Sisters Kathy and Mary Eveslage have been warming the hearts of countless people for many years, sharing their passion for knitting with those in need of warm clothing.
This year, in addition to knitting sweaters, hats and mittens for the homeless shelter in the Twin Cities, the Eveslages answered the call to supply a number of sweaters for young children locally.
Kathy Eveslage, left, and her sister Mary work on size 8 sweaters Monday for two additional Marshall Public School students.
"At our sewing group, I mentioned that I might have a few kids that could use warm sweaters," Marshall Public School first-grade teacher Julie Allen said. "They said they'd love to leave them in the community if there were kids that need them."
And, there were.
"I think the economy is hitting families left and right," Kathy Eveslage said. "Last year, Julie said she had some kids that really needed them, and the need has grown this year. So we decided to take care of our local community first."
After the Eveslages delivered a variety of sweaters to Park Side Elementary, Allen sent out an e-mail to the kindergarten and first-grade teachers.
"I had the sweaters in the back of the room, and when the kids came in they would just look at them," Allen said. "Then they'd pick their favorite color, put it on and run to the mirrors in the bathroom to check them out. They were so excited."
First-grader Ayan Abdirahman isn't quite proficient in English yet, but no words were necessary when she picked out her very own sweater. The smile on her face said it all.
"It's nice," Abdirahman said.
Another first-grade student, Hector Ramos Zetino, carefully selected a camouflage-colored sweater.
"It's black and brown and green," he said. "I also got an orange hat."
Ramos Zetino proudly wore his new sweater the following day, which happened to be "Camouflage Day" in honor of American Education Week. He still had it on later that evening when he and his family came to conferences.
First-grader Ezequiel Monzon found a sweater unique to his interests.
"I like the Vikings," Monzon said of the purple, yellow and white sweater he selected.
Kindergartner Kiandre Moos said his new sweater was nice and warm.
"It was pretty," Moos said. "I liked the colors. My favorite colors are blue and black."
Kindergarten teacher Erica Hess said that Moos came back into the room with a smile on his face.
"He had to show everyone his new sweater," Hess said. "He was pretty proud."
Allen said that one of her students, Ixel Meza, immediately spotted a multi-colored blue sweater, too. He was allowed to pick out two sweaters and one hat.
"I kept asking him if he liked other ones, but he kept going back to this sweater," Allen said. "All of the kids were so tickled to get them."
Meza didn't want to take his sweater off.
"I loved it," Meza said. "I slept with one of them, but then I was sweating and had to take it off."
Mary Eveslage learned to knit by taking an adult evening class many years ago. Then, she taught her younger sister Kathy when she was in high school. Growing up, the family lived in the St. Cloud area. In the 70s, Kathy Eveslage made Marshall her home.
"I taught at the (Marshall) Middle School for 29 years," Kathy Eveslage said. "I retired in 2001."
Six years ago, Mary Eveslage decided to spend her retirement years in Marshall too.
"I moved here six years ago from St. Paul," Mary Eveslage said. "In the Cities, we had a group called Marvelous Mitten Makers, and we made hats, mittens and scarves for inner city school kids."
After moving to Marshall, Eveslage wanted to continue those efforts.
"We made mittens and hats and delivered them to Holy Redeemer, Marshall (Area) Christian School and Park Side," she said.
The sisters continue to keep school nurses supplied with spare mittens and hats, many in the black and orange Marshall Tiger colors, for kids at recess time.
"Because it's the little kids that always lose mittens on the playground," Kathy Eveslage said.
A year later, Mary Eveslage saw an article in the Marshall Independent about a woman in the nursing home who was making sweaters for Guideposts magazine.
"They have a program called Knit for Kids and send items to Indian reservations and to the Appalachian areas or if there are tornados or hurricanes and someone needs them. We did that for two years."
Then, since Mary Eveslage had some connections in the Twin Cities, the sisters decided to support Caring and Sharing Hands in Minneapolis.
"Mary Jo Copeland has a facility there," Mary Eveslage said. "It's not government funded. It's just all private donations. She had a soup kitchen and she also has 92 transition apartments where people that are down-and-out come and live for three months, six months until they can find a job or something."
Last, 350 children took refuge in the apartments.
"The last three years, we've been bringing sweaters up there," Kathy Eveslage said. "We knit all year-round. But this is the time of year that they need them. Up there, the families have nothing, so they can be Christmas gifts for the kids."
The crafty sisters knit sweaters in sizes 4 to 8. Each were working on one final sweater for students in Marshall.
"This 8 will take me a week," Mary Eveslage said. "It depends on the pattern. Like a size 4, I can probably do two of them in a week."
Both were knitting different patterns.
"She does the bottom up and I start at the top and work down," Kathy Eveslage said.
Mary Eveslage joked that both of them do have to stop and do other things, too, but clearly, knitting is near the top of the list.
"If we go somewhere, I'm driving and she's knitting," Kathy Eveslage said. "If we're sitting and watching the football game, we can't just watch it. We have to be knitting, too."
Mary Eveslage said the patterns are simple and that she relies on Kathy's expertise as a teacher in the school system as to what colors are appropriate.
"We just adjust the pattern a little bit," Mary Eveslage said. "Kathy kinda knows what would be good for young kids."
Kathy Eveslage said they also found a way to add cuffs, a rolled collar and other variations, like a crew neck.
While the labor of love takes talent, passion and time, the Eveslages said the only cost is for yarn, which they look for on sale, locally at the Purple Iris and Wal-Mart. They change it up by using different colored yarn, but prefer using acrylic since it's more washable.
With the holidays just around the corner, it's possible the Eveslages, who will likely be sitting around their Christmas trees listening to holiday music while knitting new sweaters, will be warmed by the knowledge that they've made a difference in someone's life.
While all the recipients appeared to be appreciative, one student was already thinking of ways of repaying the gesture.
"When I get big, I think I could knit a sweater," Moos said.