Fulfilling a need, for them and others

Oct. 26, 2013 @ 06:29 PM

When Mayra Cabello moved with her family to Henderson from Puerto Rico in December of 2007, she didn’t necessarily see herself becoming the owner of a yarn shop.

“We moved to simplify our lives,” Cabello said.

Cabello’s store, Yarny and Sassy, has established an inclusive community of local knitters who rely on the craft as a form of therapy, for themselves and others.

It was an unexpected friendship with Henderson resident Nancy Whitt that brought Cabello’s attention to the therapeutic effects of knitting and the need for a local yarn shop.

Whitt first met Cabello’s children while walking her corgi and golden retriever in their neighborhood, and eventually began teaching one of Cabello’s daughters to knit.

“I really fell in love with her kids,” Whitt said. “I don’t have grandchildren or anything, and I love children and they are like my children.”

One day, when her daughter came to her with a question about knitting, Cabello went online to find the answer.

“We found a video, and that’s when we started knitting together,” Cabello recalls.

Cabello used knitting to relieve her unease after her move from Puerto Rico.

“You become addicted,” she said. “It was like therapy in the beginning.”

Cabello and Whitt were constantly on the lookout for knitting circles and yarn shops, but they rarely came across any locally, and instead needed to travel to Raleigh, Durham or Wake Forest for decent supplies.

“So, I decided to open my own shop,” Cabello said.

In December of 2009, Yarny and Sassy opened with a few crates full of yarn.

Three years later, the wall space is almost entirely filled by yarn racks. Throughout the one-room shop, multi-colored sweaters, scarves, shawls, socks and hats are an indication of the progress Cabello and her faithful customers have made.

“We push each other and we learn from the experiences of others, and that’s how we are able to grow,” Cabello said.

On Thursday nights, local knitters are seated around a table and work diligently on their projects in Yarny and Sassy with some food, wine and joyful conversation.

For many of the women who attend Thursday night’s knitting circle, knitting is a calming and theraputic act during times of hardship, not unlike prayer.

Whitt, a breast cancer survivor, said knitting gave her strength during her regular chemotherapy treatments.

“I did knit through my treatment and it really did help,” she said. “And I have done lots of prayer shawls because someone made me a prayer shawl when I was going through chemotherapy. I took my prayer shawl to every single treatment and every single test. My prayer shawl went with me everywhere.”

Her church has a prayer shawl ministry where members of the congregation knit shawls for the community.

“You knit and pray, and it’s a shawl they can wear,” she said. “A lot of times, you will knit it in the trinity: knit three, purl three. Father, Son, Holy Ghost.”

The preacher blesses them before they are given out, and each shawl has a card telling the recipient of the prayer for them.

Maria Bailey, dean of Arts and Science at Vance-Granville Community College, shops at Yarny and Sassy and joins the knitting circle some Thursday nights.

Since 2006, Bailey has knit about 150 blankets for cancer patients all over the globe, from New York and Ohio to Greece.

“As I’m finishing one blanket, I will hear someone else is sick and it has been an ongoing thing,” Bailey said.

Bailey also said she finds knitting theraputic in many ways.

“By repeating the same thing over and over again, and not having to think about anything, it’s very relaxing,” she said.

In an article from the Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, Lisa Dittrich wrote that repetitive activities can elicit a relaxation response that includes decreased heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tension.

“Even the most complex knitting patterns are usually repetitive, and all are based on only two stitches, knit and purl,” Dittrich writes. “While some patterns — complicated lace, for example — can occasionally raise rather than lower a knitter’s blood pressure, most stitch patterns, once mastered, are truly meditative.”

The knitting circle at Yarny and Sassy also provides a rare fellowship to discuss knitting matters and many others.

“I love to knit, but all I would knit was scarves, until the shop and then I branched out and tried to knit other things,” Whitt said. “We help each other. There are certain things that I was afraid to try and knit but knowing that these ladies that are experienced knitters up here could help me on Thursday night, then you are not as afraid to try a new pattern.”

Georgia Wilson, who moved to Henderson from Nevada in 2010, bonded with the her fellow knitters in Yarny and Sassy as she, too, faced a cancer diagnosis.

Wilson said she started getting sick around February 2012 and months later she learned she had stage three colorectal cancer. Only three years earlier, her daughter committed suicide and Wilson took on knitting to help her cope with the tragedy.

“I knit for two solid years to get me through,” She said. “I literally knitted whether I needed it or not, I just knitted and knitted nonstop.”

Wilson said she would knit until her hands hurt so much that she would have to rest them for a few days before picking it up again.

The disabling effects of chemotherapy has made it much more difficult for her to knit as frequently, but she does it whenever she can.

“Really sometimes it’s all you can do to keep sane, is to knit,” she said. “You have got to keep the hands busy and knitting helps take your mind off you problems.”

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.