Tuesday, December 13, 2011

92 year old knits more than 800 helment liners for troops overseas

 ARTHUR MOURATIDIS/For the Missoulian/ Dorothy Adams, 92, has knit approximately 838 wool helmet liners for members of the U.S. military after being inspired by memories of her late husband Kenneth and his experience with harsh weather while serving in Europe during World War II.
Dorothy Adams, 92, has an idea of the number of helmet liners she plans to knit.
“A thousand sounds good, doesn’t it?” she said.
Adams may reach that goal before Christmas at the rate her fingers are flying. The part-time Missoula resident started knitting helmet liners for members of the military almost three years ago to help keep soldiers serving overseas warm. As of Sunday, her “score,” as she calls it, is 838 knitted helmet liners.
“As long as my hands hold up and they want them, why stop?” she said at an interview at her Missoula home.
Adams is a member of the state chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, which announced in one of its bulletins that it was seeking knitters interested in making helmet liners for soldiers to wear under their helmets to stay warm.
Adams, a retired teacher, has been knitting since she was 9. In the 1930s, when she was in high school, Adams knitted her own sweaters. She’s made afghan blankets, hats and baby mittens.
The women’s organization sent Adams directions for how to knit the helmet liners, and she had to submit a sample to prove that she could make one according to their specifications.
The one-size-fits-all helmet liners require certain size needles and specific yarn. Only 100 percent soft wool yarn is acceptable as it is inherently nonflammable and stays warm even when wet.
The military is only interested in ones that are tan, brown, black or charcoal. The Marines prefer desert tan, according to the instructions Adams received.
This was December 2008. Adams was approaching her 90th birthday, so upon receiving a green light from DAR, she decided to start off by knitting 90 helmet liners by her August birthday. But by June, she had already reached her goal.
That’s when her grandson challenged Adams to knit 90 more by her birthday.
“I just kept going,” she said.
Now, Adams has surpassed 800.
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Adams thinks about all the cold nights her late husband, Kenneth, experienced while serving overseas during World War II. He served as a records keeper in the U.S. Army Air Corps, now known as the U.S. Air Force. Kenneth passed away in 2005 at the age of 88, but he left behind a little red journal, which details his years at war. The couple was married 65 years, but the two were separated for three years at the beginning of their marriage while Kenneth served in the military. Adams has read the journal, in which Kenneth describes sleeping in mud and the bugs in North Africa.
“I’m doing this in memory of him,” Adams said. “I know how cold he was and how cold some of those people (currently serving overseas) must be.”
Everywhere Adams goes her sewing goes along. She knits at the movies, at lunch, while running errands or when she can’t sleep at night.
“She’ll wake up knitting,” said her daughter, Nancy Adams.
“Well, it’s easy to knit because your fingers know what they’re doing,” Adams replied.
Each hat takes 12 hours to make. If the design was challenging at first, Adams can’t remember.
“It’s as easy as pie now,” she said.
Adams estimates that she has spent several thousand dollars purchasing wool over the years, and she’s happy to do it. She’s gotten it down to a science. Eight balls of yarn — at $6 a piece — makes nine hats, she said.
“I do it happily,” she said. “But I do like to get a bargain.”

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