If you can knit a square, you can knit for charity with Warm Up America
Warm Up America was the first knitting charity I ever heard of. When I had just started knitting, a friend of mine from church knew someone who knitted extensively for Warm Up America. She brought me a folder filled with information about WUA, along with a bunch of patterns.
I can still remember the excitement I felt when I looked through that folder. Gradually it dawned on me: while I was extremely new to knitting, I could still use my limited skills to help others.
That excitement might be why so many knitters and crocheters have joined the Warm Up America mission. Even yarn crafters with the most basic of skills can create for charity!
Warm Up America is actually a relatively recent charity. Evie Rosen founded it in the early 1990s (more about that later!). But, it may be one of the most famous, if not the most famous knitting charity in the United States.
Thanks to endorsements from celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Loretta Swit, Rosie O’Donnell, and Vanna White, most knitters who are at all interested in charity knitting have heard of Warm Up America.
In the Beginning, There Was Evie Rosen
If ever there was an senior knitter who defied the stereotypes, it was Evie Rosen. Born in 1926, Evie graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison with a Bachelor of Science degree in occupational therapy in 1947. For many years, she worked as an occupational therapist.
But in 1964, lifelong knitter Evie decided to open a knitting shop called The Knitting Nook, with her partner Joy Levine. Evie taught knitting around the country for years. She was a big part of developing the Craft Yarn Council of America’s Certified Instructors program.
According to her children Michael Rosen and Robbin Stott, Evie always had a huge heart for others. In the early 1990s, when homelessness was starting to be recognized as a national crisis, Evie started creating afghans for her local shelter.
As charity knitters, you and I can probably empathize with Evie’s first thought: “I’ve been knitting afghans and donating them to a local shelter. But I can’t knit them fast enough to fill the need.”
Her next idea was brilliant: “What if we break down the task of making blankets to manageable parts so we can involve lots more people?” (Both quotes from Warm Up America website, About WUA)
The Birth of Warm Up America
Of course, you’ll recognize the foundation of Warm Up America. 7″ x 9″ squares that knitters of all skill levels can make easily.
Warm Up America spread like wildfire throughout the country. The celebrity endorsements certainly helped, of course! A “Local Hero” feature in Time Magazine helped as well.
In addition to its appeal to knitters of all skill levels, Warm Up America also had another wonderful benefit. You know all those leftover bits and bobs that accumulate in any avid knitter’s stash? It turned out that 7″ x 9″ squares fit perfectly with those leftovers!
Thanks to the explosion of publicity, Warm Up America quickly became too much for just Evie and her friend Mary Colucci (who would become executive director of Craft Yarn Council of America) to handle alone. In 1994, just a few years after Evie began the charity, CYCA took over the program’s operations.
Sadly, Evie died in 2012 at the age of 86. But what a legacy she left behind! Under the strong direction of CYCA, the program continues to encourage knitters to help needy folks all over the country.
Warm Up America! – No Longer Just Squares
WUA is synonymous with knitting and crocheting squares. But what you may not know is that they take all sorts of other items as well! In addition to squares and fully constructed afghans of all sizes, WUA also accepts adult hats, scarves, and baby clothing.
You’ll find the many projects they support on their Current Needs page — a great one to keep bookmarked for your future charity knitting possibilities.
Looking for more places to donate your afghan squares? Read “How to Send Warmth Worldwide by Knitting Squares for Charity” here!
How You Can Help Warm Up America’s Mission
Unlike some nationwide knitting charities, WUA does not have separate branches. Instead, it has one central location. Anyone having trouble finding a local spot for their knitted and crocheted creations can send them to this office. You’ll find their central office address in the “Make” box near the bottom of every page of their website.
However, WUA encourages charity knitters and crocheters to find local service organizations that will accept their donations.
(Want ideas for who might take your handknitted donations locally? Sign up for my free guide here!)
Again, you can always donate directly to WUA if you find nowhere local. You may also choose to donate directly to WUA if you’d like to help with any of their current needs. You can find a list of these needs on this page.
You can find much more on the Warm Up America! website. These include knitting patterns and tips on assembling afghans.
Warm Up America! has proven for over 25 years that you don’t need to be a master knitter or crocheter to craft for charity. All you need is a few sticks, some yarn, and a willingness to help others!