I was one of the lucky few who worked on the Marathon Scarf Project both as a scarfmaker and as a behind-the-scenes volunteer receiving packages from all over. Your scarves came from 49 states and 12 other countries including Australia, the UK, France, and Thailand. I remember seeing scarves from California, Illinois, Texas, Colorado, New Jersey, New York, Florida and Arizona. I processed so many scarves from New England. I even got to process one from Nova Scotia, Canada. I am certain I touched scarves from other places I can’t remember. I wish I could have seen the scarf from Hawaii! (My family is from there. 4/26/14 – I found it!)
Not all scarfmakers included personal notes or contact information so you may never be able to know the stories behind your scarf. I wish the scarves could talk because each one has many stories to tell. Every scarfmaker would have a story about why they participated in the project, why they made your scarf, and the people they met along the way. They may also have shared the scarf with their friends or church who may have blessed it or oohed and ahhed over it (a knitters’ blessing!). The scarves were then handled by hundreds of USPS/UPS/FedEx workers or delivered in person by individuals and groups. One woman drove from the Albany area to hand-deliver her scarf at our April 5th Knit In event!
Upon arrival at Old South, packages and bags were opened, notes were read aloud, scarves were tagged, refolded, and placed in bins. Your scarf may have become a favorite among volunteers. Some scarves were repaired by tireless volunteers dubbed “the doctors”. There are some scarves and scarfmakers we are still talking about because of the personal notes they wrote to the project organizers and volunteers or because of the amount of work we know was involved. We marveled at the variety and creativity. Every scarf is a work of art.
Some scarves were made by young children and first time knitters & crocheters. Not only were scarves made by Christians, they were also made by Muslims, Jews, and atheists. Some scarves were made in honor of survivors. Some scarfmakers are like hares, while others are like tortoises – your scarf may have been made in one hour or perhaps 26. As the official Marathon Scarf Project tag says, each and every scarf was “interwoven with love and courage”. They were all made with love and given with love – a gift to you from someone’s heart.
Although we know that around 7,400 scarves were processed, no one is sure of the exact total of “marathon scarves” out there because many were given directly to loved ones. Many scarfmakers apologized for not making more and said they would have had they had more time. Many had only heard about the project recently and rushed out to buy materials and get some scarves to Boston. Some packages were from repeat scarfmakers who said they couldn’t stop so they had to make just one (or two or five) more. Thousands of scarves were the result of community projects. It’s true that the final number was not enough to provide scarves to all 32,408 runners of the 2014 Boston Marathon, however we scarfmakers made as many as we could in the 2 months or less that we had from the time the project was hatched or when we heard about it. The project spread mainly via word of mouth through church networks, social media, senior centers, yarn stores, and knitting groups. I heard that the founders had not set out with any expectation of receiving thousands of scarves, but this project resonated with so many crafters – knitters, crocheters, weavers, and sewers – that the scarves poured in.
These scarves brought people together, sometimes in unexpected ways. Scarfmakers connected with one another online. Friendships were forged. After people’s scarves were “out in the wild” we had great fun spotting our scarves on the news and social media. We cry when we see the people who received our scarves and when we’re fortunate enough to be able to connect with you. I personally chased down a man from Pennsylvania on Boylston Street after recognizing the scarf he was wearing from Ravelry, a social network for knitters, crocheters, spinners and weavers. I wanted to take his picture for his scarfmaker although in my excitement, I forgot to ask for his contact information.
I am not affiliated with Old South Church other than as a scarfmaker and volunteer and couldn’t ask permission of the thousands of scarfmakers and volunteers to write this, but since some of you may never meet your scarfmakers, I wanted to share some of your scarves’ stories so that you can know just how meaningful this project was to those of us who contributed. There are thousands more stories to be told. I hope that you’ll be able to connect directly with your scarfmaker and learn more about your scarf’s special history! They would love to hear from you. Thank you for coming to Boston and congratulations!
P.S.: A number of runners offered to pay for their scarves. The best response I heard when a volunteer was asked by a runner, “How much?” was, “Nothing, just pay it forward.”
- My tips for How to find your marathon scarf recipient or scarfmaker
- Defiance: how and why I got involved with the Marathon Scarf Project
- For more wonderful scarf stories see Thank You from the Boston Marathon Runners on the the Raging Wool Yarn Shop’s blog and Old South Church’s Facebook page.
This post is dedicated to storyteller Kevin M. Brooks, who was taken from this Earth far too soon.
Here is some coverage from local news outlets that tells the stories of some of the thousands of scarfmakers out there. If you’ve seen another article that profiles a scarfmaker or group of scarfmakers, please leave a comment!
- Grafton, Massachusetts – The Grafton News: Scroll down for an adorable photo of Girl Scouts wearing fleece scarves they made.
- Southborough, Massachusetts – Community Advocate: Southborough woman’s scarves provide comfort, courage to marathon runners
- Stoughton, Massachusetts – Stoughton Journal: Stoughton knitters find common thread for Marathon runners
- Concord, New Hampshire – Concord Monitor: Boston Marathon: Concord woman knits scarves ‘with love’
- Hollis, New Hampshire – Hollis Brookline Journal: Hollis women craft scarves for Boston Marathon runners
- Mary Thomas from Hollis, NH was also interviewed by NPR: A Year After Boston Marathon Bombing, How Does Public Grief Help?
- Will County, Illinois – The Herald-News: Plainfield church knitting, praying for runners (photos)
- North Iowa – The Globe Gazette: Boston strong Marathoners get scarves knitted by NE Iowans
- Warren County, Missouri – The Warren County Record: Local church donates scarves to Boston marathon
- Shenandoah Valley, Virginia – The Valley Banner: Knotty Knitters aim to aid marathon runners
- Madison, Wisconsin – WMTV: Madison woman joins movement to donate scarves to Boston Marathon