves in tow, they will attend Christmas celebrations the non-profit has set up at orphanages in the city and hand out the scarves as Christmas presents for the children.
“It’s just the perfect way to celebrate the season and have our daughters experience Christmas,” Lisa LeJune said. “It’s the time of year to focus on giving, not receiving, but that can be overshadowed. We’re glad to be getting a different perspective for the holiday.”