Thursday, November 30, 2006

Knit Unto Others

Some thoughts about knitting for charity been flipflopping around my brain for a few weeks now. This is my personal take on it, which frankly, will probably sound heartless. I'm not heartless, it rips me apart to see so many people needy and suffering, in all sorts of ways. But I also want to donate the most effective use of my time and money possible - because it helps more people that way.

I find that most organizations could care less if I hand knit something for them. There are exceptions, but truly, if you're freezing, it doesn't much matter if it's lovingly made by hand or churned out by a factory. Pragmatically, it's better for me to just give them money or spend my time with a charity doing something that really requires me to be there, such as handing out food at a soup kitchen. The Oregon Food Bank can buy $8 worth of food for every $1 I donate to them because of bulk purchasing. I give them stuff out my pantry but also a cash donation, because the money is more effective and fewer people go hungry.

So, while I am currently knitting a hat for Dulaan, it's because I have some big thick wool that I'd like to swatch. A hat makes a nice swatch. And I'd like the hat to go to someone who needs a big thick wool hat, because I've already got one. What I'll probably do is hit the after-Christmas sales at REI and buy 10 hats for the cost of yarn to make 3 or 4, and send those to Dulaan or Rabbitch or just donate them locally. This is also why I'll do charity quilting but not knit afghans, because I can quilt a blanket in a much smaller fraction of the time it would take to knit it, and the blanket will probably hold up both better and longer. Donating the money that I would have spent for another new project usually makes the money go farther than me buying the yarn and making the project, because machines make these things faster, better, and less expensively than I do.

That isn't to say that there aren't times when a personal gift of time and love and string is very meaningful. That's why I'm making socks for Audrey. I need to fit in a red scarf somewhere, and I'm doing a square for a little girl.

I'm participating in Knit Unto Others for an entirely personal reason, and that's because it's so easy for me to push the guilt and suffering aside and forget about it during this time of year. Especially when I become overwhelmed with all of the requests for help.

Knit unto Others is more of a personal meditation on my part than a significant contribution to any group. It gives me two weeks of constant reminders of just how much I have to be grateful for. It's such a lovely break from all the accumulation of STUFF that I seem to do and the stress of holiday preparation. I don't mean it in a spirit of self-flagellation or guilt, but as a constant reminder of thankfulness.


Krista M said...

Well said. Everyone feels differently about their charity knitting experience. Frankly, knitting for a swatch is great! It'll fit somebody, and you'll have a better understanding of your yarn and the ways it knits and drapes. Charity knitting isn't all about the giving experience all the time. I push my knitting common sense by knitting basic items without a pattern. This can only help me in the long run and someone gets a hat or mittens out of it.(That's how I knit 3 hats so fast. Maybe it's a mental block, but I knit faster without a pattern)

Carole said...

I'm glad you've found Knit Unto Others to be so satisfying. Thanks for writing a whole post on your thoughts about charity knitting - I really enjoyed reading what you think about this.

zoe said...

Thank you for this very thoughtful post.You are a true "giver"

jenifleur said...

I don't think it's heartless at all. I think you're making significant and heartfelt contributions and I think your careful choices reflect that. I sometimes do wonder why people think that knitting (or quilting, etc) is the answer to *everything* when clearly it costs far more time and money than buying something for someone in need. For some of us, our knitting time is precious in a different way and it doesn't make us less human to buy warm things for cold people at all. Or even to *just* write a check, for that matter.

I most especially agree with your thoughts about the larger charities. An individual like Audrey, for example, is far more likely to appreciate the love that goes into a handknit, whereas others in need would be just as happy (or happier) with mass produced polarfleece. You speak well for many of us.

BigAlice said...

Thanks, all, for the comments.
As much as I enjoy saying whatever I like here, I cringe at the thought of someone feeling hurt because of something I wrote.
I'm glad that I participated in Knit Unto Others.