I was in a fabric shop recently when I heard a woman at the cutting counter say this to the clerk: “I want something as cheap as possible. It’s just for charity.”
My immediate reaction was “ugghhhh.” In one respect, I get it. You have your own bills to pay, but you still want to donate your crafting skills to a good cause. You may need to spend as little as possible to make a gift for someone else. But it’s all in the tone of voice, and I had the distinct impression that this woman thought those on the receiving end of her charity crafting didn’t quite deserve anything but the cheapest, lowest quality materials for her project.
It all goes back to the purpose and intention of a gift. Do we go cheap and give as little as possible, even if we could afford much more and much better? Or do we give the best we can afford, thinking about what those receiving our gifts will appreciate?
This is not to say that inexpensive yarns can’t make great charity gifts. I’ve knitted numerous hats, scarves, and prayer shawls using clearance sale yarn or even remnants from other projects. But each of these items were gifts I could be proud to share and present to someone, anyone. I’ve knitted little hats for kids in an orphanage in a cold place, so they could go outside wearing cute, cheerful knitwear that might help them feel good about themselves and let them know that someone, somewhere, cares about them. I’ve knitted prayer shawls for cancer patients and nursing home patients in bright colors to cheer them up and help lighten their emotional burdens.
My rule of thumb for all of these projects: knit generously. Make a knitted project someone else would truly love to receive and wear. Use yarn you’d use in making something for yourself or a loved one. Because when we knit for charity, we knit for someone who needs to be loved. That homeless person receiving the hat, that nursing home patient receiving a shawl might not have anyone else but you to knit for them and show them someone cares.
Cynthia Coe is the author of the newly published book The Prayer Shawl Chronicles. The story “Hats for Orphans” in this book is based on her experience in knitting hats for children in Arkhangelsk, Russia. Available in paperback and on Kindle, included in Kindle Unlimited.