Crafting for Charity: Shelly Tucker, Storyteller and Share A Square

Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 9:11 pm in Crafting for Charity, Crochet, Guests & Interviews, NaBloPoMo

Share-A-Square buttonIf you’ve been reading this blog for a month or more, you know I was involved in Share A Square, a charity afghan project. I’ve posted a fair bit about it, beginning with my original post on February 12, continuing on February 19, February 21 and February 29. I got my mother-in-law working, and she finished one on March 7. I posted my finished afghan (#134) on April 28.

I also asked the creator of the project, Shelly Tucker, to do an interview about Share A Share, and she’s graciously done just that! I think it’s grand timing, as she (and whoever else can go) will be delivering the 140 afghans to Camp Sanguinity over the Fourth of July weekend (July 7). Before I let you have Shelly herself, I should tell you I think this project is just like Shelly – each afghan is a story between the yarn and the tags, and it’s all full of heart. How like Shelly to conceive of it – she’s a storyteller with a heart herself.

Links: The Share A Square Blog, the Afghan Gallery and Shelly’s blog This Eclectic Life.

Without further ado, I give you Shelly:

First of all, would you explain what the Share A Square project is and what it’s for? Just a recap of what it is for those who haven’t seen it before.

Two Afghans from CamilleOn June 14th, 2008, I got a crazy idea. I posted asking folks to send me 6″ granny squares with a tag showing their name and location. I planned to take 48 squares from different people to make afghans. My thought was to make afghans to give to each child at Camp Sanguinity. It’s a summer camp for kids with cancer and blood disorders associated with Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, TX. One hundred and forty children would attend. I planned on each of them getting an afghan touched by at least 48 different hands, so they would know how many people care about them.

Why did you decide to start this project? What does it mean to you?

Why? There is no telling “why” I decide to do anything! I’m “possessed.” Actually, I had seen a quilt at Your Mirror Or Mine that had been given to Pharah’s son at cancer camp. I thought it was a fantastic idea for a way to contribute to society, but I don’t quilt. That same day, a blogging buddy in Canada sent me some tea towels she had knitted. I remembered that I crochet. Then, I thought, “Hey wouldn’t it be neat if several people helped make one afghan?” Then, it kind of snowballed and took on a life of its own. I posted, and before the day was out about 15 bloggers had linked to it. It took several weeks, but all of a sudden the squares started pouring into my mailbox.

What does it mean to me? This storyteller, who makes a living with words, is positively speechless when she tries to tell you what this program means. Yes, 140 children will get some afghans filled with love. But, more importantly, MANY people got the opportunity to open their hearts and give. I’ve been amazed at how many people have thanked me for the opportunity (especially when I was making them work!).

It looks like it’s been a tremendous amount of work – tell us about what you’ve done for the project yourself. Did you expect you’d be in for this much work?

The Afghan Pile Did I tell you that “Clueless” is my middle name? I had no idea how much was involved to put this together. That’s probably a good thing, because it might have seemed too daunting. Thankfully, the really hard part (crocheting squares) was done by other people. I had some awesome volunteers from around the world. Without them, this never would have come together, and I can’t thank them enough. For my part, yes, I did a lot of stuff. There has been the daily trips to the post office, recruiting volunteers, sorting the squares, LOTS of crochet, taking pictures, editing the photos and posting them, writing about it (it soon required its own blog), writing thank you notes, tagging afghans, bagging afghans…and it isn’t over yet. We still have to deliver the afghans AND I have tons of squares left to make “extra” afghans for the children who are too sick or too young to attend the camp.

I made more work for myself than I had to do, because I didn’t know what I was doing. Looking back I can see mistakes I made, but it was darned well worth it.

The project had an offshoot, too. My blogging friends Sherry at Yellow Rose’s Garden and Barbara at Purplemoose Gazette started what we called the “Bag Project” to make “medicine bags” for each child to hold the special tags from the afghans. They got together 140 handmade bags. It’s astounding.

Boxes of Share A Square AfghansI think the size of this project (those are boxes of afghans there on the right) and people’s generosity is best expressed by some numbers. (1) How many squares have you gotten now, (2) how many people have contributed squares and/or afghan-construction? and (3) where are some of the places you’ve gotten materials from?

After 10,000 squares, I quit counting. More than 400 people have been involved in one way or another (many of them chose to remain nameless). Where did the squares originate? All over the United States (from Alaska to Hawaii), and from foreign places like Japan, Taiwan, England, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, the Czech Republic, Mexico, several provinces of Canada, Germany, Italy, and Oklahoma (sorry, I had to jab my sisters in the neighboring state).

My biggest surprise was to find that my blog had been translated into Japanese. One night, my husband and I watched a PBS special about the Atomic Bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Tearfully, I turned to him and said, “If that had happened to my country, I would never forgive the perpetrators.” The next day, my mail held 12 packages from Japan. The first I opened was from Hiroshima, and the woman wrote, “Thank you for letting me happy children.”

I guess the Universe had a little lesson for me about forgiveness and love, eh?

It sounds like, from your blog, that you’ve been overwhelmed and surprised by the reaction to your idea. What kind of response did you expect and/or hope for?

Overwhelmed, but not surprised at all. I already knew that people have big hearts.

Mayumi, Squares from Tokyo, JapanAny really great or touching stories from people who have contributed squares? Any particularly interesting tags people have attached to their squares?

How many pages did you say you wanted to dedicate to this interview, Miriam? As for the tags, I’ve loved the origami from Japan (there were several with an origami frog that blew me away). As for stories… I can go on for hours. There’s the blind woman who sent squares, the 94 year old woman who churned them out, the woman with MS who put together four afghans (even though she could only work an hour a day), the woman who made so many squares that I suggested she make an afghan (but it was to bulky to take to her chemotherapy session), the woman with Alzheimer’s who couldn’t remember how to make a granny square but could still single crochet, and there was Kathleen (who didn’t know she didn’t have any time

Do you get my drift? EVERY square has a story, and ALL of the stories touch my heart.

Taten (Mr. T) in August 2008Tell us a little about Mr. T (right), the young boy who received the first afghan. I think it’s a really great story that shows the impact of this kind of work – both the afghan itself and also the impact of having something made by so many people.

Taten’s grandmother Matty, at Running on Empty, was one of the first people to donate to Share A Square. When I found out how terribly sick Taten (Mr. T) was (in need of a bone marrow transplant), I sent the first afghan that we made to him in Canada. He wouldn’t take the tags off for three days, and when he did he shuffled them like cards and memorized the names of his 48 new friends. THAT’S when we realized how important the tags were, and the idea for the Bag Project was born.

Any final thoughts or observations?

Oh my. I’m still in awe of what we did. Every time I pick up a stray square (and there are many strays at my house), I touch it and cry at the time and effort that people took to give of their hearts. It amazes me every day how powerful the internet can be. Some of my volunteers were bloggers, others were just internet surfers, and some came from the community where I live. ALL of them have hearts as big as Dallas, and I can never thank them enough. What a joy and a blessing this has been.

Shelly Tucker

Shelly Tucker, storyteller

Website: http://www.spinmeayarn.com
Daily blog: http://thiseclecticlife.com/

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3 Comments

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[...] Here’s a very nice article about the entire project. [...]

Purplemoose Gazette » Saying Goodbye is Sad — Wed Jun 25, 2008 at 1:53 am (link)

Wow, that’s so touching and beautiful. What a great project.

Melissa — Wed Jun 25, 2008 at 8:01 pm (link)

[...] Miriam at Crafter by Night. I’m not just mentioning her because she interviewed me. Miriam is involved in A LOT of crafting for charities, and she provides generous links to them. [...]

This Eclectic Life » Blogging Award Time — Mon Jul 7, 2008 at 7:14 am (link)

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