Stitches of care come from community clicks

Joanne Woodward, wife of the late Paul Newman, is first and foremost an actress. But right up there with her career on stage and screen is her passion for knitting. Colour, creativity, texture and the excitement of taking a long strand of textile and creating something eternal… this is the thrill for Joanne. In fact, she once said in an interview… “knitting is a way of life.”

There are hundreds of people in Barrie who understand that statement. [There are likely many more who don’t.] As knitting gains new interest among today’s young people, this column might have new inspiration!

Margie Smith is 83 years old and taught her grand daughter how to knit when she was quite young. Now, 30 years later, both Margie and grand daughter Lee Ann Catling are stitching up a storm along with 20 other stitchers… their goal is community betterment.

Volunteer Stitchers of Barrie are busily weaving their magic by crochet hook or knitting needles, using any yarn that’s donated to them. They produce hats, toques, mittens, socks, shawls, lap blankets, baby blankets, tiny caps for premature babies, tiny socks, big socks for the homeless at the David Busby Centre. The knit for teenage guests at Youth Haven. They crochet lap blankets for the terminally ill at RVH. The produce quilts and crocheted and knitted blankets for wee ones and not so wee ones. Everyone needs comfort!

This group, which is always looking for new members, meets infrequently to spend time together, share new patterns or sources of new yarns. Some of the stitchers are very relaxed in their production; others produce uncountable quantities… knitting and crocheting is a way of life!

With an attempt at monthly meetings, where stitching is certainly encouraged, organizer Lee Ann Catling says they try to have a guest speaker with a topic to share while they’re together. But, whether members attend meetings or not, they still produce hundreds and hundreds of items every year and it’s all given away.

Lee Ann holds back some items for sale at the Barrie Farmers Market on Saturdays… money raised from selling product funds purchase of yarn for knitters.

“We really hope for donations of yarn, too,” she says. “When someone’s moving and looking for a place for wool and yarn and fabric, our group is really anxious to receive it. And we turn it right back into the community in the form of finished items.”

The premie unit at Royal Victoria Hospital… babies so tiny that it’s difficult to find clothes for them; the paediatric unit, the oncology unit and the ward for the terminally ill… RVH is a happy recipient of items. Youth Haven for homeless teens. Womens and Children’s Crisis Centre.

Volunteer Stitchers of Barrie try to donate regularly to guests at Our of the Cold… warm socks, mitts, hats and scarves that help those in need.

The stitchers are happy to work with any type of yarn and fabric. One quilter in the group happily produces quilted items that are well received.

When I asked Lee Ann how many items the group would donate in a year, it was difficult to give a total. “My grandmother can produce 50 hats in a month,” she said, “and we have two ladies at the Barrington Retirement Home who knit and crochet and donate to us.” Lee Ann estimated the group donates about 600 items a year.


“Out of goodness in our hearts for people who need things that someone else can’t give to them.”

Age range of Volunteer Stitchers of Barrie is 20 to 95… so there’s room for just about anybody.

Interested? VSB would love to hear from you… 705 734-0359 or or

Thanks Stitchers! Thanks, Lee Ann! And thanks, Margie Smith, for teaching your grand-daughter how to knit.