Made with love | meet our charity stitchers: kelly martino

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Stitching to give is one of the most wonderful ways to make someone feel loved. Earlier this year, we asked our community to nominate a friend who knits or crochets for charity to be considered for our Charity Stitchers Award. The submissions we received were beyond inspiring. It lit up our hearts to see the many ways our community taps into their talents to make a positive impact.

We’re excited for you to meet one of our winners, Kelly Martino. Kelly spends most of her year crocheting blankets she can donate to various Toronto shelters and programs once the cold weather arrives. She’d been diligently following her ritual for 20 years, sharing the process with friends and family along the way, when the isolation of lockdowns prompted her to open her Instagram page and share her community makes with the world. Kelly’s page quickly gained traction, inspiring a new wave of helpers and building a community centered around giving back.

Ready to be inspired? Read on to learn more about Kelly and what drives her to stitch for a cause.

To view the Charity Stitchers Lookbook pattern collection featuring the project named after Kelly, click here.

*Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

kelly martino

Jonah Larson
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“She is so very loving and selfless. Her life has been filled with health obstacles but instead of letting that turn her sad or bitter, she uses the strengths and abilities she does have to help others and shine a light of love and joy into their lives."

Belinda Baker, Nominator

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1. What inspired you to stitch for charity?

When I was in my late high school/early college years I would see so many people downtown without homes. Many didn’t have proper winter items in the freezing cold weather. It really upset me. I decided that I’d make items throughout the year and then hand them out to those in need once the cold weather set in and I’ve been doing it ever since. Sometimes - especially when you are going through a rough time in your life - it’s nice to receive an item that provides you with some much-needed cozy comfort and to know that someone cared enough to make that item for you.

2. What is your favorite charity that you donate to? What attracted you to their mission?

I’ve always been drawn to where the biggest need is in any given year. I donate to many shelters and programs in my community. Over the years they’ve included organizations focusing on homelessness, women’s shelters, child and family programs, youth/teen housing, transition to homes programs and newcomer/refugee centers. I also love donating to programs like the ‘No Charge Christmas Store’. Programs like that make me happy. It’s a place where community members who are facing poverty or economic insecurity can go to pick out items for their loved ones to ensure they have gifts to open on Christmas day.

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3.How do you select the patterns and supplies you use for your donated projects?

I mostly come up with my own stitch patterns and designs. It helps to keep things fresh for me and my design mind active. When selecting stitch patterns for my designs/layouts - whether it’s my own or not - I always choose a pattern that’s not a yarn eater. My loved ones donate yarn to my efforts, so being smart about stitch pattern choice stretches those donations as far as possible so I can make more items for my community.

And… I truly love Yarnspirations yarn. I use it the most for my items. Bernat Super Value, Bernat Premium, Bernat Softee Baby, Red Heart Super Saver ,and Red Heart Comfort are my go-to yarns. As for supplies - I have nothing fancy! I’ve been using the same Susan Bates inline hooks that my Granny gave me 40 years ago. They are hands-down my favorite hooks, and I will cherish them always.

4. How has sharing your work on Instagram impacted your community makes?

I initially created my crochet Instagram account (@mspagerix) to show the loved ones who donate yarn towards my efforts what I was making with their contributions. It was a fun way to include them in the process and let them see firsthand how they were making a difference! I opened my Instagram account to the public during the pandemic - I could see how isolated we all were, and I kept reading on Facebook crochet groups that the craft was helping others cope through lockdowns.

5. What’s next for you? Where do you hope to take your philanthropy work in the future?

The page has definitely impacted my community makes in a positive way as it is more fun to share what I’m doing. For over 20 years, I made something, placed it in box for donation and moved on to the next make. Nowadays, I look forward to sharing it with my loved ones that donate and also with fellow crocheters - it motivates me even more as everyone is so supportive. It’s also been great to have a platform where I can ask if anyone in the area would be willing to contribute any makes and bam… someone answers the call. A couple of people have made hats, scarves and squares to be attached into blankets. My loved ones that donate go above and beyond sometimes and volunteer to be a delivery service between me and these others! How wonderful is that!?! Lastly, one of the main reasons I opened the account was to raise awareness for the type of community work that charity stitchers do. So many people have messaged me from all over the world to tell me that I have inspired them to start doing the same for their communities! It warms my heart to know this is happening because I share my love for crochet and charity stitching with others.

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Keep up with Kelly’s charity projects on her Instagram: @mspagerix. You can also share your photos with our community using #YARNSPO and tag us @yarnspirations or @redheartyarns on Instagram or find us on Facebook. We love to see your charity makes!

Ready to learn more about our other Charity Stitchers? You’ll enjoy Susan Moser’s tips on donation drives and how Jess Judkins brightens the day of coffee shop customers. Looking for more charity patterns? Check out our 2020 Charity Stitchers lookbook here.