Knitters support West Tisbury Library expansion project

The ever creative hands of Susan Silva. — File photo by Susan Safford

A large, handsome, and cozy handmade blanket (or, if you like, Afghan) has emerged as a symbol of the widespread community effort to expand the West Tisbury Free Public Library. Each of its 20 squares, in subtle natural shades from heather-grey to the blue of an autumn sky, boasts a unique texture and pattern, reflecting the varying personalities of its makers. Even the wool is from various blends of local sheep.

The group had already been meeting for quite a while when Cathy Minkiewicz joined them in 2008. “I was a new year-rounder, so I just sat quiet (which for me is a novelty) and listened,” she said recently. “Slowly I figured out the relationships, heard town gossip. It was a perfect introduction to West Tisbury and up-Island life.”

Knitting is a passion for this group, in which each member has a role to play. “Judy Bryant is our patient teacher for all those who come with a rat’s nest to unravel,” Ms. Minkiewicz said. “Sue Silva and Andrea Hartman wow us with their sweaters that they craft without a pattern and with creative color blends. Carolyn Spengler, Marion Hammond, and I are the technical knitters: we follow patterns carefully, the more complicated the better.”

But knitting isn’t all that happens on a Monday night. “It’s also an exchange of what used to be called home ec: how to cook this, how to fix that, where to find whatever,” Ms. Minkiewicz said. “Summer people come and we quietly answer their usual question, ‘What do you do all winter?’ with ‘Drink a lot.’ It’s fun. Ginny Jones has words of wisdom for all, as well as a treasure trove of historical facts.”

After moving several times, the Monday Night Knitting Group found a home at the West Tisbury Library. “We started knitting at the library at the invitation of the librarians,” Ms. Bryant said. “The area has better lighting than any of our houses. Very comfortable, winter and summer. We’re giving the knitted quilt to show our appreciation for such a nice place to meet.”

Attached to the back of the finished piece is a hand-lettered square proclaiming “Martha’s Vineyard — West Tisbury — 2011. Library Quilt. Made from local wool by local knitters.” The square contains the signatures of its proud makers: Suzan Bellincampi, Judy Bryant, Nancy Cabot, Mary Anne Doleszar, Bonnie George, Marion Hammond, Andrea Hartman, Ann Howes, Arielle Haynes, Julia Mitchell, Virginia Jones, Cathy Minkiewicz, Christi Minkiewicz, Abbie Steele, Susan Silva, Carolyn Spengler, and Sarah Whyte.

After receiving the long-awaited news in July that it had won a $2.9 million construction grant from the state, the library is now on an accelerated schedule to raise matching funds for its planned expansion. Honoring the library’s role as the community’s cultural hub, different groups are contributing their special talents and disciplines.

Local musicians have put on a concert series at the Grange, called “Tuesdays at Twilight.” Local artists were pulled together by gallery owner Nancy Shaw Cramer for a fund-raising art sale. Local authors (some of national renown) will be speaking at literary events.

The West Tisbury Library Foundation hopes to finish raising $2 million in private donations by the end of January, 2012, with the town being asked to contribute its share at Town Meeting. Preliminary design drawings of the expanded library are prominently displayed for public comment at the library, and ground-breaking would begin in spring of 2013.

Raffle tickets for the 57″ x 73″ quilt are for sale at the West Tisbury Library and during the library’s various fund-raising events. The cost is $5 per ticket or $10 for three. The drawing will be held Saturday, October 8, and the winner’s name will be posted at

Dan Waters is a trustee of the West Tisbury Library.