Yarn crafts help form close-knit SPU

Knitted scarf and hat at Urban Outfitters: $54.

Knitted scarf and hat at Target: $19.98.

Knitting your own scarf and hat: priceless.

Seattle Pacific University students are discovering a way to enjoy the warmth of knitted hats and wraps while still maintaining their bank accounts: their solution is to make their own. A needle or two, some yarn and a couple of hours are all that is needed to create a one-of-a-kind knitted masterpiece.

The Real House, one of SPU’s theme houses, hosts a weekly "knitting night" to provide a time for fellow knitters to get together and knit, while chatting, eating or watching their favorite television show.

The women at The Real House started their knitting night after reading an article in "Better Homes and Gardens" about a woman who began a knitting group at her church, explains house member junior Erika Poole. They were inspired and decided to begin their own group. Each week draws an average of 10 to 15 students, but whole floors from the dorms have shown up before.

"It is so much more than just knitting," Poole says of their get-togethers. It is a time for students to have fun and fellowship while sharing a common hobby.

Sophomore Jessi Staub is described by her housemates as the group’s most passionate knitter. She took up knitting her freshmen year during a bout with mononucleosis, when she needed something to do. She describes knitting as fun and rewarding. Staub says, "If you use bigger needles and bigger yarn, you can make things a lot faster." Knitting is also great for handmade gifts to friends and family, says Staub, who hand knit several Christmas presents last year.

Freshman Beth Hanson prefers crocheting over knitting, because she says "it is faster and easier and doesn’t hurt your hands as much." She learned how to crochet last month from her sister, senior Laura Hanson. Laura picked up the hobby while studying abroad in England last year and in turn shared the acquired skill with her sister. With her first project complete, Beth Hanson is already working on her second scarf. She has been known to pull out her yarn and needle in class, especially the "not-so-interesting ones".

It is the tools used that make the difference between knitting and crocheting. "Crochet" is from the French word "crocheter" which means "to hook." It requires only one needle that has a hook on the end. Crochet has three main stitches: chain, single crochet and double crochet. Designs are created from these three stitches, and the most commonly known are: netting, shell stitch and rose stitch.

Knitting requires two longer needles. There are three types of needles: straight, double-pointed and circular. There are two basic stitches: knit and purl.

Many more variations of patterns can be created with crochet than with knitting. However, one advantage to knitted fabric is its stretchability and ability to return to its original shape.

The easiest and most common item to knit or crochet is scarves. Beth Hanson says this is because they require the least skill and can be put to practical use in the Seattle weather. Once mastery of scarves has been attained, the next project for most is a beanie (fitted hat). Beanies can be a little tricky because it is hard to make it the right shape and size, Hanson explains. Other items that can be made by crochet or knitting include socks, mittens, slippers, shawls, afghans or even sweaters.

Knitting and crocheting have become quite a popular leisure activity at SPU, as evidenced by the growing numbers of hand-stitched apparel being worn by students this year. After beginners get the hang of it, the motions start to come naturally and require less concentration: students can do it while socializing or watching TV. It is easy to learn and takes about the time of watching two movies to complete an entire scarf, Hanson says.

The United States’ new generation of knitters and crocheters has doubled in number since 1996, according to a new book catered toward these young beginners, entitled Stitch ‘N Bitch. The book provides simple, step-by-step instructions on how to knit. It also gives readers advice on how to start their own knitting groups.

The Real House’s knitting night begins every Thursday at 8 p.m. and goes until 11 p.m. It is open to everyone. Crocheters are welcome. Even those that do not know how to knit can come and learn.

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Title: Yarn crafts help form close-knit SPU | Author: Sarah Norquist | Section: Features | Published Date: 2004-02-25 | Internal ID: 3809