A Secret Society of Knitters and Crocheters

Who knew a secret society of knitters and crocheters actually existed!

yarn-bombing-in-Rome-GA

Well, maybe not too secret.  A few days ago, my husband and I spent the day in Rome, Georgia.  I’d never been there before and was looking forward to checking it out. There’s a bridge with 1000’s of love locks, a fantastic historical grave yard where a former first lady is buried, and a cute historic downtown.  When we first arrived to the downtown area I got so excited because I had finally found my first, real live yarn bombing!  The town has two bicycle sculptures, one at each end of the historic district.  Both had beautiful crocheted “spokes”.  And some of the lamp posts were covered with bright stitches.  I loved seeing it.  I used to think yarn bombing was a waste of good yarn and stitches, but seeing it has changed my mind.  It was beautiful.

more-yarn-bombing-in-Rome-GA

I asked a woman in town who was responsible for the artwork but she didn’t know. She said it gets changed out a few times a year and commented how nice it was to see the different colors.  I then reached out to another person.  I won’t say who or how because I don’t want to get anyone in trouble for revealing secrets. What this person told me really caught me off guard.  She said the yarn art was created by a secret knit and crochet society called the Knitterati.  I honestly didn’t know if this individual was serious or messing with me.  Was this group the fiber version of the Illuminati made popular by Dan Brown’s novel, Angels & Demons? Was this woman nuts? So I asked if she was able to give me a little more information about this secret society.  Turns out the woman wasn’t nuts.  She was super nice and explained the group does a lot of charity work throughout the year in addition to their colorful installations to the downtown area, that they always get permission to do the installations and that there is a group in Atlanta also known as the Knitterati.   And, well, it turns out they aren’t too secret after all considering they have Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RomeKnitterati/ 🙂

I really loved seeing how the knit and crochet artwork made such a difference to the look of this small town.  And I wish it wasn’t a two hour drive each way.  I would love to participate, that is, IF I could learn their secret handshake. Just kidding.  I don’t know if they have a secret handshake.  But maybe they have secret stitches. 🙂

Anyone in the north Georgia/Dahlonega area want to start a secret knit and crochet society?  My youngest already came up with our name, IllumiKNITti.

Happy (secret) Crocheting!
Darleen

 

#familyfun tic-tac-toe game board crochet pattern by Darleen Hopkins #CbyDH

 

Mother Bear Project-a volunteer that combines service with eco-thrifty

A few months ago I found out about the Mother Bear Project.  If you haven’t yet, check it out.  I have made four bears so far and plan to make more.  They are adorable, fun and quick to make, and serve a great purpose.  There is a group on Ravelry that focuses on making bears for the Mother Bear Project, Mother Bear Project.  It is in this group that I met Bitsy and Bobbie, two bears knit by Grace (uknowmeas on Ravlery).  I was completely smitten when I saw these two bears as they are not only adorable and made for a wonderful cause, but because Grace made the bears with scrap yarn.  And with a sense of humor, aptly named them Bitsy and Bobbie for “Bits and Bobs”.  I love it!  I asked Grace if should would agree to an interview for my blog and she graciously said yes.

bitsy

Bitsy

How did you find out about the Mother Bear Project and how long have you been making bears? How many bears to date?

I learned about Mother Bears from a blogger Compassionknit and decided to look into it, in May of 2017. I have made 186 bears for MB and about 11 for others.

WOW! 186 bears for Mother Bear Project and 11 others.  That’s a lot of bears since May 2017!
Bitsy and Bobbie are Scraptastic! Is this the first time you have used scrap yarn on a project? If no, what else?

No there are a couple of other bears out there made of scrap and I make scrap shawls and or blankets all the time. I usually crochet the shawls and blankets. In my projects bears 151 thru 154 are all scrap sweaters, and bear 127 is all scraps.

127-jo

Bear #127 made of scraps as well.  “Jo”

Please describe your process to save the scraps and then knit with them.

I almost like knitting with scraps more then knitting with a fresh new skein. I knit what I want out of the skein, hank, ball whatever the put up is and then I have a bin I put the leftovers in. These go to bears, sometimes there is enough left over for an entire bear, sometimes I need to stripe or helical knit the bodies to use more then one color.  When I have little bits left over 6” to about 3 feet, I roll them up in a ball and just keep adding to it. I just slip knot them, the knots wind up inside the bear. I keep the ball next to my chair and it grows, then when I decide it is large enough, I combine it with a fingerweight yarn and start a bear. This gives it continuity and strength and I do this with the blankets and shawls too but then I will use worsted weight.

What is your motivation for using your scraps? general thriftiness? Eco-conscience? other?

I just hate to see anything go to waste, although thriftiness plays in too.  I also love to play with color and I think the randomness adds to the bears personality.

Do you have a preference of crochet or knit?

I do both although I prefer knitting, it fits better with my sense of orderliness and neatness. I like the density of the fabric or the flow of lace that knitting creates

When you aren’t stitching Mother Bears, what do you like to knit or crochet?

Everything–I am very charity minded, partly because of the undeniable need but also because my family just doesn’t want anymore hand knits LOL so I knit hats for Linda’s Hats for Hope, shawls for any place that can use them, toys for a children’s support house in the neighborhood, and still the occasional scarf, mitten, fingerless glove or baby gift for the aforementioned ungrateful family (again LOL).

bobbie

Bobbie

Thank you so much, Grace! Your bears are adorable.  And I’m sure your family loves all your handcrafted gifts :).

If you haven’t checked out Mother Bear Project, please do.  It is a wonderful charity that is dedicated to providing comfort and hope to children affected by HIV/AIDS in emerging nations, by giving them a gift of love in the form of a hand-knit or crocheted bear.  You can find the four versions of the bear pattern ( 2 knit, 2 crochet) here: Mother Bear Project pattern

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Day here in the United States.  This is a day that is known as a Day of Service.  You can honor Martin Luther King by serving your community.  Whether your community is local or global, you can make a difference in someone’s life by volunteering your time.  So if you are not able to go out and support a local cause, consider putting your knitting or crochet skills to service and make a bear or two for a child who could use a little comfort in his or her life.

Happy Crocheting!
Darleen

#familyfun tic-tac-toe game board crochet pattern by Darleen Hopkins #CbyDH

Crocheting for Charity, Part 2

Charitable Crochet, Keep it Local

christmas-pick-fundraiser-1

Christmas Pickle Gift Sets donated to the local High School Marching Band Holiday Craft and Bake Sale to raise funds for new uniforms.

Crocheting for charity can be extremely rewarding.  We all want to do good and it is rewarding to know you can make something that can make another person happy.   Being able to support your local community with charitable crochet is an added bonus.

My last post addressed the awesome part of crocheting for organized organizations.  The organizations I listed have not only found recipients for the items but actually have people asking for them.  They can say with certainty that the donated items (if they are made within the established guidelines) will end up in the hands of the intended recipient. But, what if your funds are limited and you just don’t have the money to pay for shipping? or what if you just want to keep it local?

I often hear of local church groups or civic organizations where they crochet hats for chemo patients or something similar.  But when asked where or how they are getting the items to the patients, the response is along the lines of “We bring them to the hospital”.  While it is wonderful to crochet for charitable efforts, I learned the hard way that you have to be selective in where you donate your charitable crochet.  Delivering items to the hospital does not mean they make it to the patients (read the story here).  So, please keep in mind, no matter where you donate your handmade items, my number one suggestion is to contact the business or organization FIRST to see if they WANT and will ACCEPT the items.  If you get a yes, push them a little further and ask, do they have more than they currently need and will the items be distributed to the patients/kids/residents/etc.   And be sure to ask if they have any guidelines and/or restrictions you need to follow.

Below are a few suggestions on how you can crochet for charity, keep it local AND be sure the donated items are getting to the intended recipients. Again, check FIRST to make sure they want/need and will distribute your handmade items.

  1. Contact national organizations and ask if they can direct you on how to donate locally.  While it may not be possible to donate directly to the recipients as they likely require all donated items to be inspected for quality control, they may be able to direct you to a local drop off location-maybe a guild chapter or yarn shop.
  2. Check with your local hospitals and oncology centers to see if you can donate hats directly to them.  If so, what guidelines to they have?  If not hats, can they suggest anything else that their patients may like.
  3. Is there a local shelter, woman’s or homeless, that might like blankets?
  4. Check to see if your community has a organization that helps homeless families find homes.  Could you provide housewarming gifts to be including when helping to set up the home.  Think blankets, potholders, throw rugs or anything to help make the new place warm and comfortable.  Check with the women’s shelter as well as they often help set up new homes for women escaping abusive situations.
  5. Check with the animal shelter to see if they would like blankets for the cages.  Or maybe you can make cat toys or fancy dog collars that they can give away with new adoptions or possibly sell to raise money for the shelter.
  6. Check with the local police to see if they would like comfort buddies to have on hand for when a child has to be removed from a home or is involved in an accident.
  7.  Maybe there is a local foster care home that would like crocheted blankets for the kids.  Remember, displaced teens need comfort blankets as well as small children and babies.
  8. Check with food banks and see if they also collect blankets or maybe they have suggestions of items you could provide that they will offer to their patrons.
  9. Is there a senior assisted living center/nursing home in your area?  Maybe the workers know of a resident who doesn’t have many visitors and could use a lap blanket or slippers.
  10. Is there a community toy-drive for families in need at the holidays?  I’ve made character hats for ours.
  11. And my favorite, because organizations always need money, donate handmade items for a craft fair fundraiser or a raffle.  Check with schools to see if any sports teams or the arts (band, chorus, etc) have upcoming fundraising opportunities you can donate items for a charity sale.  I made Christmas Pickles, see photo above, for the marching band and donated hand made items for the elementary school’s silent auction.  Many shelters and other non-profit organizations hold silent auctions as fundraisers.  They are always looking for items to include in these fundraisers.

When donating local, be sure to follow guidelines established by national organizations.  They are there for a reason.  It may be for the patient’s comfort, ease of washing or maybe the safety of the recipient.  Be sure to use appropriate yarns, wash and/or sterilize if necessary and be sure to keep pets away.  And if you don’t have the appropriate yarn but still want to make items for donation, get creative.  Baby blankets and lap blankets don’t need the same yarns required for chemo hats.  Animals don’t care if your yarn is an odd color.  Market bags can be made in inexpensive, scratchy yarns and may sell well at a craft fair fundraiser or silent auction.  And if you smoke or have pets in your home be honest and disclose this.  Some groups may not want to risk the possible allergens.  If having pets is an issue with local organizations maybe concentrate your charitable efforts on supporting an animal shelter.

Shells of Love baby blanket crochet pattern by Darleen Hopkins

Crocheting for Charity, Part 1

Charity Crochet, Established Organizations

Octopus for a Preemie-US

Donated Octos for the Octopus for a Preemie-US organization

Apparently, I have a reputation as one who crochets.  🙂  I often have friends and relatives send me links, post on my timeline or tag me with whatever the latest viral crochet pattern or project may be.  And I love this.  When my non-crocheting buddies come across something, I know it is something big and hot right now.

A few months ago, my sister-in-law sent me a link to a story about octopuses being crocheted for babies in the NICUs of hospitals.  I had heard of this before but hadn’t really looked too much into it.  This link got me interested in learning more (Thanks Chris!) and ultimately, to writing this blog post about crocheting for charity.  I love to crochet for charity but let me retell my story as to why I didn’t for a number of years.

Shortly after I began crocheting, I found an individual who was putting together a group of crocheters to make hats for children in hospitals who were going through chemo treatments.  Being a mom of two little boys, who were thankfully healthy, I jumped at this opportunity to do some good for kids and hoped to make some new crochet friends along the way.  I made 5 or 6 hats and they were submitted to the hospital along with all the others that were collected.  A month or so later, I received a thank you in the mail from the hospital’s public relations officer.  I was so excited and wanted to make more so I called the hospital representative to find out what would be the best type of hats to make.  I wanted to make what he kids liked.  This was over 10 years ago and I still remember her response verbatim-“We have so many hats, we don’t need anymore hats.  We have boxes and boxes in a closet.  Please don’t send us anymore hats.”  Now I don’t know if I caught this woman on a bad day or what, but I was shocked.  I remember saying “OK, thank you” and hanging up.  I let the woman who was heading the group know what I found out.  She believed her hats were going directly to the kids and wanted to continue.  I decided I didn’t want to make hats thinking they may just end up in a closet somewhere so I quit the group.  While I was disappointed and frustrated, I am thankful the woman at the hospital was honest with me.  If not, I may have continued my efforts making items that may have never been used as intended.  And this experience taught me how important it is to research charities prior to donating to them.  After this happened, I shared my story above with more than one organization.  I explained to them that I wanted to confirm the crocheted items I made and donated would 100% end up with the intended recipients.  Thankfully, the contacts of the organizations were honest as well and stated they were unable to confirm this.  They were groups collecting items but not checking with the recipients whether or not they were even wanted.  How many of those donated hats/blankets/whatever were ending up in boxes in closets?  Hopefully none but in all likelihood, at least some of them were.  This was such a shame to me.

Fast forward a few years and I stumbled upon Halos of Hope.  When I retold the story above to Pam, the founder, and expressed concern as to where the hats were donated,  she assured me they were being sent directly to chemo centers around the country who wanted them.  And so I became a Halos of Hope volunteer and made hats, lots and lots of hats.  Unfortunately, this wonderful organization has recently closed its doors.  Pam has decided to focus on her family and made the difficult decision to cease operations. www.halosofhope.com/

Over that last few years I have found a number of organized groups who collect crocheted items and distribute them.  There are a number of wonderful reasons to work with an established organization when crocheting for charity.  Listed below are some of the benefits as well as some potential issues-

  1. Many of these organizations are registered as 501c non-profit organizations.  This means any money donated to them are potentially tax-deductible.  Some of the organizations are not as big and therefore not registered as non-profits, however they are just as awesome in the charity work they do. Donating money is never required, just an option to help the organization in their efforts.
  2. The organization has already researched or has individuals who find recipients who want the crocheted goods.  They work with shelters/hospitals/or other groups who say, “YES! send us your crocheted items.  We will get them in the hands of people who want them”.  They will not take a box of hats to a hospital who will only place them in a closet.
  3. They often have specific requirements in what they will accept and what materials you can use.  Many times they will require you to use specific yarn or a specific pattern or they will not accept your items.  If there is such a requirement follow it for it is there for a reason!  It may be to keep the recipients safe, or for comfort, or for wash-ability or for some other reason.  If you cannot meet the established requirements, please find another organization to work with.
  4. If you do not have a local chapter you will have to mail your projects and will incur postage cost. Seek out the local chapter or collection site if available.  Most organizations will have chapters or drop off locations listed by state on their website. Maybe you will be lucky and have a location near you.  This would save postage costs and maybe you can make some new friends!

Below is a list of organizations I have come across where the donated items are sent to recipients who have asked for and want the items.

  1. Octopus for a Premie, The Octo Project.
    Collects crocheted octopuses.
    Original Danish site, https://www.spruttegruppen.dk/danish-octo-project-english/
    A list by country for Facebook groups or website, http://mynomadhome.com/the-octopus-for-a-preemie-project-a-list-of-countries-and-their-websites/
    The US group, on Facebook, is very strict on the materials used and other requirements.  This is important as the item is going to a very precious new little life and we want him or her to be safe!  The photo above is a collection of octos sent to one of the group ambassadors, Lisa.  She will inspect each one for safety, sterilize and then deliver to a hospital.  Lots and lots of love!
  2. Hats for Sailors, website,  http://hatsforsailors.com/
    Ravelry group, http://www.ravelry.com/groups/hats-for-sailors
    All hats must be hand-made of 100% washable wool (superwash).
  3. Knitted Knockers, https://www.knittedknockers.org/
    Knitted and crocheted breast prosthetics.
    Yarn requirements and specific pattern required, see website.
  4. Project Linus, http://www.projectlinus.org/
    Collects handmade blankets.
    Check your local chapter for any restrictions.

There are number of other dedicated groups out there. Whatever your passion may be there is likely a related charitable opportunity for you to share your crochet talents.  But do your homework and ask questions. And for those who prefer to keep their charity work local, please check back as my next post will provide ideas on how you can support your local community with your crochet talents.

crochet patterns for men

2015 Charity Stash Bust Update-Mid/Late November

Five pounds of yarn BUSTED!

I recently found out about another organization that collects hats for kids going through chemo therapy.  The organization is the Jessie Rees Foundation and they send out Joy Jars with a beanie in each.  All hats I make in what is left of 2015 will be sent to them.

Charity chemo hat crocheted by Darleen Hopkins #CbyDHThe first completed hat is a beanie crocheted in 100% cotton.  I didn’t follow a pattern.  It’s just a basic beanie.  I found the eyes in my cotton stash.  I remember I made them awhile ago but didn’t use them as they were the wrong color or something like that.  But they are perfect for this owl creature hat!

The hat weighs 2.75 ounces.  That puts the final weight of yarn crocheted for charity in 2015 (to date) at over 5 pounds!

Five pounds BUSTED!

I plan to make a couple more hats as I participate in the 2015 Gift-A-Long, so check back!

Total hats made in the 2015 Stash Bust Challenge to date: 11

Total bears made in the 2015 Stash Bust Challenge to date: 6

Total blankets made in the 2015 Stash Bust Challenge to date: 2

Total weight of yarn used in the 2015 Stash Bust Challenge to date: 5 pounds, .75 ounces!

Spiffy

 

 

Lapghans for donation, charity stast bust challenge by Darleen Hopkins

2015 Stash Bust for Charity-November, blanket done!

Blanket for donation is done!

lapghan for donationI’m super excited to share with you the finished Inca Blocks Lapghan!  The pattern was adapted from Beth Graham’s Inca Block Wrap.  The only change I made was to add some stripes and work a few less rows.  Basically I worked the pattern until I ran out of yarn.  The finished blanket is 42″ wide X 39″ long and should be a nice and cozy lapghan.  I know it kept me cozy while I was stitching it 🙂

This blanket and the other lapghan I made earlier this year, will be donated to the local nursing home.  Every year, just before Thanksgiving, the nursing home puts up a wish tree of items needed by residents who don’t have much or don’t receive many visitors.  I always see lap blankets listed and I always wish I had time to make one.  This year I (finally) thought ahead and made two ahead of time.  The tree should be up this week.

Lapghans for donation, charity stast bust challenge by Darleen Hopkins

This blanket is included in my Stash Bust for Charity, 2015 challenge.  The blanket weighs just over 1 pound, 1.5 ounces.

Total hats made in the 2015 Stash Bust Challenge to date: 10

Total bears made in the 2015 Stash Bust Challenge to date: 6

Total blankets made in the 2015 Stash Bust Challenge to date: 2

Total weight of yarn used in the 2015 Stash Bust Challenge to date: 4 pounds, 14 ounces!

2015 Stash Bust for Charity, Early November Status

Still working on busting out some stash…

As mentioned in my last post, things have been busy here.  So busy that I was three months late with that last post.  And, like many of you, late November and December are hectic for my family.  In anticipation of the upcoming overload of activities, I am getting some stash busting done ASAP to see if the goal of crocheting 5 pounds of yarn for charity can be achieved before year-end.

image_mediumAs of June, I had crocheted 3 pounds, 12.5 ounces into hats, a blanket and bears.  My current project should take a chunk out of the 5 pound goal!  In September I started a blanket for donation to a local nursing home.  I decided to use Beth Graham’s Inca Blocks Wrap pattern.  I’m working it with (mostly) Caron Simply Soft and it is turning out pretty cozy.  The pattern is easy to follow-I love the chart!  My goal is to finish the crocheting this week and then work on weaving in ends this weekend.

Once the blanket is done I plan to make some beanies for donation.  I’ll need to stash dive and see what I have that is on Halos of Hope’s updated yarn suggestion guide.  Check it out.   I also found out about another organization that collects hats for kids going through chemo therapy.  The organization is the Jessie Rees Foundation and they send out Joy Jars with a beanie in each.  The story behind the foundation is both heartbreaking and inspiring.  I’ve got something special in mind for Joy Jar beanies, so please look for that in the next week or two.

PatchworkKitty-001