Yarn for the Giving: Warm Up America!
I know what it’s like to be cold. After almost a decade in high-altitude climates, I’m used to freezing temperatures and arctic winds. But there is one specific winter that still brings a chill to my bones: the epic mountain winter of early 2007.
The Value of a Blanket
My home at that time, Victor, Idaho, sits at 6,200 feet. My husband and I were renting an antiquated farmhouse that still boasted a boiler as its only source of heat. During the early months of 2007, we saw temps that plunged to around 30 degrees below Fahrenheit, not factoring in the wind chill. (You know it’s cold when 30 below has nothing to do with wind chill.)
Much to our frigid dismay, one day the boiler simply stopped working. Our landlord, a classic cowboy gentleman, insisted that the home remain “as Mother left it when she departed this world” and had no intention of upgrading to a furnace. He also rolled with the slow pace of our mountain culture, so he didn’t exactly react with a sense of urgency to our lack of heat.
We went without heat for two full weeks.
During that time, we lived mostly in our bedroom: door shut, space heater on, blankets piled high, nesting in order to keep warm. Our many covers consisted of several handmade quilts, at least one crocheted blanket, a classic Hudson Bay wool job that looked like it had tumbled from a French fur trapper’s canoe, and anything else that would help us not freeze to death—including the cat and the dog, who were forced to share the bed in order to contribute to the heat.
The foundation upon which we built our source of warmth—the blankets themselves—was for the most part handmade by my mother-in-law. There were at least six quilts in the mix, ranging in vintage from Tim’s childhood to newer items that were made for us in the first years of our marriage. The crocheted blanket was also her work. Had it not been for this generous maker, our circumstances during that winter would have been far worse.
The Warmth of Charity Crafting
The boiler got fixed. The subzero temps finally rose. Our discomfort was only temporary. But for many in our country, winter brings the fear and insecurity of not being able to stay warm. Those folks must figure out on a daily basis how they will maintain their own comfort and that of their loved ones.
Warm Up America! provides true support to those who, in the face of bone-chilling cold, lack the resources to ensure they will have warmth. This charity started in a small Wisconsin town in 1991, with neighbors knitting and crocheting afghans for locals in need. Shortly thereafter, founder Evie Rosen asked some volunteers to knit and crochet in small sections or motifs and other volunteers to join those sections together. The idea took off, and the charity was able to produce more blankets than ever.
Today, Warm Up America! successfully distributes warmth with the generous help of makers nationwide. Afghans, caps, and other items are made available to tens of thousands of people all over the country. Not only do the folks at WUA! work to ensure the warmth of many—they also want to spread the love by teaching you how to craft.
This non-profit is a leader on many fronts. It encourages community. It fosters knowledge of crafts. Most importantly, it recognizes that a work-in-progress has the potential to keep someone warm. The folks at Warm Up America! are leading us to a better understanding of the needs of those less fortunate—taking action starts with you.
Header Image: Although moose are a typical winter sight in the Teton region of Idaho, where we used to live, the sight of a tiny dog playfully approaching one is not typical! [Photo Credit | Lynda Roscoe / EyeEm]
Craft it Forward