Tightly knit

At KASA, the knitting house, life follows a certain pattern

By Ivey Slowoski

Once you start, it’s hard to stop. Brooke Corneli ’06 does it at the gym while riding the stationary bike. She used to do it at her job at the library, until they made a rule against it. Meghan Matthews ’04 does it in class sometimes, if the professors don’t mind. Clare Benish ’06 stayed up until 5 a.m. doing it. Jenna Robles ’06 does it at orchestra concerts on campus.

And they’re not the only ones. College-age people are trying it at rates that, if not alarming, are at least puzzling, considering it’s something most of their parents wouldn’t even do on a bet—it’s knitting.

The age-old craft is making a huge comeback, and colleges all over the U.S. and Europe report students are flocking to it. It’s become very cool (if people still say that) to take up needles and a skein of spun wool to create something.

Signs of students knitting at Puget Sound first appeared last year, when Matthews and Doug Herstad ’03 began a knitting club called Stitch & Bitch, meeting once a week for knitting and gabbing.

At the same time, another set of knitting groupies was organizing. Anne Kreider ’06 taught Robles, and they both taught Corneli.

“In the dorms, everybody wanted to learn to knit,” says Corneli. When knitting became a passion in their lives, they created a theme house where they could share the craft and find ways to use it for the betterment of the community. Their six-woman theme house, KASA, the Knitting And Service Alliance, opened this fall.

KASA and Stitch & Bitch discovered each other at this fall’s club fair and decided to join forces. Now, Stitch & Bitch meets at the KASA house weekly to help others learn.

On a recent Friday afternoon, five KASA residents and Matthews, who lives in Trimble Hall, sit on couches or the floor, working on knitting projects. Over the mantle, knitted scarves spell out KASA. Balls of yarn in every color and description poke from shelves. The women try to explain their fascination.

The best reason to knit, they say, is the end product and the pride of saying, “I made that!”

“A compliment you get on something you made is 100 percent better than a compliment on something you bought,” states Corneli.

They like the individuality of the things they make, too. “You’re creating your own identity,” says Jess Putterman ’06.

Unlike previous generations, these women don’t knit because they’re expected to. Knitting no longer carries the stigma of domesticity that liberated women once avoided.

“In the past, women knitted because they needed clothes. For us, it’s just fun,” says Benish.

The fact that making their own things is far less expensive than buying is not lost on them, either.

A certain amount of teasing goes along with being a known knitter. Benish once wore a complicated up-do hairstyle, and one of her friends sarcastically asked if she had knit it.

“Some people think it’s lame,” Corneli shrugs. “People will go, ‘What are you going to do tonight—KNIT?!’ But I ask them ‘What are you going to do tonight—nothing! At least we’re doing something productive.”

“In high school, I was the nerd that brought my knitting to lunch,” says Matthews. “But I think they kind of respect that you can do something.”

All the students say knitting relaxes them, although, when she first began, Corneli says, learning stressed her out a little. “A lot of people think you can just sit down and learn in five minutes, but you have to want to do it.”

“The kind of yarn you use affects your commitment,” adds Putterman.

Students in this century generally prefer more sophisticated colors and textures than the washable polyesters that grandma used. Around the room, the yarns being crafted into personal fashion statements include a soft, hairy yarn and something that’s really more like netting with shiny squares threaded through it.

They all agree that knitting is the ideal procrastination. “It’s a great way to waste time,” laughs Lindsey Taylor ’06.

Then there’s the social aspect. Talking and knitting go hand in hand, as evidenced by the conversation that flows from not being able to take knitting needles on airplanes anymore to whether they should make a SUB run for nachos.

Knitting keeps hands, eyes, and brain busy, at first. But as they gain experience, say these knitters, they can watch TV or even read while they’re knitting. “The more you do it, the easier it is,” Matthews says.

They make a lot of hats, which take about a day, as well as scarves, which can take a few weeks, depending on length and complexity. Sweaters take too long to make while going to school, although Matthews is working on a shawl.

Robles and Corneli, co-coordinators for KASA, say they plan to donate things the group and others have knitted at the end of the year. As service projects, KASA is teaching knitting to children at Mary Lyons Elementary School and planning a 24-hour knit-a-thon at the SUB, where they will burn the midnight oil making scarves and hats to give to needy people. They hope the knit-a-thon will draw a lot of people from campus, including the men who have shown an interest.

“We got a lot of guys at our first couple of meetings,” Robles says, noting that the numbers dwindled once the semester got rolling.

“But they come for the same reason guys take home ec,” quips Taylor. She doesn’t smile at her own joke, though. She’s concentrating on her scarf with knitted brow.