Robyn, from Minimalist Knitter, has the answer. Knit squares and donate them!
After reading Robyn's post on knitting for worthwhile charities, I picked up my needles, picked out some garish yarn, and started knitting. My friends - this is the perfect take-along project - simple and small.
And then something awesome happened: I took my knitting to a rehearsal for the play I'm in, and another actor asked me what I was knitting. When I told her, she told me that her mother gathers squares to make blankets that will go to people here in Chicago! So I switched it up, and told her I would donate all the squares I made to her mom and her group, which is run through St. Edward Parish in Chicago (the little section called "Yarn Works" towards the bottom). If you're located in Chicago and would like to knit squares as well, comment below or send me an email and I'll give you all the info.
Here's a quick pattern:
Diagonal Knit Square
CO 3 stitches, leaving a tail of at least 12"
Row 1: knit across
Row 2: k1, m1, knit to end
Repeat "Row 2" until you have 35 stitches on the needle. It will grow like a little triangle, and look like this:
After your triangle is 35 stitches wide, begin decreasing.
Row 3: k1, k2tog, knit to end
It should look like this now:
Repeat "Row 3" until you only have 3 stitches on the needle
BO the last 3 stitches, leaving a tail of at least 12"
You can then use your tails to sew the squares together into a blanket. I knit this on size 10.5 needles using worsted weight yarn, and it made a 7" square. You can experiment with different needle sizes, yarn weights and total stitches (instead of the 35 stitches) to make bigger or smaller squares. You could also knit this pattern in a cotton and use it as a washcloth!