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Dear knitters, rejoice! One more blanket for the youth shelter is done! It was stitched together by the students of Cunard Junior High School in Halifax from these squares.

blanket_1

I love it. It makes sense in terms of design and colours, and let me assure you — it takes a lot of time and effort to produce a blanket of this size. There were some creative solutions, like folding and stitching over the part of the square to make a straight edge. Also, some squares are mysteriously missing on one side… but it’s still beautiful. I don’t know how many students worked on it or how old they were but they did an incredible job. This is the school and it has a special place in my knitting life.

Cunard Junior High School

 

There is a small and very warm Cunard pond right behind the school, with the supervised beach and the volleyball court filled with white sand. There are few things I enjoy more in the summer than watching my children play on that beach while knitting something for them. We also feel super outdoors-y when we bike to the said beach, swim in the pond, and bike back home just before the sunset. Just like that one.

blanket_2

I haven’t decided what to do with the missing part yet… and while I am figuring it out, the blanket will stay with me a little longer, warm and beautiful, just like the children and adults who made it.

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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.

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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.

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There are many things that I would like to share with you today, and they all are about the blankets. Last Saturday, I attended a Joining Party and spent an hour with awesome ladies at Michael’s stitching blanket squares. (Correction from my previous post — this initiative is called Warm Up Canada, not Blankets for Canada).

BlanketJoiningParty_Halifax
Also, I stitched together granny squares crocheted by a Sister at Caritas and it made a beautiful blanket.

Crocheted blanket 1
Here is the close up of her work.

Crocheted blanket 2
I used my sewing machine to put them together because crocheting them would take me probably a few months.

Crocheted blanket 3
I used a stitch that would allow me to lay the fabric flat side by side, and a contrast white upholstery thread to make it a design feature. The stitching was OK, and it took me only a few hours, but I think a person who crochets very fast would do it even faster. I will be honest with you — some ladies didn’t find it very attractive and preferred the traditional method of stitching/crocheting by hand.

Recently I was looking for alternatives to stitching by hand because I wanted to speed up the process and turn all squares into blankets faster. One reason is obvious — to save time, but also because some of my family members showed signs of allergies that might or might not be caused by blanket squares that come from many different  homes. Allergies are tricky and  it’s really hard to figure out what causes them, so I had to stop having squares laying around the house and working on them one at a time.

During my research of a suitable technology, I came across a blog of NYC designer Olgalyn. I contacted her and we started an email conversation that resulted in her blog post about using a sewing machine and a mock flatlock stitch to connect two pieces of knitted fabric (thank you, Olgalyn!). I tried it on my machine but the zigzag stitch was not wide enough, so it didn’t work in my case. I ended up looking for a substitute stitch and… well, at least I finished one blanket and it went to Phoenix today.

So here is what it all means. First, I would like to thank all people who were a part of the project Blankets for Phoenix Youth Shelter — whether you knit/crocheted squares, stitched them together, or helped me spread the word. Secondly, I won’t be able to stitch the blankets together at home because of suspected allergies. Third, if you are still interested in making squares that later will become blankets for the local shelters, please contact Michael’s Arts and Crafts stores in both Halifax and Dartmouth locations and learn more about their blankets project. Please check the required square sizes, and dates for Joining Parties. I see no reason to have two similar projects in one city, so I instead of doing it on my own, I will help Warm Up Canada, and hopefully you could do it, too.

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