Made with Love: Meet our Charity Stitchers Rita Artuso

There are many reasons we stitch — to reduce stress, to express our creativity, to bring warmth to a loved one or a person in need. In March, we asked our community to nominate a friend who knits or crochets for charity for our first ever Charity Stitchers Award. The responses were both heartwarming and overwhelming, and we were inspired by the hundreds of stories of how you have helped and enriched your communities with the heartfelt gift of a handmade item. Stitch by stitch, and row after row our three winners have brought comfort and hope to those in need.

Congratulations to Aneeta Shepardson, Rita Artuso, and Jamie Webb! Your spirit of generosity has not only made a great impact but has also inspired others to craft items made with love.

Ready to spark your creativity? Here are their stories!

To view the Charity Stitchers Lookbook Pattern Collection featuring the patterns named after our charity stitchers, click here.

*Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Rita Artuso

Rita is a beloved grandmother, who lives in Ontario, Canada and happily knits hundreds of mittens every year to donate to charity. With her husband, Victor, as her delivery man, Rita’s mittens warm the hands of children in need in her community.

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“I have loved knitting from a young age, and it makes me happy to see what a handmade knitted gift or donation does for others. It is rewarding to think that the kids who receive my mittens have warm hands for the winter and can pick out a pair they like in bright colors.”

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Tell us how you got started knitting. Where did you learn? What made you interested in starting the craft?

When I was young, my mother used to knit stocking for my siblings and me, as well as knit socks for my dad for the winter. My sister started knitting, and I would watch her and became interested myself, and wanted to learn how to knit too. My mother then taught me how to knit, and I originally learned to make socks for work.

What is your favorite charity that you donate to? What attracted you to their mission?

The Salvation Army is the charity that I have been donating to the longest, because I know that the mittens I am donating are being given to children, and I think the children need mittens more than the adults. Very often charities do not receive many donations for kids, and now people come in asking for my mittens at The Salvation Army which makes me happy that I can help. Winters are so harsh in Toronto, and it makes me happy knowing that my annual donation of mittens is helping to keep my local community warm.

How do you balance helping others with self-care? Do you still craft for yourself or gifts?

For me helping others and self-care is all wrapped into one. Knitting for me is something that keeps my hands busy and my mind consistently active because you must pay attention and count your rows/stitches. I started knitting sweaters when my son asked for one, and then I was asked by several other people to make ski sweaters for them. It was a social thing for me to be knitting with all my friends and share patterns amongst our group. Knitting and embroidery kept me busy back in the day. I still make time to knit items as gifts for people when I feel like it or when requested!

What’s next for you? Are you working on anything exciting you’d like to share?

Right now, I am working towards my goal of at least 200 pairs of mittens to donate for this year in December. I also have been working on some scarves, because I enjoy keeping my hands busy. I am also working on some variations of my mittens to make some little mittens for small children. I am also waiting for my great-grandchildren so I can make some baby clothes for them one day. Depending on what types of odds and ends I receive sometimes I make crocheted potholders or dishcloths with the cotton yarn.