Gustie Knitters Craft a Community

Hats knitted by Gustavus students for the children at Jump Start preschool. The students are part of the January Interim Experience class The Fabric of Life. Olivia Karns.
Hats knitted by Gustavus students for the children at Jump Start preschool. The students are part of the January Interim Experience class The Fabric of Life. Olivia Karns.

The Fabric of Life, a January Interim Experience course, is out to knit together more than sweaters this month; it’s about knitting together a community. While there is a January Interim Experience class about the craft, the lab times on Monday and Wednesdays from 3:30 to 4:30 in the Nobel Hall Atrium during January are open for all students, faculty and community members to come together to share in exchange of art as well as conversation and experiences.

“People have always come together to knit,” Rebecca Guza, the professor of the Fabric of Life said. “Throughout history people have come together to knit for the disadvantaged or the sick, so we are knitting for some local groups and causes.”

In the class students first learned to make scarves for themselves, just to tweak and tune their skills, but they have sinced moved on to bigger more ambitious projects. During their second week students have been making hats for the children at the Jump Start preschool. Afghans are the next project to follow, and Guza is working with the Partnership Council to choose a fitting destination for the blankets.

There have been various January Interim Experiences at Gustavus centering around the art of Knitting, including the Geography of Knitting in 2008 and Knit One Pearl One in 2007, but the Fabric of Life January Interim Experience approaches knitting from the perspective of how it brings together a society. “Knitting is not just a bunch of old ladies or college students,” Guza said, “[in fact] when our class visited the Woolen Mill the man that showed us around was an older guy with earrings and a tattoo and he had picked up knitting just a few years before.”

The class learned about the history of knitting as well. Knitting has been popular for a variety of reasons. During World War I and II, women would come together to make clothes and blankets as a way to contribute to the war effort. “Knitting really died off in the [19]80’s because it was associated with staying at home,” Guza sad, “but between 2002 and 2004 the number of knitters increased 150% during the do-it-yourself phase. Now people knit for a number of reasons.”

Knitting has been seen as a way a way of art, fashion, charity and even as a means to remain more environmentally conscious as various fibers used in knitting can be friendlier to the earth than some of the fibers used in bigger factories. “Knitting used to be a necessity and recently it’s been brought back,” First-Year student Kiki Engen said.

This craft centers on the mindset of the crafters themselves. “There are many different reasons why people knit,” Guza said, “and often [those reasons] can change.” During the class students learn various stitches and patterns. Later this week students will even be learning how to dye their own yarn, and while most of the first few weeks are structured to make sure that the students learn the basics, the final project is a pattern of their choice.

Aside from the actual class time, the students of this January Interim Experience have lab at least one a week where they come together to improve their skills and share their experiences. “We aren’t allowed to listen to music of the radio [during lab],” said First-Year student Emma All Runner, [this time] is to talk to each other.”

Various fliers have been sent into the community of St. Peter as well as around the college inviting people share in the lab time. “I was really hoping to see some Gustavus students as well as faculty at our labs,” Guza said.

For those who would like to join the knitter of the Fabric of Life January Interim Experience, but don’t yet know how to knit, there are still options open. As part of the Campus Activities Board (CAB) How-To series, the organization is hosting a knitting workshop on Tuesdays from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the 49er room during January Interim Experience. First year student Megan Gibbs said she took the class because she “thought it would be fun and it was a nice break from the [more] academic work.”

So during the cold Minnesotan January, when students question why they decided to stay in a place with such a long winter, the Gustavus community is invited to come together to knit something warm for themselves or for others and get to know more about their fellow Gusties and others in the St. Peter area. “It’s about building a community,” First-Year Katie Volney said, “that’s what lab is for is to talk with one another.”