Monday, August 26, 2013

The golden, golden rule

Last week my sister, cousin, and I were in the Amherst, Massachusetts area, poking around the Montague Book Mill--"Books you don't need, in a place you can't find" is its motto--having a lovely day when I came across one of those archetypal bulletin boards that flourish wherever green people congregate.

Perhaps in perusing the above photo, your eyes were seized by the same notice that captured me.

This reminded me that even though it's still August, it's not too early to think about knitting something to contribute to a cold-weather clothing drive, whether it's a hat, scarf, a pair of mittens--or even a kid's sweater, if you're feeling ambitious. I recently researched the history of charitable knitting for an article that's just out in the latest Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts 2013.  It's called "Knitting for Charity:  The Perennial Spirit of Giving" (pages 18-23) and as I worked on the piece,  I found it fascinating to learn that knitting for charity in this country dates to the Revolution (at least the records do--possibly the practice began even earlier). When you knit an item for charitable distribution, you join a great historical continuum of American knitters. That's kind of wonderful, IMHO. 

The article provides a list of databases for charitable knitting, some of which are keyed to specific regions of this country and even the world. If you'd like to donate a knitted something to a charity closer to your home than the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts, or that serves a specific population (like veterans, Afghani children, preemies), you can find the perfect match for you on one of these. Anyway, this is a shameless plug: the article is a fount of information, and if you buy the magazine you get a bunch of excellent patterns and articles as well!

The Montague Book Mill is a great place to visit. There's a good café downstairs, and you can have a meal or just a drink--including alcohol--at a table overlooking the Sawmill River. And you can buy a lot of books you don't need, but will thoroughly enjoy.

Charitable knitting works two ways. One is to knit something and give it away. Another is to raise money, through selling knitting or through a related endeavor, like the sale of a pattern or a book of patterns, then donate that money to a cause. Such is the mission of a book (published by Sixth and Spring) that's been around since last year: Knit Red: Stitching for Women's Heart Health, by Laura Zander of the Jimmy Beans Wool company.

You can buy it from Jimmy Beans Wool, or on Amazon, and a portion of the proceeds will go to heart disease research. For the price of the book you get thirty lovely, classic patterns by major designers like Deborah Newton, Nora Gaughan, Ysolda Teague, Nicky Epstein, Tanis Gray, and Martin Storey (to name only a few), plus interesting insights from the designers' biographies, a bunch of heart-healthy recipes, and some practical medical advice. Perhaps if you're too busy to knit something for charity, you'd consider buying the book instead, and contribute to funding medical research?

Well, here's the moral of my disquisition.  Whatever you want to do is fine--just don't knit there, do something! Regardless of the intended recipient, it's the charitable act itself that sends lots of good energy into the world.


  1. This is timely as I think how to round up people to knit for a benefit/silent auction for burn victims. Haven't gotten my latest Interweave yet but looking forward to reading your article. I always like reading about how this art/craft we love so much has its origins firmly planted in the past, and love reading about the various traditions.

  2. I was just reading the Interweave issue where you wrote on NYC knitting shops. I was drawn to it since I just took my own little tour of Manhattan knitting shops a couple of weeks ago and hit most of these shops. Just curious, why did you leave out Purl Soho and Lion Brand? They are two of my favorites. Lion Brand has such great windows and upscale yarn one can't find at local stores that sell their brand. I got some neat merino superwash cashmere for half off. Their store is like a candy shop with imaginative and colorful displays. It's located near Union Square. And PurlSoho! I love their displays full of ideas. Loopy Mango is just fun to walk in and browse. String was fun to see from the street, but it felt awkward inside - like you had to be a regular to feel at ease. That was too bad as I follow them online and love their ideas.I was really excited to find it, but it didn't live up to my expectations. Seaport yarn was a bizarre place - I wish I had read your blog before I went to know what to look for. The people were friendly, but the shop is too cramped. I had walked down from Soho and barely found the place. When I walked in I didn't see the elevator so walked up the 4 flights of stairs only to come to a locked door. I knocked and knocked. Finally I looked it up on my smart phone and called from outside the door. The gentleman buzzed me in wondering how I missed the elevator.
    I had a ball finding the yarn shops and taking a look. I wish this issue with your review had come out before my trip as it would have been most helpful to know what each shop specialized in. Loved your article - thanks!

    1. Thanks so much for reading my article. If you email me at my I'll reply in more detail. The short answer is that the idea of the article was "hidden" yarn shops, and that's why I didn't cover places that had direct street access, such as Purl Soho.