When New York-based fiber artist Krystal Nadrutach started out on a simple home improvement project to redecorate her daughter's bedroom back in 2006, she wasn't able to find the crochet pattern she was envisioning in her mind to complete the remodel. So, she did what all crafty mamas do: sat down and came up with a pattern of her own. "I broke a few crochet rules along the way," Krystal explained to our team when we asked her about the pattern's development, "and the construction was definitely not typical." And, unknowingly at the time, neither was the journey this new crochet granny square was about to take in the fiber arts community.
Pictured above: Krystal's first crochet Charity Square
After completing the square, Krystal posted a photo of it in an online crochet chat room and received encouragement to publish the pattern. Years before Raverly and Etsy surfaced on the web, self-publishing a crochet pattern wasn't as easy as it is today. With four children of her own, Krystal didn't have much time to publish the pattern in more traditional ways and instead decided to leverage a popular trend of the time: square swaps.
Pictured above: A few of the first Charity Squares sent to Krystal from Florida and Oregon.
Square swaps started as a way for crocheters to collaborate on craft projects. First, the group would vote on colors, themes, and sizes for the granny squares. Each participant would make a set of squares and sent them out to the other participants to then stitch them together into an afghan.
Pictured above: One of the early Charity Square Blankets made by Krystal using granny squares sent from around the world.
Merging the two ideas- publishing a pattern and a square swap- Krystal offered to share her pattern in exchange for one square from each person. Her goal was to join the squares and donate them to Children's Hospital of Buffalo, where she lives.
"I received THOUSANDS of squares, from all over the world for years to come. They were made in fascinating yarns and colors and sizes. The postmarks came from countries I had never heard of," Krystal shares. Each week, her children helped with measuring squares, putting a tag on them to note where they were from and stacking them in matching sets. "To say that the daisy square exceeded my expectations of it, is a vast understatement," Krystal remembers.
With squares pouring in from around the world, Krystal "joined and joined and donated, and joined and donated some more. My hospital loved me. My mail lady loved me. My children? Not so much!"
Then, postage rates changed, and the hospital stopped accepting afghans. With her growing children and family demands changing, Krystal turned to Ravelry, which had recently came along. Krystal adapted her plan so that the cost of the pattern was about the same as postage and instead donated the profits to charity.
Pictured above: The Flower Power Square Blanket, by the Modern Macramé team, inspired by the Charity Square.
Now, she's down to one sea chest of squares left to join and donate. Her final afghan will given to a local organization in Buffalo that helps young families transition from a life of homelessness to one of independence. "My children are all adults now - and are my social media advisors. It's been a long but fascinating ride!"
Pictured above: Modern Macramé's social and marketing manager, Beth (left) and retail associate, Taylor (right) with the Flower Power Square!
To make your own Charity Square, check out Krystal's pattern here. If you're in the Portland area, join us on July 17 for an in person workshop to learn how to make this square with a community of crafters at your side! All profits from this workshop will be donated to Rose Haven, a local Portland day shelter and community center for homeless and abused women and children.