Vassar’s crafters work to gain profits, support community

Crafters at Vassar create items for a variety of audiences. Some craft for family and friends while others sell theirs as part of crafter’s guild in order to avoid paying fees and cut out the middleman. Photo By: Web Wellness Institute
Crafters at Vassar create items for a variety of audiences. Some craft for family and friends while others sell theirs as part of crafter’s guild in order to avoid paying fees and cut out the middleman. Photo By: Web Wellness Institute
Crafters at Vassar create items for a variety of audiences. Some craft for family and friends while
others sell theirs as part of crafter’s guild in order to avoid paying fees and cut out the middleman. Photo By: Web Wellness Institute

When faced with a large amount of school work, hobbies such as baking, crafting and reading for pleasure are often the first things to fall by the wayside. If there aren’t enough hours in the day for homework, how do students find time for something they enjoy? While it may be difficult, many Vassar students have made time in their busy lives for their hobbies. Some popular hobbies among students are knitting and crocheting.

Some students are using crafting to help others. Madison Hickman ’15 is President of Commuknitty, a student organization that works on crafting projects which benefit the Poughkeepsie community. This year they are cooperating with Generation, a new organization that visits nursing homes. Said Hickman, “We’re knitting little trinkets to give the folks they visit and let them know someone is thinking of them this holiday season!”

The group, which meets every Sunday from 3 to 4 p.m. in Raymond Parlor, attracts members with a different levels of experience, ranging from decades to only weeks or days. For students at any level. Commuknitty provides a space for members of the Vassar community to hone their craft while helping others. Said Hickman, “Sweaters, potholders, hats, socks, shapeless blobs—you see it all.”

Mariah Carlson-Kirigin ’15 knits and crochets for pleasure. For Carlson-Kirigin, this hobby began early, when she was about five years old. She can still recall the day. “I used maroon yarn that was really soft that I found in a huge box of tangled yarn that my mom had, and for a while I was making some kind of mistake that resulted in the piece of knitting not getting any bigger,” she said. As time went on, her skills improved and now she has made a variety of things, such as sweaters, hats, mittens, scarves, blankets and stuffed animals. The time it takes for her to finish a project can range from mere hours to months. Simple projects, such as hats, while larger projects, such as blankets, can take months.

While the hobby of knitting may conjure up images of old women in rocking chairs for some, it seems that people younger and younger have taken up this craft. In a 2011 survey done by the Craft Yarn Council, 18 percent of all surveyed were between ages 18-35, indicating that a large portion of the 38 million yarn consumers may be younger than we think (Craftyarncouncil.com). Whether knitting or crocheting, this type of crafting allows people of any age to work on projects that provide both joy and a possible source of income.

While Carlson-Kirigin only uses her talent to make things for herself and her friends, other students have found that crafting can serve as a source of income, selling anything from jewelry to their art. But this can provide a difficult challenge.

For Jordan Brooker ’15, who makes items such as scarves, hats and stuffed animals, finding a place for selling her merchandise has been a problem. While selling online is an obvious option, she said she has not begun doing that because of the large fees websites like Etsy charge, taking a chunk of profit from the seller. Currently, she is looking for students to team up with to start a crafters’ guild. Said Brooker, “One person selling five scarves isn’t a very good business plan. But a group of crafters with a whole table of goods for sale, that is a lot more appealing to a buyer.” Her guild would sell not only knitted crafts but items such pottery and other hand-made items, and would effectively cut out the middleman, benefiting both parties. Ultimately, avoiding fees would lead to more income for the student selling the items, while also eliminating costs such as shipping for the consumer.

Brooker began crocheting relatively recently. “I started crocheting my senior year of high school. I saw a pattern book for crochet stuffed animals and I really wanted to make one. The first thing I ever made was a little octopus that sits on my desk.” Today Brooker is an active crafter. She evens finds time for it with classwork. “I make time to knit or crochet everyday. It’s really satisfying to have a least a few more rows done at the end of day,” she said.

Hickman also manages to knit consistently. “I always say people who claim they don’t have time to knit or crochet aren’t looking hard enough for it,” said Hickman. “I like to carry a small project with me and knit while waiting in line at the retreat, before my classes start, while I’m watching TV.”

For those who can’t find the time, breaks from school or long trips can provide opportunity for these activities. Said Carlson-Kirigin, “I knit a lot over breaks. I always take the train home, so knitting is a good way to spend that time.” She said that she does not knit a lot when she is at school, but finds the time when she needs to make something.

Both Carlson-Kirigin and Hickman noted that homemade items make excellent gifts. Said Hickman, “My favorite thing to make is socks. They take about a week or two each if I spend a lot of time on them, or more. They can be complicated or simple, and everyone who I give them to feels the love I put into them when they wear them.”

Carlson-Kirigin expressed a similar sentiment. “I like making everything. I knit a lot of Christmas and birthday presents,” she explained.

While different crafts may seem too large a task to take on, many can be quick or able to be stopped and started without penalty. Whether for profit or pleasure, these hobbies can serve as an outlet for creative expression. With the holiday season approaching, it may be a good time to take up hobbies such as knitting and crocheting again.

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