Thoughts on Charity Projects

Practical Crocheter talked a little about needlework and charity in her last post. There are some wonderful opportunities out there for knitters and crocheters to use their skills to benefit others, ranging from nonprofits that take donations of finished projects, to opportunities to teach, and beyond. So I thought I'd mention a few unorthodox ideas.

First, practical crocheter mentioned she had some "ugly afghans" that are too big to give to veterinary hospitals. Many animal clinics and especially shelters take donations of old blankets and towels, because the kennels the animals sleep in are too cold and hard without any kind of bedding. Since the bedding is likely to get messy and torn, and the animals don't really care what it looks like, you can donate things that you would never donate for human use. And when these blankets and towels become too worn to use as bedding, many shelters cut them into strips and transform them into tug-o-war toys for dogs.

For example, I have two baby blankets (both handmade...sigh) that had a tragic encounter with the dryer. They got caught in my dryer door, and the part that was caught shredded. It really isn't worth my time to repair them, so I've cut out the loose threads and opened the holes (don't want anything getting caught!). At some point, I will donate them to my local Humane Society shelter.

Practical Crocheter said her blankets are too big. However, a large blanket can always be cut down to a better size. It could also be used at its original size as a horse blanket. However, I would only cut down a blanket that has big holes in it. A blanket made from wool can be felted and cut down to make especially warm animal bedding.

For those who are a little more creative, old wool blankets, socks, and sweaters can be felted and transformed into stuffed animals. The resulting critters can make charming gifts for your own children, but they may do more good if donated to a women's shelter, police department, or children's hospital, where they can comfort children who are trying to cope with difficult situations.

When it comes to giving of one's time, Practical Crocheter mentioned groups that teach needlework to prisoners, the young, and the disabled. Here are a few more ideas. Starting a knitting/crocheting circle at a home for the elderly is another option. Not only does needlework help people in nursing homes keep their minds sharp and active, it gives them an opportunity for social engagement with each other. And those who already know how to knit can teach others who are interested. Learning can happen at any age.

Teaching the young reminded me of knitting circles that were created during World War II. They were often created as an extension of home ec classes as an opportunity for girls to hone their knitting skills as they contributed to the war effort by making socks and such for the troops. Creating a charity-focused knitting class for high school students could be a good way to spread a skill, help others, and provide an opportunity for students to meet their community service requirements at school. For children, it could help them earn badges in 4-H or Scout troops. Of course, anyone who offers classes like this would benefit from donations of materials.

In all of this, I thought I would mention again, that I have set aside a day every week (Saturday, for me) when I only work on charity projects. I put away anything I am making for my own family or friends and take out something that I am making to donate. It's been a really nice way to avoid boredom in my projects and make sure that I actually get a little charity work done. At this point, I have completed several baby blankets this way and am now working on an afghan to donate to Warm Up America. Once that's done, I think I'll work on some hats.

One of the really satisfying things about needlework is that it is fundamentally constructive--both physically and socially. It creates relationships when people come together in circles. It reinforces relationships when we produce items for others--especially items that are truly needed. Best of all, it puts us in a mindset of seeking needs to fill, and filling needs is a really important part of reinforcing community.

Do you do any charity knitting? What's your favorite organization? What are you working on now?