A couple of years ago I came across a display of knitted rugs in my local library, along with a leaflet. It related to a group called Wrap with Love which was started by one woman in Australia in 1992 who had seen a TV segment about the civil war in Mozambique and was shocked to see people – men, woman and children being forced to sleep outdoors in the cold as a result, with nothing to keep them warm.
She felt so strongly about the situation that she decided to knit a wrap to send there, using leftover wool and knitting it into squares which she then sewed together. She persuaded 38 of her friends to help her, and managed to get the wraps sent to Mozambique on a ship containing farm machinery which was being sent there.
Since then her simple idea has grown to become a charitable organisation called Wrap With Love Inc. and is made up of mostly women, but some men and schoolchildren, who get together in groups in libraries, or their homes, to knit wraps to send to those in need both here and overseas. The wraps are all made of 28 squares which each measure 25cm x 25 cm (10 inches x 10 inches), on size 8 (4mm) needles, 8 ply yarn, with 50-55 stitches and each row plain (ie. garter stitch) so even the most basic knitters can contribute.
The founder Sonia Gidley-King died in 2010, but her work lives on and to date there are 30,000 volunteers and 255,322 wraps have been produced and sent around the world.
The group I belong to meet once a week at our local library where we sit around a large table and knit and chat and drink cups of tea or coffee. The participants are of all ages (we recently had some new members, a mother and her two small daughters who are learning to knit) and come from vastly different backgrounds and countries. There are many in retirement villages and nursing homes who spend time knitting or crocheting squares, or sewing them together.
We have recently been moved from the back of the library to the front. I’m not sure if it is because we made too much noise chatting and laughing at the back and there were some complaints, or if it is to give us more exposure, but we have had more enquiries since we have been there from people browsing the library shelves.
Once a year there is a big knit-in at all the libraries, co-ordinated by the ABC TV station, and multitudes of beautiful wraps are displayed on shelves. We have competitions (I came up with the concept of blindfold knitting, which is hilarious to watch), and groups from all over our area congregate to chat and knit and admire each other’s work. Many schoolchildren are now participating (boys and girls) and they love competing with the older people.
It has enriched my life, and I know the lives of many others, and has increased my circle of friends immensely. There are many more beautiful rugs than mine, with intricate patterns and sometimes flowers, kangaroos and other animals knitted into them, but I derive great satisfaction from finishing one and imagining where it might be going.
One of my first wraps
I used up old balls of wool, and anything I was given
I was thinking today that sometimes I feel like Oliver Twist. There never seems to be enough in my bowl. Then I got to thinking that most people probably feel like that, even the super-rich. Feeling like that is really a luxury in most Western countries, as many people around the world are so poor they can’t afford a bowl, let alone some food to put in it.
Fortunately I am not in that position, and probably have enough bowls to keep Oliver supplied with gruel for the next 10 years! This lead me to ponder the habit of hoarding. I am a bit of a hoarder (some would perhaps say more than a bit) but my partner Rod trumps me. He has developed a passion for clocks, and they stare accusingly and (mostly) silently at me from walls and bookshelves all over the house.
As he works from home and receives regular items by courier, we now have a room which we laughingly refer to as The Box Room.
This used to be a bedroom in the dim distant past, but has now been taken over with formidable piles of boxes of all shapes and sizes, as well as bubble wrap and foam. Some of these are recycled and sent to customers and relatives, but each time I open the door I am greeted with a new looming menace. They seem to have a life of their own and their breeding habits are out of control.
Having spent some time in the past working at preschools, I learnt the value of saving egg cartons, bottle tops, boxes, toilet rolls, coffee filters etc as they could be used to create anything from a bee or submarine periscope to a car. Unfortunately I now feel a pang as I place them in the paper recycling bin, as I can see their hidden potential, and have been known to secrete them in cupboards “just in case”. This has lead to periodic culls, when I reluctantly clear things out because they fall on the floor whenever I open the cupboard doors.
Why do we develop such an attachment to objects? If I had a Monet or Picasso I would say that it was because of their beauty and how much satisfaction I get just looking at them.
Lately I have developed a fascination for different kinds of chopsticks and have developed quite a collection. My favourites are two wooden ones made in Africa, which look like tiny giraffe heads on long necks. I found them some time ago at a garage sale, and now gain immense satisfaction from using them when eating takeaway Chinese food. I don’t know what it is about them that I love so much. I love real giraffes with their amazing necks, long legs , huge eyes and beautiful spotted coats, but I don’t want to collect them (fortunately as I think my neighbours and the Council would object profusely).
Perhaps it is just that the chopsticks remind me of the beauty, variety and quirkiness of nature. Eating my food with them becomes a bit like a journey into a strange land. When I eat with a knife and fork, I don’t pay attention to them because they are just utensils.
My giraffe chopsticks however bring a little of the exotic into my life. My food seems to taste better and I have to pay more attention to it or little bits of rice escape and fall on the floor and onto me. My meal becomes a small adventure in itself.
I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In the film ‘American Beauty‘ a plastic bag wafting on the breeze becomes for a moment an object of almost unbelievable beauty.
The trick in life is not to become buried under a pile of your favourite possessions, and to learn to let them go eventually.