Your Ultimate Guide to Knitting Scarves for Charity: What You Need to Know

Why scarves? Where to donate? What to knit? Get your answers to these questions and more

Ultimate Guide to Knitting Scarves for Charity

There’s one piece of winter clothing that, in my opinion, we never recognize just how much we need it until we’re not wearing it.

That piece of clothing is the humble scarf.

When the wind is blowing and the snow is flying, chances are good that we’ll be wearing a hat, a heavy winter coat, and boots. Sometimes, though, we might skimp on the scarf.

And boy, do we ever regret it! Somehow, winter air just seems to sneak down one’s neck and infect the rest of the body with that icy chill.

(Can you tell I’m speaking from experience here? Eeeeeeek.)

On the other hand, when we do remember that all-important scarf, it’s such a relief. You just feel completely warm. Snuggled up in comfort. Cozy.

It’s little wonder, then, that scarves are such popular charity knitting projects. Or that a handknitted scarf is such a treasured gift to a person in need.

The Special Spell of a Handknitted Scarf

One of the most enjoyable things about scarf knitting is that it so often returns us to our knitting roots.

For many of us, a scarf was our very first knitting project. Or, if it wasn’t our first project, it was among the first ones we successfully completed. It may have even been our first “big” project.

Because to a new knitter, a scarf indeed feels BIG.

(Heck, even as a relatively experienced knitter, sometimes a scarf feels like a BIG project!)

So when we knit and purl our way into 4 to 6 feet of fabric, we may just feel as though we’re reconnecting with the very beginning of our knitting careers. And if we’re knitting a more complex pattern, we may be reminded of how far we’ve come.

If you’re reading this post, chances are good that you already knit scarves, and you already love doing so. You don’t need me to tell you why it’s wonderful!

What you probably want to know is where you can send your fabulous scarves! So, below are some of the charities that eagerly accept scarf donations.

Charities that Accept Handmade Scarves

(Note: many other organizations exist for the purpose of collecting not only scarves but other items as well; this list includes strictly organizations collecting only scarves.)

Handmade Especially for You: This incredible charity provides handmade scarves to survivors of domestic abuse.

Knit Your Bit: The National World War II Museum sponsors this program that encourages volunteers to knit scarves for veterans.

Operation Gratitude: Through this program, you can offer handmade scarves that will be included in care packages for active American troops.

Red Scarf Project: This amazing charity offers a special gift of a red scarf to individuals who have grown up in foster care and are “aging out” of the system. These scarves are just one part of the care packages that these individuals receive. Foster Care 2 Success is the organization that runs the program.

Special Olympics Scarf Project: All over the United States, Special Olympics chapters gather scarves for the magnificent individuals who compete in the Special Olympics. This Ravelry group is the easiest way to find the state nearest you (if not your own state) participating in any given year.

How to Be Successful in Knitting Scarves for Charity

1. Check the guidelines before you donate. I cannot stress this enough. Please, please check the guidelines of whatever group you wish to donate to. Nearly every scarf charity has guidelines of some sort, and when they do, there is always a good reason for those guidelines.

Also, while some charities will accept both scarves and cowls (including infinity scarves), not all do. Again, be sure that your donation can actually be used and check first.

2. Contact the charity before you donate. Some charities actually require this. Others do not.

Regardless, it is always wise to ensure that the charity you wish to donate to is actually still operating, or even—not impossible, given the pandemic we’ve been living through!—not currently accepting new donations, even if they are still at work.

Some charities collect donations only during a specific time frame, especially when collection space is limited.

You may also find that a charity has recently changed an address or added a new one. All of these are good things to learn before you actually go through the trouble of sending or dropping off a donation!

3. Remember that scarves should be warm. Your highest priority when knitting scarves, especially when you knit for charities or organizations that serve homeless people and/or those living in poverty, must be warmth. (Thank you to Mittens for Detroit director Wendy Shepherd for this advice!)

Beware of lacy scarves or those using eyelash or shimmery yarn, or anything else more suited to an accessory scarf rather than a winter-weather scarf.

4. Consider a wide scarf to a long scarf. This tidbit also comes directly from Wendy Shepherd: “The longer scarves should be long enough to wrap and cover the neck (and coat opening), but not so long that it’s a hassle to manage.

“One good option instead of a long scarf is to think about a wider, shorter scarf that can be used as an additional layer inside of the coat/jacket – easily worn over clothes when inside also.”

5. Consider cowls instead of scarves. Obviously, if the charity you’re knitting for wants only scarves, knit scarves. However, if you’re knitting for, again, a charity serving homeless or poverty-stricken populations, cowls are an ideal substitute for scarves. More words from Wendy:

“Cowls are better for kids, as they are safer and provide better warmth. Easier for the kids to put on and take off, as well. [For adults as well,] again, cowls have an advantage and are safer to wear.”

6. Wash your creations before you donate them. Be sure to use dye- and fragrance-free detergents and fabric softeners. Some people are sensitive or even allergic to dyes and fragrances.

Again, some charities actually require this. But even if your chosen charity does not, it’s simply good donation etiquette to do so. Especially, again, in the age of COVID-19.

Jane's Leftover Yarn Scarf
Jane’s Leftover Yarn Scarf
Photo: Jane Lewis

Free Knitting Patterns for Scarves: Readers’ and My Favorites

Below is a listing of some of the many scarf patterns Knitting for Charity has collected over the years! Included among these are reader favorites as well as mine. (Oh, and a scarf pattern I created is included, too!)

14 Fun & Beautiful Children’s Scarves to Knit – Free!

Sways with the Wind scarf
Sways with the Wind Scarf

Beyond Garter Stitch: How to Create 5 Beautiful Scarves for Free

How to Help Survivors of Abuse through Leftover Yarn

Jane’s Leftover Yarn Scarf

Sways with the Wind (my own scarf pattern!)

I hope you now feel like you know everything there is to know about knitting scarves for charity. Ready to go forth and warm the world with yarn?

Get “How to Get Your Handknits to Local People in Need: What You Need to Know” FREE with your subscription to the Knitting Nuggets Newsletter. When you join this community, you’ll receive resources + inspiration to knit patterns you love for people you care about!

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  1. Good morning, Nicole..I LOVE knitting for charity–because we are assured these individuals truly appreciate our gifts! Unlike some family/friends from whom we may not hear whether they received our gift–or a thank you. I am so pleased you mentioned Operation Gratitude–I have been knitting hats for this organization since 2018–and always receive a thank you for them. My goal each year has been (at minimum) 25 hats–and the first year, I was so excited to receive an e-mail from a soldier expressing his gratitude–how this humbled me. I believe he may have been stationed in Afghanistan as he mentioned he had NO idea how COLD it could get there!

    I have also knit 36″ scarves for our North Carolina Veterans. I urge everyone to choose a charity of their choice–quite rewarding!! Thanks, as always, for your wonderful newsletter, suggestions and pattens! Great job! sincerely, a knitting buddy, Sandra

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Sandra! How wonderful that a soldier actually reached out to you to express his gratitude for your gift. Isn’t it wonderful to think of our work warming someone so far away? Thank you for sharing this and for your encouragement to everyone knitting for charity! ❤️