A blanket is a lifetime gift


Welcome to all our many new Square Circle subscribers and hello to those of you for whom this is the second issue. For anyone wanting to start the story from the beginning, click this link to read Square Circle Issue #001.

If you like this e-zine, please do the children a further favour by sending this to family and friends and asking them to subscribe to Square Circle. The more knitters who find us, the more squares and the more blankets.


Our progress to date

African story – Baphumelele Children's Home

Australian story – a firestorm tsunami

New on the site:

Crochet Square Vest, Jill from woolcrafting.com

Visit South Africa – a survey

Knit anywhere – first contribution to the site, thank you Sue Benest

Yarn weights – let's make the definitive comparison chart

Three lovely bright pullovers from Janette Binns

Postal advice from Canada, thanks Anne Powell

Parent/teacher resource publication date

Lion Brand Company features knit-a-square

Heritage Blanket

A dollar lasts a day, a blanket a lifetime.

It's been a busy month since the first issue went out. Firstly, we would like to thank all the many people who have so warmly greeted knit-a-square with wishes to contribute by knitting and sending squares.

As discussed in the previous issue, which you can read by clicking on the link above, Ronda has again been in contact with management at the collection post office in Johannesburg, who have fully briefed the staff about the volumes of post we expect to arrive and continue to do so for many years.

Here she is with one of the large collection bags, many of which we hope will be bulging with knitted squares when she collects again shortly. (She has been in Cape Town for the birth of her fourth grand child, Gemma Grace).

The first joining day is set for 28 February 09. We will look forward to photographs of the first blanket for our next issue and even better, the first recipients. You will all have cause to be proud when you see the first children with their knit-a-square blankets.

We have some wonderful contributions from visitors like Anne Powell, who has detailed all the postal cost variations for Canada and who has put forward some very welcome suggestions as well.


I will put these on the site shortly, but the details are below. We would be delighted to receive similar information for the site from other countries around the world.

Does anybody recognise these squares sent from the UK? They were among the first to arrive this year and will certainly be in the first blankets.


African Story

Baphumelele Children's Home, Khayelitsha, near Cape Town, South Africa

Like so much about this great human tragedy, it is the stories of our human will to do good, and to do so when pitted against apparently insurmountable odds, that shine like beacons.


Rosalia Mashale (Rosie) and the children she has given a home to is such a story. Baphumelele (pronounced: bah-poo-meh-LAY-lay) is a Xhosa word meaning progress.

Rosie is a trained primary school teacher who in 1989 moved to Khaylitsha, near Cape Town, one of the most poverty stricken townships in South Africa. She immediately undertook to look after unsupervised neighbourhood children, who she had seen foraging for food in the local rubbish dumps, and soon had 36 children under her care.

Since then, with only the support of her community initially, she has built a charity which includes cluster housing for eight children with two live-in care givers, an educare centre for up to 230 children, and numerous other community-based initiatives.

She describes some of the many 'heart-wrenching stories' of the the children who they care for, coming to Baphumelele, babies, some only a day or two old and children abandoned in plastic bags and left on freeways and in railway stations.

Many of these children arrive in terrible physical condition suffering from malnutrition, serious skin infections, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

They need intensive medical care, some of which is given by a volunteer doctor and nurses visiting twice a week.

They now have 23 full time care givers, a number of support staff, and many long term volunteers from around the world.

I have written to Rosie to ask her if our square pullovers and vests or squares for blankets are what the children require and will let you know in the next edition of Square Circle. In the meantime, you can donate to Baphumelele Children's Home here.


The Victorian bush fires

This week as many of you will have read, Victoria, the state of Australia of which Melbourne is the capital, suffered the most cataclysmic fire storms. One of the worst hit areas were 30 kilometres north of where we live, here in Melbourne.

The warnings were very dire so we evacuated my mother, Zanny, (still knitting) from her small country town surrounded by tinder-dry forest. We are deeply grateful that her area was not affected, although we grieve on behalf of the families who were lost or who have lost everything. No one has remained untouched by the scale and horror of this day.

This bush fire has been described as a firestorm tsunami. Whole towns were completely obliterated, with almost no warning for the residents as curtains of fire 50 metres high, swept through and destroyed everything in their paths.

Air temperatures in areas unaffected by the fires reached 48C/118F. Within the firestorms, engineers estimate core temperatures reached up to 1400C/2550F, whipped on by furnace-like gale force winds. The sky was forbidding, a deep, impenetrable brown grey, glowing orange from under the clouds of smoke. While we knew the fires were ferocious, no one understood until days later the extent of the tragedy.

Our thoughts and prayers are for the 7,000 homeless people, most of whom have lost friends, family, pets and livestock, livelihoods and their communities. We also think of the many burns victims and injured, some still fighting for their lives.

A moment of joy was this CFA (Country Fire Authority) fireman stumbling upon a lonely koala bear in the recently burnt out bush. It really is worth watching, as you will see, he was a very thirsty little bear.

Funds are being raised by this video, for the RSPCA and other wildlife and animal rescue agencies, who are doing a wonderful job looking after the injured animals.

The Australian Red Cross appeal has so far raised over Aus $100 million dollars in one week, a testimony again to the goodness of the human spirit in the face of great adversity.


What's new on the site

New on the site since last month:

Crochet Square Vest – courtesy of Jill from woolcrafting.com

Jill very kindly crocheted a square vest and provided the pattern for it here, as we had many inquiries for crocheting. Soon she will crochet a square too and we will put that pattern up as well. Jill designs her own crochet patterns and has some unique baby blanket ideas. Thanks Jill for your contribution.

Visit South Africa – asks if you ever thought to visit South Africa, would you prefer to be accompanied, or what would you like to see? There is a short questionnaire at the bottom of the page so that we can judge a demand for such a journey. We look forward to your responses.

Knit anytime , just a few stitches everyday, anywhere. A light hearted look at the fact that knitting is a portable craft. We invite you to upload your own photographs and pictures for publication in each issue of Square Circle.

by Sue Benest (Burlington, Ontario, Canada)

I quit smoking on January 8th, 2009. I was looking for a healthy, useful "addiction" to take its place. Voila, knitting! I needed something small and quick so I could see results immediately. I was overjoyed to find this site, and am using the scraps left over from my own afghans to make these squares. I knit at the computer, I knit while playing cards or board games with my daughter, I knit on the bus, I may even knit in my sleep!

No photo Sue, please send one of you knitting in your sleep! Well done for quitting smoking too.

Yarn Weights – Eight ply, 10 ply, worsted, sport weight, aran, bulky, super weight, fine, medium ……
I recently put up a page on yarn weights as there has been some uncertainty regarding the different descriptions of yarn weights between countries. Despite a lot of research, I could not find an absolutely definitive chart for country to country. Actually the more research I did, the more confusion!

As we demonstrate here, any size of square vest can be made depending on the needle size rather than the yarn weight. But most comparison charts I could find were very prescriptive as to which needles could be used for which weight. These recommendations did not always concur with the needle size (6 mm) and yarn weight (8 ply), we are using here in Australia for the squares.

So, please if any of you have some knowledge in this area, contribute it to the site, on the yarn weight page, with the aim of eventually creating a clear and simple international comparison chart. Your knowledge would be wonderfully appreciated.


Lovely square pullovers

Janette Binns sent this photograph of the three lovely square pullovers she and her mother had knitted. Aren't they great colours? I am hoping that we can track these jumpers and have a photograph taken of them with their happy new owners for publication in Square Circle. Thanks Janette.


Advice from Canada

Anne Powell from Uxbridge, Canada, has very kindly provided this detailed information on posting the squares from Canada. She also makes the very sensible suggestion that knitters leave a tail of yarn (approximately two metres, 3 yards) attached to their square rather than as a separate piece. This makes great sense and I will alter the instructions on the site to suit. Any other suggestions would be gratefully received. I will put up a knitting and sending suggestion page shortly to accommodate your ideas.

Here is Anne's postal advice:

One square in a business envelope costs Can$2.36 + tax to send.

By using "small packet rate" and sending more squares per packet, it is cheaper.

By Canada Post's definition, a small packet is any envelope or box with a total dimension of 90 cm. or less (Height + width + length). Charges are by weight – 0 to 250 Gm. It costs Can $6.22 to send and there is no tax on international mail over $5.00.

Today I had the post office weigh some squares. A 10×13" Kraft envelope, plus one Ziploc, plus six squares weighs 216 Gm, so we might even squeeze in a seventh square. This would reduce the effective mail cost per square to between 78 cents (seven squares per envelope) and $1.04 (six squares per envelope) as compared to the $2.36 cost for one square.

Non knitters contribution. Anne also makes the invaluable suggestion that non knitters can contribute too, perhaps by bringing pre-addressed and stamped envelopes to her church for collection by the knitters for their squares. That is a wonderful idea, Anne, and I will post it as an idea to Square Circle on the site.


Parent/teacher resource update

The parent teacher resource is almost complete – another day or so. It started out as a small manual and has grown to 36 pages! Some of the information is on the site, but it has the convenience of being in one logically flowing document for ease of use.

We are very much hoping that teacher's will take up the resource as a way of teaching their pupils the importance of giving, and teaching them a craft by which they can do so. Knitting one square is empowering too, as we will be able to show that it makes a difference. The book will be for sale on the site and through clickbank.com, although we do not yet know the final price.


Lion Brand Yarn Company

I am excited to tell you that Lion Brand Yarn Company, a 130 year old American organisation, will be featuring knit-a-square in their newsletter next week. They have a very large membership, so we are hoping that many of them will take up knitting squares.

If you want to subscribe to their free newsletter, this is the address: http://www.lionbrand.com/content-email.html.

A great feature of the newsletter is their knit-along section. This week they had just completed a remarkable cable tunic which looks very advanced. There are clear directions and by reading some of the blog attached, it looks like everyone helps each other. Great idea.


Heritage blanket

Zanny and I have been putting together a complete pattern guide for her heritage blanket featured in the last issue. There are 96 blocks in the blanket, so it is taking longer than I imagined.

Once we have finished that one, we will move onto the blanket she knitted for Cressida (our younger daughter) for Christmas. By that time she will probably have finished the blanket she has now started for Kalai (our older daughter), inbetween sending dozens of single squares to South Africa. Little Gemma Grace, Ronda's newest grandchild, is to be the recipient of the now finished baby blanket featured on the site, and that too will be added to the pattern book.

That's it for this month. We are really looking forward to future editions which will feature the children and their blankets. Please keep writing, as we love hearing from you, and as always, we are very grateful for your contributions, knitting and sending squares, advice, hints and tips. Stay safe, Sandy.

Special notice re: crocheting, yarn weights and use of wool


A deluge of knitters and crocheters, thanks to Lion Brand

We are absolutely delighted with the wonderful response from knitters and crocheters after reading about knit-a-square in the Lion Brand Yarn Company newsletter. As a result, my inbox has many hundreds of emails in it, which is a great testimony to your generosity – thank you.

I will answer everyone's emails personally in the next week or so but in the meantime, I thought it best to firstly welcome you all to Square Circle and secondly, answer briefly the main questions that have been asked.

Is it okay to crochet squares? YES PLEASE!
We have had so many questions asking whether you can crochet squares. Absolutely, we will make beautiful warm blankets from your crocheted squares. Jill from woolcrafting.com has sent me a pattern for a crochet 8 x 8" (20x20cm) square today in response to this need, which I will post to the site later tonight. So perhaps if you revisit knit-a-square.com tomorrow (Monday our time, late Sunday USA time), the details will be there.

Wool or other yarns
We suggested wool because of its wonderful warmth but as Rebecca from California has said, on the site, in a vitally important response to this question, it is the fire retardant qualities of wool that is so important. It is true that many of these small children will live in make-shift shacks with candles for light and possibly near cooking stoves which use naked flames. Anything that would burn easily, or worse melt, should not be used. I am very grateful to you Rebecca for pointing this out so clearly and will amend the knitting (and soon crocheting ) instructions accordingly. You can find Rebecca's full post here: knitting help.

Finding wool
Many of you have said that wool is difficult to find in the USA. It would be very sad if this knitting project was inhibited for want of wool. Rebecca has a list of other possibilities to suggest including cotton, linen, bamboo, the new soy fibres and so on. I will do further research as to the best sites for purchasing wool on the internet as well as other yarns which may be suitable and have good fire retardant qualities. It is also possible that we could organise donations of wool, and if that is the case I will post that information too. Any suggestions gratefully received here, thank you.

Weight of the yarns – hmmmm!
Many questions have come in about the weight of yarn to be used. It is a vexing issue, and we have struggled to give a definitive answer as to what the equivalent is of Australian eight ply wool. I understood it to be worsted (USA) but as one knitter (no name supplied) has commented on the site, yarn weights appear to be consistently decreasing. "Knitting worsted weight (commonly referred to in California as four-ply yarn), is now about 75 percent of the thickness it was 20 or 30 years ago. In order to achieve the same thickness as used to be obtained with a USA #8 needle, now requires a USA #6 or #7 needle. The yarns' weights can also vary according to the manufacturer of the yarn."

We are obviously looking for the most consistent weight as well as size to make our volunteers' job easy when joining the squares. So PLEASE don't let this stop you knitting, crocheting and sending the squares, but eventually I hope to have definitive instructions for everyone, no matter where you are.

Again, I will continue to research this, but will greatly appreciate your responses on the yarn weight page, link above, which in time will help us create a definitive comparison chart of weight and needles for an 8 x 8" square. As Marian from Shirley says, she made an perfect 8 x 8" square using Size 10 needles but with an extra four stitches (36 instead of 32) when using four Medium weight merino wool yarn.

And to add to a wonderful day, full of joy because of your excited and generous responses, here is a picture of the first bag of squares and square pullovers, sent by Ronda this morning.

Many of you have asked to be notified when we receive squares. We will do our best, especially if you have enclosed your email address.

As the volume of squares arriving increases (which we must hope and pray will be the case), this may not be possible immediately, but I will keep you posted! Your support and generous response to this most desperate need is magnificent.

We were trying to work out today how many stitches would be required for 100 000 blankets, loosely estimated at about 9 trillion! That's a lot of knitting and crocheting, but with you all on board, it doesn't seem impossible at all. Thank you, Sandy

Welcome and thank you


On behalf of the abandoned children and orphans of Southern Africa, welcome and thank you for subscribing to the first issue of Square Circle.

If you like this e-zine, please do them a further favour and pay it forward by sending this to a friend and asking them to subscribe to Square Circle. The more knitters who find us, the more squares, the more blankets.


Understanding the plight of the AIDS orphans in Southern africa

How knit-a-square was conceived

Knit anywhere, anytime (and write a yarn at the same time)

Teach your children how to knit and give

Overcoming postal issues

New, easy baby blanket knitting patterns coming soon


Heart to hand: The circle makes the squares.
The square make the circle.

Knit-a-square is just over three months old. The home page was launched on October 3 2008, so we are very excited that you have both found the site and subscribed to the e-zine as a foundation member of Square Circle.
It is very early days in knit-a-square's life, so we don't have photographs and stories to tell of the children and their blankets yet. But the squares are beginning to arrive, (although I think many of them may have been knitted by family and friends at this stage).

Here is Ronda, of the Soweto Comfort Club in Johannesburg, with the first parcels. These contained the felted squares shown on the felt-a-square page on the site.

There are many new interesting initiatives and pages coming in the next few weeks to tell you about and, as this is the first issue, you may be interested in reading about our beginnings and to see some photos of the wonderful people already knitting for us. Come on the men! But first, let's put the plight of these children into perspective, to help you more clearly understand the need to knit for them.


Understanding the plight of the AIDS orphans in Southern Africa

The statistics on the number of children who have been orphaned, and worse, who will become orphaned in Africa because of a combination of poverty and HIV AIDS, is difficult to grasp.

By researching the populations of some of the world's cities, here are a few statistics to help put the size of this tragedy into proportion.

A report from UNAIDS, (2008) states there are 11.6 million orphans living in sub-Saharan Africa.

That's enough children to replace the combined populations of London, Paris and Sydney.

The same report states there are 1.4 million orphans in South Africa.

They would fill 14 stadiums of a 100 000 capacity, 3,370 jumbo jets or replace the population of Phoenix, Arizona.

In four years, at the increasing rate of nearly 500 orphans a day, there will be 2.5 million orphans. That is roughly the same population as Cape Town, Toronto or Houston today.

To be an orphan in Southern Africa is not only to lose the parents who would have loved and cared for you, but to most likely forfeit education, to be constantly hungry and often bitterly cold.


How many knitters are there in the world?

This is a statistic far more difficult to discover. But a Google Adwords search revealed five million searches in December 2008 for the words knitting and knit. Is it fair to assume that many of those searching were knitters? And if everyone knitted a square, we could make 1.25 million blankets.

Not a bad effort for a ball of wool and an hour or two of their time.

For more information on the AIDS orphans, click here


How knit-a-square was conceived

From the original idea to the site as it stands today has been the most amazing six month journey.

It started when my aunt, Ronda, visited us in Melbourne, Australia in June last year. She lives in Gauteng, a province of South Africa that contains the major cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria.

For many years now she has been involved in charitable work in Soweto mainly, but now with a small start-up children's charity, Hotel Hope, providing family style homes for abandoned children and orphans, both affected and infected with HIV AIDS.

She told us how she often carried cheap blankets in her car to give out to the homeless people at traffic lights and how frustrating it was: too few blankets for too many people.

She also told us much more than we had previously known or understood about the scope of the tragedy of the AIDS orphans, and also about the scale of poverty that besets so many in South Africa.

My mother, Zanny, Ronda's eldest sister is an addictive knitter. She had just completed this most beautiful heritage blanket as a gift for us, made out of knitted rectangles.

My husband, Roger, and I run a marketing and graphic design business and had just been to an online seminar about the new world of Web 2 and social networking. We were looking for a way to usefully employ this new knowledge. And then we discovered Site Build it, an organisation that works with you to build your own website, but not just in an ordinary way. They literally hold your hand every step of the way.

It was like fitting four pieces of a jigsaw together. Initially, we were just focused on getting up a site that would be found by you as a knitter and to persuade you to knit squares and send them. But now, what can be done for the orphans has become imperative.

We hope that you will feel the same way and become further involved over the years to help make a difference to these truly underprivileged children. To that end we have included on the site, a list of charities that are doing remarkable work in many regions of the world, as well as Southern Africa.

To that end we have included on the site a list of charities that are doing remarkable work in many regions of the world, as well as Southern Africa.


Knit anywhere, anytime

Addicted knitters will knit anywhere, anytime. What if we challenged you to put up the a photograph of the most interesting, unusual, difficult, amusing places you have knitted? We will publish the best photos in each issue of Square Circle.

Here's a picture of Zanny, knitting high in the stands of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, watching 20/20 cricket between Australia and South Africa on 11 January 2009.

Unlike some of the fielders, she didn't drop a thing all night!

And a few more to inspire you. Megan in her eensy, weeny bikini at the beach, January 2009 and the showgirls of Melbourne's Glamourpuss studios, backstage during their annual tap dancing extravaganza, November 2008

Why not write a yarn as well

By February, you will be able to upload not only your amusing knitting pictures, but your own knitting patterns, pictures of your best knitted pieces, knitting stories, or tips and techniques. This will be invaluable for you and our other visitors as a knitting resource and we are looking forward to having your submissions. Please make a note to visit the site again after this date.


How knit-a-square was conceived

We are nearly finished a substantial teachers' and parents' resource e-book aimed at helping children learn knit to give. But more importantly, why they should knit to give.

Giving has a rich history and should be taught to young children as a legacy from one generation to the other. If you are a teacher or parent, please consider this for your children's school.

Children have boundless energy and will knit with great fervour and passion, as described in the story of the boy's schools during the World War II in 'men's knitting' on the site but this knitting project will also empower them to know they can make a difference.

The more squares, the more blankets, the more children who are ill or cold will soon be warm.


Overcoming postal issues

We have had a few queries about postage, in particular whether there is a guarantee that the squares will arrive safely in South Africa and also how to post more than one square.

Sadly, the South African post does have a reputation in some quarters for issues of petty theft. This in part was reflected in the knit-a-square concept, as we realised that one 8 x 8" square, or even three separate squares would be less attractive to pilferers than a completed blanket.

We have also spoken with the manager of the post office where the squares are arriving for collection and he has assured us that they will be held safely.

There may be some pilfering, but we believe it would not be sufficient to dissuade anyone from knitting and sending the squares. The scale of need is so great, that whatever squares may disappear will be keeping someone warm who was previously cold, so they will still serve a purpose.

We have just put up a new page just on the postal instructions which I hope will clear up any confusion on how to mail one or up to three squares. Please let me know if this is not clear by emailing sandy@knit-a-square.com


Zanny's new baby blanket patterns coming soon

The most popular download so far has been Zanny's square vest. Here's a picture of her great-nephew Luca, wearing a version of the pattern. She altered the pattern when she saw this photograph as she believed the neck opening was too wide.

Zanny has been knitting up a storm and very soon (hopefully by the end of January), we will have a booklet of her best knitting patterns for embroidered babies' vests, jumpers and baby blankets.

We are going to be very busy the next two weeks, delivering on all the items discussed above, so visit us again soon, www.knit-a-square.com , to check on progress.

Winter in South Africa is only five months away.

It regularly drops below zero degrees at night in Johannesburg, so think about those freezing little children and PLEASE keep knitting.

I hope this will be start of a long relationship between you and knit-a-square and thank you once again for joining us in the Square Circle.