January 9th, 2012

Charity Knitting All-Star

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Susan is a familiar face in our store and our weekly drop-in sessions, and she is a graduate of our Expert Knitters Program. You could say she’s an all-around WEBS girl! We have seen her progress on a long-term charity knitting project and have finally gotten some much needed details of this enormous undertaking! Be inspired!! What is your New Year’s resolution?

Here’s what she has to say….

Appalachian Sweater Project

Question: What happens when you combine a large yarn stash with a career retirement and an insightful story about Appalachian children?

Answer: A most unexpected project that took me on a two-year journey.

In 2009, Diane Sawyer of ABC News presented a special entitled A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains. I found this special to be an extraordinary story of Appalachian children and the challenges they face each day. The stories of these children lingered with me for a long time as their poverty is something I cannot imagine. I wondered what I could do to help.

Months before, I retired from a near thirty-year career with a health services organization. The retirement came earlier than planned due to long-term medical conditions and admittedly, I was a bit lost going from a ten-to-twelve hour workday to a non-structured day. My focus was to do what was needed to improve my health, but there was still something missing — I kept thinking about the children of Appalachia and what I could do to help them.

Late one Saturday night, I had an idea. What if I used the large yarn stash I had built to help those children? What if I were to knit sweaters for these children to help keep them warm? I searched the internet for an organization in Appalachia and found many. I focused on an organization that services 30,000 in Appalachia and was established since 1952. I wrote them a note on their website asking if they would accept and distribute 100 hand-knit children’s sweaters. My goal was to send the sweaters in groups of twenty-five over the course of two years. I received a response from Sister Robbie who was excited and grateful for the offer. Thus, a project was born.

I began knitting, accumulating patterns, and was excited to see my yarn stash slowly decrease. The first group of 25 sweaters were sent to Appalachia early in 2010 with another batch in late 2010. June of 2011 rolled around and group three was sent and as of December, 2011, the last group of sweaters is making its way to Kentucky.

What I Learned

This project began as something to help me to look forward to when not feeling well (most of the time) and to assist with the transition into retirement. It ended up being so much more. Here’s a bit of what I learned:

  • Children’s sweaters are a great way to learn new techniques or use new yarn you’ve been meaning to try.
  • Blocking a sweater is when the ‘magic’ begins. Each and every time I was amazed to see a heap of knitted pieces transform into a beautiful sweater.
  • The buttons are critical and make-or-break the look of the sweater. It is important to select and purchase the best possible buttons that you can to finish the garment.
  • Call me crazy if you wish, but the biggest discovery is that I LOVE FINISHING WORK! Yes, it’s one of my most favorite parts of knitting. What a surprise.
  • I began the project with gathering patterns from various sources. Somewhere around sweater #70, an interesting thing occurred. I began designing the sweaters myself! That was not the plan, but an outcome of the process itself.

Fun Facts

A Few Thanks

Thanks to all the folks who not only cheered me on to complete the project, but also those who donated their extra yarn from previous projects. Such a thoughtful gesture is much appreciated.

Some of my fellow Thursday morning drop-in friends donated knitted items for the project. Each time, I was surprised with these lovely items (sweaters, a snuggle sak, and two dolls) and more than happy to include them in the boxes being sent. Thank you.

Thanks to Webs for having an outstanding button selection, an unbeatable yarn selection, and allowing me to share my story.

Final Thought

Charity knitting has been an amazing experience for me at a challenging time in my life. If you have bits of yarn leftover from other projects, combine them to knit up a small sweater and give it to the charity of your choice. You’ll be making someone warm and in return you may have some delightful discoveries of your own.

Susan, The Sweater Lady

Pictures:

(1) Charcoal Grey Cable and Seed Stitch vest made with Cascade 220 Superwash

(2) Light Blue Angora Bolero from page 39 of Vintage Knits for Modern Babies using Valley

Yarns Deerfield

(3) V-Neck Cardigan using Crofter Fair Isle Baby DK and steel blue Charming Raglan Pullover from page 69 of Vintage Knits for Modern Babies made with Encore DK

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  • Joyceetta

    Wow!  I am humbled by Susan’s achievement.  Way to go Susan.  I have been wanting to do some charity knitting for a bit.  I think this will be the year!

  • Kangaroodyer

    So proud of you, Susan! What an accomplishment.

  • Ladyfranny

    what a wonderful gift of knitting, and the best gift is the gift of Giving…. God Bless you

  • FM

    I had the pleasure of watching this project progress and of seeing many of the sweaters.  It was extraordinary!  Each sweater was made to perfection, no detail missed.  Bravo!

  • Knit2Chill

    God bless you for your commitment & generosity. I lived in the Appalachian region for a few years & have seen a little of the poverty.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1362964333 Marcia Cook

    I too was touched by that Diane Sawyer special on the children of Appalachia. So wonderful that you turned your concern into ACTION. I’m wondering if this project is finished or will you continue to knit items for Appalachia? Wonder if you could share a link to the organization? (I have participated since the 1970’s in the Box Project, which originally focused on the deep poverty in the Delta area of MS. They have spread out to other areas now. http://www.boxproject.org) 

  • Elizabeth Durand

    I would like to know the name and address — either physical or email – of the organization in Appalachia so I can add them to my list of people to knit for. Please?

  • Dempanne

    Susan – after you mentioned your blog in the Thursday morning “drop in”, I had to check it out.  Thanks for the detailed explanation of your project; I especially liked your account “What I learned” as well as the impressive list of statistics!  And the photos are terrific!  I have made a few simple sweaters for Guideposts which need to be finished off – you have given me an impetus to do that.

    See you on Thursday!

  • Iknitcotton

    I am SO proud of you!  A hearty cheer for your hard work and tenacity and expert skill.  Most of all, my hat is off to you for being the epitome of kindness and generosity.  You go, girl!  PS I miss you at drop in.    Pam

  • Sammy246

    Thanks, Pam!

  • Sammy246

    I am sure the folks at Guideposts will love your sweaters.  Don’t forget to take pictures of them prior to giving them  away.

  • Sammy246

    Thanks, Elizabeth, for asking about the organization.  They have a great website too!           

     attn Sr. Robbie Pentecost
    Christian Appalachian Project
    4192 North Wilderness Road
    Mt. Vernon, KY  40456

  • Sammy246

    Thanks for asking.  The address is above and here’s the website: 
    http://www.christianapp.org/about/

    There’s no doubt that I will continue to do charity knitting, but right now I am taking a break and making six pair of sox for me!  In the future, I suspect that I will continue to send knitted garments to this charity as well as others that come along. 

  • Sammy246

    When you see the poverty, it makes it more real for those of us who do not experience it.