Noble Maritime Museum: Celebrating 20 Years Of CloseKnit Knitting Circle, Museum’s Longest Running Program Making Items For Charity

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The Noble Maritime Collection celebrates 20 years of CloseKnit, the museum’s longest running program

STATEN ISLAND, NEW YORK — The Noble Maritime Collection’s CloseKnit—the museum’s longest-running public program—celebrated its 20th anniversary on September 7, and now its members are hoping to grow in numbers.

CloseKnit began in September 2003, just a few years after the Noble Maritime Collection opened its new home, the volunteer-restored Building D at Snug Harbor Cultural Center.  CloseKnit preserves the maritime tradition of knitting, and the items made by its members benefit charities serving mariners and local families in need.

The program was inspired by efforts during World War II to knit for merchant mariners.  The late Martha Keucher—a member of the museum’s volunteer Noble Crew—suggested that the Noble Maritime Collection start a similar program, and since then, the realization of her idea has brought warmth and goodwill to thousands.

CloseKnit leaders Gale Bellafiore and Judy Davis. (Photo by Michael McWeeney, courtesy of the Noble Maritime Collection.)

CloseKnit leaders Gale Bellafiore and Judy Davis. (Photo by Michael McWeeney, courtesy of the Noble Maritime Collection.)


The CloseKnitters estimate that over the past two decades, they have made 5,000 individual items using 10.65 miles of yarn.

CloseKnit is a free, open-enrollment program, and its members meet at the museum from 2 to 4 PM on the first Thursday of each month.  The museum provides yarn and patterns so that they can make knitted goods such as hats, scarves, and blankets for the Seamen’s Church Institute’s Christmas at Sea program, the maternity ward at Richmond University Medical Center, Project Hospitality, and the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless, as well as other service organizations.

“I am always amazed by the artistry and technical skills of the CloseKnitters, who are so passionate about their craft,” said Ciro Galeno, Jr., the Noble Maritime Collection’s Executive Director.

“My favorite CloseKnit story is when the group created—in short order—over 20 teddy bears for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation to give to Stephen’s House of the Maison d’Enfants par la Foi Orphanage, when it was being built in Haiti in 2014,” Mr. Galeno recalled.

CloseKnitter Michelle Vidal. (Photo by Michael McWeeney, courtesy of the Noble Maritime Collection.)

CloseKnitter Michelle Vidal. (Photo by Michael McWeeney, courtesy of the Noble Maritime Collection.)

At the heart of CloseKnit is the camaraderie of its members, many of whom have been part of the group since its inception, including museum trustee Gale Bellafiore and Judy Davis, who are its informal leaders.

The Noble Maritime Collection is looking to ensure that CloseKnit endures for another generation or more, and is inviting all knitters to participate in the program, which next meets on Thursday, October 5.

All levels of knitters are welcome, but some knowledge of the craft is required, as the group does not have an instructor.  Yarn provided by the museum is for charitable projects, but knitters are also welcome to work on their own projects at the meetings.

If a knitter is unable to attend in person on the first Thursday of the month at 2 PM, they may pick up yarn at the museum and work on charitable projects at their own pace.  For more information, call (718) 447-6490.

The Noble Maritime Collection’s public programs, including CloseKnit, are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature; and by a grant from the Lily Auchincloss Foundation.

The Noble Maritime Collection, located in Building D, a former mariners’ dormitory at Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden, 1000 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, New York, is open from 12 until 5 PM, Thursdays through Sundays.  Admission is by donation.

For more information, call (718) 447-6490 or visit noblemaritime.org.

CloseKnitter Marie Casella. (Photo by Michael McWeeney, courtesy of the Noble Maritime Collection.)

CloseKnitter Marie Casella. (Photo by Michael McWeeney, courtesy of the Noble Maritime Collection.)


CloseKnit members gather at the Noble Maritime Collection on the first Thursday of every month at 2 PM.  (Photo by Michael McWeeney, courtesy of the Noble Maritime Collection.)

CloseKnit members gather at the Noble Maritime Collection on the first Thursday of every month at 2 PM. (Photo by Michael McWeeney, courtesy of the Noble Maritime Collection.)

Banner Image: A close-up of CloseKnitter Irene Richards at work.   Image Credit – Michael McWeeney, courtesy of the Noble Maritime Collection.


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Ciro Galeno

The mission of the Noble Maritime Collection, an art and history museum in Staten Island, New York, is to present exhibitions and programs that celebrate the working waterfront of New York Harbor in the tradition of distinguished artist John A. Noble (1913-1983), and to preserve Robbins Reef Lighthouse and the history of Sailors’ Snug Harbor.

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