Advice on how to knit for homeless folks from the leader of the Streetknit Project and Knitting Neighbors Together
The first post of this series addressed the best colors and fibers to use when you knit for homeless people. We learned that warmth and comfort are of utmost importance.
We also learned that when you knit for children, you should offer bright colors and super-softness. Remember that we’re knitting for comfort, so making your project snuggly-soft is crucial!
Today, we’ll get more great advice. Thanks to the Streetknit Project and Knitting Neighbors Together for their assistance!
The Streetknit Project
Carol, of the Streetknit Project, had the following suggestions.
“We at Streetknit have found that [those who frequent] the agencies that address those on the street per se are more often men and would need dark colours (don’t want to stand out…dangerous when someone might be on a bad trip and could take it out on someone who draws attention with bright colours). Also, the dark colours don’t show dirt.
“Wool is the warmest, although acrylic is washable; but realistically, most of those on the street don’t wash their warm clothes.
“Hats, scarves (not too long, can be choked with longer lengths or get them caught up in things), mitts (warm ones; we recommend thrum knitting, chunky real wool and/or polar fleece liners), and socks. Because socks are harder to knit and take longer, it is generally thought that buying them addresses the immediate need for foot warmth, but there are knitters who love doing them. Adding linen thread to the heels makes them last longer.
“For youth shelters, nothing too bright, but slouchy toques, wrist warmers, cowls, that sort of thing. Funky brights, again, make them stand out. Apparently black is still sought after particularly with a pattern like skulls, etc.
“For women and children’s shelters, anything goes. Little kids love colour, and mitts that look like animals are big. The women appreciate more feminine things, even shawls and bed jackets, shrugs. We have volunteers who knit squares until the cows come in, and then someone graciously puts them together into blankets for refugee family shelters.
“Slippers in all sizes are good for drop-ins and family shelters. Drop-ins can use anything we can make in terms of scarves, hats, sweaters, etc. The Out of the Cold programs through the churches offer a clothes cupboard with any size and weight of clothing so the more adventurous knitters can go nuts.
“Worsted weight seems to be the best for knitting most of our projects. As I said, wool is the warmest, particularly if you create larger items, and then felt or line them.
“Even babies can find themselves in a homeless situation, so baby things for family shelters are welcome.
“We accept donations of yarn and as you might imagine, you never know what is inside the bags we find on the front porch. Interestingly enough, though, just finding projects to fit the stash is fun and motivates people to knit.
“Our website with simple patterns is www.streetknit.ca and if it says on Google that we have been hacked, it has been fixed and Google hasn’t caught up with that yet.
“Also, for the animal lovers, there are some drop-ins that also welcome pets. Dog coats are also in certain places useful. Just sayin’.”
Some outstanding suggestions here; thank you, Carol!
Knitting Neighbors Together
Diana of Knitting Neighbors Together generously offered her suggestions. This group is no longer active, but Diana’s advice is still worthwhile for anyone who wants to knit for homeless folks.
“Thanks for writing! I did some research before starting the project, and I leveraged off of the lessons learned from Hats for the Homeless in Minneapolis. Here’s their website.
“I prefer buying Michael’s Charisma yarn because it’s soft and warm and also extra bulky, so it’s more motivating to get through more hats, scarves, etc. When distributing hats, I agree with Hats for the Homeless that there is a preference for dark, simple, plain colors and patterns for men (black, dark blue, grey).
“A basic ribbed hat works wonderfully because they stretch well. Some individuals will wear two hats on the extra cold nights, so that extra stretch is really helpful, as is knitting hats a little bit larger.
“While distributing, there did seem to be a big need for gloves or mittens as well. Scarves are great as well, since they can probably double as pillows too.”
Thank you, Diana, for your thoughts, and for the website. If you look at the “Knitting Patterns” page you’ll find some great suggestions as well as links to patterns.
In the third post of this series, read advice from the creator of Emily’s Hats for Hope. You’ll also find a few thoughts to remember when you knit for homeless people.