A reader recently asked how I became involved in making kids’ blankets for charity. Well, about five years ago I began crocheting afghans purely for the enjoyment I get from the creative process. I had no definite plans for most of them; some are still up in the attic! (Eventually I’ll share them all with you.) After finishing several, I realized I had to find a suitable outlet soon or our little house would overflow with blankets!
Choosing a Pattern
In the meantime, I looked for just the right charity afghan pattern. If I was going to crochet blankets to fill an ongoing need, I wanted to find balance between process and production. The pattern needed to be interesting and versatile enough that I wouldn’t mind making it over and over, yet simple enough to be fast! Wanting to stretch my charity yarn stash as far as possible, I also wanted to make afghans that weren’t very heavy, yet weren’t “holey” either, afghans that could look great even if they were made from miscellaneous scrap yarns. I thought the best afghan for my charity project might be a ripple; I remembered my mother crocheting several ripples, some planned and some scrap. I made a double-crochet wave ripple. I don’t know what pattern I actually used, but the it looks very similar to the Neat Ripple. Lucy shares the pattern in a very helpful photo tutorial on her blog, Attic24. I’ve had that first wave ripple stowed away for about five years! I suppose it seemed special to me back then, because it was the only wave ripple I had ever made. Now I know I can always make another one, so I’m letting it go.
A Wavy Ripple
10,560 stitches – 517,484 stitches donated so far this year
I visited several nearby libraries and searched through so many crochet books, looking for other easy afghan patterns! The librarian at one noticed the pile of crochet books I’d gathered and asked what I was going to make. After I explained my plans, she asked if I would like some yarn. Would I like some yarn?!? She told me she’d been waiting for someone just like me to come along! She had been given an elderly relative’s stash and, although she’d already given some yarn to the girl scouts who meet in her library, she said there was still some left. She seemed excited that it would become blankets for kids! “Some” was eight boxes! Eight boxes of Free Yarn!! Each box once held ten reams of copy paper, to give you an idea of the size, but was now stuffed with acrylic yarn. (Some of those old cardboard boxes are still holding charity yarn stash in my attic. Let’s hope all that original yarn is long gone, but who knows?)
I suddenly felt like I needed to get serious about crocheting charity blankets. After all, I had promised that was how I would use this generous gift of yarn! I soon tried another double-crochet ripple pattern, the Rustic Ripple, which I found in one of my old books, “Aghans for All Seasons” (Book One). It was faster for me to crochet than the wavy ripple, because the points of increase and decrease are much easier to see. (It also used a bit less yarn, because of all those little holes. lol.) It looked more like my mom’s ripples too, although I think hers were single-crocheted. I only made two adjustments in the pattern the first time I used it. I crocheted with one strand of yarn, instead of two, and so switched to a smaller H (5 mm) crochet hook, instead of a size P (12 mm) hook. This made the afghan about 32″ wide. (I’ve since adjusted the pattern further, adding one more stitch in every up or downhill run of stitches, so it now makes a 35″ wide blanket.) I started making charity blankets in earnest, even though I still didn’t know where they were going.
Choosing a Charity
I knew about the nationwide organization Project Linus, but the closest chapter was about an hour’s drive away, which wasn’t particularly convenient. Besides, I wanted to feel like I was making a difference right here in my immediate neighborhood. With ripples beginning to pile around me, I was relieved to read in the newspaper about a woman who was gathering hand-crocheted blankets for pediatric cancer patients. It turned out this wasn’t the perfect project for my stash. Because children undergoing treatment are immune-compromised, I had to use new yarn and keep Emily, the cat princess, from inspecting any of the blankets. Also, the organization was based (it no longer exists) in a little town several miles away, far off my beaten track and I needed to make an appointment for each blanket delivery. Still, I donated ripples, made only with fresh new yarns, for over two years. They were generous about sharing yarn donations with me and I used many 40 and 50% off coupons at the big box craft stores.
An Even Better Match
One day I came across an information sheet at a nearby library (not the “yarn” library, a different one) about a group that was collecting handmade blankets to comfort children entering foster care. There was a convenient drop-off box right in the library’s entrance. Better yet, it was just eight miles from my house and on my regular errand route! Good, good, and good. Finally I could feel free to use my entire charity yarn stash! Whether it was vintage, recycled from sweaters, purchased at tag sales or thrift stores, or was a donation, as long as the yarn was clean, machine-washable and new-looking, it could go into ripples. Later I learned about other projects this group sponsors. They send goodie boxes to local troops who serve overseas, host monthly bingo parties at a nursing home, give school supplies and backpacks to foster children, sponsor a child in Haiti so she can attend school, etc., etc. I get monthly emails and continually update my mental shopping list of the items they’re collecting. All charities offer opportunities to help people, but this charity is special to me. It gives me reason to create items that fill local needs and give children joy. I also have fun finding bargain treasures to fill the group’s other requests. It is a great match!
I hope my ripple story encourages you to find a local charity project that you can get excited about supporting. Remember, whether you give just one item or become a long-term supporter, your donation makes a big difference to the person on the receiving end! (followed by the sound of me stumbling off my soap box).