Apr 22, 2013

A Crafty Weekend And Donating Hats

This past weekend a few friends and family gathered for a crafting retreat. We all met at one person’s house and proceeded to eat terrible food, drink too much coffee and wine (not together … mostly) and craft until we could barely see straight. A mix of scrapbookers, card makers, knitters and crocheters, we all took over a table and got to work.

Craft retreats can be a blast if you go into it with the right expectations, and this weekend I think we all nailed it. We each brought too many supplies (which always happens) but because there were a few pre-planned ideas on what to make and do, we all walked away with more accomplished than we’d planned.

One such planned project was for the knitters and crocheters. A few lovely ladies brought along parts of their yarn stash, and then I printed a few free hat patterns from Ravelry that a knitter or crocheter of any skill level would enjoy. People picked the colors they liked and the hat size they wanted to make, and we all got busy!

By providing just enough structure to the weekend without requiring folks to make or finish a specific thing, something amazing happened. Four women (about ½ of the crafters in attendance) managed to make 25 hats for Nebraska Hats For Hope Initiative in just three days!

An experienced crocheter, a few with moderate skills and one relative newbie to the game picked the yarn they loved and worked from patterns they felt comfortable with. Skill sets were challenged just enough to make the process of making the hats a fun activity, and everyone ended up with piles of amazing hats in front of them!

I don’t expect any of these women will turn into full-time hat makers. They may not pick up another hat pattern for months, possibly not until our next crafty gathering. But these 25 hats will make a huge difference in the lives of some folks around Omaha. In the past I’d shied away from the idea of a knit-in or a weekend crafting party where folks made hats, but after this weekend I walked away with enough knowledge to know planning an event like this isn’t as difficult as I’d thought.

You need a few basic things to host a successful craft-in for charity –

1. A venue. People need comfy chairs, a bit of desk or table space in front of them for their patterns, a drink, and whatever else they need to feel comfy and productive. You’ll need enough outlets for folks who want to have computers open, and a place for folks to pee when necessary. If it’s an overnight event, folks will need someplace to sleep.

2. More than enough yarn. I love that people didn’t have to use their own yarn stashes for these charity hats, and I loved that people brought bins of yarn for public use. Having a variety of yarn in different weights and colors means folks won’t have to craft a hat they don’t enjoy making from start to finish, and providing at least some of that yarn means new crafters won’t feel the pressure to bring anything along.

 3. Plenty of patterns. We ended up printing out half a dozen free patterns, with copies for each person who wanted one, over the course of the weekend. This meant quick access to patterns featuring a variety of stitch patterns and skill levels. Because I’m on Ravelry all the time anyhow I just jumped on as the ladies asked for a new pattern, but when I do this again I’ll bring a bunch already printed up. That’s it!

If you want your craft event to be more formal you may want other things as well but having space, yarn and patterns is all you really need to get folks excited to make hats for a day or a weekend, and end up with a pile of hats to give away! While I may look at knitting hats and giving them away like a full time job, you don’t have to do the same in order to effectively change the world. In fact, simply committing to knitting one hat, or hats for one day or weekend, can do just as much good as my lofty (and a bit crazy) goals.

Apr 18, 2013

Favorite Pattern: Waffle Hat

I think if I had to pick just one pattern I haven't written to knit from for the rest of my life, it would be the Waffle Hat pattern from Gail Bable. This simple and free hat pattern looks great fitted or slouchy, in every color I've knit thus far -- including solids and stripes -- and works for men or women.
I've gifted this hat to several family members and friends, and know when I'm knitting for charity this pattern will always fit the bill.

I love to share the Waffle Hat pattern with newer hat knitters; just knits and purls along with decreases means knitters with any skill level can make this hat with very little difficulty. I've made the Waffle Hat with worsted weight yarn and DK weight yarn, thanks to the waffle stitch pattern producing a super stretchy hat that will fit any adult using either yarn weight.

This month, as I work through my superwash wool stash for Hats For Sailors, the Waffle Hat will definitely be my go-to. I've already whipped through these three hats this week and have big plans for some purple and grey hats in the near future! As you think about using some of your stash for charity hats, the Waffle Hat is a great first pattern to use -- it works well with any fiber type as well as any color, and you know you're donating a hat that will be well-loved and worn often!

Apr 15, 2013

April KAL Week Two: Finding A Charity

While it may not seem like it, the easy part to making 10,000 hats for 10,000 people is the actual knitting of the hats. I simply have to head to my yarn stash and make a hat using one of the patterns I find myself knitting on repeat.

In contrast, it can feel overwhelming to find a person to give the finished hat to. Is it smarter to give the hat to a friend or family member, or should I donate the hat? If I choose to donate the hat, which charity is the best fit for the hat I've just made? Should I donate the hat locally, or is there a charity somewhere else in the world that could benefit more?

These questions used to run through my mind with each hat I made. Over the last few years, however, I've figured out which types of hats are best donated to which types of charities, and have narrowed down the number of charities I regularly donate to so that I can best distribute the hats I make. I've been donating hats for years, though.

You may not find it so easy, and you maybe have even decided against donating because you didn't know where you should send your hat (or mittens or scarf). And there's nothing I like less than someone who wants to give something away feeling thwarted by what feels so simple to me! With that in mind, I'm going to start sharing charities. First the charities that I donate to (both regularly and on occasion), and then charities that are new to me, but that would love to take your handmade items and give them to folks in need!

First up later this week will be Hats For Sailors, as I'm still deep into knitting hats for this amazing organization for the remainder of the month. But look for some fun groups based all over the world - hopefully, no matter where you are in the world you'll find a place to donate close to you!

Apr 11, 2013

three hats to make on two needles

Next weekend I'm attending a local craft retreat, hosted by my mother-in-law. Once a year or so, a group of us gets together at her home to scrapbook, knit, crochet, drink too much coffee (and other stuff!) and generally have a wonderful time! This year, a few of the yarn-loving ladies have agreed to make hats with me for Nebraska Hats For Hope Initiative! One of our projects involves collecting hats for a local elementary school, so I've been looking for some simple hats that can be made for kiddos. Enter hats that can be made on two needles! You don't need to know how to knit in the round for any of these patterns, making them perfect for new knitters -- and all the hats end up looking gorgeous, so you'll want to make them again and again!

The Aviatrix Hat is one of my favorites for little babies, but this free Ravelry downloadable pattern is sized to fit up through pre-school!

Bev's Really Basic Stretchy Hat is the perfect hat for anyone in need of a warm noggin! The pattern is designed for babies through large-headed men, and can be knit up using just about any yarn weight you've got on-hand.This pattern has been made thousands of times for folks around the world, and with good reason -- it's the perfect pattern for folks looking to make a super stretchy ribbed hat without needing to knit in the round!

Vortex by Lee Meredith is a slightly more difficult pattern, although it is still knit flat and then seamed together. This pattern calls for short rows and more increasing and decreasing, but it's the perfect way to learn some new skills (including working with two skeins of yarn) for those up to the challenge!

I can't wait to share these patterns with my friends and family next weekend, and get some hats added to the bin for the local elementary school! What are some of your favorite hats that can be knit flat?

Apr 8, 2013

April KAL Week One: Sourcing Superwash Wool

This week was super light in the challenge department - only one hat off the needles, and another 1/2 done. I've been playing catch-up with a few other projects, but I know I need to get my needles moving a bit faster if I want to keep my goal! It happened like this last month, though. The first week or two were slow and then the hats practically fell off the needles while I simply sat back and watched it happen. Granted, this month I'm not using super bulky yarn, but I hope when by the end of the month I'll feel the same sorts of sentiments.

 On this hat, and the rest of the hats I make with my green bulky superwash stash, I'm using a modified version of my Tyson Hat. I re-worked it for larger needles, and you can download the bulky version here for free. Last week I got a comment asking where I get my yarn for this project. The green yarn I'm using was gifted to me in a trade - some of my yarn for some of hers. However, most of the superwash wool I get, I get from my local yarn shop.

When I say LYS (local yarn shop) I don't mean Michael's or Hobby Lobby. I mean the independently-owned shop, open odd hours and filled with the most gorgeous (and sometimes expensive!) yarns around! Our city used to have several but we're down to just the one now - and lucky for me it was always my favorite!

If you're looking for superwash wool, your best bet is to google "local yarn store" and your city. If something comes up, call them first and ask if they carry 100% superwash wool in the yarn thickness you like best. For me this means worsted weight, but for some folks it can mean sock weight yarn!

The shop should have what you're looking for, and when you head in, someone there will show you all your options! If you don't have a LYS (which happens, especially in smaller towns) you can order superwash wool yarn online! My favorite shop is WEBS, whose address is yarn.com. Perfection! Just search for "100% superwash wool" in their search bar, and oogle at all the pretty stuff that comes up!

Apr 7, 2013

April KAL: Hats for Sailors

(image from Hats For Sailors blog)

Welcome to April, and this month's charity KAL! This month, rather than focus on busting through a specific yarn weight or using a specific pattern like I did last month, I'm focusing on making as many hats as I can for the amazing group Hats For Sailors.

Hats for Sailors provides hats for sailors in the US Navy, one ship at a time. I joined the Ravelry group last fall and sent a few hats to their fall 2012 campaign. When photos of the sailors receiving their hats became available, I was blown away and humbled to see a few of my hats in the mix!

I love that this group came about thanks to the vision of a sailor named Shanti, who wanted to provide a handmade hat for every sailor on the ship she was about to command. The group has grown from that ship to someday providing hats for every sailor on every deployed US Naval ship!

Now that their next deadline is just a few months away (May 27, 2013) I'm looking at my superwash wool stash and thinking about the hats it all needs to become. To help them reach their goal, this month is all about knitting up my superwash wool for Hats For Sailors! The hats must be made out of superwash so they are fire resistant but can still be easily cared for. Thankfully I've accumulated enough to make close to a dozen hats this month!

I'd love for you to join me in this KAL! I'll be using a few different patterns, and next week I'll share a round-up of patterns that are free, work up fast, and are perfect for this charity! I'll be mailing all my hats out at the end of the month - for the mailing address contact the charity directly at HatsforSailors@gmail.com.