A few years ago an author and fellow Austinite contacted me about contributing a knitted project to her upcoming craft book, which would focus on hand making items for worldwide causes. I immediately started researching charities that accepted yarn-y items, and came across The Red Scarf Project (RSP). They had me at "scarves for orphans," but what really struck me was how they also tied in (no pun intended) the importance of handmade gifts to the self-esteem of a child -- especially those going from foster care to college.
I'm thrilled today to share an interview with Lynn Davis, the Director of Partnership Development for Foster Care to Success which houses RSP. Read on for the scoop about this wonderful organization and how you can get involved. Plus, grab a bonus pattern: The Star Scarf from Craft Hope.
Get knitting; get giving!
Vickie Howell: When I discovered The Red Scarf Project several years ago, I was thrilled to see that knitting and crochet was being used to benefit orphans. In the past, I'd only come across yarn-related charities that benefited more traditional need of garments for warmth (i.e. caps for cancer patients, blankets for preemies, etc.). What was the inspiration behind the project? Is someone on the foster care staff a knitter themselves?
Lynn Davis: The idea for the Red Scarf project actually came from one of our volunteers. She also happened to be a knitter and asked if she could knit scarves for our students. She then asked if a few of her friends could get involved. From there it exploded. They were all members of needle arts groups and online communities. They began sending the message out across the internet and from there the RSP was born.
VH: Originally, the RSP focused on providing red scarfs to orphans who were on their way to college as a reminder that they were not alone. Has the focus changed much over the years?
LD: We actually have not strayed from our original idea. Valentine’s Day can be a hard one for a lot of people. We wanted our students to know that they were loved so we send them care packages for Valentine’s Day. It seemed like a good fit to have red scarves in that care package.
VH: We at Bernat are currently celebrating back to school time, and would love to hear about how young students in need can benefit from your program.
LD: In addition to the funding for school we also offer a variety of family-like support services to our students. It’s not enough to just send funding, they need to know that they have people they can reach out to if they need help. In addition to the care packages we also have mentors, career coaches, internships and an emergency fund that is called the Red Scarf Fund.
VH: Over the years, what impact have you seen handmade red scarves have on students who have received them?
LD: The impact has been tremendous! We have graduates that still talk about their Red Scarves. We have others that have learned to knit and now donate scarves that they have knit. Many youth will comment that this is the first hand-made item they have ever received. Additionally, many that create scarves also include some of the most beautiful notes with their donations. They will tell the students a little bit about themselves, offer words of encouragement or include motivational quotes.
VH: If knitters and crocheters want to get involved with The Red Scarf Project, what should they do?
LD: The guidelines for creating and submitting scarves can be found on our website, but the basic nuts and bolts are:
RED SCARF PROJECT GUIDELINES
- Size: approximately 60” long and 5” to 8” wide. Scarves should be long enough to be wrapped around the neck, with tails long enough to be tied in the front.
- Style: Think unisex collegiate. Fringes are optional. Your scarf should drape, tie easily and be soft.
- Color: Red! However, this could mean burgundy, cherry, russet, red stripes with other colors, or multicolor hues including red.
- Finished & tagged: Yarn ends should be securely sewn in. For a personal touch, attach a tag saying “Handmade for You” with your first name, city, and group affiliation, if any. Donors have also included washing instructions, messages of encouragement, gift cards, and more.
Mail to: Foster Care to Success, Red Scarf Project
21351 Gentry Drive Suite 130
Sterling, VA 20166
NOTE: Scarves are accepted between September 1 and December 15 annually. As we have limited storage space, please send your scarves only during this time period.
Make the Star Stitch Scarf for RSP today!
Star Stitch Scarf
(Modified from original pattern featured in the book Craft Hope by Jade Sims)
5”[12.5 cm] wide x 65”[165 cm] long.
Bernat Softee Chunky (100g / 3.5 oz; 99 m / 108 yds)
Berry Red (28705) 3 balls
Size 8mm (U.S. 11) knitting needles or size needed to obtain gauge.
11st and 14 rows = 4” [10 cm] in Star Stitch Pattern
Note: the scarf is made with a special star stitch. To make star (MS) purl 3 sts together, leaving the st on the left-hand needle. Wrap the yarn around the needle, then purl the same 3 sts together again.
Cast on 21 sts.
1st to 14th rows: *K1, p1; rep from * to end.
15th row (RS): P1, *k1,p1; rep form * to end.
16th row: K1, *MS, k1;rep from* to end.
17th row: Repeat 15th row.
18th row: K1, p1, k1, *MS, k1; rep from * to last 2 sts, p1, k1.
19th to 214th rows: Repeat 15th to 18th rows.
215th to 228th rows: *K1, p1; rep from * to end.
Weave in the ends. Block if necessary.