Original Blog post #558
World Knits: Charity Knitting for the Holidays
by Donna Druchunas
Originally published in Black Purl Magazine
Instead of talking about a knitting technique from a far-off locale, in this month’s World Knits column I’d like to talk about how we can spread our knitting generosity around the world to those in need, especially during the holiday season.
For most people in the United States the holidays are a time of joy and festivity and a time to celebrate. But many people suffer during this same season that so many of us look forward to throughout the year. In the midst of decorating, holiday parties, gift shopping, and visiting friends and loved ones, it can be difficult to remember that not everyone is as fortunate as we are. As knitters, there is a way we can bring a bit of brightness, quite literally, into the lives of those who may be alone, who may not be able to afford to buy lavish gifts (or any at all), who may have never had the chance to open a package and receive a brand-new gift made especially for them. And at the same time, we can incorporate an act of charity into our own annual celebrations.
This holiday season, instead of a cookie exchange party or yet another secret Santa grab-bag , have a charity knitting party.
Setting up a charity knitting event for the holidays is easy. With a little planning and a can-do attitude, you’ll find that you can create joyous festivities for your knitting friends, and have the satisfaction of knowing that your own celebrations will be extended to those who might otherwise have nothing to celebrate.
Planning is the key to a successful party or charity event. Here are a few tips to help you get started with your plans.
Pick out a charity in advance. After you select a charity that is in sync with your own values and sympathies, go to their website and find the page that explains what kinds of items they are collecting. Print this page out and include a copy inside the party invitations you send out.
Include a free charity knitting project in your invitation. Many charity knitting organizations provide free patterns to make it easy for people to contribute. If your chosen charity doesn’t have any free patterns available, a simple internet search on Google will show up a plethora of patterns that are free downloads. Consider printing out copies of an easy pattern and including it with your party invitations. (If your favorite charity knitting pattern is from a purchased pattern or knitting book, don’t despair. Contact the author or designer. They may give you permission to copy their pattern for use in charity knitting.)
Send out invitations as far in advance as possible, and a reminder a couple of weeks before the party. The holiday season is quite hectic for many people, so you don’t want anyone to forget about this special party. If your knitting friends are all internet savvy, consider setting up a Yahoo! Group or email mailing list to send out reminders. If your group of knitters is more old fashioned, paper invitations and phone call reminders will work just fine.
Select a charity that accepts small items so people have time to get something finished before the party. That way each person can bring one finished items to donate to your charity. Small winter woolies such as hats and scarves are popular charity knitting projects, as are preemie caps. There are quite a few charities that collect afghan squares, as well. If animals hold a special place in your heart, consider making cozy blankies for pets who will be spending the holidays in a shelter. If your charity knitting party turns into an annual event, you can have knitalongs during the year, and make larger items such as afghans and sweaters.
Instead of a secret Santa grab-bag, why not have a stash exchange at your party? There’s only one rule. The stash gifts must be used for a charity project in the coming year. Remember, many recipients of charity knitting projects will not be able or willing to hand wash or dry clean your gifts. Acrylic and wool-blend yarns are good choices for contributions in these cases. Some charities, however, only accept items made from wool or other natural fibers. In this case, a machine-washable wool might be the best choice. Make sure to check the requirements for your chosen charity.
The details of hosting a party can seem daunting. But with some forethought, you can find a stress-free way to get together and to deliver your knitted gifts to the intended recipients.
Pick a location that will be easy for everyone. You can host your at your home, a cafe, or your favorite local yarn shop. If you love being a hostess and holding parties, then having the charity knitting party in your home might be the ideal solution. You can prepare refreshments yourself, ask people to bring cookies and beverages, or have a catered event. If the thought of cleaning your house and decorating for a party freaks you out, then contact a local cafe to see if you can have your party there one evening or Saturday afternoon. You can still have a catered party if you want, or each person can pick up their own refreshments at the coffee bar. Another fun option would be to ask your local yarn shop to host the party. Perhaps you can plan in advance for each attendee to purchase a ball of yarn from the shop for their charity project. That way everyone benefits. If your party is hosted at a public place, people can drop in and out all day, and those who don’t want to stay for the party can still drop in to deliver donations
Check the requirements from your charity in advance, and have all of the supplies needed to label and wrap the knitted items at the party. If you want to invite non-knitters, they can be responsible for collecting the knitted items, labeling, and packaging them.
Don’t forget that you’ll have to deliver all of those knitted gifts to your charity. If you’re working with a local charity, you may be able to drop them off in person. But if you’re working with an international charity, you’ll have to ship off a big box of knitting after your party. This can be quite costly. Think about putting a jar near the door so everyone can drop in a few cents or dollars to contribute toward the shipping costs if you’ve chosen a charity where you can’t hand-deliver your items.
Choosing a Charity
Spreading love and cheer outside of the borders of your own country is fun and rewarding. The following charities accept donations of finished knitted and crocheted items and distribute them to those in need around the world.
afghans for Afghans
Accepts hand-knit and crocheted blankets and sweaters, vests, hats, mittens, and socks to the beleaguered people of Afghanistan.
Mother Bear Project
Sends hand-knit and crocheted bears to children affected by HIV/AIDS in emerging nations
Children in Common
Collects and delivers knitted socks, sweaters, vests, hats and mittens to orphanages in Eastern Europe for children from six months to sixteen years old
There are many more charities looking for hand knit and crochet items. Do a search on Google or pick up Knitting for Peace: Make the World a Better Place One Stitch at a Time by Betty Christiansen for more ideas.