Tight-knit Knitwits interweave community with charity

The Knitwits gather in the Joss Parlor to work on their own fiber arts projects, such as baby blankets, flower embroidery and crochet seashell bras. For them, crafting is both recreational and charitable. Courtesy of Diana Liu

Knitting needles clink against each other in the quiet ambience of Joss Parlor. Among others comfortably slouched around a circle of couches, two girls, dressed as Barnacle Boy and Mermaid Man, sit together. Mermaid Man’s orange sweater boasts two purple knitted seashells.

“Yes I did [make] my crochet seashell bra,” Mermaid Man, also known as Emma Iadanza ’22 said. Her comrade Barnacle Boy—Sophie Schoenbrun ’22—laughed amicably with her other parlor companions.

The Knitwits are a club that started last year as an interest group and recently gained preorganization status on campus; Iadanza and Schoenbrun are its Co-Presidents. When I met them on Saturday, Schoenbrun explained,“There was no like, knitting club, but we also knew a lot of friends who did crochet and embroidery and we wanted to be inclusive of them. So we made it like [a] fiber crafts club! Everyone can come and bring their art, and we’re open to new forms of art too. So yeah, it was just me and our vice president Ceci Villaseñor over there with the music—”

“Hello!” Ceci Villaseñor ’22 exclaimed from behind a laptop. “I’m the Vice President!”

As Schoenbrun recalled, she and Villaseñor were the “ones who knew how to knit” when the club began to blossom. Their group eventually developed as they began teaching their friends how to knit, and since then, they’ve been continuing to teach new people this therapeutic craft.

“We just really wanted a space to destress on the weekends but also be productive when we’re procrastinating,” Schoenbrun admitted. While she spoke, a chorus of needles tapping created a soothing jingle in the parlor.

At their meetings, the Knitwits all sit in a circle, diligently working on projects from baby blankets to flower embroidery. “We have a stash of yarn materials, crochet hooks, knitting needles—we also share supplies just for things we don’t quite have yet which we’re gonna try to get in the next coming weeks, so like embroidery stuff,” Schoenbrun elaborated. As well as the materials, the members also share their projects among each other. “We share our projects; we get inspired by other people’s projects; there’s some patterns for inspiration so you can flip through if you don’t have anything to work on yet.”

“And you can get help from people and talk about your projects and be inspired by other people’s projects,” Iadanza added.

Besides being a relaxing and interactive pastime, Knitwits allows them to think about their choice to make clothes over purchasing them. “I’ve been thinking more about fast fashion and how my clothing purchasing fits into that. The cool thing about knitting and making and crocheting and sewing and a lot of these fiber crafts we do is that you literally are doing the opposite of fast fashion,” asserted Villaseñor, referring to the designs that are transient trends that are mass-produced quickly and thrown away equally fast. Villaseñor continued, “because what is more slow than going through the process of making clothes yourself? So I think that knitting and these crafts in general are really nice because … it’s also a way to kind of be more mindful about your consumption … like you’re also doing a thing that’s for the greater good than making things for yourself.”

The Knitwits are implementing that idea through some charitable projects. Claire Tracey ’22 mentioned a project known as Project Linus, “where you donate baby blankets that you knit to your local chapter.” Schoenbrun elaborated that those blankets then go to children in need at NicQ. There are also organizations nearby that crochet octopuses for babies, as well as hats for adults.

In addition to the charitable work that knitting can contribute to the community, Iadanza remarked on the sustainability of the practice. A lot of yarn is manufactured from small companies, she explained. Small farms have their own sheep, so their can be shorn, spun into yarn, and then be dyed, all through the same operation.

“It’s all natural,” Iadanza said. “There is acrylic yarn which is plastic, but traditionally, it’s not plastic, it’s wool. It’s a renewable resource. People often joke that when the apocalypse comes, you’ll have a skill—”

“Like when we can’t get a pack of socks,” Schoenbrun interjected, snickering. “You need to know how to make a pack of socks! Like you need to keep your feet warm, you need to keep your ears warm.”

Such a post-apocalyptic advantage can be picked up quickly. Once a person learns the basic stitches and the abbreviations that go with knitting, they can learn any pattern they want.

As Elaina Karpenko ’22 described, “It’s like taking loops and making other loops. There’s just two different stitches, and you can do pretty much anything with the two different stitches.”

The Knitwits meetings are an escape from the stress of academics, as anyone is welcome to join and discover a relaxing, yet productive hands-on skill. And what says tightknit, idiosyncratic community more than post-apocalyptic Spongebob.

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