I Have Sharp Sticks and a Lot of Balls. Be Very Afraid!!

Knitting and crocheting…hmm…something you always picture a gentle granny doing for their about-to-be born grandchild. Forget it! Julia Roberts does it, so does Cameron Diaz, Sarah Jessica Parker, Daryl Hannah, Hilary Swank, Julianna Margulies and many others.

Knitting or crochet is one of the celebs favourite hobbies internationally. And it’s taking off big time in South Africa – and with Seffricans across the world.

KnitWits - knitting blankets for Mandela

Blanket 7 for Mandela Day

I’ve always ended up looking at incredulous faces when I tell people that I learned to knit from my father at age nine; to crochet from my mother when not much older; and have spent vast hanks of time throughout my life putting those skills to practice. And the amount of handmade blankets in my house bear testament to that.

In fact I doubt I have a friend out there who doesn’t have a lekker scarf and matching beanie!

I’m also one of those people who has huge baskets and many, many cloth bags full of different types and colours of wool – none of which, of course, are quite right for the project I have at hand at any particular time.

A work of wonder, knitting blankets for Nelson Mandela Day

A work of wonder, knitting blankets for Nelson Mandela Day

Essentially, I used to knit before it was cool.

I now have a use for them.

I noticed a few of my friends joining the ’67 Blankets for Madiba Day’ Facebook page – well, quite a lot of them really, and mostly from the entertainment and music worlds (and LOVING seeing the old Sex God, Martin Bailie and major rockers Lionel Bastos and Tim Parr as new aficionados!).

And – as the guys  at 1485am Radio Today knew (the little community radio station where I present a couple of shows – and no, NOT about knitting!)  I was really into making stuff, they pointed it out to me too.

One of the other presenters on the station, Carolyn Steyn, was challenged by the late former president, Nelson Mandela’s former PA, Zelda la Grange, to create 67 blankets for Mandela Day to be distributed to those who will otherwise have to face the winter chill with possibly nothing more than some newspaper to cover them.

And things have just gone ballistic from there.

Blanket 2 for Mandela DayIt’s been very easy in the past. You’d see various places collecting warm clothing and blankets to hand out, or you could join the Snowball run, with hundreds of other like-minded motorcycle fiends. Yes, there’s a lot of Christian charity out there, some of it well-marketed, others mainly word-of-mouth.

So (if you are charitably-minded, of course) you would have a look and see what you’d like to get rid of, or pop into the nearest PnP to buy one of the fleecy blankies inevitably on sale, and feel good about having done your deed for the day/month/year.

But those of us out there who enjoy the madness of knitting – until your hands go numb, or curl into claws from holding the wool just so to get your tension right – love a challenge…and a chance to use up all those odds and ends that have been lurking in strange places throughout the house.

Blanket 67 - just three more squares and a whole lot of crocheting to go - then onto the next one.

Blanket 67 – just three more squares and a whole lot of crocheting to go – then onto the next one.

In just a couple of months, the Facebook page has (at the moment of writing) gathered 700 members from across South Africa – and across the world! (They had been hoping to get 67 people to join in.) And all these people are now furiously either making  single-bed blankets or baby blankets, or learning to do so.

I am almost finished my first blanket, and aiming for a second by the 18th of July (and in case you didn’t know, this is Mandela Day!).

I was happily roped into hosting a day at a friend’s geek crafting cafe, The Fairy Goth Mother (who are getting their crafting clientele to put a blanket together), and into teaching all the guys at Radio Today how to crochet! But I think that I’ll have to insist on a second class, and work out a roster for them to sit and work on the 1485am blanket they intend to hand over – men are notoriously slack you know!

“…the number one reason knitters knit is because they are so smart that they need knitting to make boring things interesting. Knitters are so compellingly clever that they simply can't tolerate boredom. It takes more to engage and entertain this kind of human, and they need an outlet or they get into trouble.”
Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

I have no idea why I knit – I just do.

Maybe it’s because I’m so creatively frustrated that creating works of art (or works of heart) out of wool is a lot easier – and a whole lot less muddy – than doing the same thing in a garden.

Or perhaps because as Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s quote above says, I need something to keep me out of trouble! (Just spending all the tequila money on wool now, heh heh.) For many years, I’ve done the quick-knit scarf and beanie thing by the dozen every winter to go and pop into the local Dischem collection boxes to feed my need to help those in need, and I've nagged local wool makers (thank you Saprotex and Elle!) to send through oddments of wool to dole out to garden clubs and various other concerns and charities so I could get people involved in knitting for the needy.

So I’m really glad that there’s now so many people showing their good hearts in a country that really needs that right now…

Join the KnitWits!

If there's anyone out there willing to pledge to make a blanket for an extremely worthy cause – click on the links below to join the groups and get knitting, crocheting or quilting. Tanya Wimble has set up a group in the UK and says “learn a new skill and make a huge difference to some ones life today!!”

In South Africa: 67 Blankets for Madiba Day

In the UK: 67 Blankets for Madiba Day

They would love as many blankets as possible. The only criteria is that they be handmade and not bought!


About Melanie Walker

I’m one of those odd people who, despite travelling the world, hasn’t actually moved all that far. I’m living in the house I pretty much grew up in and doubt that I’ll ever really leave it! Like most people who live in ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’, I have a love/hate relationship with the city. The thing I hate the most are the obnoxious drivers who litter our road, so if you’re ever in my hood and you’re confronted with a blonde who stops to point out you're in the wrong, steer clear.… I love that we have so many trees (and if one more person points out that, hey, like, shoo wow, we have the largest man-made forest in the world here, I’ll throw up on myself!) and that so many people are getting into the groove and getting not only indigenous but endemic – after all, I’m a serious gardener…


  1. […] creating a blanket for ’67 Blankets for Madiba Day’ http://johannesburg.sapeople.com/2014/02/24/sharp-sticks-lot-balls-afraid/ doing something for someone else and hoping it then gets me back to the pile […]