Wednesday, January 30, 2013

CHARITY KNITTING CIRCLES ARE USEFUL & FUN.


I can remember a time a few decades ago when women formed circles for all kinds of activities. It was a way of strengthening relationships among women, most of whom were unrelated by blood or marriage. And it gave them an excuse to meet regularly as friends and neighbors and work for special purposes. My own mother was part of a circle for decades. They called themselves the "Safety Pin Club" because they all had babies and small children at around the same time. When they got started, their main purpose was to offer each other emotional support and useful hints on how to care for the young ones. The group was diverse and included Catholics, Protestants, and Greek Orthodox from several different national backgrounds. They forged long-term friendships and were still meeting as a group when they had grown children and grandchildren. Most of the time their activities were social but they also got involved in a few charitable activities over the years.

In the last part of the 20th century, what with more freedom for women and their incorporation in the workplace, fewer women seemed to have the need or time for social or charitable circles. Nowadays, many young women don't even consider the need for such a thing. But, for others, both young and old, there are still good reasons to organize themselves and meet - just as women.

Knitters often form circles to reach out other knitters. Whether wanting to learn new stitches or pass on needlework skills, the warm companionship of a knitting group enriches their love of knitting and comes to be an important part of social life. Members of the group also do more than sit around knitting. They share details of their lives, talk about their husbands, children, pets, favorite recipes and so on. Many circles are neighborhood clubs, while others are linked with churches, or workplaces. Some groups meet to knit while watching movies. Others are for mothers with small children. Men who knit sometimes join these circles. Whatever brings them together, everyone contributes to the conversation and shares knitting magazines, patterns and stitchery know-how. 

Recently, a number of women's circles have formed related to charity. And one of the most popular charities involves knitting and crocheting clothing or blankets and donating them to the homeless or the sick. These groups answer a desire to help those in need, but in a way that means more to them than just giving or collecting money for needy causes. And, for some, it's probably the best way to be charitable because they are using their time and  talents when they don't have much extra money to donate to needy causes.

Charity circles tend to be more open than those belonging to particular churches or formal clubs.They are more egalitarian because their primary focus is on helping others in need in the community and secondly, on making new friends who love to do some of the same things. They tend to be informal and free clubs - some meet weekly, others bi-monthly or monthly and welcome members of all ages.

Obviously, these circles respond to a real need to help. At the same time, they give women a sense of satisfaction by being part of a group involved in a common effort. While no group, small or large, can ever begin to do enough, it's the spiritual principle that counts here. Each knitted cap or scarf or blanket can mean the difference of a homeless person surviving a cold winter night, just as meals served to the hungry are really gifts from God. Those who get involved in these kinds of charities consider themselves blessed by being able to help in delivering those gifts. When they do things with other people's welfare in mind, from knitting a prayer shawl for a friend to making a blanket for a homeless person, they see themselves as using their loving concern to contribute to  social justice and peace.

Interested in doing something like this? Well, don't wait. Get involved right away. If you don't find a knitting group in your area, start out by seeking information at a local knitting shop, signing up for charity knitting newsletters and reading columns in knitting magazines. They are also a number of websites that give information on knitting groups nationwide. Some are done as online communities where people never meet face-to-face, but, instead, send in their contributions to a central place which takes care of the distribution to places and people in need. They keep in touch through photos and comments on these websites.

If you want to learn more about charity knitting, you can read a book or books on the subject. One good book, written by Betty Christiansen, is titled: Knitting for Peace: Make the World a Better Place One Stitch at a Time.

The overall goal of charity knitting groups is to bring comfort and a smiles to recipients and let them know that someone is thinking of them - oftentimes someone they'll never meet. But the people invoved in these activites see their work as more than just a way of supporting those who need cheering up because of illness or social vulnerability. They also consider it to be a spiritual activity just as much as prayer and meditation are. It's a particular way of showing love for others and commitment to a better world - one that is pledged to making and sharing beautiful and useful things. It's all part of a new spirit of living the abundant life and making the world a kinder place.

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