BY CHERI GUIDICE

Special to The Pilot

Southern Pines store owner Holly Floyd has a special group of women and an occasional guy who come together three times a week to spend a couple of hours sharing friendship, while they work on their latest projects at the yarn shop Bella Filati.

The group is diverse in age and backgrounds, but their love of knitting and their willingness to help a friend is something they all have in common.

While the knitters all have projects they do for family, friends and themselves, they often take on "extra" projects to help others. An annual project for the group is to make ornaments to decorate a Christmas tree for the Sandhills Children's Center's Festival of Trees. Other projects have included chemo caps for local cancer patients, and golf club covers for the 2010 U.S. Girls' Junior Championship, held at the Country Club of North Carolina.

The Bella Filati group knits small blankets for Project Linus, which distributes them to children who are seriously ill, traumatized or otherwise in need, and also knits kids' sweaters for Guideposts' "Knit for America Project." Guideposts is a Christian inspirational magazine for families.

Recently, one of Bella Filati's own knitting pals, U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth Degraeve, mother of two, was deployed to Begram Airbase in Afghanistan. While Liz is doing her military duties, she is also doing some humanitarian work for the Egyptian Hospital on base. She works with poverty stricken children and moms in the area.

One of the knitting group noticed on Facebook that Liz was knitting hats for the hospital and volunteered to write a hat pattern designed to use the project leftovers all knitters have.

There is a big need for warm hats for the winter months for the Afghan babies and toddlers. Providing assistance, with the gift of these hats, to the Afghan women and children helps to build feelings of good will toward our troops. So group stepped up to the challenge, and the first shipment of 35 hats was shipped on Sept. 6.

If you are a knitter or a crocheter, check out the Tuesday morning, Wednesday evening and Saturday afternoon open knitting gatherings. If you'd like to help out with the baby hats, come into Bella Filati for more information. Any simple hat pattern is acceptable, but a free pattern is available on the Bella Filati website www.bellafilati.com for the project.

Bella Filati is located at 277 North Broad St. in Southern Pines.

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