Stories from Our Work
The Fabulous Fabric Frenzy, 2016
Since 2012, the Fabulous Fabric Frenzy has been an annual G.A.N.G event.* During that time thousands of metres of fabric and yarn have been made available to people in the Edmonton area for very low prices.
Although we readily share the amount of money raised at this event, we less frequently share stories of the more qualitative outcomes of this fundraising event: the lives it allows us to touch; the hopes it fosters; the global inclusiveness we sometimes unknowingly support.
Here are some of those stories, with names altered to shield individual identities:
Brian comes into the room where bags of yarn are set out on long tables. He’s stocky and freckle-faced. His spikey hair is died jet black. He wears studs in his ears and in each corner of his mouth.
Dianne, a GANG member asks, “Are you a knitter?”
“I guess,” he says. He glances sidelong at her. “I knit and crochet.”
“So you’re a real craftsperson,” she says. “Like me.”
He beams. “And like my grandmother. She taught me everything I know.” Dianne nods, acknowledging the importance of grandmothers in the world.
“What are you working on now?” she asks.
“Well,” Brian says, now quite animated. “I’m in prayer shawl ministry at my church.” He explains the making and blessing of shawls that are given out to people in need of physical or emotional support. “And I knit for my family.”
“You have a very lucky family then.”
Brian turns and looks at the worker directly for the first time. “I’ll bet when you first saw me you didn’t think I was the crafty type. You thought I was . . .”
“Oh, I know a kindred spirit when I see one,” she says. “After all. I’m a grandmother, too.”
“I knit slippers, shawls and blankets for the Sisters of the Holy Cross, a relief organization in Haiti,” Melanie says. Gesturing at the two large black bags filled with yarn she’s selected, she adds, “I’ll have to live to be a hundred to use all of this up.”
Holly and Angela
“We’re marking the opening of a show by the Focus on Fibre Association by yarn bombing the seven trees out in front of Enterprise Square. (Yarn bombing, sometimes called yarn storming, guerilla knitting, urban or graffiti knitting originated as a means of personalizing impersonal public places through the use of knitting and crochet.) When we’re finished the trunks of the trees will be covered by colorful squares.”
“I’m knitting a huge granny square afghan to keep my legs warm when I’m sitting in the evening.”
Cynthia is very quiet, almost worshipful as she selects baby yarn in pastel shades. “I had a miscarriage,” she says, although she hardly looks old enough. “Now I knit for premature babies. It helps me to keep from thinking about what I’ve lost.”
Susan and Mike
Susan and Mike each have an armful of fabric, which they take to the stage at the end of the large fabric room. They sort through their selections, discussing which piece they can keep and which they will have to return. Grace, a GANG member approaches them to see if she can help. “We just have to be very careful how much we spend,” Susan tells her tearfully. “Mike and I have both lost our jobs and we don’t have anything to spare right now, but I can still sew for our daughters so they look their best at school.”
Grace considers this briefly. “All the fabric goes on sale for half price after 2 PM,” she says. “If you want to leave your bag with me and come back, I think that would be alright.”
“Oh, could you do that?” Susan says.
“Of course,” Grace tells her. She’s already moving their stash of fabric to the counting room.
“I’m looking for cotton to make drawstring bags for a charity I’m involved in called “Days for Girls.” She explains that it supplies girls in developing countries with menstrual supplies – eight tri-fold pads, soap, panties, a washcloth and moisture barrier shields. “When girls begin menstruation,” she says, “they often have to leave school because they lack the necessary materials. One girl out of every four leaves school in India, for example. Keeping girls in school helps to break the cycle of poverty.” Brenda says she’s amazed to find beautiful fabric available at such good prices.”
Missy is first in line to enter the building, having waited outside the building for over forty-five minutes. “I’ve come to the Frenzy for the past two years with my mother,” she says. “But she died during the winter. This time I brought her with me in spirit and promised her that we’d get here early so as not to miss anything.”
“I always come with a few friends. We have developed a system where we only take a third of what we’ve bought at the sale into the house and leave the rest in the garage. After a while we take another third in. That way our husbands don’t know that we’ve gone overboard again.”
* G.A.N.G. is an acronym for Grandmothers of Alberta for A New Generation. All profits of our fundraising activities go to the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmother to Grandmother Campaign to assist African Grandmothers raising AIDS-orphaned grandchildren.