What do you do when you’re at sea for 112 days?
That’s what Arna Lewis a frequent cruiser with Holland America, wondered before her 2010 world cruise on Amsterdam. So she contacted the Seattle office of Project Linus with an idea: Could the non-profit that provides blankets to ailing children and teens give her some yarn to take with her on the ship?
Project Linus was happy to help out. Now the ship has a room where interested passengers can access a supply of yarn provided by Project Linus at any time during the world cruise. They can either take the materials on deck for some solitary needlework or join a “Sit and Knit” group of 20 to 25 that meets frequently.
Since the program on Amsterdam began four years ago, passengers have contributed hundreds of knit or crocheted blankets to the cause.
“Everybody’s a winner,” said Linda Lane, who is the coordinator for the non-profit’s Seattle/King County chapter. “These blankets mean so much to the children and their families and the passengers feel like they’re making a difference. When you’re making something with your hands, you’re giving from your heart.”
Prior needle work knowledge is not required: on each world cruise, there are always experienced yarn workers who can teach newcomers. “It’s really expanded and the people involved are really enthusiastic,” said Erik Elvejord, director of public relations for Holland America.
Some people knit or crochet simple squares that are then sewn into full blankets by others. The more ambitious tackle projects on their own, creating full afghans. Project Linus accepts a range of sizes, from crib-ready to Queen bed. It also collects “chemo caps,” hats for those undergoing cancer treatments.
As the program has grown, some of the knitters and crocheters are upping their skills, trying patterns and experimenting with colors. Last year, the group went through yarn so quickly that they had to pick up more while in port. Lane said that last year’s batch of blankets contained foreign yarns, many bought in Singapore or Hong Kong. While sometimes different in color or texture, the exotic yarns blend well with the U.S. ones.
“The workmanship is wonderful,” she said. “I looked at a couple and I thought, ‘Gosh, they almost look machine-made, the stitching is so even.'”
The so-called “Blanketeers” have been joined in their efforts by crewmembers and crewmember spouses, Elvejord said. The ever-growing group has grown close with some die-hard passengers signing up every year, although because it’s a world cruise, there are always people coming and going.
“There’s a bonding nature to knitting. They get to connect,” he said. “And knowing they’re doing it for a cause, for charity, makes it all the better.”
For more information about Project Linus, which is based in Indiana and has branches nationwide, visit: Project Linus-Home