FAIRBANKS — Beginner, intermediate and experienced knitters are gathering again this winter at Immaculate Conception Church knitting socks, hats and scarves for the homeless and those in need.

The Knitting Ministry is an offshoot of the church’s Health Ministry, said Jodi Stack, who leads the ICC health and wellness program with fellow nurse Penny Ward.

The idea for the group began forming a couple of years ago when Stack’s husband was clearing out a deceased family friend’s basement and found a large amount of wool yarn squirreled away.

“He didn’t have the heart to throw it away,” Stack said, and he told her about it.

Ward and Stack then put their heads together about incorporating the bounty of wool yarn into the church ministry. After checking with other churches in the area, such as Friends Church and Sacred Heart Cathedral, which already have Prayer Shawl ministries, they decided to go with practical items instead.

The knitting group meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays every two weeks in the church parlor. A short prayer starts the meeting, and then it’s down to the friendly business of sharing patterns and problem solving if there are questions.

Several middle school and high school girls attend to learn how to knit from scratch and start a basic first project, such as a scarf.

Mariah Fields, 17, a junior at West Valley High School, braved the cold Tuesday night to learn how to knit. Under the one-on-one tutelage of Stack and parishioner Sally Shoffstall, by the end of an hour and a half, Mariah had learned how to cast on stitches and knit them for several inches.

Mariah said she came to learn how to knit to teach the needlework skill to her grandmother, Cindy Fields.

“It’s a bit backwards,” she laughed.

For many ministry members, knitting socks seemed pretty challenging at first, Stack said. But Shoffstall, a veteran sock knitter, can convince anyone with her confident enthusiasm that knitting socks is a breeze.

“There are millions of ways to do it, and you can’t do it wrong,” Shoffstall said.

Shoffstall backs up her convictions by attending knitting sessions and sharing her know-how with anyone who needs help.

The wool socks, hats and scarves being produced will benefit the many guests who show up each weekend at ICC for meals at the church’s soup kitchen.

Anyone who would like to learn to knit, those who have the basic knit and purl stitches down and would like to expand their repertoire or experienced knitters who want to take on some new projects and share their expertise with others are welcome to attend. The only requisite is that all items be made with 100 percent wool yarn for warmth.

Wool, knitting needles and patterns are available at the meetings for anyone who would like to drop by and stay or knit at home.

Donations of 100 percent wool yarn, knitting needles and pattern books also are welcome and can be dropped off at ICC offices, using the east side entrance.

Contact staff writer Mary Beth Smetzer at 459-7546.