Austintown woman knits happiness with hats

Correspondent photo / Bill Koch Marilyn Dunn looks over a collection of hats knitted by members of the Western Reserve Knitting Guild, which meets the second Tuesday of each month at Fair Park in Canfield.

AUSTINTOWN — Marilyn Dunn learned how to knit as a child, and at 78, she is just as enthusiastic as ever.

Dunn grew up south of North Lima.

“I was raised on a farm so you worked hard and ate good,” she said.

She graduated in 1964 from North Lima High School, before it became South Range. In 1965, she married Bruce. Along with their cat Emma, they live near Meander Reservoir on 19 acres, including woods, a creek, and a meadow.

Dunn worked at General Electric, then became a full-time mother to Brenda and James, who both now live in Florida.

“My husband was in construction so it was either feast or famine,” she said.

One year when he was laid off, she took a job at Salem Community Hospital as a nursing assistant. She retired after 10 years in 2012, but she still works part-time as a caterer at Avion on the Water in Canfield.

Besides working and singing in the choir at Cornerstone Church of Austintown, she spends her time making things. She bakes the Communion bread at church. She weaves on a loom and belongs to the Youngstown Area Weaver’s Guild. She displays products every year at the Canfield Fair. And she keeps on knitting.

“When I was 8 years old, my aunt got me a pair of wooden knitting needles,” Dunn said, and she has continued the practice throughout her life.

“In the evening after a busy day, it’s nice just to sit quietly and knit,” she said.

Her sister, Washingtonville resident Dolores Scott, had joined the Western Reserve Knitting Guild, and she recommended Dunn do so as well. So in 2019, Dunn took her sister’s advice. The group meets the second Tuesday of each month at Fair Park in Canfield. They welcome beginners as well as advanced knitters.

“It stretches you to do more challenging things,” Dunn said.

She had already created mittens, socks, shawls and scarves for family Christmas presents and to keep church members warm on Sunday mornings. However, since joining the guild, she has enhanced her skills with more intricate patterns.

The guild was founded in 1984 by Marlyn Ibele. Members pride themselves on being the very first chapter of The Knitting Guild Association, which is now a worldwide organization with more than 10,000 members.

Besides monthly meetings, the guild hosts instructional programs. Members have a public knitting day to generate interest, and they attend the Sheep & Wool festival in Wooster.

Every fall, they “go from knit shop to knit shop,” often in the greater Cleveland area, where they sign up for basket raffles or spend $10 on supplies to get a free pattern.

“It’s like a knitting crawl,” joked Dunn.

Several years ago, the guild decided to give back to the community. The result became known as Lids for Kids. Dunn is in charge of the project, in which members knit hats all year and give them to children in Youngstown City School District.

“I call in late November to verify the number and we make arrangements for delivery in December, usually the week before they go on (Christmas) vacation,” Dunn said.

In 2023, they distributed 240 hats the district had requested. However, the guild knitted 431 hats, so they had a surplus. They gave 100 to Protestant Family Services. Another 50 went to Dunn’s church to be sent to the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley. Tiny hats also were sent to the Pregnancy Help Center for newborns.

Then 58 more hats showed up without explanation.

“People know that we do it and they just brought them and left them,” Dunn said, so the guild shared them with children in Austintown schools.

Dunn collects the hats all year. She puts 50 in each bag and stores them in her house. When her children visit during Canfield Fair time, they say “it looks like you’re in storage.”

Dunn knits while she watches Pittsburgh Penguins or Pirates games on TV. Her favorite part is that it is not just recreation, but something special that will be used and appreciated.

“It relaxes me and I like to do things for people,” she said.


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