Stitches in Time: Basia and Shannon Knowlton
The crafty mother-daughter team is on a mission to keep people warm, fed and looked after with their “Warmth for the Winter” initiative, and other charitable works.
Basia Knowlton likes to say she was born with a crochet hook in her hand.
Six years ago, frustrated after failing to sell any of her many creations at a disappointing craft show, Basia decided to string a line between the trees in her Orangeville front yard, hang her goods on it and simply give them all away.
So began what has evolved into a mission to keep people warm, fed and looked after.
Dubbed “Warmth for the Winter,” the line in Basia’s front yard has grown to include not only her own work, but also mitts, hats, scarves and winter coats donated by others. Everything is free for those in need. As a single mother of three, Basia says, “I’ve had hard times in my past, and I just want to pay it back … So here, people don’t have to explain themselves, they don’t have to beg. It’s non-judgmental.”
Basia’s charitable efforts have grown beyond the Warmth for the Winter project. She added what she calls her Food Bank Moose, to collect non-perishable food donations. Last year that effort resulted in about a half-dozen trips to deliver food to the Orangeville Food Bank. In another Basia project, she collects $2 donations to sponsor squares in blankets that, once made, go to organizations such as Family Transition Place, the Orangeville Legion and Orangeville’s new men’s shelter. Her goal is to produce one blanket a month. And if all that weren’t enough, this year she has also been creating and selling coasters and earrings in the colours of Ukraine, with the proceeds going to support the war-torn country.
If you think of Basia as the Batman of community service, then surely her daughter Shannon is Robin. The dynamic duo undertake all their projects together. In addition to working at all the craft shows, Shannon takes particular responsibility for creating bracelets and scrunchies, and contributes a critical element to the design process: “I pick the colours for stuff.”
Sadly, people have occasionally taken advantage of Basia and Shannon’s efforts to help. A few have taken much more than they need, including one group that totally cleaned out the place last year. Basia suspects they planned to sell the merchandise online. Though security cameras might help, Basia can’t afford a good system, and even with cameras, there’s a limited amount that can be done. Still, she takes a considered view: “Three bad eggs, but you help 100 people.”
Basia and Shannon accept cash donations, which are used to purchase things like bags, hangers and yarn, but Basia asks that people not donate yarn itself. “Too often,” she says, “it smells like Grandma’s attic, or Grandma’s basement, or Grandma’s ashtray.”
“You don’t have to have a lot of money to help,” says Basia. “We can all make a difference.”
Warmth for the Winter, aka “the lady with the line,” is located at 46 Centre Street in Orangeville.