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Knitting for Charity

January 13, 2015

Editor's Note: Please click here to read a more up-to-date version of this post!

Although I'm not really one for resolutions, the start of a new year always makes me feel like its time to make a few changes in my life. Whether its that ever-present (and very much media-induced) belief that I really need to start going to the gym/eating better/looking more like a supermodel, or simply a desire to make my life more organized, I can't help but spend the better part of January feeling that something needs to be changed around here.

This year (after the realization that the gym thing just isn't going to happen right now), I've decided to focus my energies on my crafting - specifically, how to justify (and hopefully use up) the sheer volume of crafting materials that I have sitting around my apartment. Not surprisingly, the yarn stash is a big part of this. On the whole, I think a yarn stash is a great thing. Whenever I get a desire to make some random item - a crocheted sandwich maybe, or perhaps a knitted inukshuk - I simply dive into the stash, pull out the necessary materials, and start crafting. At the same time, my stash also contains a fair number of what I call "sweater quantities" of yarn - yarn that I purchased with a particular project (or type of project) in mind, but never actually got around to knitting it, but which I also don't want to use up on more frivolous projects (because then there won't be enough left to make the project for which it was initially purchased!) Now that I have the store, I have come to the realization that some of this yarn may never get knitted - there are just too many fun new yarns coming in, calling for my attention!

A few years ago I went through a thinning process with all my UFOs (unfinished objects). I pulled out all the projects that had lingered in my stash for years, and took a very critical look at them. In most cases, it wasn't a lack of time that was preventing me from finishing - it was some larger issue like I just didn't like the sweater anymore, or the yarn wasn't really suited to that project in first place. My reluctance to accept and deal with that issue caused me to keep ignoring the UFO. The only solution was to pull the project out, and make the yarn into something else. This year, I am going to apply this same approach to all of the sweater quantities of yarn in my stash. If I haven't knit with it yet, I need to figure out why. What project did I buy the yarn for in the first place? Do I even like that pattern anymore? If I go through my (rather long) list of "really want to knit this" projects in my Ravelry queue, can I match this yarn to any of those projects? Is there some other project that this yarn is really calling out to become - maybe not for me, but for someone else? Ultimately, if the answer is 'no', the yarn will have to find a new home.

Which brings me (in a rather long-winded way!) to the subject of this post - how your yarn can help charity groups (I will give links below).The most obvious way is to make something which you can donate. Hats, mittens, scarves - these are quick projects which will be welcomed by any number of charities. Many of them want easily-cared-for goods, so make sure to use machine washable yarns (like that collection of acrylic you have from when you first started knitting, but won't actually admit to owning!) If you prefer to knit with natural fibres, there are several groups that send items to people in colder climates, and therefore need the warmth of real wool or alpaca. Blankets are another possibility - I really enjoy making baby blankets, which I plan to donate to Project Linus, but there are also several groups who accept 8" or 9" squares that are eventually sewn into larger blankets. If you are willing to do a little leg work, I think you can find a group who will accept donations of just about anything you want to knit.

But what if you just want to pass on your yarn? Knitting and crochet time is precious, and there isn't always enough to go around. Never fear - there are groups that want your yarn as well (again, I will give links below). When donating yarn, please make sure that it is clean an in good condition - free of dirt, fleas, pet hair, and most importantly moths (look closely - they usually aren't hard to spot). Also, please do your best to identify the fibres - at least in terms of machine washable vs. hand wash only. This will ensure that the yarn is put to good use, which I'm sure was the whole reason you chose to donate it in the first place! :) 

Where to Donate Knit or Crochet Items:

This is just a short list of local groups that I know of - there are many others out there, so don't let this limit you. Please be sure to contact the groups directly to make sure that your items meet all the requirements - no point in donating something if it can't be put to good use!

Click for Babies! - This organization collects and distributes purple baby hats to help educate parents about The Period of Purple Crying. We collect these hats every summer at Wet Coast Wools, and pass them on to the Vancouver Children's Hospital for distribution. More information on this year's campaign will be available in early summer.

Project Linus - A nation-wide group that distributes new, handmade blankets to children who are traumatized or seriously ill. Blankets can be sewn, knit, or crocheted, but must be made from washable materials. There are several chapters in Greater Vancouver and on Vancouver Island. Please see their website for contact information.

Warm Hands Network - Based in Ottawa, Ontario, this group distributes handknit items to families in remote locations, specifically in the Canadian North. Unlike many orgaizations, this group welcomes items made from wool and wool-blend yarns - the natural fibres are better at keeping out the arctic chill. Items are collected throughout the year, and shipped North in January and September. Please see their website or Ravelry group for more information about the items they accept. 

Giving Artfully - This is a website designed to help connect crafters to community organizations who need your handcrafted items. This website helps you find an organization, make a pledge for a certain number of items, and then help track (and therefore stick to!) that pledge (or just use the site as a resource and contact the group/dontate items on your own terms). Many of the groups are based in the US or Australia, but in some cases you can use the individual groups' websites to find Canadian chapters (if this is important to you).

Where to donate yarn:

Please arrange your yarn donation directly with these groups. We do not have the capacity to act as facilitator for your donations. Again, please make sure that your donated yarn is clean and in good condition, and free of any pests.

The Vancouver Knitters' Guild - yarn donations are passed on to members who knit it into items for various charity groups, including the Guilds' annual Christmas Craft Fair fundraising sales. The Guild meets on the first Tuesday of every month - please contact them directly directly to arrange your donation.

The Downtown Eastside Women's Centre accepts donations of yarn, knitting needles and crochet hooks. These items are used by the women in the shelter. More information is available on their website.

Knit4Charity - A local group that meets every Thursday to knit blankets for orphans in South Africa.  For a small donation, you can learn a new stitch every week; the resulting knitted squares are made into blankets. Please visit their website for information on how to join the group, and information on where to donate yarn.

Many local libraries and religious organizations have knitting groups who create items for local and international charities. If you know of a group that needs yarn, knitters, or finished items, please feel free to leave a comment to let us know. Please include contact information or a website so that others can learn how to participate.