Pack your suitcases with YARN and Love and head to Boquete, Panama!

Story of the Boquete Knitters and Quilters group

Blog by Terry Richmeier (and info from Brandy Gergory)

6Why yarn you ask? What in the world is Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast wanting with yarn, you say? Why should I take up room in my suitcase for yarn of all things?

Simply said, Casa de Montaña wants to support our local community in an amazing, warming, and giving way! Read on below:

Meet Brandy Gregory! When she moved here seven years ago, she wanted to meet people with a common interest: knitting. She put out a notice that essentially said, “I’ll lend you my b1needles, I’ll give you yarn, but you have to knit for the babies.” On January 23, 2009, six women showed up on the back patio of the Fundadores Hotel to talk, get to know each other, and to knit and crochet baby things: blankets; caps; sweaters and booties. About five years ago, they moved to the Fundacion pro Integracion (the Handicap Foundation) in Alto Boquete, where they meet every Friday afternoon from 1PM to 3PM. In the seven years since then, they have expanded their group to include some amazingly talented quilters. The group is called the “Boquete Knitters and Quilters”.

Brandy told Casa de Montaña “We give our finished items to the Centros de Salud in Palmira and in downtown Boquete. We supply the pediatric oncology department in David with our softest caps for the children and teens who lose their hair during chemotherapy. We also donate to other aid organizations on a case by case basis. Essentially, we donate wherever the need is discovered. We know that the staff at the various agencies are more familiar with their clients than we could ever hope to be.”

After thinking about this for a minute of two, I wondered why Brandy and her group would spend so much time on knitting. What did they seem to get back from working their fingers to the bone? Here is what Brandy had to say: “Creating community” is probably our greatest joy! Initially, all of us in the group were expats, 3but when we moved to the Handicap Foundation, some of the Latina Panamanian ladies were intrigued by our work (knitting is not common in the culture in Panama.) They asked to learn “como tejer con dos agujas” — “how to knit with two needles”. With the help of on-line resources — and a LOT of laughter — we taught them. The beginner project was a scarf in their choice of color, and was our gift to them. We then explained that they were more4 than welcome to stay in the group and knit for “our babies”. They stayed. They knitted. They knitted in public! And they were seen by Ngäbe-Buglé ladies who asked if we would let them learn how to knit. Of course we said “Sure!” So we have all three cultures: Expat, Latina Panamanian, and Ngäbe-Buglé Panamanian working side by side, friend next to friend, for a common cause. Brandy also advised us “Because we do not donate directly to individuals, we rarely see our completed work. It is high in the mountains of the Comarca, where it is needed and used. But that does not lessen our joy in our work.”


So, my next thought was “What is the difference between knitting, sewing, crocheting, tatting, macramé? And what are the origins and purpose behind the history of knitting?     So, why not ask Brandy? Here is what she said. “There are whole books devoted to this subject! But, knitting is looping yarn with two or more needles to create a stretchy fabric; sewing is joining two or more pieces of cloth (usually woven) with thread; crochet is looping yarn with a small hook to create a stretchy fabric; tatting is looping thread in a special shuttle to make lacy looking trims that can be fastened together to make fabric; macramé is knotting anything from thread (like making some laces) to rope (to make plant holders or even hammocks).   The oldest known knitted piece dates possibly from the 11th century and is from Egypt. I’m guessing here, but because woven fabric has little “give”, knitting was developed to allow “ease”. In Elizabethan England, all knitting was done by men — and lace stockings were very popular.

7I had a few more questions that I thought I should ask before I have you bring some down in your suitcase for donating as mentioned above. So, again, I asked Brandy 1: “What can a donation of a tube of yarn create?” and 2: “How hard is it to learn to knit?” and 3:“Do you have to know how to knit to be in the group?” Here are Brandy’s answers:

“It is possible to find yarn in Panama, but the quality is poor and the price is quite high. When we moved down here, I actually used all of my yarn for packing material! When I went to the states for visits, I’d go to Joann Fabrics, Michael’s or Hobby Lobby and shop for the sale yarn, often filling an extra suitcase with goodies! Now the Boquete Knitters and Quilters host The Great Boquete Soup Fest — the next one is March 18 at the BCP — and raise “yarn/fabric money”. We order mass quantities of yarn, fabric and quilt batting on-line and have it shipped down. We also ask for donations from people visiting from North America and other parts of the world.”5

1:”We use acrylic yarns because it stands up better to being beaten on a rock in the river. We love Caron “Simply Soft”, Red Heart “Soft”, Lion Brand “Pound of Love” and “Homespun”! Two 4-ounce skeins of Caron “Simply Soft” or Red Heart “Soft” will produce a sweater. A Pound of Love will yield a couple of sweaters and possibly a cap. Three skeins of “Homespun” makes the softest, sweetest warm baby blanket you’ve ever seen! And we use the “bits and bots” of left over yarn to create striped caps or booties. We try to use every inch possible.” 2: I learned how. It can’t be that hard! Seriously, there are only two stitches to learn: knit and purl. Everything – EVERYTHING — is based on those two stitches! 3: Nope, you don’t need to already know how to knit! We can teach you since there are only two stitches to learn: “knit” and “purl”. We’ll get you started with your very own scarf — our gift. And if you decide knitting or crochet is not for you, that is not a problem. Your scarf is yours. Right now, the group is all women, but, as long as a guy does not mind being in the minority, we’ll welcome him!

So I asked one last question from Brandy and that is this: “What would you like to see happen in the future with the Knitters group? Your wildest dream come true?” and here is her response “I’d love to see our group grow. I’d especially love to have more Panamanians join us, learn a new skill, and get to know us and each other — “being knitted together in love”. My wildest dream come true would be for Joann Fabrics to open a store in David! Since I know that will never happen, I’d have to say that my wildest dream would be for the Boquete Knitters and Quilters to be able to raise about $7000 a year which we would spend on yarn, fabric and batting. We split our funds 50/50 between knitting/crochet supplies and quilting supplies.”

1012So, since hearing her desire, we here at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast would love to help out and the thought that we had for our future guests is this … Just run up to the store, grab some yarn (on sale?) off the shelf and stick it in your suitcase! Bring it down here with you and we will make sure that your donation gets to Brandy and her group of Boquete Knitters and Quilters group! And if you have any questions of Brandy that you would like to ask, you can email her group at the following email address: BOQUETEKNITTERS@HOTMAIL.COM. Also, let us at Casa de Montaña know if you are interested in having a knitting class or a day with the group and we will try to arrange it for you. And THANK YOU Brandy and the group for warming the children and the hearts of Boquete as well!

%d bloggers like this: