Thursday, January 22, 2009

cast away

A few months ago, I was contacted by a woman named Kim who reads this blog and she asked if I would be interested in knitting a blanket for her, that she would pay me for. Kim was due to deliver her first baby in January and she really wanted to have something handmade for her little girl, and seeing as she didn't know anyone that could make anything, she was hoping I could help.

It took me a few days to realize that she was serious.

Since I am always amazed at the number of people that I meet who would really love to know how to knit, I was struck with the idea of posting a tutorial. My mother is a great knitter and she has taught me a thing or two about how to cast on and off. And even though my knitting skills are very basic, I love being able to create something with my hands.

Because I have a hard time sitting still and not doing something, whenever Charlie and I sit down to watch television or a movie, I enjoy knitting simple things. Hats. Blankets. Scarves. Knit. Purl. Knit. Purl. I can typically churn out a scarf in about two hours, a hat in about four and a baby blanket in about eight.

(My secret for making things fast is using fat needles and fat yarn.)

A few years ago, I was inspired by a blogger who was crocheting blankets for babies in South Africa. So, I decided to use my rudimentary knitting skills and contribute to what I thought was a very good cause. All told, I put together four care packages that consisted of a hand made blanket and miscellaneous supplies for baby and mom.

Then, I went to the post office and mailed the packages.

Almost three months later, my packages were received.

And that's when I realized that maybe it would be better to support a local charity.

Since then, I've found a cause that really appeals to me.

Project Linus is a group that makes handmade blankets for children between the ages of 0 and 18 who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need. The group has chapters in all 50 states and every month, they collect and donate an average of 350 blankets to children in shelters, hospitals or social service agencies. Seeing how much our children adore their blankets, I would love to give that type of gift to a needy child.

So here and there for the next few weeks, I am going to post a tutorial on how to knit. Sure, you could go buy a book on the subject, but this will be so much more fun. (Or not.)

The first blanket that I make will be a gift for Kim because she was nice enough to actually write me a note and ask if she could pay me for a blanket. And then because her compliment went straight to my head, I hope to knit at least one blanket a month for Project Linus.

Before you start, you'll need supplies. Shown below are 14" (35 cm) US: 15 needles (10 mm) and Red Heart Baby Clouds acrylic yarn. Both of these items can be purchased online or at a local craft store (or Walmart) for around $5.00/each.

Of course if you don't want to make a blanket, you could always make a nice scarf. Like this one I am wearing on a San Diego beach, New Year's Eve 2003.

When it was a bitter 50 degrees.


  1. Hi! I've been reading your forever but have yet to leave a comment. My mom has been knitting for/with Project Linus and loves it. I think it's amazing that you still find time to give back even with how hectic your life is! :)

  2. If you could just show me how to start and end, I'm in! Someone started a project for me and I don't know how to end it! My scarf is like 12 feet long! LOL! Bring your knitting stuff to my house when you guys come up!

  3. Hi Jen,

    I have finally decided to delurk just to tell you that I read your blog everyday. I am a follower :-) I enjoy your writing style and humour, and love the fact that you struggle with the same parenting issues as we all do!

    I have also suffered from hellp syndrome, and are so grateful that my brilliant doctor (and the daily heparin enjections) enabled me to have two beatiful little ones.

    I follow Tertia's blog (being a fellow South African) and think that her sisters charity is doing amazing work. You have inspired me to start contributing with blankets as well (sure mine wont take a couple of months to reach them as I'm based in Johannesburg!)

  4. Very cool - I will be watching for sure! I am able to figure out how to start, but I can never take the yarn of the needles when I knit. I've been crocheting a scarf for my friend in VA, but after I finished 100 rows and held it up, wrapped it around my neck for sport...I realized that she would definitely NOT being wearing this in 20 degree weather and it wasn't tightly crocheted. it was more decorative. perfect for the bitter 50 degree days we have here....and I remember that when I was in VA and it got to 50..we were busting out the t-shirt and shorts! I wasn't interested in wearing scarves any more.

  5. Well thank you for the compliment. It is 5 am in Florida and I am having trouble sleeping so I checked to see if you were getting your sleep. Low, and behold, you were writing about your Mom's knitting expertise.
    I am learning to crochet now and I would like to contribute to your Linus project. I buy yarn at Michaels, on sale, and enjoy taking the project with me to the pool or beach, so I will see if I can drum you up some linus business.

  6. We have three project Linus blankets (one for each trip!) that were given to the babies upon discharge from the NICU. We absolutely love them. What a wonderful charity!

  7. 50 degrees IS bitter. The other morning it was 35 degrees and I briefly considered letting my boys stay home from school just so I didn't have to walk to the bus stop in such frigid temperatures. I debated pulling out the ski gear and bundling up, but I didn't have enough time!

    I have always wanted to learn how to knit, so I will purchase the needles and yarn at WalMart and we will see what happens!


  8. Forgot to tell you yesterday that I can see the pics fine.

    What a fun idea, my daughter wanted to learn to knit. I will try to purchase the supplies this weekend and try to knit along with you. I am excited, I love to do crafts. I know who the first one will be for, a friend at church has three little girls and they are expecting a boy in March, I think they need some blue in their house:)


  9. Jen, I love to read your blog. You're so funny! It's going to be a bitter 50 degress here today in Cincinnati. It's a heat wave really.
    Take care, denisexx

  10. I just recently took up crocheting. Maybe I should try knitting too, but it seems like most people know one or the other. Anyway, I love it. I am just about finished with my first baby blanket and I'm offering it up for an auction that a fellow blogger is hosting to raise money for March of Dimes.

    Like you, I enjoy that crocheting keeps my hands busy when I'm sitting still. I made lots of scarves this fall, and there were great Christmas gifts (for here in Ohio where it gets OVER 50 in the winter). Then over Christmas vacataion I started (and have now finished) an afghan for myself. It's been a lot of fun.

    Thanks for the link to the Project Linus. I'm happy to hear there is something like that out there. I will be looking into it and most likely donating there soon. Keep up the good work.

  11. My preemie triplets were the recipients of blankets made by loving volunteers at the NICU. These blankets are deeply meaningful . . . and quite lovely. They came at a time when I felt very alone in the world, not yet having connected with my local triplet support group. I felt touched by loving strangers as I swaddled my littles ones in those blankets during those early sleepless nights. I've now tucked those blankets away for my babies' babies to one day be swaddled in.

    Another handmade blanket, given to us by a friend, is still used every single day... and my boys are four years old.

    Jenna, I assure you that although those packages took 3 months to reach their destination, they will make a lifelong difference.


  12. Oh my goodness, that's me!! I can't tell you how excited I am! My daughter was born on January 13th and we're doing great! I haven't had time to update the blog with pictures and such, but I'll get there.

    Thank you thank you thank you! I can't wait for my blanket and I can't wait to start trying this out for myself!

  13. Hi, I love reading your blog...I was just trying to figure out if that was a picture of Henry or Elizabeth in this post? They are looking so much alike these days!

  14. As a mom who has had very sick kids in the hospital, we have received 3 Project Linus blankets and all of them are very special to us. Thanks for supporting such a great cause! Those blankets will mean more than you could ever know.

  15. Hooray - I'd love to learn to knit! Thanks!

  16. This is a great idea! My 29-weeker twins received knitted blankets, hats and sweaters during their long NICU stay. I'm now currently 25 weeks pregnant with their 'surprise' baby brother, and have been wanting to learn how to knit, since I'm again on strict bedrest for PTL - I'd love to be able to give back to others who find themselves in the same situation as myself. I'm looking forward to the tutorials!

  17. Kimberly: Actually, the picture is of Carolyn, when she was about 2.

    It's funny because I don't think the children resemble each other very much, but when I put hats on them, I have a very difficult time distinguishing just who is who. ESPECIALLY in photographs!

  18. One of our little girls who we recently adopted was the recipient of one of these extremely thoughtful blankets after she was found elsewhere abandoned & brought to the hospital. At 3 days old we met her for the very first time and brought her home with her blankie. This is truly such a wonderful cause for kids in need. Thank you!

  19. I just had to add that I totally thought that was Henry with the blanket on his head! They really look alike in the face.

    Oh, and I told my husband that I was going to learn to knit from a lady on the internet and he thinks I have completely lost my mind (based purely on the fact that I can barely sew a button on). There was a snort, followed by a look of pure disbelief and then there was eye rolling. Lots of eye rolling. I told him to just wait and see my beautiful finished product, so now I am REALLY committed...I must prove him wrong!!!


  20. I so thought that was a picture of Henry, I can't believe they look that much alike. When I went back and looked I could tell that she was older than Henry but just at a quick glance I was tricked. The are all beautiful;)

  21. I have made several Project Linus blankets, and it is so cool hearing from all these commenters who received blankets. It gets me inspired to do more to hear how treasured they are!

    I just wanted to add a note, if people are learning to knit and want to do a blanket. You might find it easier to use circular needles instead of straight needles. Instead of two completely separate needles, there is a nylon cord running between the two ends that holds them together. When you are doing a big project, like a blanket, it gives a lot more room for your stitches. This makes it less likely that your stitches are going to slide off of your needles while you are still figuring out knitting. It also puts less strain on your arms and shoulders. Oh yeah, and you also can't lose one of your knitting needles halfway through the project. (Not that I've every done that. Ahem.) I hope this helps.

    Best of luck new knitters. You will love it!

    Sarah L

  22. I got my supplies and I am ready to start! My Mom was going to teach me to knit when my boys were in the NICU, but I soon realized there was no time for knitting with twin 26 weekers that refused to breathe!