Yarn Makers wove their winter magic to produce the group’s largest output so far


A Radford University group that, every winter, distributes free and homemade cold-weather gear to the public just marked its most productive year yet.

Since 2020, Radford’s Yarn Makers club has recognized the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service by giving away a collection of the scarves, gloves, mittens and headwear they’ve knitted, crocheted or sewn over the previous 12 months.

On Jan. 22, the Yarn Makers left their latest array of items on the fence surrounding Radford’s Main Quad fountain; they will soon leave additional garments in the common room at the university’s Roanoke campus.

“We had the most items donated that we’ve ever had this year. I think it’s going to come in around 120 pieces or so,” said Samantha Blevins ’03, Ph.D., an instructional designer with the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning who also serves as the Yarn Makers’ head.

“We have knitters and crocheters, and some of them work all year on one piece, and then they give it away, which is amazing,” Blevins said.

She estimated it takes about 30 hours to crochet a standard-length scarf but said the group focuses on a wide range of offerings. Each bears a customary tag that reads: “I’m not lost. If you are cold and need me, please take me home.” 

“We always enjoy giving back to campus through the art of knitting and crocheting,” she said. “But we also had people this year who contributed who actually aren’t knitters or crocheters but who also wanted to take part.” 


One of those members is Tracy Kwock, Ed.D., is a project coordinator with Radford’s Training and Technical Assistance Center who specializes in sewing.

“I’ve been very interested in the environmental impact of a lot of the fibers that we’re sending out to our landfills, and I’ve been trying to think of other ways of repurposing or reusing them,” Kwock explained.

“I collected sweaters that couldn’t be worn anymore, and I upcycled their sleeves into these kind of patchwork scarves,” she said. “Then I also branched out because I thought people would love to have a matching pair of mittens to go with that.

“When you’re working with knit fabric, it unravels really, really easily, so you have to have a certain kind of machine to be able to finish the knit edge so that it doesn’t unravel. Each item has its own special challenges, but then it creates kind of its own unique signature, too.”

Through her work, Kwock donated nine scarves and about seven pairs of mittens.

“They look a little bit like a Frankenscarf because they’re all of these different patchworks together,” she said. “I haven’t seen anybody out there wearing them yet, but I’m hoping they’re keeping somebody warm.”

A few months after the group’s first giveaway, in April 2020, its members put their talents to work against the COVID-19 pandemic, fashioning personal protective masks to donate to medical clinics and hospitals. 



Feb 6, 2024
Neil Harvey