Feel Good Knit-a-Long Challenge

Sophie Kurnik of Bluebird Yarn (left) with fellow knitters Eva Gorman (center) and Vickie Feldstein, MD, a radiologist at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco

“Honestly, I feel like I got a lot more back than I gave,” says Sophie Kurnik, owner of Bluebird Yarn and Fiber Crafts in Sausalito, California.

Early in 2015, Kurnik invited customers and friends to knit blankets for patients at the new UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco at Mission Bay. The store created 100 kits with a simple pattern and brightly colored yarn that matched the colors of the hospital’s logo. Kurnik says knitters snapped up the kits in less than a week.

The “100-Blanket Challenge” was conceived by Kurnik and Vickie Feldstein, MD, a radiologist at UCSF who specializes in diagnostic ultrasound. An avid knitter, Feldstein had already donated many individual knitted items to the children’s hospital, including blankets and hats for babies. But she and Kurnik wanted to do something on a larger scale for the opening of the new children’s hospital.

Together, they hatched a plan to engage their community of knitters in making something they felt the young patients would appreciate. Feldstein knitted the prototype blanket, which Kurnik used as a way to reach out to Crystal Palace Yarns, a knitting supply wholesaler in Richmond, California. The company chipped in with specially priced yarn and clear totes to house the kits. Finally, Kurnik created a web page for the project and emailed an invitation to her customers and friends around the Bay Area, asking them to buy the kits and start knitting.

The store received more than 100 finished blankets that Child Life Services is distributing to children in the hospital. The kids get to take home their blankets when they are discharged.

One knitter sent Kurnik a personal note, along with her completed blanket, explaining why the Challenge meant so much to her:

“... when I was 5 years old (52 years ago), I had a life-saving operation at UCSF Hospital and spent a month in the children’s ward recovering. … It was a very lonely time. Worst of all, I could not bring my own ‘security blanket,’ per hospital rules. I know I would have loved to have been given one of these special blankets.”

Kurnik and Feldstein encouraged participants to put their names (and a message, if they wanted) on a tag included with each blanket kit so the recipient would know who made the blanket for them. Although the suggested pattern was a simple one, Feldstein delighted in some of the more intricate designs turned in by seasoned knitters.

“Clearly, quite a large number of these knitters wanted to do good,” says Feldstein. “We just gave them a suggestion, and they were happy to spend their time and the money.”

The kits sold for just $25, which covered the cost of the yarn and the totes; for each completed blanket, Bluebird Yarn and Fiber Crafts made a small cash donation to the hospital. Even Cibo, the coffee shop across the road from Bluebird, played a part by giving knitters a free coffee when they delivered their finished handiwork.

“At every turn, people stepped up to contribute,” Feldstein says. “It was truly an exercise in community compassion.”