As the temps outside reach frigid lows, the issues faced by your local homeless population can be life-threatening, especially for those unable to find adequate shelter. This winter season, consider using your craftiness to help the homeless fight the cold with these simple projects. Hand them out in urban areas or in places you know where many homeless people reside, or call a local homeless shelter (homeless shelter directory or shelter listings) to find out if you can hand them out there. Keep in mind that shelters may require larger quantities of handmade goods, so you might consider finding or starting a group in your area that can do a project on a larger scale. Think the office, friends, social clubs, classes, meetup.com, or for knitting projects, the charity knitting groups on Ravelry.com.
There are many free patterns on the internet suitable for winter warmth. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Felt Mittens by Waxwing, 2004: These felt mittens use materials that are inexpensive and easy to find, and they can simply be made in large quantities in a short amount of time. They are crafted by felting recycled wool sweaters which can be found at local thrift shops, yard sales, even the back of your closet. For more information on felting, read this tutorial on CraftStylish. [also check out this quick mittens tutorial on whipup]
ScWiNoNa Scarf by weezalana, 2008: Scarves are always a good bet. Theyâ€™re a breeze to knit and can be made in no time. If youâ€™re looking for a quick project that can be made in a few hours, try the Beginnerâ€™s Garter Stitch Scarf. For a more detailed scarf that still flies off the needles, knit up the ScWiNoNa (pdf link). When knitting scarves, choose warm, comfortable next-to-the-skin fibers such as merino, alpaca, or wool blends.
London Beanie by Mark Thrailkill, 2002: If you want to make hats, there are endless free pattern options online, but simple construction is best. The Creative Kindness Easy Hat (pdf link) would be perfect made with warm fleece and can be modified to add lining or made long enough to cover the ears and the back of the neck. If knittingâ€™s your thing, try the Minnesota Winter Hat or the London Beanie.
Basic Ribbed Sock by Kate Atherley: If youâ€™re feeling adventurous and have lots of time to knit, think socks! A comfortable pair of warm wool socks goes a long way. Keep the styling and stitches simple. This Basic Ribbed Sock pattern is practical and gender-neutral.
Get creative! Take the scraps from the sweater you made your mittens with and sew up a matching scarf. Use your stash leftovers to make striped knits. Just remember, your finished goods should be made with care in neutral color combinations, should be comfortable and functional, and should be something you would be proud to wear.
Be warned: The experience you have when crafting for others in need is addictive. Once your winter wares are given away, youâ€™ll surely want to make more!
About the author: Lisa Ashby is a mother, designer, student, and craftivist living in the Carolinas. This month and next, I am making felt mittens for the local homeless based on a tutorial I found on Craftster and have posted about this on my blog here. Blog :: etsy store.