Cozy crafts, cozy atmosphere: all about Allegheny Knitting Club

The private dining room in McKinley’s Food Court has been known to hold dining committee meetings in the past, as well as lunchtime gatherings for a variety of groups on campus. Laughter, chewing and crunching tend to feature prominently in this space.

But on Wednesday evenings between 6 and 8 p.m., the room harbors a new, different sound: that of needles working dutifully at a knitting project. These are the members of Allegheny College’s Knitting Club. Whether they are making a scarf or a pair of gloves, they are united by a passion for creation.

Beth Choate, associate professor of environmental science and sustainability and the faculty advisor for Knitting Club, dates the club’s initial stirrings to a visiting professor from Manchester, England, back in 2015. Choate, who has an interest in sustainable fashion, had brought in Amanda Langdown to teach a one-week course on this topic. During that week, as Choate explained, many students learned how to knit and strike the balance between mending clothes and “still (thinking) about fashion … in a way that’s really reflective of (their) style and who (they) are.”

From the conversations started in this course, students caught the knitting bug, in particular Hannah Blinn, ’17, who wanted to keep the crafting going after Langdown had gone back across the pond. Students found community doing something they enjoyed.

“It was a pretty amazing thing,” Choate said, “people together just creating these really beautiful things and sitting around and knitting.”

Last year’s board consisted entirely of roommates, all seniors, according to current president Ella Lunney, ’23. The president was none other than former opinion editor of “The Campus Kaleigh White, ’22,  who had an interest in not only knitting but also crafts and crochet.

“She was very active with continuing on doing programs or events for Knitting Club that helped out the community,” Lunney added.

Indeed, from knitting baby hats to give to hospitals and making hats and scarves for Allegheny students in need, Knitting Club has performed a variety of good deeds for the campus and the broader Meadville area. Lunney hopes to ensure that these deeds continue with this new executive board.

Another of Knitting Club’s mainstays is “plarn.” Those who have more plastic bags than they know what to do with, or who want to put a unique spin on their next DIY project, may appreciate this tradition of sorts. Members cut up plastic bags into strips and use the strips as yarn.

Knitting Club meets weekly, and according to Lunney has a rather laid-back structure. The only requirement for members is that, should they want a shirt, they have to attend a certain number of meetings.

“If you can’t make times, that’s perfectly fine,” Lunney said. “If you still want to work on a project or you still need help on a project, you can always reach out through the email, and there’s always times that I’m willing to find in my schedule to help anyone else out.”

During meetings, members are free to do as they please: eat dinner while they work, continue their current project, ask any questions they might have about said project, or do their homework. So even if a student does not have a project or is not feeling the creative juices flowing on a particular Wednesday, they are not only invited but encouraged to sit in.

“It’s just a nice period of time where you can just hang out and relax,” Lunney said. 

The club does enjoy coordinated activities, however, in addition to hanging out and relaxing. Last year, as the result of a poll to gauge interest, members traveled to nearby craft fairs like Applefest or Pumpkin Fest to see if they wanted to take any of the goods home or if said goods were appealing as inspiration.

Judging by its name, Knitting Club may be assumed to recruit knitters exclusively. But this is far from the case. The club welcomes all kinds of crafters. 

For instance, Delaney Kronheim, ’23, currently enjoys cross stitching. She joined as a freshman and likes to go to meetings when she can.

“It’s a very chill environment,” Kronheim said. “Pretty much everyone works on something different, which is really cool … it’s kind of nice to have a little social atmosphere going on.”

With any organization, there is the inevitable schedule conflict preventing a student from attending. Academics, athletics and other facets of their life demand time and mental energy, leaving little room for extracurriculars. Knitting Club is no different. Lunney observed that — again, as is the case with other clubs — the first meeting tends to draw a large crowd that inevitably dwindles down over the course of the next few weeks. 

Still, she appreciates the interactions that take place during meetings.

“It’s kind of nice to also just know who on campus is also working on similar projects,” Lunney said. “And it’s kind of fun to be able to talk about your projects or even swap patterns that you use.”