Patchwork With Purpose: Knitting Blankets for a Nationwide Cause

Warm Up America! allows thousands of Americans to create patchwork blankets that will be donated to individuals in need across the nation. Photo courtesy of Warm Up America!

Scattered all around the country, there are individuals who may not know each other but who share two key things in common.

 One is that they love to knit or crochet, and two is a desire to help those in need.

Through Warm Up America!, a national non-profit organization, these scattered strangers can work together to knit or crochet rectangular yarn patches that will be pieced into patchwork blankets. 

The blankets are donated to homeless and domestic violence shelters, chapters of the American Red Cross, social service agencies, hospitals, hospices and more across the U.S.

“A Warm Up America! Afghan resembles a patchwork quilt of many colors and textures, just as the participants and recipients represent the varied faces of America,” details a post in Ravelry, a yarn-centric social networking site. 

The non-profit collects various 7 in. x 9 in. crochet or knitted patches mailed by individuals across the country.

In this way, Warm Up America! creates a coast-to-coast community of volunteers. But the organization didn’t start at a nation-wide scale.

It was 1991 when Evie Rosen, former yarn retailer and knitting teacher, saw the need for her general practice of asking friends, customers and other members of her community to join her in knitting patchwork blankets for local needs, to expand outwards.

“I’ve been knitting Afghans and donating them to a local shelter but I can’t knit them fast enough to fill the need,” Rosen is quoted on the Warm Up America! website. “What if we break down the task of making blankets to manageable parts so we can involve lots more people?”

Rosen asked for 7 in. x 9 in. patches specifically because these rectangular pieces could be designed in various ways to make different sized blankets or throws. 

Warm Up America! also accepts hats, mittens or anything else to keep people warm.

Now, during the 30th anniversary year of the organization, over one million total items have been donated by over 20,000 volunteers.

Volunteer knitters and crocheters can be found all across the country, including right here at SUNY New Paltz.

“I like to think that my little patches are going to something beautiful, like blankets for people who are homeless or individuals in hospitals,” said fourth-year math education and math major, Pooneh Kardgar.

“[Warm Up America!] allows us to create tangible change even if it comes in the form of small, 7 in. x 9 in. patches of yarn,” emphasized fourth-year sociology major Mal Diouri. “Those patches are put together and put into blankets for people who need them.”

Kardgar and Diouri are both members of Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed community service fraternity on campus. 

When all campus club events had to shift virtually due to the pandemic, Diouri thought Warm Up America! would be a meaningful way for the members to do community service in separate locations.

Though Warm Up America! promotes the adoption of its program as an activity for volunteer groups, any individual regardless of whether or not they are affiliated with an organization is encouraged to donate to the cause.

All you need is some yarn, knitting needles or crochet hooks and the ability to mail your patches out. 

Learning to knit or crochet may seem daunting if you’ve never done it before, but Warm Up America! provides cohesive instructions on their website, and the internet is filled with crochet or knitting tutorials, tips and tricks.

Who knows, maybe you’ll fall in love with the craft.

All patches can mailed to ​​3740 N Josey Ln Suite #126, Carrollton, TX 75007.