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Young people across the country are teaming up with their peers to Warm Up America!, helping others, and in the process are discovering these crafts are fun and relaxing. Plus, the added benefits of Warm Up America! are:
- Community service
- Self esteem
- Problem solving
- Math and motor-skill development
- Intergenerational activity
- Fun group project
- Learning an enjoyable skill that will last a lifetime
Whether you are a teacher, Extension Agent, 4-H leader, Family, Career and Community Leader of America, a Family & Consumer Science, or Scout leader, Warm Up America! is a cost-effective and fun program that can satisfy any teaching mandate or situation. Plus, it's the ideal group project because one person can make a difference by stitching just one section, approximately 7" by 9".
Free basic knitting and crocheting pattern instructions, which you can download, are available at this site. There is also a link on the patterns page to basic how to knit and crochet illustrations. We encourage you to reproduce and distribute them.
Children are generally quick to visualize how to do things and are less hesitant than adults to pick up needles and hooks and jump right in. However, as you all know, their attention spans are short, so the more assistants you have, the smoother and more fun the sessions will be. We also have found that there are always several children who will pick up the basics pretty quickly and help other students.
Finding A Teacher If You Do Not Knit or Crochet
To find teacher volunteers, start with your students. Ask if any of their family members or friends know how to knit or crochet and would be interested in volunteering.
Knitting and Crochet Guilds
Local knitting and crochet guilds are an excellent source for teaching talents. Contact the headquarters of the following two national organizations or you can access their web site:
Senior Centers also are an excellent source of teachers. In addition, it is helpful to establish a contact with older adult groups because students may need help joining afghan sections together.
Yarn stores and crafts departments are another good resource for teachers.
The Craft Yarn Council of America sponsors an educational program called the Certified Instructors Program, which has trained thousands of knitters and crocheters to become teachers. A graduate of this program might be in your community and available to assist you as well.
Contact Craft Yarn Council or 800-662-9999), if you are looking for a teacher.
Evie Rosen, the creator of Warm Up America!, saw the program as a way for everyone to get involved in helping the homeless. Costs for this project can be kept to a minimum. It's a terrific way to use up odd skeins and balls of yarn. Ask friends or parents for extra yarn; you'll be surprised what turns up. Post notices at churches and synagogues, libraries and recreation centers. Craft yarn, needles and hooks are also readily available at a reasonable cost in all major chain stores, craft chains and needlework stores nationwide.
Acrylic yarns, which are machine washable and dryable, are the ideal yarns for making Warm Up America! afghans because of their easy-care properties. However, a variety of natural fibers and blends also work well. With just one 3.5-oz. skein, students can make several 7" by 9" sections.
How Warm Up America! Can Work For You
- Students reinforce reading and basic math skills as they learn the crafts of knitting and crocheting and have fun doing it. They work together in planning how sections fit together to make a finished afghan.
- For after-school programs, Warm Up America! provides students with all of the above benefits. In addition, knitting and crocheting are clinically proven stress relievers, strengthen motor coordination and are a welcome break from straight academics.
- Students can spearhead a community-wide Warm Up America! drive, collecting donations of yarn and coordinating volunteers to knit and crochet. To join all of the sections into warm afghans, stage an assembly party in the school gym.
Joining and Donating
On the Warm Up America! pattern page, you'll find some hints on joining sections. What generally happens in a group setting is that a few of the students will take over the job of joining sections. Or you can enlist the aid of friends. Bag 49 sections, along with some scrap yarn, and ask a volunteer to join them at home.
Joining and donating the afghans locally makes Warm Up America! a year-round activity for your class or group. Neighbors helping neighbors is what this program is all about. Ask your students and volunteers what their favorite charities are. Some of the many places where Warm Up America! afghans have been donated include:
- Women's shelters
- Nursing homes
- Hospitals and hospices
- AIDS facilities
- Community service agencies and a variety of national non-profit agencies
Helpful Teaching Hints
Teachers who regularly instruct children in knitting and crocheting counsel:
- Make it fun. Go with the flow. Don't dwell too long on how to hold the yarn, needles and hooks. Once they feel comfortable, form will come. Just keep them going. Work around mistakes; don't rip them out.
- If you are able to have a series of classes, it's nice to let the children keep their first project. For example, Norma Ellman, a teacher in New York, has kids make a long strip of knitting for their first project (approximately 10 stitches wide). She then shows them how to weave the edges together to make a skinny purse, headband, or how to stuff it to create a long skinny snake or other fun animals, etc.
- Ellman also has found it is easiest to begin by giving students knitting needles with several rows of knitting already worked, and the same with crochet. In this way, the kids learn the basics of garter stitch or single crochet more easily. Casting on in knitting or creating a foundation chain in crochet can be tricky for beginners because of their tension. Once they feel comfortable with the basic stitches, you can go back and teach them how to cast on or how to make a foundation chain.
If you prefer to begin your knitting instruction with the basics, Evie Rosen, one of the top knitting teachers in the country, suggests following the knitting method of casting on. Following this method, you create your foundation row by knitting each stitch on to the needle. Children immediately begin to learn the technique for making a garter stitch.
- Use light-colored, smooth, medium-weight yarn (worsted-weight) because it is easier for a beginner to see how a stitch is formed.
As mentioned above, we encourage you to photocopy the how to crochet and knit illustrations from the Craft Yarn Council of America Web site and distribute them. Attractive how-to booklets are available in craft and fabric stores and chain stores as well.
Keep In Touch
When you begin a Warm Up America! program, please drop us a note or card to let us know. We need your input as well. If you send squares and afghans to the Foundation office, please send along the name of your group, the number of children involved, a daytime phone number and, if possible, any photos. If you chose to distribute the afghans in your community, we also would like to know the number of finished afghans you donated. We will add your statistics to those of other volunteers from around the country to help tell the Warm Up America! story. And we'd like to feature your group's photos at our web site.
Make your local newspaper, television and radio stations aware of what you and your group are doing. We have found the media is especially interested in reporting on worthwhile community programs and this exposure will result in more volunteers.
We look forward to hearing from you and working with you to Warm Up America!