Students join knitting clubs for relaxation, fun

During the middle of the week, Mark Starr learned a new stitch. He watched closely as Josh Koll showed him the finer points of purling.

“You’ve got to hold it more like this,” Koll said, as he repositioned Starr’s hands and guided him through the stitch’s motions. “Good, now you try it alone.”

Starr and Koll are Pioneer Hall Knitting Club members. Starr, a third-year student, began knitting at the beginning of the semester but said he already has a grasp of the basics.

“I started knitting because it seemed like it’d be fun,” Starr said. “It’s also a cheap, but sincere, way to make something nice for (my girlfriend) for our anniversary.”

Senior Lizz Buchanan started the club – which boasts approximately 24 members – earlier this year with fellow resident Nathan Meyer when people showed interest in her knitting projects.

“I was knitting and people would walk by and say, ‘Hey, I want to learn.’ Once I knew there was an interest I thought, ‘Why not teach people to knit?’ “

Each week approximately a dozen knitters gather in the Pioneer Hall lounge to chat, trade tips, knit and talk.

“I think people are looking for a way to relax and socialize at the same time,” Buchanan said. “It’s a way to hang out with friends and do something without a lot of critical thinking.”

Sophomore Emily Davis said she feels the same way about knitting. Last year she founded the University’s Knitting Club, which has approximately 20 members.

“It’s a relaxing thing to do when you’re watching TV so you’re not just killing brain cells,” Davis said. “It’s no longer just about knitting ‘grandma style.’ “

Some knitters use their skills to help others. Sophomore Christy Hoks, Knitting Club vice president, found a way to use knitting for community service work.

“I’ve made hats for premature babies at Fairview Medical Center,” Hoks said. “Knitting is great because people want to find a way to make something unique of their own.”

Others knit to create winter-wear for themselves.

Senior James Slotto has crafted several scarves and hats for his snowboarding and ice climbing escapades.

“It’s a cheap way to make your own stuff,” Slotto said. “It’s a productive thing because you get something at the end.”

Senior Alex Philstrom started knitting almost two years ago when she bought an expensive sweater and realized she could make it and save money.

“I’m a broke college student, so I might as well make my own sweaters and hats,” Philstrom said.

“I knit everywhere – on the bus, in class, before exams to relax, in a restaurant waiting for food,” she said. “I always have it with me because you never know when you’ll have a few minutes to do some stitches.”

Knitting circles were last in vogue in the 1950s and usually appealed to housewives, Buchanan said. But interest in knitting circles is making a comeback in younger crowd.

“Knitting groups build community,” Buchanan said. “People have grown apart and this brings people together through something that involves two needles and a (ball) of yarn.”

“It incorporates all the aspects of community that feel good,” Philstrom said. “There are a variety of people you don’t know; you can always talk about your knitting, and there’s food, patterns, techniques and stories. You can learn from people who are better, and you can teach others who are learning.”

Hoks encouraged new knitters to simply get started.

“Find something that catches your eye and sparks your interest,” she said, “and just do it.”