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All That Yarn - Crocheting for Charity

Colorful scraps.

Scraps and leftover skeins can come together into something unique. Like this blanket made with squares of various patterns.

Scraps and leftover skeins can come together into something unique. Like this blanket made with squares of various patterns.

How it starts...Lots of Yarn.

Checking out at the local discount store, the clerk asked what we were using all the large skeins of yarn for and my sister answered that we make afghans for a local shelter. The lady in front of us in line, who had just checked out, thanked us for being so generous.

I didn’t want to tell her that it is a bad habit…all that yarn we have…and we needed somewhere to put it when we finished being creative. It’s a very bad habit, crocheting and knitting when you have no family members to give things to since they also crochet and/or knit.

Now there are studies that say crocheting and knitting are healthy and good stress relievers. I don’t know about relieving stress. Sometimes a deadline to finish a project is stressful in itself. And sometimes we make our own stress over how the pattern looks or if it is turning out like we planned or visualized when we started on it. I do know that I like to keep busy and productive which crocheting and knitting help me to do.

It all started years ago...

Many years ago my sister started making afghans for the local women and children’s shelter. They were small and she was able to make enough to “cover” each child in the family. The local paper wrote an article about her work and she had some calls from people who wanted to help out by giving her some yarn from their stashes. One mailed it from a town 120 miles away and the other was in town so she invited my sister over to pick what she wanted from the many boxes of yarn that this lady had on hand. She had wanted to start a shop but instead kept it to use herself. My sister came home with a lot of yarn to help make afghans for the shelter.

It became a tradition to do it every year and take the finished afghans there in late November. The shelter kept adding more living spaces to accommodate more families. I felt that I could help out so that we both contributed afghans every year. The last few years we have made and delivered about 40-50 afghans, between the two of us.

Now the shelter is getting so big we can’t keep up with the amount needed to give one to all the kids, so they probably go to each family instead of each child. The ladies at the shelter office do look forward to getting our afghans every year so we keep on doing it, and we will as long as we can crochet and have the yarn to make afghans. One year they gave out the afghans at a separate event instead of lumping them in with the rest of the Christmas gifts.

We have a big stash of all that yarn for a variety of reasons. Mostly because it was on a really good sale, it was on the clearance rack (and who can leave a skein behind when it’s the last of that color), or we really liked the color/colors or had a pattern that we wanted to make. There are the “staples” of the main colors used: black, white, off-white, yellow, green, red, navy. And then the various ombres or variegated ones that go with a lot of colors: red/white/blue, shades of purples, shades of blues, shades of greens, etc. The list is almost endless. Just look at a color wheel and you will see there are a lot of shades of all the colors so it will depend on what the manufacturer is making this year.

One way we organized it was to get plastic bins for each color. I found the 66 quart size worked well, and decided to get the clear plastic instead of the opaque ones. That way we can see what color is in there without needing labels on all the bins. Also, we can put together all the skeins for a project in a bin, along with the printed pattern, and be ready to just grab it and get started on it.

We go for the basic four-ply, worsted weight acrylic yarn (with a 4 on the label) for the majority of our projects. It makes up the majority of our stash. Then there are the chunky weights in 5 or 6 on the label. I like working with chunky yarns since they work up faster than using 2 or 3 or 4 strands of the four-ply yarns. I have used crochet hook sizes from G to Q and even a size 50 hook with #7 Jumbo yarn.

Easy, and quick, afghan pattern.

I settled on one “standard” go-to pattern for making quick afghans. It uses a P size crochet hook and bulky yarn (I use a lot of Red Heart’s Light & Lofty for these).

The pattern is Chain 74. Turn and skip the first chain, single crochet in the next chain. *Then chain 1, skip the next chain on the foundation, single crochet into the next chain.* Repeat this * to * across the foundation chain to the end. You might end up with single crochet, chain 1, skip 1, single crochet in the end OR with one chain left (none to skip) then forget the chain 1 and just put a single crochet in the next chain (so there are 2 single crochet stitches next to each other). The next row is chain 1, turn, single crochet in the first single crochet. Then if there is a chain-1 space, single crochet in that. Chain 1 and skip the single crochet of the previous row, work a single crochet in the next chain-1 space. Repeat that to the end of the row. Start over on the next row and do it all over again with skipping the stitches and working in the chain spaces.

If you have to put 2 single crochets next to each other at the beginning or end of the row, do so. If you don’t, then don’t worry about it. Some rows begin or end with 2 single crochets and some don’t. It all depends. I usually use about 7 skeins of Light & Lofty (4.5 oz. size) per afghan. Some take a little more, some a little less as I have some older skeins that have 7 oz. of yarn.

Squares or Ripples to use up yarn scraps.

Squares are also a good way to use up lots of smaller amounts or odd skeins of yarn. Ripple patterns are another way to use up a variety of colors.

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I used to see an afghan hanging on the coat rack at the local cardiologist’s office when I took my mother there for her appointments. I had to examine it to see how it was made as it had an endless variety of colors in solids and ombre. Looked to me like the person who made it had just tied together lots of yardage and just kept on working without changing colors just on the ends. The middle of the row would go from variegated to solid, and so on from there. I thought that was a very clever way to use leftover yarn and it turned out lovely.

I mentioned in my previous blog, All That Yarn – Scrap Afghans, some of the ones I’ve made with donated yarn (the pink and blue squares) and creative solutions (the purple granny strips). I have made squares while sitting at the hospital when my sister was in surgery to have a large cancerous tumor removed (9 pounds worth), and the five days she was in a hospital bed. I finished two afghans since I lost count of how many squares (they were about 8-9 inches across) and ended up with enough to make two.

I keep a crochet squares project by the computer so if I have to wait for a download, or a slow computer, I have something to do besides stare at the screen. I have at least 2 or 3 projects going all the time. I switch back and forth depending on if I have to concentrate on the TV program or just watch it.

Scarves for Special Olympics

Just a few of what we made...bagged and tagged for delivery.

Just a few of what we made...bagged and tagged for delivery.

Red and Navy yarn leftover from the Special Olympics Scarf Project went into an afghan.

Red and Navy yarn leftover from the Special Olympics Scarf Project went into an afghan.

And sometimes you get to teach, too.

I was “volunteered” by a co-worker to put together a group to do the Special Olympics scarves (which they quit doing in 2013).

We taught the gals who joined us how to knit and/or crochet and gave them simple scarf patterns to work on for this charity. We ended up with about 35 scarves between 6 people and a few donating some from home to this charity.

It was fun and because the project was discontinued in 2013 by Special Olympics, some of the gals missed out on our times of getting together to work on it. We tried to find another project to work on together, but there were too many ideas and not enough agreement on what to do. So we never did get a chance to come together like we did for making scarves. {Special Olympics by state re-started the Scarf Project about 2015 and picked their own colors in each state.}

Find a need that matches your skills.

I have, in the distant past, made preemie caps and baby blankets for the hospital nursery. There was an older lady at my church who had either found or created some good patterns for caps. People donated yarn to the church and the stuff that the cap makers didn’t use went to the quilters for tying their quilts. I have made a few soft yarn chemo caps for the local oncology "angels" group. I have also made knit and crochet teddy bears to donate to needy kids at Christmas. And I have donated to Caps4Kids by either giving them yarn or making caps for them to distribute to kids.

There are a lot of places that could use crocheters and knitters to fill a need. The internet has many places that can use help, just do a search and it will overwhelm you. I once found a place online called the Mother Bear Project that makes knit or crochet bears to send over to African orphans. They charge $5 each for their patterns and have specific guidelines for what they will accept so that it is consistent and not too different.

Another local yarn shop owner went to visit her daughter who is working at a mission in Africa. The daughter is teaching the local women to knit or crochet things in order to help them have an income. The shop owner took over yarn, knitting needles, and other supplies, as well as contacting companies for donations to this worthy project.

There was also a local pre-teen who started making dishcloths to send to the tornado victims in Oklahoma. Her idea was they if they were cleaning up then they needed something to clean with, and she knew how to knit dishcloths so she wanted to contribute.

And there are lots of people who want to help and just need to find the places or people where they can send or take their projects. There are always needs for warm hats and scarves and blankets, especially in the colder climates of the United States.

You could use a search engine like Bing or Google to find charities or people that might want some help. One such is Warm Up America or Project Linus that makes blankets or afghans to donate. It’s just a matter of looking or searching and seeing what fits your skills. Sometimes it is just figuring out what you want to do with all that yarn.

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