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Knit together: Stories of courage and love

When Jonesborough resident Cari Jarman first viewed a scarf knit in honor of one cancer patient, she knew its impact would echo for some time.
“There’s a place in West Virginia called Tamarack, and we go there twice a year,” Jarman explained.
At the Tamarack that year, she found a very long, pink scarf, knit as a tribute to a woman from Beckley County who lost her life to breast cancer.
“It was strung all around the building,” Jarman recalled, her voice still expressing wonder at the sight.
It was at that moment, she said, that the idea was born, or as Jarman now says with a smile, “I know a good idea when I steal it.”
Jarman, who with husband, Jay, are active in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life event, had long lamented the fact that luminaries, often used as modes of tribute, were so temporary.
“At the end of the night, those luminaries always get thrown away,” she said. “I thought why don’t we do a purple scarf instead and we can hang it up year after year.”
From that seed of an idea, the Chester Inn cancer scarf knitting project was born.
At first, Jarman admits, her plan was to circle the entire downtown with the scarf.
But Deborah Montanti, fellow Knotty Ladies knitter as well as executive director of the Heritage Alliance, had a better idea.
“The scarf wasn’t always at the Chester,” Montanti said. “But the Chester Inn (located on Main Street) is such an icon of Jonesborough. Also, historically, the Chester Inn was where people gathered in the evening in town to share stories.”
To Montanti, the setting was perfect, and soon other Knotty Ladies agreed. They were joined by other area knitters, including those with the Jonesborough Yarn Party and Jonesborough Senior Center.
“We are always looking for reasons to knit,” Montanti explained.
From the purple scarf — symbolizing all cancers — they moved to a pink one, symbolizing breast cancer. And in September, the group’s first teal scarf went up, this time symbolizing ovarian cancer and done in honor of fellow knitter Pam Dunn.
The impact of the scarves comes from much more than the stitches, however. Attached all along their lengths are names, tributes and words of encouragement — some written by Jonesborough knitters, others by visitors to the town who wanted to add their voices and their stories to the tribute.
“We want people to add to it,” Jarman said. “That’s why we’ve left the supplies here.”
Montanti agrees.
“It’s growing and evolving,” she said, looking up at the pink breast cancer scarf back in place for October. “As we sit here at the Chester Inn, we’ve watched the first purple installation to the second purple installation and the pink installation and the teal installation, which really stopped people.
“Now more and more people are stopping, reading and you can just see them take a moment.” And the scarf continues to grow, and the names continue to be added.
That’s why Jarman believes knitting is so perfect for this project.
“When you’re knitting, every stitch connects to the next, just like every person connects to the next,” she said. And it just seems to make everyone stronger.