Stitching while bitching encourages students to learn new skills

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According to Joan Pankratz, there's something to be said about learning to create something with your hands.

"It relaxes your brain," the senior said of knitting and crocheting. "A different kind of focus is required to create something. It's refreshing, in a way."

As the organizer of DePauw's Stitch 'n Bitch group, she wishes she could take credit for the origin of the club's creative name. But it was actually inspired by another college's group, identified by the same name. Back when Pankratz was visiting college campuses as a senior in high school, one university's tour guide mentioned that the school had its own "Stitch 'n Bitch" group, where people got together, knitted and talked about what was going on in their lives. Starting up a similar group at the school she ultimately chose to attend seemed natural to her, especially considering the convenient resources at DePauw's Women's Center.

"The Women's Center has previously hosted Knitting for Nets, where knitters and crocheters would gather to knit scarves to sell for mosquito nets to prevent malaria. That group sort of faded out a couple of years ago," Pankratz said. "Remembering how popular it was, I roped a couple of knitters I knew into coming out to the Women's Center once a week to teach people how to knit. I figured there would still be interest on campus, and it turns out there is."

The Women's Center happened to have a lot of leftover supplies from Knitting for Nets and other knitting groups of years past, so initial organization of materials and setup wasn't a difficult task for Pankratz.

This is her first time as an organizer of a group of this nature. She is enjoying the endeavor with all who have taken part in putting it together and with those who have maintained interest. Pankratz said she would not change anything about how the group operates.

Pankratz's favorite part of Stitch 'n Bitch is getting to know the participants.

"Different people show up each week, so that's great," she said. "And some people show up more than others, so you get to know them better. It's just a lovely social space."

She especially appreciates all of the experienced knitters and crocheters who come to the meetings. Since Pankratz doesn't know how to knit or crochet well enough to teach beginners, she learns alongside everyone else at the meetings.

Junior April Daugherty has assisted substantially with the group, along with other students who consistently attend meetings so they can teach their peers to knit.

"This is my first time in an official knitting group," Daugherty said. "I worked at a Jo-Ann Fabrics for four years, though. So I'm used to being surrounded by fun, crafty people."

She enjoys the relaxed and laid back atmosphere of the group and the conversation and relaxation present in the Women's Center.

But Daugherty's favorite part about knitting and crocheting is making something special for other people.

"Knitting can be pretty time-consuming, so when people receive a knitted gift from me, they know that I put a lot of time and heart into it," Daugherty said. "Also, knitted gifts are one-of-a-kind. Who could refuse such a treasure?"

Pankratz agrees the atmosphere is a positive one.

"It's definitely a group where you can show up and someone will teach you something, no matter how unskilled you think you are," she said. "Everyone is welcome. All that is required, per se, is interest."

All in all, this group that promotes "knitting with attitude" is a casual one — people come and go as they wish, or as their availability permits. Participants can come to one meeting, or they can come to all of them, as long as they're interested in learning something new or meeting new people in the Stitch 'n Bitch environment.

"There aren't any pressures to show up every week or meet a knitting quota or anything like that," Daugherty said. "No one takes attendance — we just show up, chat and craft."

She finds knitting to be an extremely relaxing occupation on the whole, but rarely sets aside time for it while at school.

"With Stitch 'n Bitch, I have an excuse to knit," she said. "It's also fantastic to see people who don't know how to knit show up and try it. We're always excited to teach any beginner the craft."

A typical Stitch 'n Bitch meeting entails a very relaxed atmosphere, with each member of the group working on an individual knitting project. Daugherty hopes DePauw students will be open minded about Stitch 'n Bitch.

"It's such a wonderful opportunity for students to relax, learn something new and meet new people," she said. "I'm really hoping that more men will join as well. I'm afraid that most people view knitting as a gendered activity, but it's a fantastic hobby for anyone."

According to Pankratz, some people are being taught how to knit throughout the meeting, some choose to work on their own individual projects and others just come to talk.

"Some come to bitch, and some come to stitch," she said. "All are welcome."