Gifts for Family: The Red Scarf Project

Note: I've been talking a lot about gifts this week–holiday gifts, gifts for baby. There's another kind of gift we knitters spend time and love on: charity knitting, where we give gifts to those members of our larger family who are in need. In the process of moving to another country and meeting so many new people, the idea of our world as a large family-to-be has come back to me, as so many Canadians welcome me, the newest member of their family. After all–I never know if the stranger I have just met will soon become a sister (or brother) of my heart.

So, consider welcoming a stranger into your family this year. Consider knitting a scarf (or making a donation) through the Red Scarf Project for a young person who needs a bit of family support to make their way in the world.

(Some of this post may sound a bit familiar to long-time Knitting Daily folks–parts of it appeared a year ago in my first post about the Red Scarf Project.) –Sandi

Connections: A Red Scarf

The Red Scarf Project, endorsed by Interweave Press and The National NeedleArts Association, was started in 2005 by the Orphan Foundation of America as a way of showing community support and encouragement to college-bound teens in foster care. In 2007, I was asked if I would design a Red Scarf pattern for Interweave to sponsor during that year's campaign, and of course, I said yes.

Designing a scarf, a scarf that hasn't been Done Before, especially a scarf for the Red Scarf Project, wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. It had to be narrow, long, look good on both sides, be wearable by both men and women, not too complicated to knit, and, oh yes: be red. [Sandi's update: They don't have to be red any longer–any unisex color is OK.]

So, how does one go about designing something with such strict parameters?

As I always do when I am designing things, I started with a story idea. I know that sounds a bit odd, but I am a storyteller, and I tell stories with stitches as well as with words. Knitters have a rich tradition of telling stories through stitches–look at the wonderfully evocative names we give to cable and lace patterns: Hollow Oak, Wings of the Swan, Homes of Donegal, Dragon Skin. The language of textiles has become a metaphor for storytelling: a well-told tale is even called "a yarn."

I thought of those foster teens who will be wearing all the scarves we knit for them. I thought of how, someday, one of those teens might be my kids' teacher, or perhaps even marry into my family. Those teens are not really without family: in a very real way, they are my future family.

Cabled version

Easier Twisted Rib version

Hence my cabled scarf, called Connections, where the stitches and patterns weave in and out, at times touching, and at times moving apart. Families are like that: we move in and out of each other's lives, but we stay connected, and our shared connections form a larger, stronger, whole.

Note that if you don't want to do cables, there's also a version that is cable-free–simply work the columns of twisted ribs the entire length of the scarf. However: The cables here are not hard, and if you have never tried cables, or think they are too difficult, then this scarf is a good place to start. How do I know that these cables aren't too hard? Because this is my first cable-knitting project. Ever. (Really.)

I figured that anything worth doing, is worth doing for family.

For more information about how to donate your scarf, and the foster kids who will receive the scarves, visit

Want more scarf pattern ideas? If the cabled scarf above doesn't grab you, there are plenty more scarves–from the playful to the classic–in our wonderful book Scarf Style. Many of these can be adapted for charity knitting, simply by changing the colors or the length…or maybe you'll find a gift inside for that hard-to-please someone on your holiday list. (You never know. I'll cross my fingers for you.) Buy a copy of Scarf Style.

Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.

What's on Sandi's needles? I'm trying to finish up the Camisa so I can wear it!

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