Perhaps it’s got to the point where you’ve run out of surface to display your creations? Maybe your family’s hinting that your home is not the relaxing, minimalist sanctuary they aspire to – more something like this? Or can you no longer find appreciative recipients for your efforts?
Well then, it’s time to consider using your skills to benefit a project or charity. Many out there will genuinely welcome handmade contributions. First though, it’s really important to research exactly what’s needed. Here’s a good article explaining why.
Often what’s wanted is specific so don’t assume and waste everybody’s resources. Instead have a chat with the project organiser. Last year one of our knitting group was travelling on an overseas scout project and it was categorically beanie hats for school boys that had been requested. I knitted these, learning to use circular and cable needles at the same time. Win win!
Community projects may use crafters to raise awareness, or fundraise, or both. Each year I use leftovers from my woolly stash to contribute to the venture at the Yarndale festival. Last year’s was A Kaleidoscope of Butterflies. Patterns were suggested but you could be as creative as you liked within the guidelines.
One butterfly from every contributor was displayed at Yarndale to raise awareness for a local dementia charity. Afterwards they were moved to a permanent display at the charity’s centre. The rest could be photographed or taken home by Yarndale visitors in exchange for a donation. What a great idea!
In previous years I’ve made flowers for memories, little woolly sheep, mandalas and creative hearts. It’s been great fun trying to spot mine amongst the vast display! Keep a look out on the Yarndale Facebook page or website for news of this year’s project.
Earlier this year, I came across the award-winning Octopus for a Preemie charity. This is an opportunity to crochet or knit sea creatures (octopals) for premature babies. The tentacles resemble umbilical cords, providing comfort to tiny babies in incubators and distracting them from pulling at medical equipment.
Consider your motivation if you want to be involved. If you really want to help vulnerable babies, you must be prepared to follow a very strict criteria. Any octopals you complete will be thoroughly checked by a co-ordinator. They must never be made when anyone in your household is poorly and kept well away from pets or smokers. Nothing should compromise the chances of the babies’ survival.
If this still sounds good, the next step is join the charity’s Facebook group. There’s a lot of information to navigate but you’ll soon find links to patterns, video tutorials and everything you need. You can post questions and find the co-ordinator for your local hospital there. There are groups you can join if you’d like to meet up in person or join a make-a-long. It’s all very supportive and positive but best of all are the posts of babies with their octopals who have made it home and are thriving.
You can find a list of approved materials there too. This is really important! Even varying shades of yarn have been separately tested as some shrink, or are not as dyefast as others. I used Scheepjes Catona and Sunkissed from the list, all shades of which are approved (though the charity requests no red or black). Each 50g ball easily made three octopals using a 2mm-2.5mm hook.
Remembering to use the yarn under (rather than the usual over) technique took a while. You know you’ve made the stitch correctly when you see distinctive little crosses. Going down a hook size or two does make it a little more hard going on the hands, however this is essential to create a dense fabric without holes. Amigurumi fans will be used to this though.
Filling must be washable at 60C. I bought this approved filling. You can see that it’s a ball type, less likely to clump.
When you’re stuffing your octopal, it needs to be pretty firm like a new tennis ball. Or, if you prefer, there are patterns for ‘flattie’ octopals that don’t need stuffing at all.
You can make jellyfish if you prefer. Octopals’ heads must be made in a single shade but the jellies have a little frill that you can make in a contrasting colour before you start the tentacles.
Tentacles were fun to make! The jellies’ tentacles curl at the ends and the octos’ curl all the way up. The important thing with both though is checking the length. This is one of the chief reasons for a fail. For octos I found a starting chain of 50 worked out just right for me.
Features are optional but if you choose to add them you will need a dyefast thread. Normal DMC or Anchor stranded cotton is just fine. The ends of the thread must be really well secured. There are video tutorials of how to do this and for every stage of the process should you need it.
The only adornments allowed are a little bow or bow tie which must be really securely fastened.
Your co-ordinator will be delighted to receive your completed creations for checking. Don’t be disheartened if your first attempts don’t make the grade. Your little one may still have a valuable role as a companion for an angel baby. You will improve your skills as you persevere and sooner or later create a sweet little swimmer that become a very important first friend .
The Octo Project started out in Denmark in 2013 and has since spread throughout the world so chances are there’s a scheme where you live. (Please note that criteria for acceptable donations may vary by country). This video (Kleenex alert!) gives a good idea of why you might get involved.