I’ve noticed that many knitters love to knit for others. To give gifts from the heart, made with our own two hands. To spread a little bit of warmth and a little bit of love, in our hand-knit way.
You may have found a tag tucked inside your copy of MDK Field Guide No. 12: Big Joy that says “I’m Not Lost.” That tag has a story.
Photo: Elysa Weitala for MDK Field Guide No. 12.
Inspiration from the North
A few years ago, I saw some photos from an Ottawa knitting group that had been leaving hats and scarves around their city. Scarves tied to trees, posts and benches; hats left behind for people in need of some warmth to find.
That winter, it had been particularly cold here in the midwest. The furnace in our house went out and our family huddled around our fireplace. Our furnace was fixed soon enough, but living without it had made us think harder about people in our community who didn’t have heat, a home, or a warm place to huddle.
Inspired by those Ottawa knitters, I made cardstock tags that said “I’m Not Lost: If you’re out in the cold, please take this. Warm wishes.” I left a few handknits tagged with these words around my city, hoping people who needed them would find them, and I shared the project on my blog in case anyone else wanted to do the same.
This year, I wanted to do this project on a larger scale, using the “I’m Not Lost” tags we included in Field Guide No. 12.
I’d need some help.
Help Was On the Way
Each November, a group of Iowans gather for a weekend to knit and crochet in a lodge at Walnut Woods State Park, just outside of Des Moines. We call our retreat knitXmidwest; it’s a nod to to the SXSW (South by Southwest) festival, but it is less about music and more about knitting. I have co-hosted this event for seven years with different combinations of friends: Erica, Kim and Jess.
We like to keep it simple. Our agenda is the one thing we all we really need: lots of uninterrupted time to knit. This year, I invited anyone attending our retreat to knit or crochet a hat, cowl or scarf, with a plan to tag our knits and distribute them together.
On the appointed day, we chose an area downtown that has heavy foot traffic and has seen an increase in homeless population. It also happens to be right next to the city’s Pappajohn Sculpture Park, which includes fantastic pieces like Jaume Plensa’s “Nomade,” Yoshitomo Nara’s “White Ghost,” Tom Sachs’s “Miffy Fountain,” Keith Haring’s “Three Dancing Figures, version C,” Yayoi Kusama’s “Pumpkin (L)” and Robert Indiana’s iconic “LOVE” sculpture.
We decided the LOVE sculpture would be the perfect meeting place for us to gather and start distributing our knits. Our goal: spread the love, share the warmth.
We have a tight-knit (pun intended) group here in Des Moines; many of us have knitted together for over a decade. So when I put out that call for hats, cowls and scarves to donate, I expected a good response.
But when I saw so many familiar faces showing up, adding their knits to the pile of cozy, colorful accessories, I was brought to tears.
“Iowa nice” might be a very real thing.
I hope our knits helped spread joy to people in our city. We certainly experienced joy in knitting and sharing them.
The More the Merrier
The “I’m Not Lost” concept is simple. It can apply to sharing one handknit or a few, or many dozens of items. If you or your group would like to do an “I’m Not Lost” project in your community, you can print out your own set of tags from the PDF right here.