Wednesday, January 27, 2010

By Hand

A comment a while ago made by NMF7 on Israel Chronicles sent me back into the past. She was asking how someone finds a way to be able to contribute to others ( she was speaking in reference to those who have been declared "heroes" because of their service to others).

A huge number of postings ago when cooking and machine sewing were being discussed as "virtues" that a married woman should have, I made the comment that the decorative needle crafts was what I liked doing. I also referenced knitting and crocheting.

Back when I was young and still spending summers up in the Catskills, we women spent a lot of time in knitting and crocheting. Granted, some of that handwork was for our own families. Why would I buy scarves and mittens and hats for my kids when I could make them myself? Why would I spend huge sums on handmade baby blankets and afghans when I could custom make them myself? But in addition to the items that we made for our personal families, we also knitted and crocheted items to be given to charity and chesed programs. There are plenty of new mothers who come from the poverty sector--yes, I'm referring to frum mothers here--and whose babies are not going home to 13th or 18th Avenue European layettes. There are plenty of newborns for whom a warm and snuggly baby blanket would be an incredible gift. And yes, there are plenty of seniors stuck in nursing facilities and long care facilities who would welcome those blankets or afghans as well.

Sometimes each of us would make a full blanket on our own. Other times we would work as a cooperative team; each of us would knit or crochet a square and then the squares would be joined to form a blanket. We for sure could finish one blanket a day, and sometimes we'd even finish two. One summer we made 67 blankets. Some went to the Ohel Children's Home for their younger placements. The others went to a Bikur Cholim that presented them to the new mothers. A different summer we knitted and crocheted 236 pairs of warm socks, some adult size, some children's sizes. The adult sizes were sent to the IDF. The children's socks and booties again went to organizations that dealt with needy mothers and children.

One really memorable winter I spent once a week visiting in a local nursing home. But it wasn't just talking we were doing. Many of the senior women themselves knew how to knit and crochet. We brought the yarn and needles and the company and we companionably knitted and crocheted together. Some of the items made went to the seniors themselves. A special few others were made for donating to charity. One of the yeshivas held an auction and pride of place at the auction was the full size afghan that had been made by our visiting knitting circle. It was absolutely stunning, and the money that the afghan brought in funded a whole lot of extras that the yeshiva couldn't afford otherwise.

So, if you aren't sure just what you could do that might make a difference in people's
lives, that would allow you to contribute, even if your time to get out is limited, then consider the things you could produce by hand. Work alone, work with a friend or a few friends, work when you can--the end result is welcome by so many people.

Supplies and patterns are available in a lot of places, but you might find of interest the Lion Brand Yarn site They offer free patterns and suggestions for which types of charities might welcome handmade donations. They also offer a discount on yarn that is purchased for charitable purposes. To access the patterns you have to register, but registration is free.

Plenty of people who donate money to organizations. Making something by hand for someone else who needs it, to use and enjoy, allows you to donate a little bit of your heart as well.


Anonymous said...

Great post ProfK - real tzedaka involves doing, not just throwing money (helpful though it is!)

Leahle said...

Some great ideas here. And by hand can also mean cooking and baking extra and bringing meals to someone elderly or not well. Lots easier to just write a check but the personal involvement gives you something no check writing can give you.

Mystery Woman said...

For those of us who don't have a lot of extra money to give, doing something by hand, or giving of our time, is a great alternative.

Malky said...

We were also country people in the 'olden' days and everywhere you looked in our colony women were busy with needles and yarn. Didn't happen so much in the city though. I guess the Catskills air lent something to the process.

Anonymous said...

Having spent a lot of time in nursing homes, the best way to give is to give your time. If you want to knit or crochet with a resident, terrific. But even if its just visiting regularly to take an elderly patient outside or to talk with someone or hold their hand or sing songs, it's better than sitting home knitting. I had a loved one in a nursing home for many years, it was so sad seeing how many residents never ever even got out doors because there was no staff or volunteers to wheel them outside, or to accompany the dementia patients who were still ambulatory.

Knitter of shiny things said...

Great post! (I don't think I knew that you knitted and crocheted.)

There are actually communities online for people who want to get rid of their unwanted yarn.Like this one, for example.

Also, a really great resource for patterns and stuff is Ravelry, which is kinda like Facebook for fiber artists, but it also has this huge, easily searchable database of patterns, many of which are free. Actually, Ravlery also has groups for de-stashing and stuff. You need to register and create an account in order to access the site, but it is totally worth it. At least it is in my opinion.

And there's a group that makes all sorts of handcrafted things for charity, and has a good list of charities to donate to. They are called Homespun Helpers. Blogspot link. Livejournal link.

Those are all the resources I can think of off of the top of my head. Personally I almost exclusively work with real wool and other animal fibers, which are expensive, so links to where I buy yarn are probably not so useful if you want to make lots of items for charity without spending tons of money. Usually if I make something from charity, I'll make it out of yarn that was left over from some other project. That way I still get to work with nice yarn without having to go out and buy more.

nmf #7 said...

Very cool- but I knit very, very, slowly. And I don't crochet. Although, I probably should learn.
Isn't that what sewing circles were originally for- a group of women sewing together, either for themselves or others, and enjoying each others company while doing it?

G6 said...

Another thing to keep in mind is that things produced by hand often develop sentimental value surpassing what was originally intended.

SubWife said...

I agree with Knitter of Shiny Things about the cost of yarn. I knit with both kinds - cheap and not so cheap - and even the cheaper fibers are quite expensive. A good find on sale would almost always be cheaper than anything done by hand. However, for people who enjoy the process of knitting or who appreciate hand made stuff, it could be worth it.

ProfK said...

Knitter and SubWife,

Agree that the texture and feel of the animal yarns are wonderful, but as a rule I won't make up any baby blankets or other baby items in them. I'm one of those who cannot wear natural wools next to her skin--the itching is unbearable. There are lots of others out there with the same problem. Many infants are also sensitive in this way. Just to be safe I only use synthetic yarns for the baby items.

Re the price for yarn, that's why I watch the needlecraft and hobby stores for their sales, and then buy in bulk. At least yarn doesn't go bad if you hold onto it for a few years until you find the right project for it.