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Mom's craft keeps soldiers warm

LAWRENCEVILLE - Evie Lane never learned how to knit. Growing up, she watched her mother sit on the couch with a pair of needles and a skein of yarn, but the 20-year-old soldier said she never had the patience to pick up the hobby herself.

These days, Lane is a gunner in Afghanistan and her mother, Joan Horton, owns the Yarn Garden Knit Shop on Lawrenceville's Square. But their interests overlapped when Horton heard about an effort to send knit woolen helmet liners to troops throughout the world.

Horton started a charity knitting group, Knitting For Others, about three months after her shop opened in June of 2004. The group has made teddy bears for police officers and firefighters to give traumatized children, hats for newborn babies in intensive care, scarves to raise money for breast cancer and burial shrouds for babies.

Now, the group is knitting the ski mask-like liners to help protect soldiers from the wind and cold that Lane is used to dealing with in Afghanistan's deserts.

"As long as I can remember, my mom's been sitting on the couch knitting," Lane said. "Soldiers appreciate any support, but it's kind of cool that she especially did this."

Horton, who tears up when she thinks about sending her daughter back to Afghanistan next Wednesday, said she's proud of Lane. She said the national project is particularly special to her because her daughter will be using the liners she and other patrons knitted.

"It's really difficult for her to be there, and it's especially hard when I can't contact her," Horton said. "Anything I can do to make her more comfortable, to let her know she's loved and missed."

Customers who know Horton's daughter is serving in the Army have purchased the $7 yarn in colors approved by the military - black, browns and greens - and knitted the helmet liners to show their support for Lane, Horton said. She said people have told her they're glad to be doing something.

If she has room in her bag, Lane will bring some helmet liners back to Afghanistan, where she will be stationed for another two and a half months before going to Germany. Knitting For Others usually starts a new project each month, but Horton said she will continue to encourage members to make the helmet liners until there are no more troops who need them.

The Army provides soldiers with scarves to keep them warm, Lane said, but they are made out of synthetic material and are not as warm as wool.

"It gets really cold, especially at night," she said. "The Army issues things to keep you warm, but it's definitely not wool. Nobody really uses them."

Horton said the liners are for intermediate knitters and take between 10 and 20 hours to complete, depending on skill.

For more information on the helmet liners project, see www.geocities.com/helmetliner. To become involved in Knitting for Others, see www.yarngardenknitshop.com.