A Knitter Gives Back: A Guest Blog Post from Leigh Radford of Portland, OR

Leigh Radford is the author of three STC Craft books: AlterKnits, AlterKnits Felt, and One More Skein. She is also the author of One Skein. Leigh and I have been friends ever since we worked together on Interweave Knits magazine. Always generous, she recently completed a beautiful, colorful community knitting project. When I heard about it, I asked her if she would write a guest blog post for us and she--generously--agreed.


Above: Albers Stash Blanket, a field of knitted dreams for the Portland community (photo here and below by Beth Conyers).

Knitting is one of my favorite activities.  What began as a childhood hobby has transformed into a career that continues to evolve.

In May 2011 I completed 3-1/2 years of study and earned a bachelor of fine art in craft degree from Oregon College of Art and Craft. The time I spent at OCAC was amazing and, frankly, very self-absorbed. When I finished I took time to reflect on the support I had received from my friends and family and also from my community.

I feel fortunate to have grown up in Oregon and to make my home in Portland. I love living here. The environment, the people, and yes, even the rain--it all feels like home to me. I wanted to give back in some way that would benefit the community that helps nurture my creativity and I wanted to reconnect with people outside of the art school campus.

While pondering possibilities, I thumbed through a copy of One More Skein, the book I finished writing during my first semester back in school. I stopped when I reached the Albers Stash Blanket. I designed this project to celebrate my love of color and my desire to artfully use leftover yarn in my stash. I knew that this project could easily be worked on by a group of knitters--the perfect way to reconnect and give back, and it was right under my nose!

I posted the pattern on my Facebook page and asked  knitters to send me completed panels to assemble into blankets that I would donate to three Portland nonprofits: Cascade Aids Project, p:ear, and Raphael House. Alternatively, I asked them to coordinate similar efforts in their own communities. 

Lantern Moon generously donated knitting needles so that I could start multiple panels and then hand them off to other knitters to complete. I love that this was a joint effort—a community of those who love to knit working together to create something for others. As the deadline approached, I found myself lurking around my mailbox each day to see if a new panel might arrive.

The Albers Stash Blanket is a simple project and versatile enough to incorporate into my daily routine. I brought panels with me to meetings and social events. As I worked a panel, I eagerly anticipated choosing the next color. Sometimes I found myself knitting faster so I could get to it. 

This spring I proudly delivered four blankets to the chosen organizations on behalf of everyone who contributed their time and talents: Michele Lee Bernstein, Linda Blum, Anne Bressler, Jody Creasman, Close Knit, Erin Derr, Liz Hawthorne, Christie Heinonen, Sue Hill, Laura Irwin,  Loretta Kelly, Debbie Kenyon, MaryBeth Lynn, Aileen Mann, Tamsyn Mihalus, Kristin Spurkland, Twisted Yarn Shop, Laurie Undis, Cathy Woodcock, and Sharon Woodcock.

I began this project thinking I was the one giving a gift.  In truth, I feel like I have received one. This project created an opportunity for me to spend time with friends, old and new, and to learn more about three local nonprofits and how I can participate in them in a positive way going forward.

I continue to find inspiration within my Portland community and ask that you think about how you might use your time and talent to connect with others in your community as you reach for your knitting needles to work another row of stitches.

Above: Leigh puts finishing touches on the four blankets donated by the community.