By Susan Brittain, Karen Manthey, Julie Holetz

You don’t have to be an expert in crochet to make a difference with it. The moment you found out how to guide your hook through the stitches you became empowered to make positive changes in the world. here are nine ways that you can do good things with crochet — for your friends, your community, and your planet.

Share Your Passion with a Crochet Basket

Give the gift of crochet by putting together a “Learn to Crochet” basket for a friend. Be sure to include all the tools someone would need to start crocheting right away: a book on how to crochet (why not this one?), an H-8 U.S. (5 mm) hook, some worsted-weight yarn, and a yarn needle. Make your basket extra special by including a coupon for a free one-on-one lesson with you.

Host a Stash Swap Party for Friends

Instead of buying new yarn, host a stash swap party with some of your fellow knitters and crocheters. Maybe you’ve bought some delicious yarn on sale but had no pattern in mind to go with it, or perhaps you just have a couple balls left over from a different project. A stash swap party allows you to go through your stash (a collection of yarn) and sort out the yarns that you haven’t been able to use. Everyone brings his or her contribution to the party, and you get to have fun trading yarn while bonding with your fellow stitchers.

Teach Someone How to Crochet

Now that you know how to crochet, why keep it to yourself? Share your new hobby by teaching someone else. Even children as young as 6 years old can easily pick up on the basics of crochet. Start by showing your pupil how to make a chain that she can use as a hair tie, bracelet, or necklace, and then move on to basic squares that can be used as doll blankets or donated to a charity that makes blankets for the homeless (see the next section for more information).

For a complete manual on teaching children (and grown-ups) how to crochet, check out the Crochet Guild of America’s website.

Donate Crochet Supplies to Community Groups

If you find you have too much yarn or too many hooks, or if you just feel like sharing the crochet wealth, you can donate yarn, hooks, and other crochet supplies to one of many organizations (including schools and senior centers) looking for craft supplies. To find a group that will be happy to take your donation, check with your local crochet guild, senior center, or school district. You can also contact the Helping Hands Needle Arts Mentoring Program, which creates community partnerships to promote and encourage the sharing of needle arts with children.

Crochet for a Cause

You need to know only a few simple stitches to make a difference in the lives of others. Hundreds of nonprofit organizations have been created by caring people to collect handmade items in support of a good cause. From crocheted hats for hospitalized infants to blankets for homeless pets, there’s an organization for almost any project, and many of them provide simple patterns for you to follow.

To find an organization that interests you, contact your local crochet guild, hospital, shelter, or senior center, or try getting in touch with any of these established resources:

  • Bev’s Country Cottage: This website is a great resource for patterns, and it has links to charities from around the world.
  • Snuggles Project: This organization is dedicated to helping our furever friends that find themselves in shelters across the United States. Check its website for patterns, tips, and a worldwide shelter locator that will accept your donation of a snuggle.
  • Warm Up America!: This charity collects handmade blankets to give to shelters, children’s hospitals, nursing homes, and anyone in need. Its website has patterns and tips for making and joining squares. (Note: A similar organization exists in Canada. Check out the Blankets for Canada Society.)

Buy Local Yarn

You can lighten your impact on the planet by supporting the fiber-producing farms in your area. Some local farms even have community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs where you can invest directly in the farm and get lots of yarn or wool for spinning at the end of the season. For many city folks, investing in a yarn CSA is the next best thing to owning their own sheep. To find a fiber-producing farm in your area, check with your local yarn shop and farmers’ markets.

Use Eco-Friendly Fibers and Natural-Colored Yarn

Don’t be swayed by the first pretty color or texture of yarn that meets your eye. Instead, think about the planet as you make your yarn purchases, and keep these important considerations in mind while you shop:

  • Seek out yarns that are organically produced, environmentally friendly, or have companies behind them that support fair trade practices. By supporting eco-friendly companies, you’re helping to promote a greener earth one stitch at a time. To find out which yarn brands are eco-friendly, check the label, ask your local yarn shop, search the Internet, or join eco-friendly groups on social networking sites such as Ravelry.
  • Purchase yarns that are naturally colored or made with low-impact dyes. Yarns come in a wide rainbow of colors. However, many of the dyes used to create those colors include harmful chemicals that are toxic to the environment. Using yarns that are naturally colored or made with low-impact dyes helps reduce mankind’s toll on the earth. Many yarn companies offer a range of natural-colored yarns; in fact, you’ll be surprised at how many shades there are. Check the label or ask your local yarn shop to help you find out which yarns are naturally colored.

Crochet Green Items for Your Home

Make your home a little greener by trading in your disposable goods for reusable items. Here are just a couple of ideas:

  • Replace your paper towels with washable, crocheted towels. Be sure to use a cotton yarn, because cotton tends to be the most absorbent fiber.
  • Skip the paper and plastic bags for your own crocheted bag when shopping. Be sure to make a few bags to keep in your car or purse for those unexpected trips to the yarn shop.

Recycle Old Fabric

Instead of tossing or donating old sheets and clothes, consider giving them a new purpose. Rag crochet involves tearing or cutting fabric into long strips and working with them in the same way you would with yarn. The only difference is that the fabric tends to be a little thicker, so there’s a bit of prep work involved. To find suitable rag material, check your closet for worn clothes and linens, such as sheets, T-shirts, and jeans, or hit the secondhand store.

Turning rags into rugs is an age-old tradition, but why stop at rugs? You can take rag crochet in a whole new direction by making bags, pillows, or baskets.

crochet-strips
Cutting fabric into a continuous strip.

You can cut fabric into strips for crochet in several ways. The most basic way is to simply cut the fabric into equal-sized strips and then knot, sew, or loop them together into one long, continuous strand.