She didn't have to needle anyone to get on board
Knitting has been part of Katherine Erwin's life for a long time.
Erwin, an Athol resident, remembers helping her grandmother and great-grandmother pick out what color yarn to use in their projects. She took up knitting as a teenager and a decade ago decided a good way to "get out of the house" was to join a knitting club. Now she is taking her hobby to sea as the organizer of a cruise , "The Purl of the Atlantic."
The idea sprang from a desire to help an ill friend and co -worker at Hannaford Supermarkets in Athol, where Erwin is an assistant customer service manager. The friend, Pam Osborne of Orange, has a rare cancer and had to take time off from work.
"I told her she should learn to knit. She reluctantly agreed . I taught her between treatments, and here we are two years later," Erwin said. "She is reasonably healthy and still knitting with the help of my group, which meets two nights a week."
But just taking up knitting wasn't enough. "She is so thankful for the group that we tried to come up with ways to share our love of knitting and our passion for helping others," Erwin said. "We thought a cruise would give Pam something great and wonderful to look forward to."
Osborne, who is straightforward in discussing her disease and her treatments, says knitting has brought many benefits. But it did take her a while to give it a try. She would watch Erwin wield her circular needles on work breaks and think it looked too complicated.
Now, she says she is glad that Erwin, who volunteered to take her to chemotherapy treatments, "convinced me to give it a try." Cruising with her and the knitters will be Osborne's daughter, Tiffany, 19, and son, Donny, 16.
But how do you organize such a cruise? Erwin's first step was to check with Patricia Huang of PH Cruises & Tours in Andover, the woman who has been her "friendly travel agent" for six years. Huang, who has been ranked by the Cruise Line International Association as an "elite counselor," helped the group pitch the idea to Norwegian Cruise Line. "They loved it," Erwin said.
The result is the "Purl of the Atlantic" cruise from Boston to Bermuda Aug. 19-26, which has a starting price of $845. In addition to the regular shipboard meals, entertainment, and excursions that everyone aboard the 1,462-passenger Norwegian Majesty will share, there will be three knitting classes, with assistance and materials available, and two private get-togethers to exchange ideas and make acquaintances. Erwin will teach her special technique for knitting socks, and there will be a welcome cocktail party, as well as a knitting contest during the ship's final day at sea as it heads back to Boston.
Until then, the 15-member club is keeping busy at its meeting spot, The Gathering Place, a crafter's studio and gift shop on Main Street in Athol. "I knit socks a pair at a time on the circular needles," said Erwin. "We have knit socks for all Pam's doctors and now for other chemotherapy patients who watch us knit week after week."
Along with the knitting, of course, comes chatting and a lot of laughter. "We're all quirky in our own way," said Erwin.
But the group members are serious about urging cruisegoers, in knitting lingo, to "cast on while we cast off to Bermuda." About 30 people have signed up for the cruise so far, including club members and their husbands, and more are expected as the sailing date gets closer. Erwin's daughter, Kirsten, will be coming , as will grandchildren Eli, 4, and Cadence, 2. Perhaps the little ones will help pick the colors of the yarn.
Contact Richard P. Carpenter at firstname.lastname@example.org.