We’re all spending a little more time at home. And many of us are exploring new hobbies, or delving deeper into ones we already had pre-pandemic.

Why not use those hobbies to help our community?

Knit and donate: Simple winter scarf

This project comes from Wild Hand, a Mount Airy fiber shop that offers supplies and virtual workshops for fabric crafts, like knitting, crochet, and macramé.

If you’re a beginner, the simple pattern is an ideal starting point. And if you’ve been knitting for years, you’ll be able to tackle it within a few hours or less.

When finished, consider donating your scarf to someone in need this winter. We’ve compiled a few local organizations that accept hand-knit donations. Note: Many shelters also accept hand-knit socks and hats — something to try once you’ve mastered this first project.

Why knit?

Knitting is the happy place for folks, especially lately. It provides a sense of calm and focus, especially when things feel chaotic or overwhelming,” says Wild Hand owner Liz Sytsma. “And it’s super accessible. The tools are really basic — people even use pencils as knitting needles.”

Amid a pandemic that can feel isolating, Sytsma says a project like this can also create human connection.

“The community around fiber crafting is massive, and it’s very much a shared experience,” says Sytsma. “There are so many video resources out there, and people who want to pass down tips and tricks.”

Sytsma is one of those. If you run into a problem while making your scarf, stop by Wild Hand or give the shop a call. Sytsma says she’s happy to do some (socially distanced and masks-on) troubleshooting.

TIPS

Choose the right yarn

For a less expensive yarn, opt for an acrylic blend, like Lion Brand Yarn. “It’s synthetic, but it feels soft, and it’s more affordable than wool,” says Sytsma.

Wild Hand doesn’t sell acrylic blends, but they’re often available in its Little Free Fiber Library (see below). And you can buy what you need for this project (300 g) for as low as $10 to $15 from stores like Michaels and JOANN Fabric.

If you’re just starting out, choose a thicker yarn, like “super bulky” to finish faster. “It’s fatter, so there’s more instant gratification, which is helpful as a new learner. You can see your success growing in front of you,” says Sytsma.

Where to find free yarn

On a tight budget? Check out Wild Hand’s Little Free Fiber Library. The small, wooden cabinet, located just outside the shop, is filled with crafting supplies, including yarn, tools, and fiber craft books. And it’s all free. Sytsma says she made the library to make crafting more accessible to the community and to encourage those of all skill levels and income levels to give knitting a try.

Supplies are open to all. If you need advice about how to use any of it, just pop into the shop and ask.

Got extra yarn or other fiber crafting supplies? You can donate it by dropping it off at the library or store.

HOW TO KNIT A BASIC SCARF

Materials
  • Knitting needles (size U.S. 15-19 if using “super bulky” or “size 6” yarn, or size U.S. 9-11 if using “chunky” or “size 5″ yarn)

  • 300 grams of yarn

Estimated project time
  • About 3 hours, if using “super bulky yarn”, or about 5 hours, if using “chunky” yarn

Pattern: Basic scarf
  1. Cast on 12 stitches if using “super bulky” yarn or 24 stitches if using “chunky” yarn. This doesn’t need to be exact. The more stitches you cast on, the wider the scarf will be.

  2. Knit every stitch for every row. This is called garter stitch and makes a simple horizontal texture on your scarf.

  3. Bind off when you run out of yarn or your scarf is anywhere from 55 to 82 inches (adult) or 36 inches (child) long.

Video: How to knit

Need help? Sytsma recommends this video from knitwear brand Loopy Mango:

Fixing mistakes

Whether you drop a stitch or add an extra one, fixing mistakes is part of the knitting process. Don’t panic. There are tons of online videos, like this one, to teach you how to correct them. And many supply shops are happy to help you, too.

Everything is fixable,” says Sytsma. “If it’s your very first time, let yourself try to hit a flow, and not worry as much about how perfect the stitches are. If you don’t like it at the end, you can easily unravel it and start over.”

Where to donate

The following shelters and organizations welcome scarf donations through the winter. This list is by no means comprehensive. If you choose a different place to donate, call ahead to make sure they accept hand-knit scarves. Donation requirements vary from place to place.

  • Bethesda Project: Bethesda Project annually serves more than 1,400 men and women experiencing homelessness. Donations are welcome any time but are most easily accepted Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Bethesda Project’s Our Brothers’ Place at 907 Hamilton St. Please let the group know in advance when you plan to drop off a donation by contacting communitylife@bethesdaproject.org or calling 513-280-2236. To learn more, visit bethesdaproject.org/in-kind-donations.

  • People’s Emergency Center (PEC): For families and youth experiencing homelessness, PEC offers housing, social services, access to early-childhood education, and educational programs in career training, parenting, financial literacy, life skills, and technology. Due to the pandemic, PEC is only accepting donations by mail. To contribute to PEC’s holiday gift drive, donations through Dec. 17 can be shipped to: PEC, Attn: Development Holiday 2020, 3902 Spring Garden St., Philadelphia, PA 19104. After Dec. 17, contact Trish Downey at tdowney@pec-cares.org or call 267-777-5811 to discuss donations. To learn more, visit pec-cares.org/donations-493864.html.

  • Potter’s House Mission (PHM): PHM is a nonprofit, community-based organization that provides transitional housing for homeless women with children and social services to the community in West, Southwest, and parts of North Philadelphia. To arrange a drop-off, call the Rev. Jones at 215-416-3628. To learn more, visit pottershousemission.org/contact-us.

  • Project HOME: Project HOME helps adults, children, and families break the cycle of homelessness and poverty through subsidized housing, adult learning and workforce training, social enterprise programming, and more. Donations can be mailed or dropped off to Project HOME’s Sacred Heart Recovery Residence (1315 W. Hunting Park Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19140). Email questions to info@projecthome.org. To learn more, visit projecthome.org/donate.

  • Saint John’s Hospice: Saint John’s Hospice is a Catholic Social Services shelter for men in Center City. Services include providing meals, showers, mail room services, case management, medical assistance, counseling, and emergency shelter. To set up a donation time, contact Liz Small at esmall@chs-adphila.org or call 215-563-7763. To learn more, visit saintjohnshospice.org/give-back/wish-list.

  • Youth Service, Inc. (YSI): YSI is a nonprofit that provides immediate shelter and support services to children, teens, and families in Philadelphia. To set up a donation time, contact Dan Brightcliffe at marketing@ysiphila.org or call 215-222-3262, Ext. 2029. To learn more, visit ysiphilly.org/give-2.

» READ MORE: How to do everything better right now: A collection of our most useful stories

Expert sources:
  • Liz Sytsma, owner of Wild Hand, 606 Carpenter Lane, 267-766-5239, open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wed.-Sun.