Opening days at the Knit-a-Square barn in Johannesburg happen on a Tuesday and are always rewarding. With mail arriving continuously from overseas, and quantities of squares and toys brought in by local knitters, we volunteers get to experience something like Christmas every week! This blog gives you a glimpse into what happens after your parcels arrive. I hope to paint vivid word pictures of all the goings-on and to share the warmth we feel when we receive your wonderful contributions. Happy reading everyone!being
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This is good news for the Purton ladies we can do lots of baby sets (Fish and Chip) hats and vests for Sister Sue and the other paediatric contact. We have also been knitting Lovie toys for babies.
Sunday 16 June was Youth Day in South Africa. Because it fell on a weekend, Monday was declared a public holiday. On top of that, the weekend marked the start of the winter holidays for government schools. This affected Knit-a-Square in two ways:
For a start, the post office was closed so parcels couldn't be collected ahead of opening day. Themba had to take the van first thing on Tuesday morning to collect the mail. Ronda came to the barn to open up and get everyone settled while Themba waited for the post office staff to locate all the Knit-a-Square items, after which he messaged Ronda to come and pay. Evidently it was rather a large post so the charges were expected to be quite heavy.
Secondly, the long weekend combined with school holidays meant that some of our volunteers were away. But it didn't matter because there was so little to do. The parcels from the previous week had all been opened, and, except for a couple of bags of squares which were brought in today, there was no sorting to do.
Still, work continued on other fronts. Lindi and Mabel tracked deliveries of blanket packs that had gone out to gogo groups and needed to be collected as completed blankets. Wandi and Nani took photographs of the blankets on the cake and packed them into bags ready for distribution. A group arrived to pick up a batch of blankets for a distribution arranged by our cleaning lady, Nkhensani. Barbara and a woman from the Waterval knitting group came to drop off blankets made from odd-shaped and damaged squares. And Audrey, finding her area of tabletop completely clear of squares, busied herself with crocheting granny squares out of scrap yarn.
Unfortunately I had to leave before Ronda returned from the post office but I can report that she is well, if a little rattled by the logistical problems caused by lost work days. In addition, the extra work we took on to assist a company with its blanket-making outreach programme hasn't come together as well as we had hoped. While the extra sewing benefitted the gogo groups, the resulting blankets haven't conformed to our standards. In many cases, we have had to send blankets back to be properly edged or adjusted. Plus, the blankets are all navy blue, making the task of combining pieces less than pleasurable. We will not be involving ourselves in outside projects again.
On a happier note, we have seen regular Knit-a-Square blankets pouring in from our members around the world. As always, we are immensely grateful for your tremendous love and generosity! From June onwards we get frosty nights and bitterly cold winds, so every blanket that goes out is certain to make the world of difference to the child who receives it, not to mention the beanies, hand-warmers and toys that accompany it.
Thank you Leanne for this update. I can't wait to see all the goodies next week with all the post that arrived late.
Thank you for the 'goss' of the KAS Barn, Leanne. :))
It's the middle of winter in South Africa and blankets, beanies, hand-warmers and soft toys are flying through the door! After some eleven years of collecting squares and distributing warmth to vulnerable children, Knit-a-Square has certainly got the turnaround down to a fine art. Thanks to all you wonderful knitters, crocheters, group leaders and donors, hundreds of children will be receiving their colourful, cuddly gifts just when they need them most.
I attended opening day for the first time in a number of weeks and was gratified to find a very high cake of blankets at the head of the long table. Apparently it was even higher before I walked in but Ronda had been taking photos, whisking blankets off the pile and onto a nearby chair as she did so. Bongi and I were just in time for prayers so we gathered round the cake, joining hands with everyone else, and gave thanks for the amazing work that Knit-a-Square has become. As Ronda says, we do not judge who deserves or does not deserve blankets. We simply receive the contributions of our members and pass them on, letting the love that is woven into the fabric of each item transform its recipient's heart with delight and hope.
Our volunteers were very busy today. Athele was in Perfuri north of the Kruger National Park over the weekend, where she distributed a carload of blankets, toys and hats to a community she has known for ages. The children there are very poor and the gift of a blanket or cuddly toy means the world to them. nani and Themba took ninety blankets to distribute in Alexandra, while Mabel and Viv prepared another 100 blankets for a policewoman who would be distributing to children on the West Rand. Wandi and Lindi were also packing blankets for two separate distributions, totalling 140 blankets and accessories, which they will be doing through church this weekend.
With so many bags of blankets going out, you would think our stocks would be running low. However, people seem to rise to the occasion in winter and bring in the work they have been accumulating all year. For example, Wilma and Sandy, whom Ronda met through Spoor and Fischer, the company that did our registration as a non-profit organisation, visited today with boxes and boxes of items they have been collecting over the past months. Among them were 25 matching blanket, beanie and hand-warmer sets in gorgeous soft yarn, another 450 beanie and hand-warmer sets, and 70 beautiful soft toys. Thank you, Wilma and Sandy, and all your generous group members, for keeping Knit-a-Square in your hearts!
Shirley also came in this morning with a pile of blankets she had sewn up. Shirley is an avid dog-lover and always makes a special fuss of Tango when she comes. Today Tango was lying on the carpet beside the blanket cake in a little strip of sunlight, her black coat glistening, and of course, she got a tummy scratch from everyone who approached.
A couple of ladies from the Waterfall retirement village also popped in with blankets, and took with them some troublesome squares which needed finishing off, straightening up or, in extreme cases, reworking. We try to use every square that comes in as is, but there are times when pieces come in from schools or scout groups full of holes! Of course, we appreciate the effort of the knitter/crocheter, knowing everyone has to start somewhere, but it is important that the blankets we hand out are sturdy and attractive. Given that the children have so little they can treasure, we want their Knit-a-Square gifts to last.
Finally, just a reminder to all you busy producers of squares out there: Please remember to leave a long enough tail on each square to allow for easy sewing. I recommend holding the square in one hand and measuring the tail from your thumb to your armpit. That ensures the person combining the squares has enough matching yarn to complete the seam and doesn't have to search for a similar colour or make a join. The other tail can be short, around 4 inches or 10 centimetres. Remember also to butterfly the loose tails to prevent them from getting tangled up in the sorting process.
Oh, and one more thing worth mentioning: Knit-a-Square is being featured in a July issue of "People's Friend" magazine. The magazine, which is published in Scotland and comes out weekly, has an international readership and is adored by women who love fiction, crafts, and feel-good stories from around the world. The article really captures how much Knit-a-Square means to all its members and will, I'm sure, make many readers want to join in. A big thank you to Cath and Rebecca for making this happen!
Wow!! Thank you Leanne for this very newsy update. :))
Love the colours Karen! 3 Beautiful sets.
Aww, these are GORGEOUS, Karen....my fave, the orange and green. :))
This week's visit to the barn was a fun one. I had my cousin Kim staying and she was keen to see the Knit-a-Square operation after hearing about it from my sister. Bongi drove us, along with Tango, to the barn and we arrived in warm sunshine with the faint scent of jasmine perfuming the air.
The long table was covered with piles of squares of various sizes and in an assortment of colour combinations. Most of the volunteers were present, either busily making up blanket packs or preparing for a distribution. Our newest volunteer, Yvonne, was literally heading out with Thomas as we arrived so the activity level was high.
No sooner had we arrived and put down our bags than Estelle approached us to show off a couple of stunning blankets which had arrived in the mail. i think Kim was quite overwhelmed by the colour and variety of designs in the blankets. From what I had told her, she imagined that the blankets would all resemble the kind of granny-square crocheted rugs she and I had grown up with, the kind that contain just a few carefully-selected colours and form a regular pattern. The Knit-a-Square blankets are typically much more colourful and unique. Obviously, they range hugely in style and texture, but they nearly always draw gasps of admiration because of their sheer dazzle.
There had been a fairly large post the previous day so I took Kim to see the parcel stack. From big boxes to handbag-sized packages, they bore postmarks from countries as diverse as the United States, Canada, Czech Republic, Croatia, United Kingdom and Australia. Beside the pile of parcels were multiple boxes containing soft toys of different sizes and descriptions, some hand-made and others bought new or preloved, all incredibly cute. Kim was astonished and deeply moved by what she saw. "It's giving me goosebumps," she kept on saying. "To think that there are so many people out there who are willing to help, it's truly amazing!"
Once seated with tea and banana loaf, we chatted with Ronda and heard about the Mandela Day outreach that had taken place earlier in the month. Knit-a-Square had partnered with a woman named Lucy Granger to do a distribution in conjunction with a soup kitchen in Berea. Because the soup kitchen attracted people of all ages, Knit-a-Square supplied a variety of blankets, including many which were simply too thick or heavy to be given to small children. The organisers of the outreach reported that it went very well and that the recipients of the blankets were thrilled with them. From our point of view, it was a good opportunity to clear stock from our shelves halfway through the year.
Elaine popped in to drop off a big batch of squares and say hello. Elaine began knitting just this year and has already contributed over 400 squares on her own. "I love to knit while watching television in the evenings," she told us, "and I'm so glad to be able to knit for a good cause." Like so many of our local knitters, she also loves being able to drop in and feel the energy of the volunteers at the barn. It is hugely inspiring to watch the system operate and know how meaningful the work is to all who participate.
Ronda says that a special event has been planned for next Tuesday. She, Estelle and Audrey will be visiting St Stithians Prep School for a handover of about 7000 squares to Knit-a-Square. This is the sixth year that the prep school has supported us and the production of squares is a joint effort among pupils, teachers, parents, aunts, grannies and friends. The event is anticipated to be a festive one with music and song. Look out for photographs on our Facebook page after it has taken place.
A fabulous read Leanne, thank you. ❤️. I think most of us have a curiosity about what a visit to The Barn would be like, and your writing certainly paints a strong picture in my mind for sure.