Tying it up

As a teacher of young children, I often think about the role that children play in our community. I wonder whether they see themselves as a part of it? I ask myself how to promote a genuine sense of belonging and participation.

Our classroom is a community, too. We actively involve children in shaping their environment by delegating them some of our jobs like cleaning the tables or sweeping the floors. Some projects are more exciting like building a playhouse with wood and power tools. Usually, the children are exceptionally respectful and cooperative, partially because of the trust that we have in them.

I applied the same thinking when I approached the after-school Excel program leaders about involving children in stitching up the blanket squares for the Phoenix youth shelter. The elementary school that my daughter attends has already done a project for Phoenix in the past. The leaders were excited, and so were the children. I thought that it would make perfect sense to connect different generations — the senior ladies who knit the squares, the children who would put them together, and the youth that would hopefully benefit from the blankets’ underlying message of coziness and care.

Well… the blankets were stitched and they reflected all the enthusiasm and good intentions of those caring kids.  However, the “blankets” weren’t really blankets in the strict sense of the word. They were more like colourful little rags loosely tied together with the very bright yarn. They were beautiful, and they made my heart warm but I had a very clear understanding that they would not make a real human body warm.

They looked more like… art. So I decided to reflect on the message hidden in those irregular, hole-y creations. The children worked hard to make someone they have never met a little happier, a little more comfortable in trying circumstances. They might have not had the skills to produce a blanket that would survive a wash but I felt that those pieces somehow belonged in the shelter anyway. If they couldn’t warm up the bodies, they still could warm up the hearts.

After selecting a few stitches pieces, I put them on the large sticks and asked the shelter staff for feedback. I explained the work that went into them and added a note.




The shelter staff was most gracious in accepting these works. Not only did they display both pieces at the entrance in the office but also they made a beautiful photo with all the staff members holding those stitched squares. The photo was framed and gifted to the school. In the following weeks, when I picked up my daughter from school, I would see the photo on the wall in the hallway.

Art Thank You

I was amazed how respectful these committed and sensitive adults were towards the children’s work even though it didn’t serve its original purpose. Imagine how empowering it was for children to walk by this photo and be able to say “We did it, together”.

You might ask what happened to the rest of the squares? I had to take them apart, air on my balcony, sort by size, and give them to the local junior high school. Will older children be able to design and put together an actual blanket? As my daily practice shows, the only way of knowing what the children will do is to try and see.

Good evening, dear knitters.

Something mysterious happened to my blog two months ago. An old post from 2012 about knitted teddy bears and comfort dolls for the IWK Health Centre received about 16700 views. Most of the traffic was referred by Facebook but I don’t know who shared it. As a result, many knitters got involved in making knitted and crocheted teddy bears and about 50 new people signed up for the email updates on the blog.

The comments under the post turned into great discussions  — people were teaming up to share yarn, stitch up the knitted bears, and bring them to Halifax from the Annapolis Valley. Soon enough I received an email from the IWK Volunteer Resources manager Kylene Mellor who was thanking the knitters for the outpouring support.

This kindness and generosity of the knitting community is the reason this blog exists. And it is very important for me to make sure that your time, creativity, and yarn are shared with those people who really-really need them. As you will see from the message below, you have met this particular need. Bravo!

The IWK has enough teddy bears at this point, and they would like to ask for the finger puppets instead. I am very grateful for the clear line of communication with the Health Centre and I am eager to share their message with you.

“Good morning IWK Supporters!

I would like to take a moment to thank you so much for your generous donations for our patients and families! When items such as comfort bears, finger puppets and quilts are donated to the Health Centre, there are really no words to express the positive impact these gifts can make to a patient’s visit.

Recently, an old post about our need for comfort bears has resurfaced – and while we can always use comfort bears/dolls, we do not have a current, urgent need for them.

What we could use more of are finger puppets as we can go through upwards of 1,000 in any given month.  We distribute finger puppets to many areas of the hospital – for children having procedures, blood work, siblings waiting for their loved ones etc… so they are well used! And we often hear that our patients keep them for years afterwards. 

Items can be dropped off at Volunteer Resources Monday-Friday 8am-4pm. 

Thank you again so much for your support of our patients and families – you truly make a difference with your contributions.”

Kylene Mellor

Manager, Volunteer Resources

See? There are bears, frogs, dinosaurs, and monsters waiting to be cuddled by children. Some of the knitters said in the comments that they made 36 bears, 15 bears… and who knows how many more bears are in the making now and will be delivered soon? I bet you, a lot. I am going to update the old post too and ask the knitters to channel their endless creative energy elsewhere.

knitted teddy bears

If you would like to make some finger puppets, the IWK website has this basic finger puppet pattern and this one is for the duck and the bunny puppets but you can use any knitted or crocheted pattern you wish. I have published a few patterns, they are somewhat fussy but they have photo tutorials for each puppet.

These are some puppets that the Health Centre received in the past.


There is also an amazing knitter named Dorothy who wrote the very first guest post on this blog about knitting finger puppets for the IWK. (She was featured in the local newspaper as well.) I recommend to look at the pictures just to see how a pile of 3500 finger puppets looks like!

I can tell you honestly that I won’t be making thousands of puppets myself. But if each of us will use some scrap yarn and a bit of imagination to make just a few, the result will be spectacular. Don’t you think?

The Kingdom of Lost Mittens

Dear knitters, I am writing this post from The Kingdom of Lost Mittens. I was invited to this magical place after graduating from the local college and getting my Early Childhood Education diploma. Now my days are filled with all kinds of lovely things — curiosity, discoveries, inquiries, jokes, hugs, art, good books, songs, and outings in the beautiful park with a team of three-year-old explorers.

This fall and summer, I was just a preschool teacher but as the winter approaches, my title changed to “The Mitten Hunter”. Young children are not particularly committed to keeping their mittens on their hands, and they often leave them… everywhere. These are just a few photos that I took in the last two days. None of those mittens were lost but you get the picture.

lost mittens


lost mittens



lost mittens




Since we are going out twice a day (and the days get colder), we will need to have a healthy supply of “daycare mittens” to replace those that were lost on the playground, forgotten in a parent’s car, or got soaking wet in the puddles. I have donated a pair of knitted mittens that my son wore last winter to keep those little hands warm. These mittens are used everyday.

If you are looking for a small project this winter, maybe you could make a pair of mittens for a child care centre? Here are some patterns for children: Basic Baby and Toddler mittens, Lady Bug Mittens, Traditional Honeycomb Newfie mittens and 2 hour mittens from Ravelry.

Please email me at halifaxknitter@gmail.com if you wish to donate mittens to my centre (we have 7 classrooms) or just find the closest one in your neighbourhood. I am sure both children and teachers will appreciate them.

In the meantime, stay warm and keep knitting!


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