How do I equip this high school knitting circle?
October 5, 2012 11:55 AM   Subscribe

I need to acquire supplies for a knitting circle for high school kids in Harlem. My problem is that the budget is $60.

The knitting group is a quasi-mandatory after school class for at-risk kids, mainly girls. A lot of them have few female role models and most of them have gotten in trouble with petty crimes (shoplifting especially, as they're all obsessed with fashion/clothes and try their best to scoot around the school uniform codes). As part of my social work program, I'm trying to foster stronger peer friendships, encourage the girls to make their own stuff as opposed to stealing it, keep everyone busy doing wholesome stuff, and teach them anger-management skills.

Each after-school activity gets a relatively equal budget, and the knitting circle was allotted $60. This was enough to buy cheap plastic needles and acrylic yarn for the 15 students (12 girls, 2 openly gay boys, and 1 African Muslim boy who "really wants a blue scarf"), plus some yarn I already had on hand. The kids actually seemed kinda pumped for the first session but were immediately disappointed upon seeing the quality of the supplies.

Normally I'd splurge on these items myself, but I'm living off student loans at the moment and not in a position to buy a ton of cotton yarn and bamboo needles. I considered approaching some knitting stores in my Brooklyn neighborhood, but they're *extremely* high-end, hoity-toity places, and I'm not even sure what I would ask them. It seems unlikely that they would have extra supplies on hand that they wouldn't just sell paying customers.

The school social worker is too busy to really focus on a minor after-school class, so I figured I'd poll you guys. Perhaps I can merge our group with a bigger knitting/crafts program? Are there, uh, knitting grants? What do social workers and teachers do under these circumstances when the school budget can't accomodate the activities?
posted by zoomorphic to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (43 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Knitters always have spare yarn (leftover from a project, etc) lying around. Request on Craigslist? I'm not familiar with exactly how works, but perhaps there's a way to solicit yarn donations there?
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 11:58 AM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah - Craigslist often has people who are moving or whatever giving away large amounts of yarn or selling it for cheap.

Asking on Ravelry is a great idea. Here's what looks to be the biggest NYC group - 2000+ members! Try shooting out a post.
posted by estlin at 12:01 PM on October 5, 2012

Best answer: Contact local yarn stores (even if you think they are high end - high end does NOT equate to heartless!) and ask if they can help get the word out to their customers and knitting groups to donate their unwanted supplies. We knitters always buy more than we could ever hope to use and have knitting needles we'll probably never use again.
posted by cecic at 12:02 PM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Ravelry and local yarn stores. Besides craigslist, you can sometimes find bulk lots of yarn and bulk lots of knitting needles (and crochet hooks) on ebay.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:05 PM on October 5, 2012

Also cruise thrift stores, sometimes they'll get a bundle in.
posted by tilde at 12:06 PM on October 5, 2012

I have a big bag of yarn that I would be more than happy to just GIVE you, if you're interested. (Although - it is acryllic, but some of it's actually not crappy-feeling acryllic. I would have no problem with you wading through and picking and choosing.)

Other than that -- yes to the asking on Ravelry for donations. Also, reach out to a couple of the not-fancy yarn stores (I like Knitaway on Atlantic), or if you want cotton, Knitpicks - which is already pretty cheap -- has its own version of the Peaches-n-creme dishcloth cotton called Dishie which is mad cheap. Maybe reaching out to them could also score you some.

Or, trawl eBay for "mixed lot" sales. I get a lot of random yarn that way.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:07 PM on October 5, 2012

Freecycle group? it's usually an email yahoo group and you may be waiting a bit, but as you're in a massive city I imagine a listing for such items might come up soon enough. Especially considering the nature of knitters to hoard supplies.
posted by electriic at 12:09 PM on October 5, 2012

Look for a local chapter of TKGA. Guild members always have stash yarn, and the ones I've known would be THRILLED to give it away to a good cause.
posted by specialagentwebb at 12:09 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have had good luck asking for donations on Ravelry, but I ultimately have to mostly equip my library knitting club out-of-pocket. (Mostly from and the Lion Brand store close to Union Square; the former has excellent wool prices, and the latter has acrylics that hit a pretty sweet spot in terms of quality/price.)
posted by Jeanne at 12:11 PM on October 5, 2012

I agree with the above posters that soliciting donations from knitters is a great way to go to get better yarn.

As for the needles, maybe you could make your own? I've made my own sock-knitting DPNs from bamboo skewers, and giant straight needles by sharpening dowels. Even if its not they're not the highest quality, its fun to knit with something that you made.
posted by tinymegalo at 12:11 PM on October 5, 2012

I've also heard people sing the praises of School Products Yarn in Manhattan, and there's a Lion Brand outlet on 14th-15th somewhere. Definitely reach out to see if they can help (even if they can't donate from the shop, I'm sure they'd at least know who to put you in touch with).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:13 PM on October 5, 2012

Best answer: Print out an information sheet about the group including a little bio for yourself (zoomorphic is x y and z and is currently studying for her masters in social work etc etc etc). Take it to local yarn stores and tell them what you just told us. "They were very excited, but when they saw the quality of materials their faces fell. I'm sure you can think of a way to help me get them excited about knitting again." Let them know you'll give them a little logo to put on their website if they help and that you'll promote them to all your internet friends. They might give directly, or they might have ideas for you.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:16 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thrift stores for sure.
posted by pised at 12:18 PM on October 5, 2012

Put up flyers asking for yarn and knitting needle donations at local churches. Little old church-going ladies will probably be happy to help. You may even get some volunteers to help teach.
posted by erst at 12:21 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is unravelling thrift store sweaters a terrible idea? Probably, I know nothing about yarn.
posted by Iteki at 12:21 PM on October 5, 2012

Best answer: What about Lion Brand? Their yarns are mostly acrylic/wool blends, and are a step above Red Heart acrylic. But still very affordable.

They have a New York flagship store and are possibly based here or have offices here -- even if you can't equip all 15 girls with Lion Brand yarn on your budget, they might be able to cut you a deal or give you some free samples, seeing as it's a school, at-risk youth, etc.

I also just noticed on their website that they have an outlet store in NJ. If you have a car or know someone who'd be interested in a field trip, that might be another good option.
posted by Sara C. at 12:26 PM on October 5, 2012

I think churches are a great idea. Ours helps a variety of local programs through out the year by placing donation boxes at the church with flyers of what they need. A lot of people would donate new things as well as gently used or leftovers.
posted by maxg94 at 12:31 PM on October 5, 2012

Also, if you want some good suggestions for local stores to ask about donating supplies or giving a discount or whatever:

Knit-A-Way -- in Brooklyn, but not hoity toity at all. Run by a nice older lady. They also have TONS of yarn, everything from Red Heart and an entire baby section to Koigu and cashmere/silk blends. If nothing else, she might cut you a deal on some of the lower end high-volume stuff. I think she also has a clearance bin that might be worth digging through.

Downtown Yarns -- East Village. A little hoity toity, but they have a crunchy granola vibe that might lend them more to this sort of thing.

Yarntopia -- on the Upper West Side. Haven't been, no idea how down-to-earth they are, but you might be able to work the neighborhood angle.

Knitty City -- another UWS store I haven't been to personally but where they might be interested in helping young at-risk girls.
posted by Sara C. at 12:34 PM on October 5, 2012

For every successful knitter there are a hoard of people who gave it up or tried to learn and never got into it. I predict that you will easily find yarn, needles and anything else your knitting heart desires. Just start spreading the word.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:38 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

P&S fabrics has good prices downtown. I'd also suggest freecycle, I know my sister got some yarn that way.
posted by catwash at 12:39 PM on October 5, 2012

Is unravelling thrift store sweaters a terrible idea? Probably, I know nothing about yarn.

It's possible, if you know what to look for in terms of construction, but it's difficult and the end result isn't necessarily great.

zoomorphic, are you on Ravelry at all? In any groups? In any local groups in particular?

You have to abide by the rules of the groups, of course, but in my experience, when people in your position post about needing ways to get supplies, knitters step up.

Also, be sure ask on Craigslist, Freecycle, etc, rather than just trolling for offers -- some people who wouldn't have wanted the hassle of listing their stuff will see your ad and donate.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:43 PM on October 5, 2012

Nthing the Ravelry suggestion, and adding that if you do post your request there, let us know. I (and many others, probably) would be happy to spread the word to knitting friends on Twitter and Ravelry if there were somewhere to direct them for more information. (Also, if you'd like to DM me your address, I can take a look in my stash -- like a lot of knitters, I have more yarn than I need and several odd balls left from finished projects. I tend to work in finer gauges, but I may well have some decent yarn in worsted or Aran weight that I'd happily give you for such a great cause. Some of it may even be blue.)
posted by elizard at 12:59 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also, find out if donations would be tax-deductible and offer receipts. That can be a huge bonus when it comes to your pitch.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:01 PM on October 5, 2012

If you don't have your own presence on Ravelry, look for local groups, stores, and/or individuals who do have an established presence and ask them to make the announcement for you.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:04 PM on October 5, 2012

In addition to group estlin pointed to, post as well to the Charity Knitting group. You can post the same message up to (I think) 3 groups. Charity Knitting often has people with stuff to donate. Good luck.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 1:14 PM on October 5, 2012

There are lots of great suggestions here already for the short-term, so here's something to consider for the spring or for next year: The website DonorsChoose exists to provide funding for this kind of project. Here's an example of someone using DonorsChoose to ask for support for an after-school knitting group.

The turnaround time would be a lot slower than soliciting yarn donations from shops and individuals, so it won't solve your problem of how to have more supplies available next week, but it's definitely worth considering as an option for the future!
posted by jessypie at 1:17 PM on October 5, 2012

I have a box of yarn and some needles! I'm in MA, but can mail them. I started to learn but never really figured it out. I feel guilty just having them hang around. My MIL probably has a ton of stuff, too. Memail me your mailing address where you can get a medium-sized box?
posted by kpht at 1:47 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Please Memail me too! I have a garbage bag sitting right next to me that has yarn (nice yarn, too - mostly 100% wool) that I just *know* I will never get around to using. I'd love to see it go to good use!
posted by Lucinda at 1:54 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've got a bunch of worsted weight yarn I can send. I think there are very few whole skeins, never mind lots of one color, so that kid won't get his scarf, but they'd have some choice if they wanted to make a hat or something else that's fairly small.

Unfortunately, spare yarn is probably easier to come by than spare needles and I sort of think metal needles would go a long way to making things seem not cheap. (Then again, I really hate plastic needles.)

So the answer to your question may be 'Ask Metafilter and fetch some packages from the post office'.
posted by hoyland at 2:05 PM on October 5, 2012

I memailed you earlier, but I will send you my yarn and several sets of needles(wood and metal, mostly), being a lapsed knitter! I probably have a full skein of nice chunky weight blue too.
posted by sawdustbear at 2:30 PM on October 5, 2012

Best answer: Everyone else seems to have covered "you can always depend on the kindness of knitters," so the other option is to look for knitting supplies where the knitters aren't. This sounds terrible, but cheap thrift stores near places where old people live. When they stop knitting, their kids hand everything over to the local thrift store. Back in my high school days I got a ton of knitting supplies (including a lot of fascinating 1970's pattern books I have been toting from apartment to apartment despite the fact that a hand-knitted gold sparkly jumpsuit is not really high on my Ravelry project list) that way. The yarn is often awful, but I generally paid about fifty cents per pair of (metal) needles. Also, maybe check out Goodwill's online auction site, which seems to have a couple of large batches of knitting supplies for cheap.
posted by posadnitsa at 2:45 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "What do social workers and teachers do under these circumstances when the school budget can't accomodate the activities?"

They usually pay for it out of pocket, unfortunately. My mother retired with several bookshelves and boxes worth of personally purchased items used to supplement school materials, and she worked for a pretty rich district. I've never known a teacher or school social worker who didn't spent a noticeable percentage of their own income to prop up their classroom/office.

Having said that: my cousin, a school social worker, spends a few evenings and weekends every single year soliciting donations for a Christmas program for poor families in her district. Hoity toity or not, she just marches right in there and asks to speak to someone. She also takes advantage, whenever possible, of teacher/school discounts and programs. Lots of craft stores have relationships with local schools and organizations. You may be able to piggy back off of those relationships.

Craft store yarn is totally fine for a lot of things, and it's not all horrible stuff, though you can get more bang for your buck from a place like KnitPicks. My rule of thumb, though, is that I always pair one natural material with one man made one for a more pleasurable experience. Acrylics are knit with wooden needles, and natural wools, cottons, etc. are knit with acrylic needles.

Part of the disappointment might have been that they didn't get to pick their own colors or textures. I doubt that it would be practical to march through a craft store with 15 kids, but it might be worth it to figure out a way to let them have more involvement in the selection of materials. For instance, restricting them to a certain brand (KnitPicks, Caron, etc) but letting them choose a color they want.
posted by xyzzy at 3:43 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A specific ravelry suggestion: check out the Yarn Storming group. It's one woman who's taken it upon herself to send free boxes of yarn to charity groups, school groups, or individual knitters going through hard times. Start a thread, explain what you're doing, and don't be shy about specifying exactly what kind of yarn and needles you need. (e.g. natural fibers only, or only soft acrylics.) You should get a private message within a day or two asking for your address, and a a package within a week. I got a package from this group to give to some knitters at my local occupy camp last year, and I was pretty happy with the contents.
posted by ActionPopulated at 3:52 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Register at one of the materials reuse centers. Materials for the Arts is one in NYC but there may be others.
posted by barnone at 5:16 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Memail me. I've got some metal knitting needles that I'd be happy to mail to you.
posted by dtp at 5:34 PM on October 5, 2012 has yarn and needles for dirt cheap.
posted by miyabo at 7:28 PM on October 5, 2012

My library has a weekly knitting group full of great women and men who regularly regift/donate/swap yarn. There's a massive bag of yarn in our staff room right now, as a matter of fact, donated for some project. If you can find one or two such groups in your own area, you could tap into a great source of knowledge as well as yarn and needles (and maybe even some more volunteers).

So I say, call the public library (and any local bookstores if you still have some around).
posted by hms71 at 7:45 PM on October 5, 2012

Best answer: Nth-ing the Ravelry suggestion. Also, I would advise against cotton yarn for beginners -- it's really, really tough to knit with. Acrylic is fine, or a wool/acrylic blend.
posted by sarcasticah at 9:25 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: We've exchanged MeMails, but I forgot to say that there is a MetaFilter Ravelry group and your question is linked.
posted by paduasoy at 11:54 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Memail me too, I have spare wood and bamboo needles.
posted by amileighs at 6:40 AM on October 9, 2012

I'd be happy to send you a gift voucher for a yarn shop that would be close to you. I have spare yarn and needles but can't guarantee they'd get to you in time. Memail me if you're interested.
posted by psychostorm at 5:13 AM on October 10, 2012

Memailed you already, but I wanted to add that the Ravelry group Teaching Kids to Knit might be a good resource not only for ideas for materials, but for working with the group in general.

Good luck and thanks for doing this!
posted by wiskunde at 11:01 AM on October 13, 2012

Nthing the MeMail : ) I have some spare yarn that I haven't used, and would like to donate.
posted by luciddream928 at 8:18 AM on October 19, 2012

« Older Can a healthy marriage last?   |   Germs germs germs Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.