Saturday, February 16, 2008

Knitting For The Community

Can we Talk?

Yes, this is another rant about charity and what it means to me.

I started joining Contributed Squares into afghans shortly after 9/11 when the folks at XRX (Knitter's Magazine) collected thousands of them to make afghans for the families of victims. I have joined for kids in foster care, and for Project Linus, and I have been contributing squares to various causes like Warming Grace, Native American Support, and Ship Support since dirt was new.

I am putting together some thoughts and observations. These are not meant to offend anyone, but if the shoe fits. . .

Let them provide some guidance to the folks who are creating squares for various community efforts. I was asked to get my thoughts together for Ship Support, because I am one of the new "afghan joiners" for our POC (Point of Contact) afghans. I've posted some of this to that list already; the photos are the icing on the cake.

Rabbitch (who was a regional coordinator for Blankets For Canada (correct me if that name is wrong, Janice) contributed to this list.

So, in no particular order and appropos to ANY and EVERY joint effort:

1) Use the materials that are requested. For Ship Support, that means smooth, worsted weight, washable yarn. Frankly, good old Red Heart Classic or Supersaver is more than "just fine," IMHO, for these afghans, it is superior to the "soft" acrylics. It's firm in the crocheting or knitting (and joining) and softens nicely when laundered. If you like working with the "soft" stuff, use it for something else unless that's what the group has requested. If the group requests wool, use wool. If it requests cotton, use cotton. They know what they need!

2) Make the square (or rectangle) the size requested. For Ship Support, that means 7" square. Not 'about 7",' EXACTLY 7"! In the box of 96 squares I received from the afghan coordinator, I have "squares" ranging from 6" X 5.5" to 7" X 6" to 7.5" X 8" and even larger. If it's not the right size when you measure it, please rip it out and start over. (The royal blue square in the center is 7" square. All of these squares were made under the same guidelines.)

3) If you need to block your square to make it the right size, DON'T. It isn't the right size! If it is acrylic, one of two things will happen: If you use heat, you will "kill" the fabric rendering it limp and lifeless. If you use water to soak it (or a spray bottle), it's going to spring right back to the size it was. That's what "bounce back" fiber means. The square at left was either "killed" or knit at such a large (and inappropriate) gauge that it has no body. None. Limp as a dishrag.

4) If you are knitting your square, use a needle a couple sizes smaller than the ball band suggests. This will give you a denser, firmer fabric. (I typically use a size 4 or 5 with worsted weight yarn.) I will assume (and we all know what that means) that crocheters should do the same, though crochet makes, by its nature, a denser fabric. If your crocheted square is so dense that you have trouble adding rows or rounds, loosen up. The joiners won't have any more success than you did.

5a) Send the colors that are requested. For Ship Support, that means, no neon, no pastels, no lavender, and definitely no PINK! (This applies to slippers, socks, and hats as well, by the way.) Ship Support seeks "guy colors" for afghan squares: earth tones (colors of fall) bright colors (like the crayons we loved as kids), red, white, and blue (like the U.S. flag), and burgundy (maroon), navy, and hunter green. Squares in pale blue and pink ill not work!

5b) If there are no color restrictions, and you have a wild and funky yarn you want to use, please make more than one so that it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb in the finished blanket! (These are my personal squares for a blankie for Native American Support foster care program. I had enough of the "candy" variegated to make 3 squares like this, or one all of the vari. See what I chose to do?

6) Make sure that your binding (or fastening) off is firm and that your ends are woven in neatly. (One of the squares I edged last night had FOUR ends to be woven in! And a knot!)

7) Please wash your squares before sending them if they don't look and smell spotless. It would be helpful if you use an unscented detergent and dryer sheets (if you use them). The combined scents of several detergents and dryer sheets is a bit overwhelming!

8) If you have pets, please use adhesive tape to remove pet hair from your squares, or pick the hairs out one by one. At least one joiner (me) has a cat that is perfectly capable of making this afghan look "homey" all by herself. And for the record, I will be picking Sparky-hair off the finished afghan one hair at a time before I mail it.

9) Plan your squares. If you mix colors, make sure they look good together, and that the squares themselves look good. I have 3 squares that are as follows: 16 rows red, 8 rows white/ 10 rows red, 17 rows white/ 12 rows red, 7 rows white, 7 rows navy. What could have been with some planning? One red square, one white square, and one square that had a stripe of red on each end flanking the white and navy stripes.

10) Knitters, please avoid all-garter stitch (knit every row). It's way too stretchy when combined with other squares. And avoid stockinette stitch (knit the front, purl the back) and reverse stockinette (just like stockinette, only reversed), too. Those squares are really thin and limp, and they curl. For Ship Support, we've been told that the guys DON'T LIKE LACE. So we avoid stitches with yarn overs (lacy).

11) Crocheters, for Ship Support avoid granny squares for the same reason knitters should avoid yarn overs. The guys have told us THEY DON'T LIKE THEM.

We all need to be reminded constantly that Ship Support* is NOT a Charity Effort. These are not homeless guys who would freeze to death without our afghans. This is a way for us to say "thanks" to the men and women who volunteer their time and their lives in support of our defense. No matter your feelings on the war, they are young people (and some not so young) who deserve our support and our best efforts. It is, after all, ABOUT THEM, not us.

Knitters, consider dragging out your stitch dictionary (or google "knit
stitch patterns" or some similar phrase) to make interesting textured
squares. Beginners might like to try stitches like bamboo, seed, rice,
and basketweave. More exprienced knitters might want to do some simple
cables or other fancy stitches. Spread your wings! Experiment! A 7"
square is so small that if you have to start over, it's not as tragic
as, say, ripping an XXL sweater back!

Crocheters, try squares of single or half-double (or double or treble)
crochet and variations. I am a neophyte crocheter, so I am really
talking through my hat here. I will fully admit to being intrigued by
pictures of 1X1 Raised Double Crochet Rib! I'd love to see it in real
life in an afghan square!

Note: Personally, I hold the same standards in crafting for homeless people. They are people first and deserve respect. Someone once said something about "the least of my people."

*Truthfully, the same could be said about efforts like Warming Grace (cotton 'ghans for kids in cancer care) and Project Linus. Those kids need the comfort that a blankie brings. They are not "charity cases." And neither are our service people!


thank you Ann! My last "group" afghan project through my knitting guild required 12-inch squares. I got two squares that were more than 15 inches on a side. We're doing another one. I've made it clear that squares that are too big or too small will just be ripped out and re-knit. We'll see if it works. And thank you, too, for the reminder to use the materials etc that have been asked for. I spend half my life (it seems some days) explaining why knitter X and knitter Y can't do what they think would be a better idea. . .

i did an afghan for a friend who disscovered "boob rocks." it amazed me how much people couldn't even get yarn wieghts right. i had asked for sockweight to light worsted, and got everything from just barely above lacew eight to some polar weight stuff! some of the squares didn't even have right angles!

and the funny part? when i clicked to read your blog, i was working on a 7" square for a POC afghan! you'll be happy to know that 1) it's redheart 2)it's basketweave, and 3) it's 7"x7"

as for "granny" squares, there are several different definitions. my definition of a granny square is one that is worked in the round, increasing in each corner. the country button square, minus the button. that is the crocheted square i do wehn i want to churn out massive #'s of squares.

it's hip to be square!
Very well said, and I can just imagine how badly it needed to be said! I just hope the people who need to read this, will.
Unfortunately, I think the only ones that will understand what you are saying are those that know how to follow instructions.

I'm coordinating a charity knit along and no matter how many times I reiterate the rules, someone invariable ignores it all and does what they want.

People just don't listen...
Would you believe that when the Harlot was at WEBS last spring they actually gave the attendees a set of needles and yarn to knit a square for Warm Up America while we waiting and she spoke? Nice gesture, huh?

Oh! The yarn? Cashmerino! These people (yuppies if ever I met any) need to get over themselves.

(going anonymous aka I shop there occasionally)
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