Monday, 10 March 2014
Over the past several months a number of my friends and readers have flipped me links to stories about a call for hand-knitted sweaters for penguins who'd come into contact with a recent oil spill. The story also began cropping up in the Facebook newsfeed for this blog's Facebook page. I meant to look into the story further and then write about the matter, but never got around to it.
It turns out that my procrastination paid off (as procrastination sometimes does), because as it happens wildlife rescue workers don't use sweaters on oil-soaked penguins. Sweaters, even the cutest of them, would press the oil against the bird's skin, impair the evaporation of the aromatics emitted by the oil, and needlessly distress the wild animal. Rescue efforts instead rely on warm baths and heat lamps to clean, dry, and warm the birds. The pictures of the penguins in sweaters you've seen are posed photo ops. Oh, and there hasn't been a recent large oil spill.
The penguin sweaters sent by helpful knitters from around the world are actually being used as outfits for the toy stuffed penguins sold by the Phillip Island Penguin Foundation's gift shop, with the proceeds being used to fund their wildlife aid operations. The whole "penguins in sweaters" knitting drive story actually dates back to 2000 and has been through a few incarnations. Blogger Mike Dickison has the whole story on his site, Great Flightless Birds, and he winds up his article by offering tips on how organizers should manage a call for knitwear donations and make sure it doesn't wind up getting wildly out of hand as the "sweaters for penguins" drive has each of the three times it has arisen.
I am very relieved not to have played a part in disseminating false information about the penguin sweater matter either here or on Facebook. The first I posted about it was last Friday, when I shared Mike Dickison's post and an informative cartoon about the story on this blog's Facebook page. And I hope that if I had written about the penguin sweater story I would have researched it properly and found out the actual facts of the matter. The whole fiasco has led me to think about knitting for charity in general, and I'd like to set out some advice on how knitters can do so effectively.
First of all, I'd encourage any knitter who wishes to knit for charity to give the items he or she makes to local organizations. Unless you live somewhere extremely remote such as, say, Antarctica, there are sure to be a number of charities in your own community that will welcome your knitwear donations. Depending on what causes appeal to you, and what kind of items you want to make, you can knit for:
- Neonatal Intensive Care Units or Special Care Nurseries in your local hospital. Preemies require very tiny items that aren't all that easily found in stores.
- Christmas toy drives.
- Organizations created to help children in need. Toys, clothes, and blankies will all be welcome.
- First responders such as fire fighters, police and EMTs sometimes accept donations of small knitted dolls and toys to give to children to comfort and distract them from the stress and pain they are experiencing.
- Cancer treatment centres often take donations of knitted caps, which are given to patients undergoing chemo who have lost their hair.
- Knitting circles that make prosthetics for breast cancer survivors. Women who have had mastectomies sometimes much prefer a custom-knitted prosthetic rather than a very expensive, heavy, and ugly commercially made prosthetic.
- Homeless shelters. They usually have an endless need for hats, mittens, scarves, sweaters, and socks in winter.
- Women's shelters. They can use a variety of knitwear to help outfit the women and children who seek refuge with them.
- Group efforts to collect knitted squares to be assembled into blankets which are then sent to hospices, shelters, or anywhere there is need.
- Animal shelters and rescue operations are often happy to receive bird nests, blankets, toys, and other items for the animals in their care.
When you find an organization in your area that you wish to knit for, check their website or contact them to find out what their needs actually are. Some organizations may not be willing to take the knitted items at all, some may have more than enough such items coming in at present, and some may have specific requirements for any knitted items they receive, and you want to make sure you have reliable, up-to-date information about their needs and requirements before you donate. Learn from the mistake made by the members of a Women's Institute in Devonshire, who spent a year crafting a knitted village for sick children, only to find out that no children's hospital or hospice would take it because it couldn't be sterilized. The miniature village was eventually sent to a South African orphanage, but still... ooops.
You may wish to join an existing charitable knitting circle in your area that will give you information about what to knit and be responsible for passing the items along to the organization that will use them. Lion Brand actually has a special interface on their site that interested U.S. knitters and crocheters can use to search for an existing knitting charity in their location or even register their own new knitting charity if they wish.
If you wish to donate to an international organization, or even an organization that is farther away than you can conveniently get to, I'd urge you to do due diligence on the organization to make sure it's legitimate — and then to send a cheque. I know there's much more emotional satisfaction and a feeling of connection to be derived from hand knitting items to be given as is to those far away, but if you really want to help others, keep in mind that in most cases aid organizations can do far more good with whatever amount it cost you to ship your knitted item hundreds or thousands of miles than they can with the knitted item itself. Shipping handmade donations internationally isn't a cost-efficient way to help others. If you were a foreign aid worker, what would you rather receive in the mail: a hat and mittens to help keep a child warm, or the monetary equivalent that could be spent on medical supplies which could save three children's lives?
The one exception I can think of to this "knit locally, send money globally" rule is the D.O.V.E. Fund Bandage Brigade, which collects knitted leprosy bandages to take to countries where leprosy is still a problem. In that particular case, there is a specific need for the handmade bandages because they breathe better than commercially made bandages, and can be sterilized for re-use as commercially made bandages cannot be. So yes, in that particular instance, go ahead and knit the bandages and ship them.
If you feel you must answer some far off call for specific knitted items, do exercise some caution. The organization you are knitting for should have a web site of its own where they can manage the donations coming in. There should be contact information on this web site, and details about what items are needed, and where to send them. There should be updates on how many items they've had come in, on how they're using them, and how many items they still need. The Knitting for Nutrition project, that took place in February 2012 in Burkina Faso, Africa, did exactly this, got the 1076 pairs of baby booties they wanted for their project, and then announced that they weren't accepting any more booties for the time being. If an organization hasn't set up a simple, free blog to manage the knitwear donations they are receiving, it probably isn't sufficiently organized to receive the donations, and the whole call for knitwear may be a hoax, a misunderstanding, or outdated. The workers of this organization may in fact be buried under bales of knitted items that have been shipped to them from knitters all over the world, that are way in excess of what they can ever possibly use, and that they perhaps never even asked for.
In general, before you knit for others, do take the time to make sure your work is needed and welcome before you so generously and kindly donate the items you worked so hard on. Hand knitted items are a terrible thing to waste, especially when there is sure to be someone out there who is very much in need of them.
Friday, 7 March 2014
Knit Simple has released the preview of their Spring 2014 issue. Let's have a look at it, shall we?
A mesh shrug. This is one of those patterns I have to give a qualified approval, because on the right person and with the right outfit, this could work. It sits well and has a certain minimalist style. And hey, if you finish it and don't like it on yourself, you can always use it as a tensor bandage.
I rather like this little jacket. It has good lines and looks like a handy item to have for cool spring and summer evenings.
Not a bad little short-sleeved cardi for wearing over pretty summer dresses.
This isn't a bad cowl, though I think I'd be making it for autumnal or winter wear.
Don't care for this top. It's the sleeves, which are bound to get all bunchy under the arms when they're not held up as this model's are. Sleeves should not be large enough to house both the arm and a medium-sized pet.
Clean-lined and simple little tee.
This shawl is quite eye-catching for something so simple. I like the way the two shades have been used here.
I can't understand why anyone would want to wear half gloves in the spring or summer. And I'm not even going to recommend that they be knitted for the next cold season, because this a pretty undistinguished collection of fingerless gloves. They run the gamut from too utilitarian to looking like they were made from old afghans to looking like they came from Michael Jackson's boudoir, although in the latter case at least the editors took the trouble to find complete pairs. The blue cabled pair at center left is probably the best of the lot.
Gorgeous lace shawl.
This is a lovely and interesting shawl.
This one might look fine if it were put back on the couch. Shawls should not look like afghans.
Shawls should also not look like Christmas tree skirts.
This is a cute and rather stylish little shrug that would work over a lot of casual summer outfits.
The headband is kind of cute but I'm not thrilled with the fingerless gloves. Sticking bows on a lacklustre pattern doesn't turn it into a good or interesting design.
This is okay. Using a more interesting colour scheme would help. Not everything little girls wear has to be pink.
This is kind of cute, but again it's more my idea of winter wear.
Knit Simple likes to do these scarves with pocket on the ends and I've never understood why.
These cushions are supposed to look like bows. They don't look like bows. They look like they're wearing girdles and can't breathe.
What did I say above about putting bows randomly on lacklustre patterns?
More headbands. Knitted bows aren't a bad idea as hair accessories for little girls. You could also attach them to hair clips.
I see Knit Simple beat me to the "knitted bows attached to hair clips idea". I wouldn't use them this particular way — these look a little silly — but the idea has potential.
This afghan is rather pretty. The honeycomb shaped squares are something different.
Very much like this blanket, which is striking and graphic.
I don't care for this one, but I think it's because of the colour scheme, which strikes me as unpleasant. The design is actually very good.
Love the varying ripples in this one.
I've been seeing a number of puzzle-themed afghans and baby blankets lately. This isn't the best of the lot, but it's certainly workable.
Very effective and well-balanced use of stripes and blocks and solids.
Not crazy about this one. The colourway isn't very attractive and the diagonal stripe effect just seems to distort the afghan's shape visually.
Love this one, with its subtle gradient effect.
Wednesday, 5 March 2014
"After we finish this shoot, we're going to go do a Donna Summers video. We're so excited about getting that gig because we even have a line in it. It's 'Hey Mister!'"
Sometimes Vern liked to play the "one of these things does not belong" game with his clothes and assorted props.
Jim and Clare had always felt they could carry off any juvenile picture knit they liked as long as they looked disturbingly and preternaturally happy while they did so.
Fifteen years later, Brucie would spend a total of 27.5 billable psychotherapy hours working through the issues that one Picture Day had created.
Maebelle was just so thrilled that she'd managed to figure out a way to make her knitting projects do some of her housework for her.
"You know what they say about having to kiss a lot of frogs before one turns into a prince? Well, I am making a hip and ironic reference to that bit of dating wisdom because as you can see from my man chain and tufts of chest hair, I am a prince already! Come on, ladies, who's going to be first in line? No shoving!"
"I got so tired of men staring at my breasts all day so I designed an outfit to take the emphasis off them and make them look me in the eye. No, the eyes up here in my face — what other eye could you mean?"
Oriole dealt with the tension of being a woman who had to choose between two lovers by designing a sweater. Her friend Anna, who was a psychology major, commented that the sweater seemed a little Freudian, but Oriole ignored her and went shopping for a cute hat to go with the sweater. Anna saw penises and pubic hair in everything.
Sport a big keyboard, you're the piano man
Wear the keyboard in red tonight
Yes we're all in the mood for a matching scarf
And you've got the fringes alright
Malcolm and Mallory were totally thrilled with the hat and tie sets they'd made while on their first magic mushroom trip, though as their friends warned them, the 'shrooms hadn't totally worn off yet.
Monday, 3 March 2014
I love jewelry and I love knitting and I always perk up whenever I see any examples of knitted jewelry — but I usually wind up deflating again. While knitting techniques can be used to make jewelry, yarn generally does not make satisfactory jewelry. Yarn jewelry usually looks clunky and kitschy, like something made by a child during arts and crafts hour at day camp. And though, consequently, children can get away with wearing it, adults who want really wearable, elegant jewelry are best to knit it out of the kind of materials jewelry designers actually use. I've previously done posts on the wonderful and inspiring knitted jewelry of designer Niiro and also on how to use the technique of Viking knitting to make jewelry. Today I offer a selection of knitted jewelry patterns. Some of them are even among those few yarn-crafted jewelry pieces that actually work.
The necklace above is the Scallop-Edge Beaded Necklace, by Carol F. Metzger. It is knitted from yarn but looks polished enough for casual wear at least. This pattern appears in 101 Designer One-Skein Wonders: A world of possibilities inspired by just one skein.
Here's another yarn necklace I like, the Cheerio design, by Laura Nelkin, although I would substitute pretty beads for those rings, which look a little too utilitarian. This pattern is available for $5.00(USD).
Cuffs are the one category of jewelry where the use of yarn is pretty easy to pull off. But I'd still go with lots of beading to dress them up. This is the Stereo Cuff, by Laura Nelkin. This pattern is available for $5.00(USD).
I went through 20 pages of patterns tagged with "jewelry" on Ravelry in order to research this post, and this was the only knitted ring I found that I liked. This is the Bella Knit Reversible Ring, by Andi Javori. This pattern is available for $4.50(USD).
Bracelets knitted from wire and beads are probably the most common form of knitted jewelry. This pretty Bauble design, by Rosemary (Romi) Hill, is a Knitty pattern and therefore available for free.
The Emelia Lace Choker, by Jennifer Tallapaneni, is one of those pieces that are on the borderline between jewelry and accessory. It could definitely add a bit of old-school elegance to a modern outfit for those women who have enough neck to carry this look off. Alas, I regret to say I am not one of those women, being a Swan only in name. This pattern is available for $3.50(USD).
Another pretty cuff. This is the Emerald Beaded Bracelet, by Heather Murray. This pattern is available as a free Ravelry download.
Like rings, earrings seem to be a difficult item to knit successfully. Most of those I saw on Ravelry just didn't look polished enough. These are the Bijouterie earrings, by Rosemary (Romi) Hill. This is a Knitty pattern.
Dee's Bracelet, by Hannah Banana, is a variant on the wire and bead bracelet, with lots of pearls. This pattern is available for $0.99(CDN).
The Wire Knitted Bracelets, by AkashasCreations. This pattern is available for $2.00(USD). I read on another knitted wire and bead bracelet page that this style of bracelet is easy to make: just thread the beads on before you begin and knit stockinette stitch for as wide and as long as you want the finished item to be. Don’t use anything under 30 gauge wire, as it’s far too hard on the fingers. To finish the bracelet, you can do a UK single crochet around the edge and fashion a clasp from a bead and more crocheting.
This Sweet Nothing choker, by Rosemary (Romi) Hill, is a pretty little confection, with chiffon ribbon woven through the mesh and used to tie the choker in place. This pattern is available for free.
I'm not thrilled with this particular conception, but this I-Cord Necklace, by Elaine Phillips, employs a brilliantly creative technique: one strings beads in and on I-cord to make the necklace. This pattern is available for free.
Here's another interesting technique: braiding knitted beaded strips together to get a necklace that looks miles away from any braided lanyard. This is the Knitted Braids Necklace, by Marika Cowan. This pattern is available for $5.00(USD).
Romi's Gems, by Rosemary (Romi) Hill, is another piece that's on the borderline between jewelry and wearing apparel: it's both necklace and scarf, and it's elegant, distinctive, and eye-catching, yet totally wearable. This design appears in 10 Secrets of the LaidBack Knitters: A Guide to Holistic Knitting, Yarn, and Life.