Charlotte Shrier: Knitting Together a New Life of Independence and Creativity
Charlotte Shrier was devastated when she lost most of her eyesight at age 79 due to macular degeneration. Suddenly, her independence in daily life was seemingly gone. So was her career as a high-fashion knitwear designer. “Boom—I lost it all,” she said. “I did nothing but cry for three weeks.”
A social worker from the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind suggested she attend the Carroll Center for the Blind’s two-week Essential Skills for Seniors program. “That was the best experience I could possibly have,” Charlotte said. “Everyone at the Carroll Center was so caring and wonderful. They were determined that you come away with all the knowledge they can possibly give you. I learned so much about living a blind life.”
For Charlotte, that included how to organize her home, cook meals and care for her invalid husband, and travel safely and independently using two canes. She also learned how to use adaptive computers. Most important—and joyful—of all was learning how to knit and sew again.
For decades, Charlotte had knitted and sold high-end knitwear to shops on Newbury Street in Boston. One day at the Carroll Center, then-President Rachel Rosenbaum noticed that Charlotte seemed sad. “I told her I was a knitwear designer, and how horrible it was I had lost all my skills,” Charlotte said. Rachel suggested she work with vision rehabilitation therapist Eleanor Martin. Soon, Charlotte was learning how to use specific looms for knitting, create designs using her “mind’s eye,” and ways to sew again.
Now Charlotte is again happily turning out an endless stream of creative and original designs—knitted sweaters, hats and scarves; quilts she donates; stylish coats inspired by the latest trends; and colorful handbags.
“It was because of the Carroll Center that I could put my talents back to use and do all these things,” Charlotte said. “Everyone there cares. From the teachers, to the cook, to the president, they all went above and beyond to encourage me.
All of them made such a difference in my life.”