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Volunteer Spotlight: Emanuel Stitching Ladies

The Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t slowed down Emanuel Congregation’s Stitching Ladies. Although the group has been unable to meet in person since March 2020, the more than two dozen members have continued to make handcrafted items for Chicagoans in need. In total, they donated 798 items in 2020.

“I think the group has not skipped a beat,” says Patricia Levine. “Sandy Pakin, our group leader, saw the challenge of quarantine and adapted us all to Zoom. She kept our same schedule, helped those technically challenged, and continued communicating via email with those who don’t ‘zoom.’ She transitioned us to mask making for the Alderman’s Office, arranged for yarn pick up for those who needed it, and worked with the synagogue so the ladies could bring in completed projects and then arranged delivery to clients. She assured those who were part of the group were not in isolation during this time.”

Stitching Ladies was founded at Emanuel Congregation as Americans pulled together during another global crisis—World War II. Originally, they were known as the Sewing Ladies, and they made items for the Red Cross. More than seven decades later, the group is still going strong.

“I was recruited to the group by my distant relative, Dorothy Ascher, who was, I believe, part of the original group of the ‘Sewing Ladies,’” says Hanna Goldschmidt. “I attended my first meeting and couldn’t stay away! I am proud to be a member of a group where everyone with stitching knowledge is welcome.”

Stitching Ladies welcomes everyone of any faith who wants to join as long as they have basic knitting or crocheting skills. Members can enjoy fun and fellowship while improving their technique and giving back to the community.

Margaret McCamant was worried about being the only gentile member but instead found a “delightfully diverse, ecumenical, and international” group.

“I love our group’s unofficial motto: It’ll fit someone,” says Margaret. “It’s true because of the wide range of recipients—from premature babies to adult men—and it’s reassuring when I’m knitting hats to know that there’s a head out there that will be warmer because of something I’ve made.”

The work that the Stitching Ladies do is truly a community effort. They use donated yarn, and sometimes even receive half-finished pieces with the donations.

Carol Edelson recalls a time when they received two plastic garbage bags with unfinished objects—also known as UFOs—from the husband of a recently deceased knitter.

“We got to work saving as many projects as we could, although not always in their intended form,” says Carol. “For example: the start of a sweater could be a cowl. Some UFOs could only be completed as little blankets for the animal rescue shelter. Single socks without toes were completed and donated to the V.A. hospital for use by amputees (or patients who might not care if their socks matched).”

Karyn Kovachic says that she’s proud to contribute to “such wonderful organizations—lapghans for the V.A., baby blankets for St. Joseph Hospital, scarves and hats for the 48th Ward, chemo hats for Northwestern Hospital, articles for The Ark, and the many other handmade items our members create for other such worthwhile groups who then distribute them to their patients and clients.”

The Stitching Ladies meet via Zoom on Tuesday mornings from 11:00 to 11:45. If you’re interested in joining, email Sandy Pakin at


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