Members of the Pioneer Valley Weavers guild recently completed a service project in which they handwove approximately 20 blankets for foster children and babies in the Western Massachusetts area. Five of the blankets were woven right here at WEBS America’s Yarn Store and donated, along with over 15 other handwoven, knit and crocheted blankets to local non-profit organization HelpOurKids.
WEBS founder Barbara Elkins began thinking about the project in October of last year and was pleased by the response from the guild and other customers at WEBS. “There will be some children that will have something of their own and that’s very special. When they are transferred to a new foster home, a (security) blanket can be very helpful,” Elkins said.
HelpOurKids director Noryn A. Resnick said that the focus of foster care is “too often limited to just being sure that they (foster children) have a place to sleep and enough food. The part that is missing is athletic equipment to enable them to join a team, music lessons, a prom dress a backpack etc.” Resnick decided to start HelpOurKids to help foster children fill in specific needs beyond the basics “that make every child feel like a ‘normal’ part of society.”
Guild weaver Pat Kapitzky of Florence, MA chose to participate in the project because she knows how special blankets can be for growing children. She said, “the idea is that the foster children, when they move around, they have a pretty blanket they can take with them. I remember my blankie and my two children’s blankies, and they were very important”. They offered “comfort and security,” she said.
Elkins volunteered use of an 8-shaft Schacht loom on display in the store and all of the necessary materials for the project. During the months of January and February weavers came into the store during normal shopping hours to work on their blankets. Elkins said, “I volunteered the loom and materials because it is in line with WEBS’ values of contributing where we can. We have a history of donating yarn to causes we support.” Guild members who could not weave on the loom at WEBS chose to weave individual blankets at home.
The loom was dressed with enough warp to weave up to five blankets. Elkins and store manager Leslie Ann Bestor set up a striped 3/2 cotton warp with accenting stripes of variegated cotton flake. All blankets needed to be machine washable and soft and have a finished size of 30 inches wide by about 36 inches long. Elkins kept the terms and conditions of the project pretty loose allowing weavers to showcase their creativity and skill.
News of the project spread throughout the various social groups at WEBS, inspiring knitters and crocheters who were not connected to the guild to also participate. Local customers in the weekly drop-in groups at WEBS donated another dozen knit and crocheted blankets.
Elkins said that the blanket project is one of several socially worthwhile projects the guild takes on every year. “I can’t say the effort was a surprise; it wasn’t. We have a history of concern for others and an interest in spreading the word about weaving. I was very pleased by the amount of participation. Weavers are a generous bunch of people,” she said.
According to Elkins, over WEBS’ 40 year history they have always tried to contribute where they could. In the years since Kathy and Steve took over those efforts have only grown exponentially. “It is important that we give back because we have received such overwhelming support from our customers,” she said.
Blankets were hand delivered to HelpOurKids Director Noryn A. Resnick at the once a month guild meeting held at WEBS. When she addressed the group, she thanked them for their donated time and effort. According to Resnick, foster children are often moved around without any belongings. “This will stay with them when they go to their emergency foster home and then when they go into their permanent foster home. It provides them stability and some consistency.”
Acknowledging the amount of care and skill woven into these blankets, Resnick said that these pieces will likely be heirlooms for the children as they grow older. “I said to Barbara, you’re not only warming their bodies, but you’re warming their minds because they’re afraid, they’re frightened and just to have something that’s their own and that they can depend on and cuddle, it’s just really wonderful. Someday when they’re in a stable environment, they’ll get to keep this and know that someone really did care about them and that they were not forgotten.”
For more information about HelpOurKids or to make a donation, please visit http://www.helpourkidsinc.org/.