Duluth's ‘crochet lady’ has heart for warming cold handsThe woman who has handed out thousands of handmade warmers in Duluth over the past seven years is asking the community to take care of her.
By: Mike Creger, Duluth News Tribune
Joe Moya said his first interaction with the “crochet lady” was awkward but welcome.
“She saw that I was cold,” he said this week at the Holiday Center in downtown Duluth as Terri Williams made her usual rounds asking people if they would like a free hat, mittens or scarf.
“It’s made with love,” Williams says. “And if you no longer use them, pass them along.”
She is hardly ever turned down.
“They’re nice,” Moya said of the mittens she’d given him a few weeks before.
“I was raised that we take care of each other,” said Williams, a bus driver for the Duluth Transit Authority.
She said she gave away a hat and mittens to a young girl this winter who began crying and then mustered a “God bless you” through her tears.
“How can you beat that?” Williams said.
And now the woman who has handed out thousands of handmade warmers in Duluth over the past seven years is asking the community to take care of her.
“I’m out of yarn,” she said Thursday night as she held two plastic grocery bags of hat and mitten sets, all she has left to distribute this season. “This is it.”
Five years ago, Williams made a similar plea to the public and was able to fill a small shed with all the yarn that was donated.
The media attention to Williams’ plight also brought her Helen Erchul, a Riverside resident who knew a calling when she heard one.
Erchul not only had leftover yarn — she was willing to go the extra mile and make mittens for Williams. She had heard that Williams was struggling to make mittens in a timely fashion. Williams said she has since sped up in her crocheting, but welcomes Erchul’s continued contributions.
Erchul figures she has made 200 pairs of mittens the past four years.
“It just makes you feel good,” she said. She crochets in all of her spare time and is happy for her finished products to have a home with Williams and her one-woman distribution network.
“I’m glad I have somewhere to give my mittens,” Erchul said.
Williams has a captive audience at bus stops such as the Holiday Center, and on the bus she drives. The DTA has welcomed her efforts to help people, even on her bus.
Four businesses and the Red Cross have agreed to serve as drop-off points for donated yarn, and Williams is working on getting some more.
She said she has spent as much as $3,000 a year of her own money for yarn. These days, however, she said she can’t afford to spend that kind of money as she takes care of her ill mother.
“I’m just desperate for yarn,” Williams said.
Why does she do it?
“It breaks my heart to see people without anything to keep them warm,” Williams said.
Williams pulled up to the Holiday Center in a Smart car, one of the smallest cars on the market today. That’s humorous considering her job driving a bus and her past occupation as a long-haul tractor-trailer driver.
Williams said she had more time to crochet on the road with the semi than with her new job on the bus. She hauled stage sets for concerts and special events across the country, and would have layovers of as much as two weeks in a hotel room — ample time to crochet.
Today, she crochets on her bus-driving breaks, on car trips with her boyfriend, in the fishing boat. All year long, she said, she keeps thinking the same thing:
“I need to stock up.”
She wears the color off her crochet hooks. She says she can make a mitten, hat and scarf set in three to four hours.
“This is what I do,” she said.