Knitters jump to the rescue

By CATHERINE LITT

Daily News Staff Reporter

Never underestimate the power of a woman holding knitting needles.

Kathleen Biagioni has learned that axiom twice in recent months in her efforts to help two children's choirs look their best for next week's Torch Relay celebration in Kamloops.

Biagioni leads the volunteer committee overseeing the welcoming ceremonies planned for Jan. 27 at Hillside Stadium.

A key component of the ceremonies will be the singing of O Canada by the Kamloops Thompson Honour Choir and the McGowan Park Silent Voices - two youth groups that will definitely look their best thanks to some dedicated Kamloops knitters.

"It's been amazing," said Biagioni.

"Everything just fell into place. It was great."

Biagioni's challenge began last summer, when her committee decided it would be nice to have every child in the choir wear a red-and-white handmade scarf as a symbol of national pride.

The only problem was: where to find the scarves?

Biagioni's mother-in-law got the ball of yarn rolling, so to speak, when she single-handedly knit 45 scarves at her own expense prior to leaving for Arizona for the winter.

"She's a great knitter," said Biagioni, who was thrilled and surprised with the contribution.

That would have been enough to cover the first choir to sign up. But after her mother-in-law jetted south, Biagioni's group learned of a second children's choir. Suddenly, they needed 25 more scarves.

Enter Needlemania - a guild of knitters who've been meeting every week since 1990.

Guild member Geri Buchanan learned about the scarf plight over conversation one day with Biagioni's own mother, a quilter.

"She said, 'Geri, do you know any knitters?'" recalled Buchanan, as she worked on a scarf Tuesday night.

Well.

She not only knew knitters. She knew knitters who could crank out 25 scarves in the blink of an eye.

And that's what many of the Needlemania guild members did Tuesday night as they sat outside Bead Connections (their regular haunt) after hours, knitting and pearling and knitting and pearling.

"The Olympics are special," said guild member Janet Payne, "and this is an easy way to give back. It doesn't take long to knit."

Many of the guild's members plan to attend Hillside Stadium next Wednesday to see all 70 scarves in action as the choirs lead everyone in O Canada.

It will be a proud moment for the members, and for Biagioni's mother-in-law, Lillian Schreiner, who knitted 45 of the scarves.

Their efforts will become part of Olympic history in Kamloops.

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