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Using Yarn To Improve the World

Knitting scarves for the Special Olympics and raising funds for the Rwanda Knits project.

by Staff Report, (September 1, 2008)

(Note: Here are two more examples of how our industry's products can be used to make the world a better place.)

Coats & Clark and the Special Olympics.

Athletes at the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Idaho will be wrapped in a little handmade love, courtesy of knitters and crocheters across the country. Coats & Clark is sponsoring a project to provide each athlete with a scarf created in white and delft blue Red Heart® Super Saver® yarns, which match the colors of the Specials Olympics logo.

The 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games will be held in Idaho Feb. 7-13, and will include approximately 3,000 athletes from 100+ countries and 6,000 volunteers. Competition will take place in Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Figure Skating, Floor Hockey, Snowboarding, Snowshoeing, and Speed Skating. Competition and other activities will take place in communities and venues throughout Idaho.

The Scarf Project is now in its second year. In 2007, the program began when World Winter Games organizers decided to give handcrafted scarves to athletes to wear to the Opening Ceremony. They asked local crafters to participate, and the headquarters office received 1,000+ scarves.

David Gish, an athlete from Idaho who participated in the 2008 Special Olympics Invitational Winter Games, says his scarf is a symbolic memento from the event. "Getting the scarves was very special for the athletes because we knew someone spent their time to make them especially for us. It is something I will have forever and I know they will be just as special to the athletes next year at the World Winter Games."

This year, the World Winter Games aims to give a scarf to each athlete, the delegates supporting them, and various dignitaries who will be visiting the Games – and they need help to achieve that goal. Enter Coats & Clark.

"We’re thrilled to sponsor this project. Our goal is to see 5,000 scarves donated. It’s a big number, but I’m confident we can do it," says Vicki Blizzard, media relations and special promotions director for Coats & Clark. "Knitters and crocheters are dedicated and generous and are known for rising to this type of challenge."

Coats & Clark is promoting this project through its web site, electronic newsletters, various consumer shows, and magazines so knitters and crocheters around the country – and the world – can send scarves to be given to the athletes. No special patterns or skills are required to create a scarf. Beginners, schools, Scout troops, and other local groups are actively encouraged to participate. "Our only rule," says Blizzard, "is that the scarves are knitted or crocheted by hand using delft blue and white Super Saver yarn, because these colors were chosen specifically by the World Winter Games organizers."

Scarves can be simple or complex; last year’s scarves ran the gamut from basic stitches to complicated colorwork and stitch patterns. Personal notes from knitters and crocheters who want to send their best wishes to the athletes are encouraged, and should be firmly attached to the scarves, which will be handed out before the Opening Ceremony.

Completed scarves must arrive by Jan. 15 and should be sent to 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games Scarf Project, 3150 W. Main St. Boise, Idaho 83702.

A free pattern is available at the Coats & Clark site, www.coatsandclark.com.

Online Auction To Benefit the Rwanda Knits Project.

Be the first to bid on one-of-a-kind knitted and crocheted garments from top designers, national knit and crochet magazines, publishers, and yarn companies, beginning Mon., Oct 20 at 11:00 pm (eastern time) and ending Oct. 26 at 11:00 pm.

Your winning bid on fabulous knit and crochet designs can help 1,200 Rwandan women buy yarn, learn business skills, create 100% sustainable knitting businesses, and raise their incomes from less than $1 per day.

Bid on more than 40 garments donated from the personal collections of designers such as Nicky Epstein, Doris Chan, and Deborah Newton; magazines such as Vogue Knitting, Knit Simple, Knit 1, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, Creative Knitting, Crochet, Knit 'n Style, Cast On; book publishers such as Leisure Arts; and the and yarn companies such as Berroco, Classic Elite, Tahki Stacy Charles and Caron International. 

These companies and designers are supporting the Rwanda Knits Project (www.rwandaknits.org) that is assisting more than 1,500 women in 17 groups in Rwanda to make a living through knitting and crochet. What a perfect Christmas, Channuka, Kwanza or holiday season gift!

The Rwanda Knits Project.

Founded in 2003, the Rwanda Knits project provides hand-operated, American-made knitting machines, plus technical and business training to very poor, often illiterate, Rwandan women who do not have a reliable source of income.

Before Rwanda Knits, most of these women and their knitting teachers lived in refugee camps or were subsistence farmers making less than $1 per day. They had to depend on help from family or friends. Many were widowed by the genocide or the AIDS epidemic, and/or are HIV positive. Most have children to support. Now they are able to earn a better living through knitting.

From May through mid-August of this year, volunteer cooperative specialist Laura Hanson lived in Rwanda and worked tirelessly helping the knitters learn how to run income-producing knitting cooperatives successfully. Rwanda Knits has the backing of the Rwanda Cooperative Task Force. Within six months, the first three nationally registered primary cooperatives will form a secondary or "union" cooperative. Once formed, it will be the first all-women-owned artisan secondary cooperative in the country, which will also allow the women to import yarn duty-free, since Rwanda does not make yarn.

But for the remaining 26 cooperatives to join, they also require training, per a Rwandan cooperative law. The proceeds from this auction will finance the remaining training workshops and assure that Laura can return to Rwanda in January to resume her work. The knitters, the teachers, and the project manager are relying on you! And 50% of the purchase price of each item is tax deductible.

(Note: To read previous entries in Kate's Collage, click on the titles in the right-hand column.)



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