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Knitting for Life

By: Becky Seitel

Knitting has been a part of Ilse Nathan’s life as long as she can remember. When she retired from Penny Palmer, the successful Homewood clothing store she owned with her husband, Walter, she picked up her knitting needles intending to use her craft to help others. Since then, she has helped bundle the young, warm the desperately ill, and teach hundreds throughout Birmingham how to knit one and purl two.

Every Tuesday, Ilse can be found at the Levite Jewish Community Center, knitting with the Circle of Life Knitting Society. They meet to knit blankets for newborns and scarves for cancer patients at UAB, Cooper Green, and the Comprehensive Cancer Center.

With each scarf she creates, Ilse remembers a time when she used needles and yarn to help her sister, Ruth, just after their liberation.

“Ruth was taken to the hospital and was so very ill. I was afraid to leave her and slept outside her room, in the hallway. The medicine she was taking for typhoid tasted so horrible that she could hardly swallow it. I knitted a scarf and offered it to one of the nurses in exchange for something to help Ruth. The nurse sneaked sugar to me to mix with Ruth’s medicine, and soon she was doing much better.”

Ilse is pictured with the Circle of Life Knitting Society.