Sunday, April 22, 2012

Crafting For Charity

The last blog entry has generated some comments and questions from readers and I'd like to respond here.  (Note from Nancy.)

In my past life in the US, I was a crafting/crazy woman!  Nothing better than a colorful yarn stash and lots of time to craft for others.  I used to sew/quilt/weave/spin, too.  There seemed to always be pots of dye, almost-dry fiber and bags of projects and yarn all over the place.

The charities I was involved with were mostly for children.  A warm sweater or hat, baby booties and blankets, blessing outfits, dollies and teddy bears, scarves, socks and slippers, shawls and mittens.  Gifts went to children all over the world, as well as our local kids and hospitals.  Soldiers in the war zones also got gifts  (not in support of the wars, but even soldiers are someone's children, the 'big kids').  I like to think I made a positive difference in a child's life, as well as in their Mom's.

Why am I sharing this?  Well, if you are thinking of knitting/crocheting/sewing for others, here are some guidelines to consider in order for your gift to make the biggest impact.  Each group I crafted for had their own requirements for items that would be most useful, whether it was for babies in intensive care, children in Mongolia or Ukraine, soldiers or children in Afghanistan, kids in the US, Canada or Africa.

(One of our last stops on the way to San Francisco and then to Ecuador, was to drop off a baby blanket at a local hospital.  The last stitch was made the night before we left, then laundry about midnight.  The last laundry load in Oregon.)

Some charities only accepted wool (or other animal fiber)...extra-warm in frigid temps and wool doesn't melt like some acrylics could in combat. 

(This is a picture at our Ranch of blankets headed to Afghanistan.  It was put together from crocheted and knitted squares made by members of the online group, All Crafts for Charity.)

US hospitals mostly accepted acrylics for ease of care and sanitation equipment.  Some charities only wanted 'functional'...think warm and well-made first, not lacey-cute.  You can always embellish 'functional' later with flowers, ribbons, Hello Kitty and Spiderman!

Some color, religious or cultural restrictions applied as well.  (For example:  Using the color green for gifts to Muslim children could have special restrictions.  'Faces' or 'Crosses' in the designs could, too.)  For sizes, it made no sense to send little kid sizes in pink or lavender to the troops or 12 inch preemie blankets to school children.

You will also want to check out the charity itself.  Who are they?  What's their background and experience?  Are they operating legally with all the proper approvals and paperwork?  Will your gift truly make it to the ones in need?  Will the charity sell your gift or give it freely?  Will your gift just end up in the garbage?  (It could be trashed...reasons could include:  not fitting requirements, charity is a scam and more.)  Be sure to ask those questions, if it's important to you. 

Once you have found the person-in-charge, double-check requirements.  For instance, if baby blankets are needed, what size?  What colors?  What patterns?  What fiber or fabric?  Many charities go for about a 35-36 inch square blanket for babies for the most useful.  Some charities prefer solid patterns, so little fingers and toes don't get caught in the lacey patterns.  Some prefer bright colors, but no black.  Some only want pastels or white.

You will find a hat is not a hat...  should it cover ears?  Cuff or not?  Is a pom-pom ok?  Extra-soft yarn or fabric for cancer patients?  What size is most useful?  If all you get is an age...get on the internet and check head size charts.  Same with socks, sweaters and mitts. 

If you're crafting for local children, look at groups of kids for the most popular styles and colors or ask their Moms.  Are the children wearing mostly black or neon colors?  Kids like to 'fit in' with their friends.  If you are wanting to make scarves or mittens, do the kids wear or want them?  If you have the opportunity to speak with Moms, you can assess if the Mom is at risk and needs help, too.  Maybe Mom needs a shawl...

Be sure you do your homework to ensure your gift is truly useful and will truly go to the intended recipients.

(This is a pictue of us with our wool shawls in San Francisco.  Rich figured out a way to get them in our suitcases and I am so glad he did!  Crocheted, with scrap wool.  Not for charity, we use them everyday on our porch here in the Andes.)

To find charity groups, you can start by asking around.  Ask folks at places of worship, your neighbors, schools, crafting classes and circles, yarn and fabric shops.   Keep asking until you're comfortable.

You don't necessarily need to go through a 'group'.  Perhaps you can find a family directly to help.  One crafting friend in the US knitted up a bunch of mitts and hats one winter and just gave them away to cold little kids waiting in line with their Moms at Christmas time (they were waiting for food donations.) 

You also don't necessarily need to buy yarn...check with your crafting friends to 'raid their stash' or give new purpose to a yarn or fabric they don't want anymore.  If your targeted recipients like a colorful mix of colors, then use your little balls of left-overs or your dye samples.  Got a sweater that you no longer wear?  Take it apart and re-use the yarn if it's in good condition. around the world could all use some warmth (including US kids).  If you'd rather not mail the items, give them to folks making the trip to save on postage.  You can find all kinds of charities online, as well as free patterns. 

I applaud all crafters who want to warm the children, one-stitch-at-a-time!  It's also a wonderful way to try a new pattern or technique, a new yarn or fabric and improve your own skills, a win/win.  Try a 'sheep to shawl' project!

Happy crafting!


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