I live in Johannesburg, not far from the Knit-a-Square office, and thought it would be nice to write about the experience of visiting the blanket room for the benefit of overseas knitters and crocheters.  I know how lovely it is to get insight into the personal side of the charity one supports and i couldn't wait to experience the sorting, packing and stacking process firsthand when I read about it on the website.

At the outset, let me say that I am a really new member of KAS.  I only came across the organisation in January 2017 when I did an online search to find a knitting circle I might join.  Reading about Ronda and how she started the project inspired me enormously.  Then, coming to the forum and immersing myself in some of the discussions, I knew that this was exactly the kind of community I wanted to belong to.  Clearly, the members love knitting for good and are super-generous when it comes to helping children in need.

I should also explain that I am severely sight-impaired and rely on a driver to get to where I want to go.  My driver's name is Bongi, so she came along as a volunteer too.  We found the KAS office in a nicely-secured office park with good parking outside a large garage door, which provided pleasing light and ventilation for the large, open blanket room beyond.  Bongi's first words were, "My, there are a lot of busy people in there!"  My first impression, without the benefit of vision, was of a serene interior with gentle, uplifting music playing from a sound system at the far end of the room, and of cool air blowing from a large fan to keep the space feeling dry and fresh.  Incidentally, there was no trace of a musty smell after February's flood, and the sunlight coming through the windows on the north side made everything feel bright and cheerful.

Ronda greeted us warmly and offered us tea and somewhere to sit while she oversaw the volunteers who were driving the van out to deliver squares to two of the sewing groups.  We were shown how the squares are unpacked from their soft packaging and the details of the senders recorded.  A couple of volunteers were grouping squares into matching sizes and assembling bundles of 35 coordinating squares.  I learnt how to butterfly the loose threads on a square by feeling how it was done, as it had been impossible to follow the pictorial directions on the website.  I also got to finger some of the beautiful hats, hand warmers and soft toys that had been sent in, and marvelled at the amazing colour choices some of the knitters had chosen.  I'm a knitter myself but have tended to be very conservative in my selection of yarns.  That, i can tell, is going to change!

Finally for today's entry, I want to rave about some of the blankets I saw.  Again, I had not been able to see them in photographs displayed on the website, so was eager to get up close and touch some of the finished items.  They are, in a word, stunning!  Laid out on the floor in a pile like stacked pancakes, they reminded me of exotic tile designs comprising rich mosaics and beautifully textured pieces.  Some were set in a grid, while others nestled in cosy companionship with each other, the entire effect being one of eye-catching elegance.  But not just eye-catching.  I couldn't help but run my fingers over the interesting textures.  There is nothing quite like knitted or crocheted fabric.  It's squishy and huggable, intricate in its stitchery yet strong and comforting in its expanse.  It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling to be in the midst of so much lovingly-crafted handwork and committed teamwork.  I shall be reporting back regularly on my visits to Knit-a-Square and I hope I can impart to you how much Ronda and the team in SA value and appreciate your participation.

Until next time, let the warm fuzzy feeling be yours as you stitch away!

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Oh my WORD ... I have only just now had an opportunity to browse through Leanne's wonderful writings and your enthusiastic responses, everyone !  What a blessing ... I, too, have some tears in my eyes !

Dear Leanne, your writing is exquisite and sensitive ... it blows me away to read your descriptions of the textures and colours, the atmosphere and the sounds and feelings.

It is TRULY humbling to realise that when we humans have all our so-called faculties, we take things SO much for granted that we simply do not absorb our surroundings, or value them perhaps, in the way that someone like you, with visual impairment, does ! What a beautiful spirit you have, Leanne - and what a precious gift you are to Knit-a-Square and ALL who are involved with it in any way at all.  You have certainly opened my eyes and made me want to 'slow down and smell the roses'.

You are a Godsend in every way and you have vision that is better than most !

Thank you SO much for your amazing input ... for bringing us smiles across the miles and helping us "see" KAS and each other in such a clear light despite the distances which separate us all.

Much love to you all xoxoxoxoxo

What a wonderful account of what happens to the 'squares' and the work done by so many lovely people who enjoy what they are doing for KAS. I have only just come across this charity after looking for charities needing the use of knitted squares, due to me having trouble with one of my arms and being ill. Reading the story also brought tears to my eyes, seeing the mountain of different coloured squares was amazing at the group of ladies who sew them together to make lots of blankets. Ronda and and the team in SA are truly amazing but also so are the ladies knitting/crocheting/looming for Knit-a-Square.

Another wonderful account of your visit to the KASbarn, Leanne!  Thank you for "introducing" us to Vivienne through such an informative interview :)   You and Vivienne have answered questions that I (and I suspect others) have wondered about for some time.

Your blog is shrinking our world and bringing us all much closer together.  Thank you ... xo

After a month’s break from Knit-a-Square, thanks to restoration of our floors at home, it was good to get back to the blanket room today. The morning was cool and bright, measuring 14ºC at 9am. It’s mild for autumn, although the weather forecast is predicting a very cold snap starting this weekend.
For once, there wasn’t a huge pile of unopened parcels in the corner. Evidently, the volunteers have been hard at work clearing the backlog from the beginning of the year. So, the morning began slowly with tea and muffins, while some of the team delved into 2 big, intimidating-looking boxes left over from last week.
Joel, our trusty driver, was at the post office collecting the latest batch of mail when the local postmaster came in with two of his staff. Of course, Ronda knew his face well from having collected parcels of knitted items from his post office for years. However, it was the first time he had come into the Knit-a-Square home. Not only that; he came with a proposition. He asked if he and his colleagues could participate in our work by running a workshop to teach new volunteers how to sew up blankets. Ronda readily agreed, and the first workshop is scheduled to be run later this month.
According to Ronda, the number of “walk-ins” has increased steadily since the office moved to the ground floor of the business park. These walk-ins include people who want to volunteer or extend the work of Knit-a-Square in some way, church and community leaders who care for orphaned and vulnerable children, and curious members of the public who simply want to see what all the comings and goings are about. Invariably, those who come in get a potted history of the organisation from Ronda and never fail to be impressed by the beautiful blankets, toys and garments they see piled up for distribution.
Speaking of distribution, one of the volunteers, Mabel, has just come back from a weekend in Lesotho, where her bishop has established a new church. A tall woman with the air of a schoolteacher, Mabel is by all accounts a skilled organiser. She made the trip bearing blankets, beanies, hand warmers and soft toys for 270 children, only to find that there were close on 1000 children awaiting her in the village. Without anyone to help her decide who should get what, she managed to divide the items up between 500 of them. It was very difficult, she admits, but she began with the disabled children and moved on from there. The children were thrilled, and it was a particular delight to bless the tiny babies in the clinic with specially-made infant blankets.
On questioning Mabel further, I discovered that she is married with 3 grown-up children and 3 grandchildren between the ages of 3 and 9. She works in the catering industry, and it was through catering for the elderly that she first spotted a gap in her community. The gogos [grandmothers] would come together to do activities in the morning, but they generally had to return home at midday to look after children after school. Sitting at home, they had nothing to do. Perplexed at this state of affairs, Mabel turned to Google for a solution. There she found Knit-a-Square, and was quickly invited by Ronda to attend the gathering of an established gogo group which was meeting to receive and sew up squares. This was exactly what Mabel was looking for—an activity which the women could do by themselves at home, while still being part of a group with a common purpose. She began with one group, and today has 9 such groups, averaging 30 women each.
Mabel has enormous energy and vision. With the help of sponsorship from her church, she has started an exercise class, organised sports competitions, arranged outings to the Pretoria zoo, and even accompanied her gogos on a holiday to the sea. She looks forward to finding premises in Soweto where she can receive and store yarn, old clothes, exercise equipment and other items which can be distributed among those in her care. She also plans to pay a visit to the government in Lesotho to see about starting up a knitting/sewing class and getting sponsorship for yarn and needles.
Incidentally, I passed on thanks to the volunteers on your behalf as you asked. They were touched that you had expressed such appreciation for their work, and they expressed gratitude to you in turn for thinking of them.

Thank you, thank you, Lee, for another fabulous 'report'. I quickly read it, eager to take in all your story as quickly as possible. Mabel is AMAZING!!

Now to go back for a more leisurely read. xo

Lovely to learn about the 'walk ins' and the Postmaster's initiative to support KAS.

Thank you for telling us about Mabel.  Here is a recent photo of her.

Thank you so much Linda for helping me to upload the photo!

Thank you so much for your 'report', Leanne - it's wonderful to learn so much more about the 'workings' of KAS, and about people like Mabel, whose drive and initiative are an inspiration to us all.  (Just realised how often I use the word 'inspiration' in connection with KAS - that speaks for itself!)

Thank you Leanne for another great update, well done to Mabel for all her hard work and managing to stretch the items to help 500 children .The world needs more Mabel's :))

What a marvelous update about the happenings this last Tuesday.  Isn't it amazing how KAS touches so many lives.  Postmasters and co workers, our incredible Mable and Joel, and those fantastic and dedicated Gogos.  You reports has capture the stories of those who truly care about humanity.  Thank you.

Thank you so much Leanne for these wonderful reports from KAS headquarters, they certainly leave me with a warm fuzzy feeling of achievement whilst I am knitting squares etc.

Thank you Leanne.

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