First, I want to apologize for my absence on here. We’ve had a tough couple of weeks, with my mom in the ICU due to complications from her leukemia / bone marrow transplant. She is still in the hospital, but things are more stable than they were before. Cancer is such a horrible disease, and we’ve really been reminded of that over the past few weeks.
We flew to be near my mom, and I really wanted to knit and create while we were there. I didn’t want to make just anything, though. I wanted to work on projects that could give back somehow. I think that tough times remind me of how much suffering there is in the world, and it gives me a kick in the pants to start helping some more.
Luckily, I’ve had the privilege of knitting for several great charities over the past few years, so I knew what kind of items I could make. I’d love to share some of them, and hopefully get more knitters involved. When I first started looking for charity knitting a few years ago, I was overwhelmed at the choices. I wanted to find reputable charities that were truly getting the items to those in need. I’ve found several great organizations that do just that. A lot of these projects use scrap amounts of yarn and a minimal amount of time. If your kids know how to knit, these projects are simple enough that they can get involved.
What it is: The Mother Bear Project is a group that provides a simple gift of hope and love through a hand-knit or crocheted bear to children affected by HIV/AIDS in emerging nations. Each bear is signed with the name of the person who made the bear. The coordinators at the Mother Bear Project take pictures of the children receiving their bears and email/post them. As always, the pictures from the latest distribution are so beautiful. They have stories on their webpage from some of the children who have received the bears, if you’re in the mood for a good cry.
How you can get involved: All of the bears for the Mother Bear Project use the same WWII-era pattern. It is SIMPLE, which has been great for me. I need mindless knitting right now! The whole bear is basically made as a tube (knit flat or in the round, you decide), and then you split for the legs and pick up for the arms. The clothes are knit as part of the bear. I can finish a bear in a few hours of work, and they only require about 35 yards of 3 colors of yarn. If you have 50 yards of each, you can easily embellish as you wish. The bears do not need to be “realistically” colored (duh, they are wearing clothes, y’know…) so any yarn in your stash can be used!
The flat version of the Mother Bear pattern is available in the beautiful book, Knit for Peace, and it is also archived on the DIY Network’s site. If you have the $5 to spare, I really encourage you to order the pattern directly from Mother Bear. They will send you the pattern in the mail as well as a brochure explaining the program and a tag to attach to the first bear with your name on it. When you mail in your first bear (or set of bears) they will send you more tags. If you mail in more bears than you have tags, they’ll write tags for you.
For each bear that you send in, they ask for $3 to cover the “bear fare” (the costs to fly and get the bears into their new country.) When you pay for the pattern, your first bear’s “bear fare” is included in the cost, so there is no need to send in $3.
For more information, the Mother Bear Ravelry group is excellent. They host monthly challenges that include drawings for yarn and other knitty prizes
What it is: Wool Aid is a community of knitters that creates warm clothing for children in the coldest climates that have the least access to resources. All items knit for Wool-Aid need to be made of natural fibers of at least a worsted weight. The thicker the better.
How you can get involved: The Wool-Aid Ravelry group is a wealth of information. They keep an updated list of all of the current campaigns. Their blog also has details on where knit items are currently being sent and what is most needed. If you want to get involved, join the ravelry group or read on their website for which items are currently needed and their guidelines, and then mail them to their headquarters. I recently participated in a campaign for children impacted by the earthquake in Tibet, and I was so happy to be able to create some warmth to children who really need it.
What it is: Mittens for Akkol is a group that knits for an orphanage in Akkol, Kazakhstan. Akkol is very cold, with snow starting in August and lasting through April. Temperatures reach 40 below 0 and the orphanage is not well-heated. The organization was started by two parents who went to adopt two children and then realized that they wanted to help all of the children there in any way that they could. Each year the very active yahoo group makes up a database for all of the “graduating” children in the orphanage (those who have to leave because of their age) and helps to make a warm wardrobe for them, including thin and thick socks, sweaters and scarves. Each grad asks for certain colors, and knitters sign up based on what they would like to make. The group has a hard deadline for when the items will be delivered. They are flown out there in luggage and hand-delivered. It is beautiful to watch as everyone works to complete the projects for those children. The group also works on items for the “baby house” and other projects each year.
What it is: Bundles of Joy is a group that supports babies in the Pine Ridge Hospital OB Ward (which is part of the Pine Ridge Reservation.) Poverty is extensive on the reservation, and many of the babies have no clothes or other items waiting for them when they go home.
How you can help: Join the ravelry group and see what current campaigns are running. Bundles of Joy accepts non-knitted items as well, so feel free to check out their ravelry group and see what items are needed the most right now.
5. Your local hospital/homeless shelter
This one doesn’t need much of a description, but I really encourage you to see what is available in your hometown. When my mom was in treatment in Colorado, she was so blessed by the hand knit items that were donated to the hospital (and made by us.) A soft, fuzzy hat can bring more comfort to a cancer patient than you could ever imagine. Most hospitals have programs. Ravelry allows you to search by location, and you can easily see what kinds of opportunities are available in your hometown. If nothing is available, try calling your local hospitals as well as domestic violence, homeless and pet shelters. Needs are different depending on the population that is served, so you can easily find charities that would love items made out of yarn that might otherwise seem undesirable. For example, most cancer wards prefer that you use acrylic, whereas charities like Wool Aid or Mittens for Akkol are happy to take items that are not machine washable, since the population that they help doesn’t have washing machines.
If you knit for a great charity that isn’t mentioned here, please feel free to leave a note in the comments or email me. I’d love to hear about them and share the word!