Bundles of knit and crochet squares are ready to be packaged and mailed to South Africa, where they’ll be made into blankets for orphaned or vulnerable children. The River John Square Knitters, which includes (from left) June McFarlane, Marilyn Ebsary, and Trish Rubin, have sent 7,000 squares into Knit-a-square over the last three years. Raissa Tetanish photo

Counting out to 10, Trish Rubin then takes hand knit or crochet squares and ties them together with wool yarn.

The squares are headed to South Africa as part of the Knit-a-square initiative to help keep vulnerable or orphaned children warm. The River John Square Knitters have been active participants in the initiative for three years, having contributed 7,000 squares.

“The squares are made into blankets,” said Marilyn Ebsary, one of the members from almost the start. “We ship our squares like this, in bulk, because of the cost of mailing. If they were shipped as blankets, the cost would double as they’d be considered commercial items.”

When the squares reach their destination, go-gos (or grandmothers) will knit them together into a blanket.

“Knit-a-square started by a woman and her niece,” said Rubin. “They were horrified by the number of orphans or vulnerable children as a result of AIDS or poverty. You wouldn’t believe the response they’ve gotten from around the world.

“When you look at the number of squares we have submitted, we’re very prolific.”

According to statistics on the Knit-a-square website, the local group sent in 586 squares in February, the second highest from around the world.

Each blanket takes 35 8”x8” squares, the blanket being seven squares by five squares. When finished, the blankets are distributed to outlying communities or orphanages.

Rubin said the local participation came thanks to Gloria Grandy, who had been participating on her own.

“I think two or three of us came in here one day and there was this woman knitting,” said Ebsary, while sitting in the library in River John. “And she explained what it was about.”

A sign was then erected in the library, encouraging others to join.

“I just love the idea of knitting in a group in a library. It combines two of my favourite things – knitting and reading,” said Rubin.

“I’m just amazed at the friendship you find here,” added Ebsary. “It’s such a wonderful feeling when you walk in here.”

The group, which also includes men and children, ships about 60 squares at a time. They also include something extra, such as a toy, hat, jumper, doll, or wrist warmers. Last October, the group sent almost 1,000 squares. Ebsary said one of the biggest challenges is finding a place to store the squares when they can’t get to the post office.

“They pile up in a hurry,” she said.

Gwen Boese, whose granddaughters contribute squares, said the work is “all fun.”
“It’s enjoyable. Your fingers do ache, but that’s nothing compared to freezing children,” she said.

Anyone wishing to make their own squares for the initiative are able to do so, and drop them off for the group at the library. They meet weekly, Fridays from 10 a.m. to noon, at the library.

Squares can be made with any yarn, however acrylic is preferred. The library has a sign on site, complete with ruler, for anyone needing to gauge their sizes. The square also needs a tail of yarn about 30 inches long, to help the squares be put together.

Anyone with yarn they want to donate to the group, can also drop it off at the library.


World-wide Knit In Public Day

The River John Square Knitters will be out in various places between Tatamagouche and River John on June 10 as part of the annual Knit In Public Day.

“We bring our chairs to certain locations, and sit and knit or crochet,” said Rubin. “We allure people to buy our boutique items.”

Rubin said the group, which will visit eight locations this year, promote the social aspect of knitting and crocheting.

“It’s great to get out of the house and it’s a great thing to do,” she said.

The boutique items – such as purses, mason jar cozies, gift bags, drip catches, dolls, bottle bags, baby sweaters, shawls, scarves, socks, hats, and even felted items – are sold each year to help offset costs of shipping the squares to South Africa. The boutique is cash only.

“It became clear to us when we started accumulating squares, we needed something and the idea of boutique items came up. People seem to like (the items),” said Rubin.

The schedule for Knit In Public Day (June 10) includes:

  • Tatamagouche Farmers Market, 9-10 a.m.
  • Foodland, 9:30-10 a.m.
  • Tatamagouche Brewing Company, 10:15-10:45 a.m.
  • Tatamagouche Yarn Company, 10:50-11:20 a.m.
  • Remember Adventures/Caper Café, 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m.
  • Country Bread Basket, 1:15-1:45 p.m.
  • Lismore Sheep and Wool Farm, 2:15-2:45 p.m.
  • River John library, 3-3:30 p.m.
The River John Square Knitters are participating in their third World Wide Knit In Public Day on June 10. At the various locations they’ll be knitting or crocheting, boutique items, such as those pictured, will be available for purchase. The money from the boutique items goes toward shipping squares to South Africa for the Knit-a-square initiative.
Raissa Tetanish photo