If you’re still looking for a new skill to pick up in quarantine — or just some way to keep your hands busy while you anxiously fidget — consider knitting on your neighbor’s behalf. Wellspring Family Services, a Seattle nonprofit that helps families facing homelessness, is looking for volunteer knitters to hand-make hats, scarves, blankets, and more.
“We want to make sure we’re serving families with dignity,” says Karly Lee, program manager of Wellspring’s Baby Boutique. Parents frequently request “items they’ll want to give their children … a personal item, that someone made and put effort into.”
On average, the Baby Boutique works with a little over a thousand families a year, which works out to around 1,300 children. Typically, a case manager or social worker connects the family with Wellspring to set up an appointment. Then the family comes to browse items in a setting that works like a normal retail shop — except that the items are provided free of charge. (During quarantine, orders are placed over the phone and picked up outside.)
Clothes, shoes, and diapers are the most urgently-needed items, Karly says; knit items tend to be received with particular joy. In cold weather, “hats are scarves are highly requested,” and baby blankets and hats are needed no matter the weather.
They currently have a volunteer army of around forty knitters, many organized through the Row House Yarns’s online knitting community. That’s allowed Wellspring to connect with volunteers across the country — they just received some items from a knitter in Montana — but even with dozens of people purling as fast as they can, there’s always a need for more.
Speaking from personal experience, a scarf is a particularly easy teach-yourself project for knitting newcomers. Once you have the basic rhythm down, which takes less than an hour to learn, you can just turn off your brain and let your fingers do the crafting. Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but I can bang out about one scarf a month by knitting while on Zoom calls. (Not Stranger editorial meetings, I promise! Ugh, I shouldn't have said anything.)
Home knitters can contact Wellspring to volunteer here, or through Seattle Works’ volunteer matching service. It’s a great way to provide your neighbors with some much-needed warmth — not just physically, but emotionally.
“Knowing that somebody has taken the time to make that item to give to a family makes a big difference,” Karly says. “Knowing the community is supporting them.”