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Dear Kay,

On Mother’s Day, we celebrate Lynn Zwerling, a woman with the most ferocious mothering instinct I’ve ever seen. I first wrote about Lynn a couple of years ago, “Knitting in Prison? Believe It.”

Now, worlds collide as it turns out that Andrea and Andrew of Fruity Knitting Podcast just released their episode featuring their interview with Lynn. Click on the image up top to watch it. The profile of Lynn begins at 28:42.

Lynn is the founder of Knitting Behind Bars, a program in the Maryland prison system where inmates attend a weekly knitting class.

Imagine working for five years to persuade prison wardens a) that knitting is therapeutic for inmates; b) that male inmates would want to learn to knit, and c) that knitting needles and scissors would not be a security risk.

It’s not your typical knit night, to say the least.

We know that a group knitting together is one of the most powerful gatherings imaginable. It’s not really about knitting—yet it simultaneously is about knitting.

For a decade now, Lynn has brought knitting into one of the toughest environments imaginable. Her success is admirable, astonishing, and full of love. “I made a little utopia, right there in our little room,” she says.

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone.




  • Thank you for bringing us this inspirational reminder of Lindsey Stirling’s work in her Knitting Behind Bars program.

    Happy Mother’s Day to you, too, Ann!


  • Oops! That should have read Lynn Zwerling.

  • Thank you for the opportunity to be inspired by this amount of caring and generosity

  • Great interview. 🙂 Lynn tirelessly and singlehandedly dispels the myth of the Ugly American. Andrea only barely maintains her composure toward the end. When cynicism makes me want to give up, Lynn’s tenacity reminds me to get over myself and get going.
    Thanks so much for posting this!:)
    Happy Mother’s Day :)!!

  • Lynn Zwerling and her Knitting in Prison project are remarkable and wonderful, as is the Fruity Knitting podcast about them. But the way you’ve framed the story is also interesting. As a non-mother myself, it never would have occurred to me that what Zwerling is doing is high-level mothering, but I guess it is. Thanks for the insight.

    • One of the most encouraging things anyone said to me was that the full of people who need mothering. My lack of a child did not exclude me from the opportunity to mother, it just broadened my potential focus.

  • So glad you posted this. Loved her remarks about donated yarn. Quality does matter, for everyone.

  • YAY!! I taught prisoners to knit when I volunteered in HMP Dartmoor a few years back – very rewarding 🙂

  • i am fairly new to MDK as far as following daily, and I have to say this deserves a comment, a re-sounding, thank you to this loyal and gracious knitter Lindsey to bring it into the world and where we might least expect it. Thank you MDK for what you do and for sharing this story. happy day of nurturing!!

  • I too particpate in a knitting program at a women’s prison, we are there once a week for 2 hours. You are correct when you say it isn’t just about the knitting, but about a group of women who for 2 hours can be just that, women in a knitting group. It brings joy to the women who are able to knit for their families, it is definitely theraputic, and gives the women something they can be proud of. They recognize the theraputic value after the second or third meeting, while they are still learning the basics. Almost all of the yarn we give the women has been donated by knitters. This program is not state funded at all, and unlike the Maryland program we cannot publicize our program.

  • Love this! I have way more quality yarn than I’ll live to knit, so I’d like to know how to go about donating it? I live in southeastern Virginia…thanks!

    • Hi Kathleen, If you are responding to my comment above about the women’s prison program you can send your excess stash to me. c/o WKG PO Box 141 Chappaqua, NY 10514

  • I was struck by the mindfulness and dignity shown by the participants during the activity, and how during her interview Lynn Zwerling told how inmates did not place limitations on their ability to take part. This is pretty much the opposite of the attitude I often encounter.

    Getting the project accepted must have been a herculean task and as an occupational therapist I know the difficulty it must have presented to make her case.

    Therapists would love for more research papers to come out of something like this to provide empirical evidence to show decision makers, sadly there is very little of it at the moment, especially from such a specialised setting.

    Thanks so much for publicising this, MDK team!

    • My fellow volunteers and I have a very unscientific proof of the value of knitting programs in prisons. One day the prison psychologist passed us in the processing room and said- you do more good than I do for the inmates.

    • Anne, I have been interested in reading the book Knit for Health and Wellness by Betsan Corkhill, a physical therapist. As an OT who entered school during the controversy of craft vs straight exercise, I am finding that the information in this book is especially refreshing coming from a physical therapist! Of course, the book is available from

    • Meanwhile, one can find encouragement in research results in Great Britain. A Google Search on “knitting therapy research” pops up a lot of fascinating connections. I hope you’ll have a look.


  • Now here’s a cause a First Lady can make a difference in. Bringing national publicity and clout to reforming our prison system. Lynn has demonstrated the importance of rehabilitation and yeah for us, it is through knitting. Lynn is my hero. Maybe her example can start the ball rolling for a more enlightened and common sense-minded Corrections system.

  • Another thing that caught my ear, in regarding her students as people worth her time, was her use of what I’ve heard called “people first” language. I followed up with a Google Search on “people first language prisoner” and found good stuff.
    Words so very powerful, in deepening stigma and bias, and in revealing it.

  • An amazing story. I appreciated this interview so much. Lynn was allowed time to take us behind the scenes and share her insights about the participants in the program and her own personal growth. Thanks for posting.

  • I can’t find the Lynn Zwerling article. The site said, “Page not found”. Could u send that article, please? Thanks.

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