Some people may not see knitting as a form of artistic expression, but the Knitters’ Brown Bag club encourages students to attend its events and get creative with knitting. At each meeting, students meet in the MakerLab at Cline Library to practice their individual knitting projects.
Kathleen Schmand and Janet Crum are the coordinators for Knitters’ Brown Bag. Schmand and Crum began the program in September 2017 and held meetings for students to practice their knitting.
“We used to meet once a month at the library, but now we meet every other week,” Schmand said. “Janet and I began this group with our other colleague Pat Headlee, who retired in 2018. Although she no longer works with us, we always keep our original goal of the program in mind: to encourage students to be creative and to have fun making projects.”
At each meeting, Schmand and Crum teach students the basics of knitting. They provide yarn and needles for students to begin projects of their choice.
Crum said the first part of the process is teaching students how to cast the yarn onto the needles. From there, Schmand and Crum teach students different knitting patterns that form the projects they want to make.
“There’s a lot of crazy knitting patterns that people can create projects with,” Crum said. “We try to teach students what we think will be easier for them and help them out from there.”
Throughout the two years that Crum and Schmand have been coordinating Knitters’ Brown Bag, Schmand said they have both seen people become more interested in knitting. They have helped students make hats, scarves, dishcloths and socks.
Schmand said they have seen their members become friends through the group, and some students have also worked on projects together.
“I hear some students saying that they want to explore knitting outside of our group, and it’s great to hear that,” Schmand said. “To think that people have become friends through knitting is awesome. I think that everyone is a maker, one way or another.”
Schmand said they want to encourage people to create during the knitting clubs despite prior knowledge and talent.
Crum said the MakerLab is a place where anyone can find joy in creating whatever projects they want to make. Crum was involved in the founding of the MakerLab and said she noticed that people thought it was only based around technology.
While the MakerLab has a lot of technology, including the 3D printers, Crum said that many other art forms have a place there.
“Cooking, writing and other low-tech activities are also forms of ‘making’ but aren’t what people would think of as ‘modern making,’” Crum said. “Some of these are also seen as women-only work. With Knitters’ Brown Bag, we hope to encourage anybody to come in and create their own special project.”
Sarah Lipsey is an attendee of Knitters’ Brown Bag. Lipsey said she began knitting in college but gave up until a few years ago.
“My mom has always been a knitter, and she taught my daughter to knit about five years ago,” Lipsey said. “My daughter needed help knitting sometimes, so I had to relearn for her. I got addicted since then, and I haven’t stopped making projects.”
Lipsey is an employee for Information Technology Services on campus. She said she met Schmand through training at the library and decided to come to the group meetings.
Throughout her time participating in Knitters’ Brown Bag, Lipsey said she’s seen a lot of students enjoy themselves while knitting.
“Beginners are usually nervous when they come to the meetings,” Lipsey said. “I’ve helped out beginners before, and I’ve seen them grow while creating their own projects. I think this is an opportunity that NAU students should take advantage of. It allows students to express themselves in a way they probably haven’t before.”
Although Lipsey is not a student, she recommends that students take on knitting as a way to relieve stress. She said students have shared stories about how knitting made them feel better after meetings.
Sophomore Ariana Dominguez said she attended a meeting as part of one of her classes. Although Dominguez went to the meeting for an assignment, she said she enjoyed her time at the MakerLab.
“I thought that knitting at the MakerLab was very calming,” Dominguez said. “I’ve never knitted before, so I was pretty nervous. Even though I felt scared about knitting, the other members made sure I felt comfortable. I had a lot of fun, and it encouraged me to become more creative with school projects, and maybe future knitting projects.”
Dominguez said knitting at the meeting helped alleviate her stress. She said focusing on something other than school made her feel calm and relaxed.
Even if attendees feel nervous about tackling a knitting project, members of Knitters’ Brown Bag encourage them to create unique projects and relieve their worries.