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Notes About Using Wool and Other Fibers

Thank you for reviewing this essential information

The afghans for Afghans project has always encouraged the use of wool. Wool is the most practical fiber for warmth in Afghanistan's harsh winters. 100% wool is best for insulating against the cold and endures best in rugged conditions. Yarn blends with a majority of wool (at least 75% wool) are good as well, especially if using a dense stitch. Many sock yarns have nylon for strength. Alpaca and mohair (animal fibers) are terrific insulators, too.

We must send garments that help individuals retain their body heat. If you have ever worn a pair of acrylic mittens in the snow -- you know what we mean. A wool cap on the head can make all the difference for the comfort of the whole person. A well-made wool garment can last for many, many years and can be passed down as children grow. Wool naturally retards flames. Often, poor nutrition and lack of any heat source in buildings means the individual has an even harder time staying warm.

Cargo space to Afghanistan is expensive and precious. Most relief groups ask only for cash donations so they can buy exactly what is needed most and not have to bother with the effort of collecting and sorting supplies coming from many sources and disposing of inappropriate items. Still, the Afghan people need our material aid.

We have been fortunate to secure reliable, experienced relief agency shippers to handle our hand-knit and crocheted items and to finance the container shipping. This is getting harder and harder, and we have few options. Our relief agency partners -- including the American Friends Service Committee -- appreciate the message of our newly handmade gifts as an expression of friendship and concern for the Afghan people. In a sense, we are privileged to have this opportunity to extend ourselves with the work of our own hands and hearts. So many essential items are needed in Afghanistan that we can only pack what is most useful and of high value. We must give what is needed most.

While wool yarn can be expensive, it does not have to be. Please consider these ideas for sourcing wool:

Mine your stash and exchange and share yarns with fiber friends. Even before purchasing new wool yarn, this is the chance to use up excess wool and odds and ends. Frog those languishing projects that you are not inspired to complete and that are probably out of fashion. (However, please be sure the wool is free of moths, insects, mildew, etc.)

Ask your fiber friends and acquaintances in your circles if they have excess wool to donate for a worthy cause. Most people are more than happy to unload yarn when they know it will be well appreciated -- this is especially appealing for those who wish to contribute something to Afghanistan, but are perhaps not inclined to knit or crochet themselves for the cause or just do not have the time. The hardest step is asking -- you will be delightfully surprised in most cases. Like all of you, most people love to give.

Wool is widely available in yarn shops, but every now and then we hear from those who cannot find wool in their local stores. The Internet is an excellent place to shop, especially for good values and bargains. While we cannot endorse a particular online yarn store, surf around and ask your knit and crochet friends for leads to online deals.

Regarding your local yarn shops, this is the chance to buy those oddballs in the sale bin. A wool cap for a kid often takes only a skein. Some people ask their favorite yarn store for a donation of wool. Often shop keepers are happy to donate wool that is not selling or to participate in community service or for whatever reason. Or, ask the shop keeper to place a yarn donation basket in their store -- customers can drop off their unused, excess wool while on their way to shop for more yarn. Take one of our flyers along to show them what you are doing.

Some people have posted on and other online community boards to ask for donations of wool yarn. In some cases, people have received wool from local chapters of domestic knitting and crochet charities that can only use washable, acrylic yarns. Perhaps swap some of your acrylic stash for the wool that they do not need.

Many participants have told us about their resourceful ideas for acquiring wool, and we encourage you to pass along your tips to others. Email us your novel ideas, and we may share them via our email list or on the website here.

Please do not worry about wool getting into washing machines and hot water -- these are luxuries in Afghanistan. Please send acrylic blankets and garments to your local charities who usually prefer machine washable fibers and can make the most use of these items. We cannot send items made with a majority of synthetic fibers or cotton.

For those who are allergic to wool, we are sorry that this limits your participation. We encourage you to seek out the domestic charities that need your support. However, we'd love to have you make copies of our flyer for distribution. Helping to get the word out is a very important way to contribute to the project. Or, consider giving wool yarn to a knitter or crocheter who may not have a budget for wool.

A reminder about colors

Please be mindful of colors. Best to avoid white and super light colors because washing opportunities are scarce. Light colors can always be combined with brights and darks for stripes and patterns.

Be sure to check our website or stay posted to our email announcements for updates on program priorites and due dates. Guidelines and program details can change (although the position on wool and acrylic yarns will stay the same) based on need and shipping logistics and funding.

We are grateful for your understanding, your involvement, and your generosity. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of sending appropriate gifts that are truly needed by the people of Afghanistan. It is difficult for us to fathom what life is like in Afghanistan, but we can rely on the humanitarian relief specialists in the field to guide us.

"There are grandmas whose grandchildren here in the U.S. find wool too itchy to wear ... as mine do. This past winter I have had the joy of knitting hats for children in Afghanistan who need to wear wool to keep warm. Thank goodness for a way to use all the wool I bought!"
-- J Rose, a volunteer from Charlottesville, VA



Afghan child wears hat
knitted by Missy McIver of
Columbia, SC

two girls

Two Afghan girls.
Photo by World Concern



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