I started off with a quick trip to the Community of Christ Church, which is at 6919 83 Street Northwest (Edmonton), which is just North of Argyll Rd. (You can find information about your local chapters here.) Volunteers for Blankets 4 Canada meet there on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of every month, unless a church event prevents it. It's a wonderfully large space, though. so that doesn't happen very often.
I got to talk to Eileen, who took the time to show me the methods they usually use to piece the donated squares together, and give me more information and suggestions. She was wonderful to chat with, and I wish I could have stayed longer! I hope to be able to stop by during one of their regular blanket bees. :-)
Along with some practical information, she also passed on some hints and tips. They happily accept any donations of knit, crochet or quilted squares or strips, yarn and finished blankets (new or gently used). These tips are suggestions to help make the volunteers' job easier.
Make 8 x 8 inch squares. It's handy to make up a template out of cardboard or something similar, so you just need to hold it against the template to measure. Though all sizes are welcome, having a consistent, somewhat larger size, makes it easier to match squares together, and less time is spent joining to complete the blankets. When 4 x 4 inch squares are donated, they get joined into 8 x 8 inch blocks first, then the blocks are joined to make the blankets. Larger or non-square shapes are a definite challenge for the volunteers to work out into the sizes needed!
Use medium weight (4) acrylic yarn. There are some really lovely ones available now, that are soft and have a lovely drape. Aside from being less expensive, they are also easy care and durable. Don't forget baby yarns, as there is a demand for crib sized and baby blankets, too.
Sew in the ends! The squares are crocheted together, which means all the ends that get left out need to be sewn in by volunteers before the squares can be joined. It's a process that can take longer then joining them does (which is why the squares are not sewn together, with rare exceptions).
If donating fabric, any typical quilting fabric works well, plus felt, which is used as a backing. If possible, avoid fabrics that fray easily.
If donating used blankets, a general rule of thumb as to whether or not something is suitable for donation is pretty simple; if you would use the blanket yourself, then it is suitable. Please ensure it is clean and free of pet hair.
If you wish to donate completed blankets of joined squares, or would like to volunteer to join squares at home, here are some basic sizes, all based on 8 x 8 inch squares.
A crib blanket typically takes 25-30 squares in total (5 squares wide and 6 squares long or 6 x 6). This size can generally last a child from crib to about age 4.
A single bed sized blanket, which is the most needed size, is typically 6 or 7 squares wide by 8 or 9 squares long.
A double bed sized blanket is about 8 or 9 squares wide by 9 or 10 squares long.
There is also a demand for lap blankets. When sizing these, consider that they are often used by people in wheelchairs. For size, something wide enough to tuck around the legs at the thighs and long enough to reach from the hips to the ankles while sitting is good.
To join squares, volunteer experience has found two crochet methods are the most efficient. Choose the one that best suits the squares you are joining, or use whatever your preferred method is.
Hold two squares with wrong sides together. Join yarn at a right hand corner, though both squares. Chain one. [1sc, 1ch] across to the opposite corner, working the sc through both squares in the same sc stitch.
This method creates a ridge and a defined front and back. It's quick, and the squares don't lie quite flat when laid out.
Hold two squares with wrong side together. Join yarn at right hand corner. Chain 1. Work 1 sc into ONE square only, chain 1. 1 Sc into the OTHER square, chain 1. Continue working to the opposite corner, alternating the sc stitches from one square to the other. This method takes a bit longer, and the squares lie flat when laid out.
Whichever method you use, there is a method of joining the squares to blanket size that has been found to be the quickest and most efficient, with the fewest tail ends left to sew in.
First decide your size and, if you have a variety of squares, sequence by laying out your squares in a grid and moving them around until you are satisfied. Once you have them laid out, it's helpful to number them by row and column number by pinning marked pieces of paper onto them, or using low-tack painters tape. (The tape can be used to help hold squares together when joining, too.) Row one (R1) is the bottom row, Column one (C1) is the right hand row (unless you're left handed, then the column numbers are reversed). So the bottom right hand square is R1C1. The one directly above it would be R2C1, while the one directly to the left would be R1C2.
When you start, you will be joining rows 1 and 2. Using your joining method of choice, join the R1C1 and R2C1 squares together. When you complete one side, continue directly to the R1C2 and R2C2 squares, then the R1C3 and R2C3 squares, until you have completed the number of columns that make up your blanket's width. When complete, you'll have all the squares for rows 1 and 2 joined on one side only.
Next, start joining row 3 squares to row 2 in the same manner, adding new squares to each column as you go along. Continue in this manner until all the rows are joined. When complete, all the squares, save the first and last rows, will be joined on 2 sides in rows.
Turn the blanket and join the remaining sides in columns.
Finish by working sc around the entire edge.
Hopefully, I will have photos to demonstrate how this is done after our joining party on Feb. 2. Until then, I hope my instructions are clear enough!