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Monday, December 29, 2014


(Carolyn Steyn surrounded by the blankets piling up
for the Guinness Book of Records challenge)

At the beginning of 2014, well-known ballet patron Carolyn Steyn responded to a suggestion for a craft-related project that started off small but blew out of all imaginings within a matter of months.

At the birthday lunch of Steyn’s husband (Johannesburg businessman Douw Steyn), their friend Zelda la Grange (PA to the late legendary former South African President, Nelson Mandela), suggested to Steyn that she would really like to generate a project whereby people could honour Madiba’s memory by creating something with their hands.

Steyn’s response that she only knew how to knit or crochet brought forth the idea from la Grange to do 67 blankets in time to distribute them on Nelson Mandela Day in July 2014.

(Entrenched by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the number 67 represents the impact Mandela made on the world “starting from 1942 when he first started to campaign for the human rights of every South African”.)

Steyn approached friends in the performing arts world for their support and endorsement and before long, the Facebook project went viral and those 67 blankets rapidly escalated like wildfire as creatives around South Africa and the rest of the world became captivated by the idea.

“To my surprise, we managed to collect over 6,000 blankets instead, thanks to our global base of loyal supporters or "KnitWits for Madiba" as we like to call ourselves,” explains Steyn. “Over the past year, many people have asked me how they could get involved in this incredible initiative, despite the fact that they can’t knit or crochet. We now have a solution.”

67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day has established drop-off points across the country for wool donations. The wool will then be distributed to knitting enthusiasts and transformed into beautiful blankets for those less fortunate.

“There are so many people out there who can and want to knit, but don’t have the resources to do so,” Steyn continues. “For example, we have just officially launched the 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day initiative at the Zonderwater Correctional Centre. The prisoners have already crocheted a number of squares for us and are so eager to make thousands more - they just need the materials. That’s where you come in! We hope that in the spirit of Christmas, South Africans will donate generously. We do not accept money and trade only in wool. In fact, we rely on the "good wool" of people." says Steyn.

Taking this incredible project one step further ... The leading manufacturer of wool in South Africa, Saprotex, will produce yarn specially spun for 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day. This will be available in all wool shops throughout South Africa from February 2015, and a portion of the proceeds of each sale will go to the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Each ball will come with a free pattern.

As Steyn says: “KnitWits for Madiba, we are not even a year old!! Together we will be going places in 2015. Holding hands, we will reach even greater heights! I want to thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart for helping create this Knitting Revolution for Madiba. In under a year, we have become a force to be reckoned with!! We created and distributed over 6,000 blankets by July 18 2014 (Mandela Day) - and we are not even a year old!”

67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day also beat corporate giants Coca-Cola, KFC, Kellogg's and Knorr to win the Campaign of the Year!

“We have crossed every social divide and brought communities together from all walks of life. People who would never ordinarily have met have come together through "good-wool",” adds Steyn. “We have children and adults - and men! - knitting and we are weaving the fabric of our society together with bright, colourful thread. We have knitted on Robben Island, at the Nelson Mandela Foundation, at the Capture Site in Howick, at schools, at old age homes, peoples' homes, in restaurants, at the Auto and General Theatre on the Square, at the Market Theatre. We have knitted in the strangest of places - Rachelle Potgieter knitted on the back of a camel!!”

67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day was scripted into the story line of Generations with an audience of 10 million a night! It was also scripted into Johannesburg stage productions Doo Bee Boobies and in Peter Pan. It made world news - including the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, Fox News and Yahoo News - with 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day being officially launched at Zonderwater Prison.

Steyn is confident that in April 2015, the project will break the world record by placing 9,000 blankets (made in every corner of South Africa) at the feet of Madiba by covering the grounds of the Union Buildings with a sea of colourful blankets.

“I will be eternally grateful to one of the greatest men the world has ever known for all he has shown and taught us.” Steyn says. “In each and every stitch we make we will continue his legacy for all the years to come. You will live in our hearts forever. Thank you. Tata Madiba.”

If you would like to contribute wool, and help those in need, visit the 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day (South Africa) Facebook Group or visit

NB: Stand by for important dates mid January and mid-February for KZN Blanket handovers