Crafting for a Cause

Brown-based startup Tink Knit employs single mothers and keeps customers warm

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When it comes to knitting, most people picture nothing more than elderly women in rocking chairs and calm cross-stitching by a fire. Yet the student-run nonprofit group, Tink Knit, sees the old-fashioned craft as an opportunity to create change in their community.

Upset by the number of single mothers in Rhode Island that fall below the poverty line, a group of students from Brown and RISD decided to form a business that would assist these women financially. Since 2014, Tink Knit has hired low-income single mothers and provided them with the chance to make a supplemental income through the creation of knit hats, scarves, and headbands. The knit wares are all made from fun vibrant colors and have stripes and pom poms mixed in for added flair.

Many single mothers are restricted from working second jobs because they would have to pay for alternative childcare, the cost of which would cancel out the wages they make. According to Tink Knit Co-President James Okun, “The cost of alternative childcare can take 40 percent of a single mother’s median income, and only 41 percent of single mothers receive any kind of government assistance.” He added, “Tink Knit innovatively solves this work-family conflict for single mothers by allowing them to make an income by making knitwear from their home.”

Tink Knit allows these single mothers to make the supplemental income they need while also allowing them to be home with their children, thus saving money on childcare. No prior knitting experience is required, as Tink Knit has student volunteers available to teach anyone who is interested. The mothers are guaranteed a wage for every knit item they create. For every hat knitted, they are paid $15; for every scarf created, they earn $20; and for every headband turned in, they receive $10.

Okun said that the ultimate goal of the program is to “empower these women to develop sustainable skills with the ultimate goal of becoming financially independent.”

The students behind Tink Knit say that the best way people can support their efforts, and support the mothers they work with, is by buying the knit products they create. Okun added, “We sell our knit-wear in the Brown and RISD Bookstores, online at [our website], and at pop-up sale events like the Providence Flea.”