Yarn Makers offer a crafty way to stay warm
On Jan. 21, the temperature across Radford University was barely 25 degrees at lunchtime, and that frigid Friday chill helped preserve the still-lingering snow that blanketed the school's grounds five days earlier.
Some free relief waited at the center of campus that afternoon, however, in the form of more than three dozen garments, courtesy of the Radford Yarn Makers – hats and scarves and ear warmers, all new and handmade, dangling from the fountain fence and ready to be claimed.
The Yarn Makers take up the project each year in recognition of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, knitting and crocheting the items, then leaving them out for anyone who can use them.
“I’m not lost,” read the small cards twine-tethered to each piece of clothing. “If you are cold and need me, please take me home.”
“I think this is the first time we’ve put stuff out in the snow,” said Samantha Blevins '03, Ph.D., an instructional designer with the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning who is also one of the 10 members of Yarn Makers.
The group, comprising faculty and staff members, meets each week over Zoom to discuss their knitting or crocheting.
“During the year, we work on our own projects, learning from each other and offering advice based on our own personal expertise in either craft,” Blevins said. “We then switch gears to making items for our MLK Day of Service project around the end of the fall semester.”
When they first put out their items this year, the offerings initially drew browsers but few takers.
“Oh, that’s so cute,” said a young woman who, along with her passing companions, already wore hats and scarves. “That’s really nice.”
“Students will hesitate,” noted Tom Snediker, M.A, also with the CITL and Yarn Makers. “But when one person takes one, another one does.”
His theory proved correct. Little by little, over the course of a few hours, each of the pieces was snatched up.
“Several of us walked by a few times and saw things were disappearing,” Blevins said. “We went out at 5 o’clock to collect anything left, and all the items had found new homes.”
That recent giveaway is far from the group’s only such project. In April 2020, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, when personal protective equipment was at its scarcest, the group’s members set to work making masks to donate to medical clinics and hospitals.
The Yarn Makers this year will also continue their trend of donating knit headwear for newborns to the Roanoke Ronald McDonald House, and they plan to distribute other winter items soon in the common room at the Radford University Carilion site, also in Roanoke.