Welcome to 67 Blankets!
Making a difference stitch by stitch…
Our Founder – Carolyn Steyn
In Carolyn’s own words:
I matriculated from Jeppe High School for Girls in Johannesburg and hold an Honours Degree in Speech and Drama from the University of the Witwatersrand, as well as a Teacher’s Licentiate in Speech and Drama from Unisa. I later went on to study acting at the Beverly Hills Playhouse in Los Angeles, before returning to South Africa where I met my husband, Douw.
As an actor, I have appeared in stage productions, both in South Africa and the USA, including I, Anastasia, Betrayal, Shadowlands, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Private Lives, We All Fall Down and Die Swerfjare van Poppie Nongena opposite Nomsa Nene. I have made multiple television appearances on programmes including Generations (playing the role of Carolyn Steyn, Founder of 67 Blankets!), Melrose Place, Legacy, and Babylon 5. As well as making cameo appearances in South African films such as Blessers and Zulu Wedding. I also co-hosted the TV talk show Tongue in Cheek on SABC3.
I have always had a great passion for radio and over the years have worked for 5FM, Classic FM and Radio Today. And I now host my own radio show called “Hot Classic” every evening, Mondays to Saturdays on Hot 1027 FM.
Presently, I serve as a board member of the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Hot Cares, 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day and the Institute Français d’Afrique du Sud. I am truly honored to be amongst a handful of South Africans to have received a Knighthood from the French government. In 2022 French President Emmanuel Macron signed a decree to bestow upon me the Chevalier de l’Ordre national du Mérite which
was awarded to me on March 30, 2022, by the Ambassador of France to South Africa, His Excellency Monsieur Aurélien Lechevallier at the French Residence in Pretoria.
67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day was founded, after Madiba’s former personal assistant; Zelda La Grange, challenged me to make 67 Blankets for Mandela Day back in December 2013. I quickly realized that I would need the help of friends if I were to achieve this target, so I turned to social media. And over the years this initiative has grown into a global movement mobilizing thousands of active members in South Africa and around the world to crochet and knit blankets and scarves made with love and our own two hands, at the same time demonstrating the true meaning of ‘Ubuntu.’ We have also gone into correctional facilities over the years to help rehabilitate prison inmates by teaching them how to make blankets for people on the outside whose lives have been affected by crime and poverty. I am proud to say that to date, 67 Blankets has distributed well over 167,000 handmade blankets, and hundreds of thousands of scarves to those in need, setting four Guinness World Records in the process.
67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day has turned into my entire world, and as we head towards our tenth year since inception, I would like to congratulate every Ambassador and the KnitWits for Madiba, on their amazing contributions over the years. I look forward to many more years celebrating our 10th, our 20th, and even our 30th anniversaries. Stitch by stitch we are knitting lives and nations together. I could not be prouder of our amazing ‘close-knit’ 67 Blankets family. I only wish my parents were still alive to see how I am living a purpose filled life. They would be so proud. And I wish that Madiba were still alive to witness this Knitting and Crochet Revolution in his name.
How 67 Blankets started
In December 2013, Zelda la Grange, late former President Nelson Mandela’s trusted assistant, presented philanthropist and ‘Arts Angel’, Carolyn Steyn, with a challenge: knit, sew or crochet 67 blankets! These blankets would then be distributed to those in need on Mandela Day.
Mandela Day is an annual international day in honor of Nelson Mandela, celebrated each year on the 18th July, Mandela’s birthday. The day was officially declared by the United Nations in 2009.
Carolyn gladly accepted Zelda’s challenge but soon realised that she wouldn’t be able to achieve it alone.
She called on her friends for help and developed a Facebook group called “67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day”. In just days, hundreds of people from around the world had pledged to knit or crochet a blanket for Nelson Mandela Day.
Milestones and Achievements
67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day has transformed into what some are calling a “movement” – a movement that has captured the attention of many South African and international celebrities as well as corporates and “KnitWits for Madiba” in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Cyprus, London, the USA, Ireland, Italy, and India.
In its short history, the campaign has realized some important milestones. After just nine months, 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day won CAMPAIGN OF THE YEAR at the South African of the Year Awards in October 2014. On April 21, 2015, to mark 21 years of democracy in South Africa, 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day smashed the Guinness World Record for the “The Largest Crochet Blanket in the World” measuring 3,377 square meters at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
Work in Correctional Services
Journalist Cathy Dipnall has written about 67 Blankets being “an initiative that is binding together our nation in a way no government has been able to achieve”.