Wednesday, 20 June 2012

More Than Good Intentions

Every winter there's a project to get people to knit blankets for charity from synthetic novelty yarn. Every winter I'm more annoyed enraged by this. (I ranted at some innocent, well-meaning folk this week, and I apologise.)

Making blankets for babies is a good thing: it's pretty damn cold out there, and lots of babies don't have enough keeping them warm. Making these blankets from some laughable, flammable, plastic, flammable, novelty, flammable yarn - that's not okay. 

Why would you give people things you wouldn't use yourself? 

Why not make these blankets from wool?

Wool is biodegradable. It's something we do actually produce locally, though we seem to export most of it. It's warmer than acrylic yarns. It doesn't burn easily and doesn't melt if it does burn - I stress this because blankets for charity are presumably intended for use in homes where candles and paraffin lamps and stoves are not uncommon. It soaks up water - the blanket gets wet, not the baby inside it, at least up to a point. It doesn't attract dirt, unlike acrylic yarn - hello, miracle microfibre cloths that magically clean with only water (what a stroke of rebranding genius that was....) It doesn't need to be washed as often as acrylic, which is convenient in cold, rainy winters. It wears very, very well. And it's a pleasure to knit with. 

A ball of wool costs perhaps R40, and there are cheaper. That's quite a lot of squares. That's also a cup of coffee and - oh, you know how much R40 is!

I can afford to buy one ball of wool every few weeks. I can knit a square when I'm between other projects. Or when I'm stuck and need daylight and a clear head to figure out why the stitch count on a current project isn't coming out right. Or if I want to try out a beautiful stitch pattern I saw on Pinterest, like Herringbone (knitting) or Crocodile (crochet). In fact, I'll break out my stitch dictionaries and work through them. I'll carry some wool and needles in my bag for the next time I have to wait 45 minutes for a train. I'll give Fair Isle a go. I'll buy some lovely local wool. I'll buy colours I love but would never wear. I'll make a cardboard loom and learn to weave some patterns. Or finally unpack that Milnerton market knitting machine and learn how to use it. 

And when there are enough squares, I'll sew them together and donate the blanket. And start another one. No deadline, no target. 

If you'd like to join in, please do. If you don't feel up to making a whole blanket, why not make a square or two (10cm x 10cm or 20cm x 20cm) from wool and I'll add them into one of my blankets? And if you've always wanted to learn to knit or crochet, here's a purpose for your practice squares. (Hint: it's easier to learn to knit with nice wool than with creepy bobbly stuff.)

Let's give blankets that will last, and provide real protection. If we're going to give, let's give properly.


tjou-tjou said...

} ons is in. i'm going to mail your link to every one in sweet&soutie. i love making granny squares and i'm going to try a few different patterns... xh

Ronel van Heerden said...

Yes I agree and I'll knit some squares as soon as I get my hands on non-plastic yarns ;)This is my pledge!

Cristina said...

Youre absolutly rigth. I would like to make some squares and sent it to there a dead line. Do you prefer crochet or knitting ones?

Jesse said...

Yay! Crochet, knitting, weaving, tunisian crochet, macrame... anything you can do with wool that will make a 10 or 20cm square will be fine. Have fun!

Jane McLellan said...

I like what you say. But in this part of the country, wool is very difficult to find. I congratulated myself on finding yarn that was 20% wool - it certainly wasn't fire retardant, as my husband promptly demonstrated by getting a big hole in the front of his jersey when a spark from an angle grinder fell on it. I bought 80% wool sock wool last year at R80 a ball, though my neighbour bought me the same brand in Randburg last week at less than R20 a ball! So don't be too critical of those using synthetic fibres.

Jesse said...

I'm definitely not against synthetic fibres - I knit with them all the time, and there are some lovely ones. And for clothing for people allergic to wool, they're great. But I'm keen to make blankets that will last and last, and I know wool does that very well.
Have you looked at for wool? I've heard they ship very quickly, and the prices seem to be pretty much the same as my local wool shops.

heleen said...

hear, hear!! I totally agree with you Jesse! I'll try to knit you some squares as well.

Heloise said...

I do like this - I'm very bad at meeting deadlines on top of work, and an open ended "brief" is a wonderful way to experiment. I'm going to get my daughter involved too - she's going to love it.(this is a good way for a non-knitter to learn)

Jane McLellan said...

Thanks for the link, I'll explore it.

Lindi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Billy said...

I couldn't agree more with you, Jesse. When I was in Argentina, I heard the same argument all the time, that wool was scratchy and that it wasn't machine washable. Two years later everybody discovered merino (produced locally but exported) and superwash wool (a bit more difficult to find).

For those allergic to wool, there's alpaca, angora, or even cotton, linen and hemp. There's bamboo; there are vegetable based man made fibers.

All this to say: there are options to acrylic, which basically is a bit of petroleum oil against a baby's skin.

Marion said...

Just a small comment to tell that I just found your blog by chance, that I love it and that it will be helpfull to me. Thanks and congratulations.

The Shopping Sherpa said...

Our local cheapo store has wool for $2.99 a ball. Yes, real wool. And 50 g balls at that.

I'm tempted to offer to send anyone who wants to knit square in the real stuff, who doesn't have access to it a ball or two if they ask. But I fear I'd be inundated.

Perhaps I should just link to Bendigo again?