It’s official!

We are super excited to announce that the Stay Strong Tote foundation has officially been approved by the federal government as a 501(c)3 charitable organization.  We’ve come a long way in a very short time.  Thanks for your patience as our mission has evolved.

As always, we have been busy making shrugs and shawls for moms entering Ronald McDonald Houses.  At last count – there were 157 Ronald McDonald Houses in the United States alone – and many have waitlists to get in.  That’s a lot of families staying in RMD Houses while their seriously ill children are being treated in nearby hospitals.  A lot of really worried moms who we can help support through our Stay Strong Totes.  As mentioned in our past posts on Facebook and Instagram, our Stay Strong Shrugs – which are our shortened version of Mama in a Stitch’s (Jessica Potasz) Blanket Sweater pattern – knit up so quickly with chunky yarns, or yarn combos and large needles.  We add a border based on our Stay Strong knit pattern around all four sides of the shrug which frames the stockinette portion, allowing the fabric to lay flat and is super easy to seam.  But if you have a favorite stitch pattern, knit or crochet, it can be applied to this project.  Just create a fabric that is approximately 42-48″ wide (wrist to wrist) by about 28-34″ long and use Jessica’s fold and seam guide and you’ll be able to create a Stay Strong Shrug for a mom entering a Ronald McDonald House.

Using large needles can be tricky – especially in the size US17-19 range.  You need to be careful when choosing and combining yarns because the fabric can become very heavy.  You can also have the opposite problem if you combine yarns and don’t add enough lofty bulk and find you create a fabric that’s way too stretchy.

I started a shrug and thought for sure the yarn I choose would be the perfect combo for my 19 needles.  Lion Brand Scarfie (US9) and Lion Brand Landscapes (US10) are both loosely spun bulky yarns.

I started knitting a shrug, holding a strand of each of these yarns together on my 19 needles.  After a few inches I could see what I was making was way too stretchy.  Going down one needle size to US17s and holding the two yarns together created a fabric that still had a nice chunky look to the stitches but was rapidly becoming too heavy.   I really like these yarns but had to be creative to make them work for this project.  I decided to try knitting with one US19 and one US17 needle at the same time – and I have to say, it was a great solution.  Using these two needles together created rows of airier stitches with rows of tighter more structured stitches.  And the fabric had a really nice feel as well!  Keep in mind, to make these super chunky shrugs, we are using 29″ circular needles so in the process of knitting rows I keep transferring the stitches from one circular needle to the other.  (On one row my working needle -right hand- is a 19 and on the next row my working needle- right hand- is the 17)


I’ve tried this technique on a couple of shrugs now and loved the result every time.


It is important to bind off very loosely with the larger needle.

Another helpful tip is to leave a long tail when casting on and binding off to use for seaming.  The less ends to weave in when finished the better – especially when working with bulky yarns.  In our pattern, you start binding off on a right side row which always ends at the opposite corner of your cast on tail.  To seam, lay your piece with wrong side up and seaming tails in opposite corners.





In our pattern the seams are easy and invisible, joining through the “bumps” created in our Stay Strong border.

I’m working on a shrug now and am LOVING the combo of Lion Brand Homespun and Red Heart Unforgettable.    The Homespun adds a lightweight loftiness and Unforgettable adds a great pop of color.   Knitted up using both US 19 and 17 needles creates a great fabric.  Here’s my pattern:

1 skein of Homespun  1 skein Unforgettable  US 19 and 17  29″ circular needles  2 stitch markers (to accommodate these large needles, I make mine out of twist ties).

All four sides of the shrug are knitted using our Stay Strong pattern which is a simple Knit 3, Purl 1 repeat, ending with Knit 3 – on every row.  In each row you’ll be knitting your purl stitches and purling your knits which creates a nice pattern that lays flat and is easy to seam – you don’t want to create ribbing!    

Using 19 needles, cast on 67 stitches.  Make sure you allow enough yarn to have about 8-10″ of tail left over for seaming later.  Still using your 19 needles, knit the first row in our Stay Strong pattern:  knit 3, purl 1 to last three stitches, knit 3.

Next row:  pick up your US17 needle (hold in right hand – 19 needle is in your left hand) and knit 3, purl 1 to last three stitches, knit 3. 

Next row:  use your US19 needle (in your right hand) as working needle and continue row in Stay Strong pattern.

Continue knitting in pattern, rotating your working needle at the start of each row for about 2 1/2″.  On a row when your US19 needle is in your RIGHT hand and your cast on tail is on the right lower corner, you will begin the first right side row of the stockinette portion.

Right side:   (19 needle in right hand)  Knit 3, Purl 1, Knit 3, place marker.  Knit across row to last 7 stitches,  place marker,  Knit 3, Purl 1, Knit 3.   (these 7 stitches at beginning and end of every row create side borders)

Wrong side:  (17 needle in right hand)  Knit 3, Purl 1, Knit 3, slip marker.  Purl across row to marker,  slip marker,  Knit 3, Purl 1, Knit 3.

Work until piece is about 25″ long.  Starting on a right side row and your 19 needle, repeat Stay Strong Pattern across entire row, removing markers, and knit in pattern for about 2 1/2″.  Start bind off row on a right side row (when cast on tail is in lower right corner).  Bind off super loosely with US19s and cut tail allowing about 8″ for seaming.

Lay piece flat with wrong side up.  Fold all four corner in toward each other (as pictured above) and seam about 3″ leaving a nice wide opening for arms to slip though.

I wound up using just a few yards more of another skein of Homespun in a darker shade of blue for my last couple of rows because I still had a lot of Unforgettable left in my skein.  But the yardage on both is terrific.  The finished measurements before seaming are 40″ side to side by 28″ long.   Due to the large stitches the shrug does relax when worn so it does cover similarly to a shawl.  Its amazing to get a whole shrug out of just these two skeins of yarn!

As previously mentioned, any pattern, knit or crochet works.  Here are two examples of crocheted shrugs that our friends Kathy and Donna from the Washing Valley library made for us.  Crocheted with Lion Brand Homespun – and Just beautiful.

Just remember, any yarn or needle size works too.  Your goal is a finished fabric that is not too dense or heavy and measures roughly between 42-48″ (wrist to wrist) by about 28-34″ long.   Be creative – and dip into your stash!  If you have a little more yarn on hand, knit a wider piece.  Wider pieces (wrist to wrist) wear more like a shawl – with handy openings at the wrists (created by seaming) to help keep it on.  Send us pictures of your creations and we will happily share them with our knit and crochet community!  There are so many yarns out there to play with.  Let’s experiment, share our results and pass a little love on to some very worried moms.

Please join our community and spread the word.  Help support moms of seriously ill children –

Send a hug through a shrug (or a shawl) today


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