Small rattling noises filled the drab gray classroom. While some may find Curtiss Hall the location for exams and labs, on Monday nights Room 232 turns into the home of the Iowa State Knitting Club.
The creation of the club is vague. President and math major Tiffany Geistkemper says the knitting club started about seven years ago when a group of friends mourned the closing of their favorite knitting and craft store in Ames. They needed their knitting space back, and they needed it fast.
Thus began the knitting club.
The small group sat facing each other in a semi-circle. Leaders discussed this seating arrangement before the meeting opened. Placing the chairs face to face would encourage conversation but would make it more difficult to access the emergency exit.
They have chosen that the conversation takes priority.
Centered around a bowl of sweets, club members settled down. One member worked on a light green crochet project while another embroidered a quote on an embroidery loom.
Geistkemper has been knitting since she was little.
“I was actually in a knitting club at my elementary school in Texas,” Geistkemper said. “No one else in my family knits. We don’t know where I got the gene from.
The way Geistkemper talks about knitting is backed by passion and a wealth of knowledge. It’s as she describes it, a “gene”: something so central to her identity that it’s like having brown hair or double joints.
The band settled in and released their projects. Fuschia wool and neon knitting needles glowed fast. Tiffany suggested that the club listen to music while they worked. It’s a common thing; they watch a movie, listen to music or a podcast and just have fun.
Geistkemper made an executive decision on the matter and chose a playlist – soft alternative rock from the 2000s.
“I think one of the things (about knitting in a group) is seeing everyone’s projects and the yarns they’re using, the different colors, the different inspirations,” Geistkemper said. knitters and what they do. They can ask questions about what they’re doing, and that might help teach them and learn.”
Among the group is Iowa State junior Grace Saliers, a graphic design major from Urbandale, Iowa. She is not a knitter but a crocheter. It is a practice also adopted in the club and tends to be a quicker pastime to adopt.
“I ended up getting into crochet, which I’m working on now, in February,” she said as she lifted her yarn square. “I don’t know, one day I was sitting there, and I was just really stressed with school, especially being online was kind of consuming.”
Saliers’ story is all too common among students. Seeking mindfulness and small comforts can be like finding a needle in a haystack.
“I was like, ‘I have to do something with my hands,'” Saliers said. “Like I could physically see something being built. So I went to the craft store, picked out a hook and some yarn, and found a pattern I was interested in. And then I found the knitting club.
Mindfulness and careful “verification” is a theme that Saliers and the rest of the club have embraced. It’s about channeling your attention into something controlled, peaceful, and mindful.
The knitting club does not stray from the routine. No trips, no big events, no fundraisers. They do not receive funding from the university according to Geistkemper. Sometimes Ames craft stores and area knitting connoisseurs will donate yarn.
Some may ask the question, “Why have a club if they just hang out and knit?”
The interest for the members is to feel safe in a group of equal peers, even if the knitting offers them different contexts.
“There are generally two different categories of people who like to knit, at least that’s what I’ve discovered. There is project knitting and process knitting. The knitting project is like, ‘Ooh, I love this shawl. I need to feel it, I need to knit it,” Geistkemper said. “Process (knitting) though, you’re just like, ‘I just like the feeling of knitting. It calms me down’… It’s more of a conscious thing.”
Saliers is a process hooker, from start to finish.
“It happens (in crochet) when I try to calm myself down. So if classes and school are really stressful, or just life in general, or if I’ve got a lot on my mind and it’s all going a little too fast, I can sit down and make some noise, whatever it’s music or a TV show,” Saliers says. “And then I just do something with my hands. It helps me center myself. My hands are busy and my brain can just slow down.”
Geistkemper is a senior and about to graduate. She majors in math and is currently applying to some of the best graduate programs in the country. She even throws out Ivy League suggestions.
As the heart and soul of the club since becoming president in her second year, she hopes the club will continue to meet weekly after she leaves.
Geistkemper and Saliers both raised misconceptions about knitting that many people have.
“It’s not just for old ladies,” Geistkemper and Saliers said.
“There’s a preconceived idea that it’s a bit feminine…I work in a knitting store, and even seeing people come in now, it’s really changed since I even started working there,” said Geistkemper. “We get a lot of students coming in and we get a lot of guys coming in too. It’s a big change and it’s so cool to see.
She enjoys some popular media that shed light on the knitting community as a whole, like British Olympic diver Tom Daley, who sat in the arena between events with a pair of knitting needles and a pack of thread.
Knitting, crocheting and “fibre work” are practices that shape the hearts of club members. A sense of pride, warmth and camaraderie is shared at meetings. Whether you knit more than 10 hours a week like Geistkemper, or just need a place to relax like Saliers, the club offers members a space to recharge their batteries and hold a board for their hobby.