The Story: Channah

Apr 14, 2010
Israel 3 In an effort to recognize I am not alone in my desire to cover the world in hand-knits, I’m sharing the stories of fellow crafters who are using their knitting for good.

I’ve found that as I engage other knitters in conversation, it is rare that a knitter isn’t actively engaged in making the space around them kinder, more peaceful and happier using their yarn and needles. By sharing our stories, we are building a narrative of world-change.

Today I'm lucky to share with you Channah's story. She started Hats For Israeli Soldiers, and now collects over 2,000 hats a year!

1. Let us know a bit more about you, and about Hats For Israeli Soldiers! I was born in New York, grew up in Montreal and have been living in Israel for almost 24 years. I work freelance in communications, writing and producing brochures, websites and promotional videos. My husband and I have four fabulous children.

My mom taught me to knit when I was a teenager. I made a scarf and a vest (this was back in the late 70's, early 80's) and then didn't do any more knitting until about 5 years ago.

How I got started again: My mother was visiting and knitting some sweet baby hats in bright cottons (Takhi Cotton Classic, I believe). My teenage daughter was intrigued, so the next time she came to visit, my mom brought along more of the cotton yarn, a simple hat pattern (stockinette with rolled brim) and some needles and taught her how to knit. Well, my daughter started working on a hat, got the idea and put it aside. I saw it lying abandoned on the couch and picked it up out of curiousity. As soon as I started knitting again, I was hooked. I'd simply forgotten how satisfying it is.

Soon, of course, I was shopping for yarns and looking up patterns online. After a while, I wondered who else in my area knits (it's not so common here) and thought it'd be nice to sometimes exchange information and tips with others. I started a little local knit/crochet group called "Chicks with Sticks" and we began meeting once every few weeks at people's homes. It soon became a regular thing and now we meet at a local cafe once every 2 weeks.

Anyway, at one of those meetings in someone's home, one of the woman said, "How about we do some charity knitting?" We discussed the idea and someone suggested that we do something for soldiers. My son was serving as a paratrooper in the Israeli army at that time, so I was despatched to find out what they might need. I spoke to him and his commanders and we came up with the idea of knitted hats. I made a sample, sent it in for approval (to make sure it'd conform with their dress code) and we were off.
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Our little group made 10 hats for my son's unit, the soldiers were happy and all was well. Then...other soldiers saw the hats and wanted some too. I wasn't sure if we could make enough ourselves so I put out a notice on my local community chat list. That’s when the power of the internet took over. It seems that everyone knows someone who knits. People started forwarding my notice to their relatives, to other community groups, to synagogue groups, schools, old age homes etc. Soon I was getting handknit hats from all over the world. Hundreds of them. I had a label made up to be sewn in all the hats that says “Knit for you with warmth and love” (in Hebrew), got flyers printed with the pattern and partnered up with another organization to help with the distribution.

The first year we gave out 2000 hats, the second year 4000 and this year we’re past the 3000 mark already, and more keep coming in. The soldiers keep asking for them, too. Some of the hats I distribute personally, to the units of soldiers I know who are serving in combat duty, and others are distributed through Barbara Silverman’s organization “A Package from Home” that makes care packages for “lone soldiers” – soldiers who don’t have family in Israel.

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You can read more about it, see pix of the soldiers in our handknit hats and download the pattern at Hats for Israeli Soldiers.

I’m a little embarrassed that I haven’t updated for a long time, but I do have some new photos that should be going up soon, and – this is really new – a crochet pattern for those who prefer crocheting to knitting.

2. Is there a quote, piece of advice, or nugget of truth you’ve carried with you on your knitting journey? I don’t know if I’m consistently changing anything, but my knitting is pleasurable for me and hopefully also for others – from family members that I gift with my handiwork to the thousands of soldiers doing guard duty in the middle of the night who I hope have been warmed up a bit, both body and soul.
Thinking about it a bit more, I think the Chicks with Sticks group I established and run has also been a friendly, supportive entity for many people in my community. We’re a disparate group, of different ages and backgrounds, who enjoy each other’s company and encourage each other, both in crafting and in general.
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I don’t see myself as on a knitting journey that’s separate from my general life journey. I’ve been an Orthodox Jew all my life, and this is a community in which helping others and doing charitable work is just a regular, almost taken-for-granted, part of life…so the whole Hats for Soldiers thing just grew naturally within that context.

My own knitting for myself and family or friends is just something pleasurable that I do – a creative outlet that results in a satisfyingly concrete product.

3. What would be your knitting dream? My advice to other knitters would be – enjoy! My dream would be to have lots and lots of time to play around with my yarn and needles, without guilt about all the other things I could/should be doing with my time J

4. What are your favorite materials to work with? Wool! There’s nothing like it. I like sheep, too.

5. Who are some of your knitting influencers? I guess I’d have to say my mom, who taught me to knit and continues to craft (also crochet and needlepoint) to this day.

6. What is the legacy you want to leave? Uh oh, that’s a biggie. The most I can say is that the qualities that most appeal to me in others, that I aspire to live by too, are: Be modest and seek out ways to be kind to those around you.

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