Looking for your next knitting or crocheting project? Let's face it, after you have been crafting for a few years, you've already covered everyone you know in handmade hats, scarves and blankets. But there are lots of folks around the country who would love one of your knitted creations.
Fortunately, there are a number of organizations that have emerged to connect generous yarn crafters with people and animals in need of warmth, comfort and care. So grab your needles and pick out your next project from the list below.
1. Project Linus & 2. Binky Patrol
Twenty years ago, Karen Loucks read about a courageous 3-year-old who depended on her trusty security blanket to help her get through chemotherapy. Louck realized she could help other children get through cancer treatment, so she started to supply her local health care facility, Rocky Mountain Children's Cancer Center in Denver, with homemade security blankets. Louck's personal crusade eventually became Project Linus, a nationwide nonprofit that collects homemade blankets for children and distributes them to hospitals, shelters and aid organizations. Blankets donated to Project Linus can be sewn, quilted, hand-woven, knitted or crocheted, but they must be new, clean and free of smoke or pet hair. Find a local chapter of Project Linus at the website.
The Binky Patrol has a similar mission, to provide handmade security blankets to children in need. The group distributes blankets to children suffering from HIV, drug abuse, child abuse or chronic and terminal illnesses. Blankets can range in size from 2-foot squares that can be used to comfort preemies to those large enough to cover a twin bed. Find out how you can get involved at the Binky Patrol website.
3. Knitted Knockers
When Barbara Demorest had a mastectomy to treat her breast cancer, a friend at her church knitted a handmade prosthetic that she could use until her tender scars healed. Demorest founded Knitted Knockers as a means to recruit knitters to make more of these super soft prosthetics and distribute them to women in need. You can find a local chapter that distributes the knockers in your area, or you can mail the final product back to the Knitted Knocker headquarters and they will get them to a woman who needs them. Find the knocker pattern and all the info you need to get involved at the website.
4. Warm Up America
Evie Rosen of Wisconsin had been knitting handmade afghans for homeless shelters when she came upon an idea that would help others get involved. Rather than asking yarn crafters to knit an entire blanket, she could ask them to knit a square that could be pieced together with others to make a final, finished blanket. In 1991, she founded Warm Up America, a nonprofit that collects hand knitted or crocheted squares measuring 7 inches by 9 inches, and then pieces them together to make warm, handmade blankets for those in homeless shelters and hospital nurseries. It's perfect for knitters and crocheters that want to help but may not have the time to make a complete blanket. Find out where to mail your square at the Warm Up America site.
5. Mother Bear Project
When Amy Berman, a suburban mom and advertising sales rep in Minnetonka, Minnesota, read about the effects that South Africa's AIDS epidemic was having on its children — both those who contracted the disease at birth and those who were orphaned when their parents died from the disease — she was desperate for a way to help. That's when she remembered the bears that her mother had knitted for her children.
Berman's mother had used a pattern that was used by women in World War II-era England to make dolls of comfort for children who were being sent away to safer countries. With her mother's help, she learned to knit the bear and then soon began recruiting other knitters to do the same. More than 10 years later, Berman's Mother Bear Project has given more than 100,000 bears to children affected by AIDS and HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. Find out how you can get involved at the project website.
6. Knots of Love
Several years ago, Christine Fabiani of Costa Mesa, California, was asked by a cancer-stricken friend if Fabiani would crochet a hat that she could wear when she lost her hair after chemo. Fabiani realized that there were many more cancer patients who could benefit from a handmade hat, so she founded Knots of Love, an organization that also provides cancer patients with handmade hats.
7. Red Scarf Project
When children in foster care turn 18, they officially "age out" of the system. They are often left with few resources or contacts to help them get on with their lives. That's where the Red Scarf Project comes in. The project is part of the nonprofit Foster Care to Success, an organization that supports children after they have aged out of foster care by offering resource and emergency funds. Every year from September to December, volunteers at the Red Scarf Project collect handmade red scarves that they distribute to these foster kids on Valentine's Day. It's a sweet way to let former foster kids know that they're not forgotten. Find out more at the project website.
8. The Snuggles Project
Rae French learned to knit when she was 9 years old, often making little blankets that she called snuggles for her cat Fuzzy. Fast-forward a few decades and French found herself trying to find a way to help the plethora of homeless cats and overburdened animal shelters in her area. That's when she remembered her snuggles. French founded the Snuggles Project as part of her Hugs for Homeless Animals Foundation in an effort to connect yarn crafters with animal shelters that needed comforting blankets for their animals. Find out how you can knit or crochet a snuggle for a homeless animal at the Snuggles Project website.