TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Friday, May 16, 2008

Guest Artist: Diane Gerlach, Charity Knitter

Diane is a long time friend who started out as a customer in one of my retail stores in Chicago a long, long time ago. She lives in Kenosha, Wisconsin, most of the time. She must have some nomad blood in her because she is often off somewhere visiting some friend in need (including me). She was just here for the quilt show, lending her much needed support.

Diane is a charity knitter. I asked her to write about what she does because I think it is of interest to all of us in the fiber community. She knits both for children in Afghanistan and for American soldiers based there. When I first learned about what she was doing, it struck me as a bit odd, kind of like patting both the victim and the victimizer on the back. I am personally against the Bush Administration's position and action in Central Asia, but I also differentiate between the troops and our government's policies. When I lived in Chicago, I rarely met someone who was not a Democrat or who favored the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Ironically, my Afghan partner in my former gallery is a Republican. Moving to Kentucky, especially during my one year stint at Home Depot, introduced me to wonderful guys and men who had either served in a war, were in the reserves or were on their way.

So, Diane's work, to me, is one of blind compassion to all who have cold fingers, toes and heads. I have also personally benefited from her swift fingers. I live in a house with no Central Heating (radiators and a gas wall unit) and it can be bitter on a few winter days. Diane supplied me with wonderful woolen gifts that made my cold house bearable.

Knitting in such volume has a price. Diane had surgery on both wrists last year for carpal tunnel problems. As soon as she healed, she took up her needles and went back at it! Thank you, Diane, for all that you do for all of us!

A Post from the Land of Yin/Yang Knitting

Rachel calls me the Yin/Yang Knitter because of my diametrical charity knitting activities. In real life, I'm Diane Gerlach, and I knit in Kenosha, Wisconsin...and most any other place I happen to be.

Diane Gerlach in Paducah, April 2008, with my monsters.

Now that I’m retired from teaching, with more time to knit and less need for new knitted garments for myself, charity knitting has come into my life. I was especially inspired by Candace Key, “How Knitting for Charity Changed MY [Knitting] Life.

We are both enthusiastic about Afghans for Afghans which, inspired by the Red Cross Knitting tradition, is a people-to-people project that sends hand-knit and crocheted blankets, sweaters, vests, hats, mittens, and socks to the people of Afghanistan. For so many of us, our first image of Afghanistan was Steve McCurry’s haunting young girl with beautiful eyes on the cover of National Geographic in 1985.

copyright Steve McCurry 1985

Since that time, we have seen all too much evidence of the effects of war on that country.

Helicopter Crash, Google photos

The climate is harsh,

"Near Kabul. 1975. The girls lived in a walled village of a kind fairly common in the region."

germán on Flickr

transportation is limited, and schools such as do exist are unheated,

Hazara schoolboy, copyright Steve McCurry 2008

or even out-of-doors.

An Afghan girl learns the letters of the Dari alphabet on a blackboard in an outdoor classroom, during a lesson on the first day of the official school year in Kabul March 23, 2002. Photo by Natalie Behring

Afghan girls attend their first class on the first day of the official school year at the Amir Dost Mohammad Khan Secondary School in Kabul March 23, 2002.

Copyright, Natalie Behring

Through AFA, American and Canadian knitters and crocheters have contributed more than 70,000 wool garments and blankets to displaced Afghan families since 2001. Recently hats were collected for the Afghan Mobile Mini Circus for Children in organizational colors of red, green, blue, and yellow.

Photo from Aghan Mobile Mini Circus for Children. Kids are wearing AFA hats.

Newborn-size hats were sent to CURE, the only hospital in Afghanistan with a neonatal unit. As we have been asked to provide a link rather than photos, you can see them here.

Afghans for Afghans also has links to many knit and crochet patterns, including a darling one dedicated to newborns in Afghanistan: http://sasw.blogspot.com/2006/03/infant-earflap-hat.html

"Young Packer Fan"
Diane reverse-engineered this hat from a tiny one found among her mother's things after she passed away.
The original pattern likely dates back to the late 30's

When I was laid up with bronchitis from January to March, I sat in my favorite chair, turned on audio books, and knitted: hats, socks, mittens, sweaters, and an occasional blanket [well, yes, afghan.]

The Ships Project sends handmade “hugs from home” to troops in all four services deployed in the War on Terror. Since 2001, when Ellen Harpin sent a single pair of knitted slippers to a young woman with whom she was corresponding, nearly 290,000 items [hats, slippers, “cool ties”] have been contributed, the product of several thousand crafters. People photos shown below are from their website.

My projects have included black wool hats requested by Special Forces units in cold weather, the always popular patriotic hats,

the bright, soft colorful hats sent to medical evacuation units year round,

and socks.

Knitting for Afghan kids and for Special Forces troops stationed in Afghanistan; there it is: the yin and yang of my charity knitting.

All knitted items shown in the photos were knit by Diane Gerlach for her charity knitting projects. Do you have yarn sitting around that you are not going to use? Think of donating it to the knitters of one of these wonderful projects.


1 comment:

  1. What a fabulous post this is! I've already sent it to friends. Diane - you are an angel!


“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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