Monday, May 26, 2014

Wool-Aid: A Charity Organization After My Own Heart

I've finally found a knitting charity group that fits with my knitting. Not that I haven't tried before.

Back in 2008 when I was just getting back into knitting, I worked with a group on Ravelry ("Caps for a Cure") that knit hats for various cancer centers. (They changed the center every two months.) It was fun to make hats in various patterns, but I found it very constricting to work with cottons and acrylics. They claimed they were less irritating to bald (and possibly sensitive) heads. Maybe that is true. But they just aren't as warm and they are materials that bring me no pleasure to work with. So after six hats in four months, I never made another one.

I am at times tempted to knit items for other charities that I hear about (homeless shelters, womens shelters, people too poor to have hats and mittens), but again they seem to all want acrylic or easy wash items and I just can't make myself work with that stuff. (Besides feeling icky, it literally makes my hands hurt.) I also have conflicted feelings about how much the stuff is really needed.

But through the Unravelers Group on Ravelry, I found out about Wool-Aid. Here's a description from their website:
Wool-Aid has helped warm children around the world—from North America to Asia. Warm woolen clothing handcrafted by Wool-Aid volunteers has been sent to children in northern Canada, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, and Tibet. 
What do these places have in common?
Simply put, all of these places are extremely cold, and the people who live there have extraordinary needs and very limited resources. In most of these countries, the temperatures are often -40° in the winter—or even colder! Afghanistan, Mongolia, Tibet, Kazakhstan, and northern Canada all have very harsh winters, and the populations often suffer from a lack of food, shelter, medical care, and clothing. And it is the children who suffer the most. 
Children are our focus, and providing them with knitted and crocheted wool clothing that can keep them warm, even in the most severe living conditions, is one thing that we can do. We can't do everything, but we can do something—and this is what Wool-Aid has chosen. 
We know that our handcrafted clothing will have a long lifespan in these communities. A wool sweater, for example, will not only keep one child warm for a winter season, but over a period of many years, it will keep several children warm.
They donate items made from wool (insisting on at least 80% wool content) because it keeps you warm (even when wet) and wears well. They also want items designed for warmth--hats that can be pulled low or that cover the ears, sweaters and vest that fully cover the chest and aren't open in front, and everything must be knit denser than normal to make a really firm, warm fabric.

Anyway, a lot of what the group stands for and how they handle things really resonated with me. Plus the group on Ravelry is really friendly and chatty.

Their goals this year are to donate: 2,700 hats, 1,300 pairs of socks, 800 sweaters, 600 vests, 400 pairs of mittens, and 100 blankets. That is a lot of woolens!!

Since I have made myself enough socks that I could give away four pair to my mom and sisters last Christmas but I am still enjoying knitting socks, I thought I could knit socks for Wool-Aid instead. I plan on making these socks my take-along project for any knitting I do away from the house (which is when I did most of my own sock knitting). Socks are portable and I think most of them will be basic ribs socks so I won't need to follow a pattern. (Ribbed socks are handy because they will fit a wider range of sizes.)

Last week I finished my first pair:
I had some who-knows-from-where worsted grey wool, but I didn't think it would be quite enough. So I supplemented it with some leftover Lorna's Laces for the contrasting toes, heels and cuffs.

I started at the toes, like I usually do
continuing though the short row heel (and a short gusset that only added three stitches on each side).
And ended with the contrasting cuffs.
I finished the 2x2 rib with a couple rows of 1x1 before doing a Kitchener bind off. I used every inch of the grey wool. (It looks a bit blue in the pictures, but it's grey.)

They just fit my feet so they will do for an older/bigger kid.
The guidelines state that the leg of the socks needs to match the length of the foot. These ones fulfill the requirement, but they seemed a bit short when I wore them. I think stretching out around the leg takes away from the length. Just to be sure, I'll make the leg a little longer on the next pair.

Speaking of the next pair, I have already started them:
The grey wool is from a Abercrombie and Fitch sweater. (Troy wore it for a number of years. Then it got some sizeable holes from moth damage. I mended the holes, but sometime this winter, we noticed there were more holes and gave up on the sweater. When I looked again at the mending, I can't believe I thought it was good enough for Troy to wear.)

When I tried to take it apart for raveling, I learned it had the dreaded cut seams. The side seams and sleeve seams were ok, but where the sleeves were sewn onto the body was cut--on both the sleeves and the front and back. This meant I couldn't harvest anything but what was below the armholes. The good news is that most of the moth damage was above the armholes. That worked out nicely.

I thought it would do well for socks. I'm holding it double to get the worsted weight they want, and I thought I would add a strand of sock yarn for strength. I picked up some Premier Yarns Serenity Sock which is half wool, but also 25% nylon and 25% rayon. Yes, it's blue. I thought it was grey when I bought it, ok? Never mind how bad the store lights are, apparently I couldn't read the text that said "Navy." Anyway, I think it gives a nice marled look:
You can see that I've decided to do them two at a time. I didn't feel like taking notes or worrying about getting them to match. In this case I'm pulling yarn from the inside and outside of each skein. I spend more time than usual straightening out the yarn, but it's a good break for my hands. (Even in wool, knitting worsted+ weight in a dense gauge is hard on my hands.) They wouldn't tangle quite so much if the sock yarn would keep its shape. As soon as I took off the label, it transformed into a little poufball (reminds me of a Tribble from Star Trek). But oh well, I am managing fine even it it means I can't knit a row or two while standing in a line.

This type of project seems to be just what I need right now. I don't seem to have the room in my brain for a big project, but this will at least keep me knitting. And it may make a nice dent in the worsted weight and raveled yarns that I have in the stash! We'll see what kind of creative combinations I can come up with. (Even if both socks so far have been grey...)

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