My Pandemic Project

Last year, I had a Grade 8 student who brought her knitting to school.  She would knit during lessons (but put it away when it was time to work) and at lunch.  Whenever we were outside, she brought her yarn and needles and sat on the cold ground, happily knitting and purling along.  The more I watched her, the more I realized how much I missed it; in early December, I bought 3 balls of yarn.

When I was in my twenties, I taught myself to knit.  One year, I made sweaters for everyone at Christmas and joked that the price of labour made them the most expensive gifts under the tree. But, like so many other things that disappeared when I had my boys, my knitting needles were tucked away.  And every year, when getting rid of things that weren’t being used, I would look at my needles, think about knitting, and put them back in the cupboard.

And now, more than 30 years later, I found myself pulling out a set of equally old 10 mm needles.  I hoped I remembered how.

Within weeks, I had finished 3 scarves to drop off at a local charity for anyone who needed one.  The receptionist’s eyes brightened when he saw what I had made and I left feeling on top of the world.  At that point, I knew that this was going to become a habit.

Throughout the winter and spring, I knit more scarves to send to a homeless community in Toronto and dish cloths for my friends.  My work was simple but, when my hands were busy, I was happy.

After 5 months of knitting, purling and relearning other stitches, I started to think about all of the loose strands of yarn, the ones that are cut off after the finishing touches are done.  My thoughts about the waste led to more thoughts about the landfill; there had to be some way of keeping the loose ends out of it.  We regularly donate a bag of worn out clothes and other textiles like underwear or socks that can’t be reused (they are sent to be recycled into insulation, carpet padding or other useful materials); I wondered why I couldn’t just add the cut off strands to that?

So I started to do just that. No one has actually told me whether I can or can not do this but, to me, it seems that saving pieces of yarn for future insulation is the right thing to do. Each  goes into this glass water bottle, representing my productivity and my commitment to reducing garbage.  I love thinking about what was made with the different colours; in this picture, you can see where I worked on The Red Scarf Project in Niagara.  When the bottle is full, I add the scraps to the bag of clothes that is designated for recycling and start over.

While this may seem silly or insignificant to most, it is a tiny step that I can make to help reverse the damage that we have done to our planet.  I am proud of this as it turns a scarf, dish cloth, blanket or anything else I knit into a gift that is made with zero waste.

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