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The Slipper Lady

Knitter Rita Perry gives the gift of warm feet


by: REVIEW, TIDING PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE  - West Linn resident Rita Perry knit 260 slippers for the West Linn Food Pantry. If it is true, that it is more blessed to give than receive, then Rita Perry is in for a ton of blessings this holiday season.

When the call went out for Perry to knit slippers for placement in holiday baskets distributed by the West Linn Food Pantry, she responded by knitting 260 pairs — all of them colorful, comfy, warm, stretchable and suitable for wearing at Christmas and other holidays. It was a remarkable achievement.

"We had no idea of the number of slippers Rita would make," said Shauna Shroyer, director of the West Linn Food Pantry. "I think our recipients will be thrilled to receive the wonderful gift of handmade slippers."

'The slipper lady'

by: REVIEW, TIDING PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE  - Perry has made more than 3,000 pairs of slippers in her lifetime.When Perry started out, she didn't actually intend to knit that many slippers, but once she started knitting, she couldn't stop. The slippers come in many, many sizes, suitable for everybody from dainty infants to people with gunboats for feet.

After her monumental task, Perry seemed only slightly tired. After all, she has been knitting slippers for nearly half a century.

"This was by far my biggest project," Perry said. "I don't think I could do it again."

As to the question, "Didn't you get bored?" Perry's answer was, "No. I don't get bored. It was all worth it."

Perry's slipper saga began when she was just 18 and working in an Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) steno pool in Los Angeles. While there she met legendary FBI Director John Edgar Hoover. She also acquired a pattern for making slippers, which she shared with her stenographer friend named Elaine. Soon Perry got married, raised a family and started making lots of slippers.

"I've lost track of the number I've made," she said, but some quick figuring shows Perry has made more than 3,000 pairs of slippers in her lifetime.

by: REVIEW, TIDING PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE  - Perry learned to knit at age 18 while working in an FBI steno pool. Every year she made slippers for family and friends — about 80 pair a year for 45 years. Perry would also knit sweaters and skirts, but it was slippers that everyone seemed to like the most. Her hard efforts have earned her the nickname "The Slipper Lady."

"I gave a pair to my 17-year-old grandson," Perry said. "He was kind of proud of me. His brothers think it's neat to have a grandmother that can do slippers."

Knitting for a cause

Shroyer became aware of Perry's slipper prowess last year and originally challenged Perry to make a "few" slippers for children who come to the West Linn Food Pantry. When Perry threw out the number 220, Shroyer gulped and agreed.

Of course, this vast number grew even larger. The figure becomes even more impressive when you realize that it took Perry three hours to make each pair of slippers, which required 120 skeins of simple, soft yarn.

by: REVIEW, TIDING PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE  - Perry turned her crafty pastime into a good cause. Her slippers will go into holidy baskets delivered by the West Linn Food Pantry. "Shauna sent me a note saying what a neat job I had done," Perry said.

Shroyer had a few more complimentary adjectives, too.

"As a child I remember wearing the same kind of slippers when I was growing up," Shroyer said. "It's fun to know that Rita's creations are being shared with a new generation. Hopefully, there will be a time when they reflect back to this winter and remember the slippers they received."

Rita Perry has provided one of the most wonderful holiday gifts of all: warm feet.

by: REVIEW, TIDING PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE  - It takes Perry three hours to make each pair of slippers.