Chain of Five: Crochet Connects North Denver Women

A selection of Ellen Pelton’s custom-crocheted lap blankets. Photo by Christina Bleau, LPN

Evelyn Brewer Anthony regularly scrolls through posts on Nextdoor. She’s curious about neighborhood happenings and likes to keep abreast. Every once in a while, she comes across a post that compels a response, like the one she saw from Jan Pelton in search of donated yarn for a project her mother Ellen is working on.

Sunnyside resident Ellen Pelton managed an assisted living facility for four years during her 25-year career in nursing. Community members donated afghans like the ones they used at home. This worked beautifully for residents’ easy chairs and couches, but for Pelton’s residents who used wheelchairs and wanted to keep their laps and legs warm, regular-sized blankets would bunch up and get caught in the wheels.

Now in her 80s, Pelton’s rheumatoid arthritis means she can’t be on her legs for very long. So, she came up with the perfect idea to put her hours on the couch to good use. She devised a pattern for rectangular blankets sized specifically for people who use wheelchairs. Columns of brightly colored strips are crocheted and then joined together, creating one-of-a-kind designs out of a host of colors.

Pelton’s first eight custom-crocheted lap blankets arrived at The Argyle on West 38th Avenue recently and another four will be finished in time for Christmas. Asked what motivated her to launch this ambitious undertaking, Pelton chimed out and then chuckled, “Boredom! I have to feel like I’m not just sitting around taking up space!”

Ellen’s daughter Jan typically leans on Nextdoor for referrals to services like plumbers. When she heard about her mom’s lap blanket project, she wondered if there might be people on Nextdoor with yarn to spare. She was surprised to learn that indeed there were. Since early September, three people have donated several skeins of yarn in lots of colors. Ellen Pelton has plenty of raw material now and is excited to keep going. And in addition to the generous supply of yarn Pelton received, Anthony recorded and sent a short video showing Pelton a new method for holding her crochet hook that is easier on her wrists.

And Evelyn Brewer Anthony is happy her yarn stash is a few bags lighter. Anthony, like Pelton, has crocheted for years. She’s designed and produced masterful works, partnering with yarn makers around the world. Crochet has a lot to teach a person, Anthony says, “like patience and how to forgive yourself for mistakes.” Anthony found herself with a backlog of spare yarn when a project she was leading in Baradères, Haiti, required a very specific type of yarn, distinct from many of the donations she had received. She was on the lookout for crafters to share her supply with when Jan Pelton’s post popped up in her Nextdoor feed.

As Ellen Pelton put the finishing touches on the next lap blanket delivery, The Argyle’s Resident Care Coordinator Christina Bleau, LPN, matched her first blanket with its new owner, Monica Shade. “She did a lovely job,” remarked Shade, “These are my favorite colors.” Shade went on to describe how chilly her legs can get while waiting for the bus. “I’m so grateful.”

Shade used to crochet herself, so was quick to comment on Pelton’s color design and detail. “I made afghans for everyone, but never one
for myself.”

Bleau was also touched. “That strangers came together in this selfless way to create something so beautiful. Our residents who receive these blankets are going to be over the moon.”

This powerful chain of women seem to have crafted something in addition to colorful blankets: the feeling that comes from producing and appreciating something beautiful, together. 

Kathryn has lived in North Denver since around the time the Mount Carmel High School building was razed and its lot at 3600 Zuni became Anna Marie Sandoval Elementary. She’s raised two children in the neighborhood, worked at several nonprofits, and volunteered with the Alzheimer’s Association Colorado Chapter. 

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