Ever met any kids who were proud to be known as nitwits?
By tacking on the letter "K," a group at Immaculate Conception School has nixed the insult aspect of that word. Meet the "Knit-Wits," the Ithaca elementary school’s knitting and crocheting club.
According to Donna Kuhar, the Knit-Wits’ adult leader, approximately 15 students gather for an hour each Wednesday after school to improve their knitting and crocheting skills. Students in grades 3 through 6, as well as a handful from lower grades, take part. All ability levels are welcome, with help readily available from adults and experienced youth knitters.
Students may brandish their needles and yarn to begin new projects or work on others already in progress. Kuhar noted that the end results tend to cover a wide range.
"The kids are making a variety of things. They like to make headbands, pocketbooks, change purses, scarves," she said. "We have attempted baby hats, pot holders and some dishcloths."
As one might expect based on many of the Knit-Wits’ limited experience, not every attempt pans out.
"Well, they’re new knitters. Things don’t turn out perfectly and they get a little frustrated," Kuhar said. "(But) it doesn’t have to be perfect."
Rather, the emphasis is on creativity. For example, one student’s project began as a scarf and ended up as a purse.
"Yeah, we’re flexible," Kuhar remarked.
Alyssa Salerno, an Immaculate Conception fifth-grader, acknowledged that she has grappled with the intricacies of knitting and crocheting, saying she sometimes loses her focus on the project at hand.
"It’s kind of hard if you look away or start talking. You forget what you’re doing," Alyssa explained during a mid-December Knit-Wits session as she worked on a scarf for her gym teacher.
Alyssa said she became a Knit-Wit three years ago based on an older student’s recommendation and her own desire to emulate her great-grandmother, who "has knitted my family a lot of blankets."
Meanwhile, Kuhar said that her grandmother taught her to knit when she was 12. That skill came in handy a few years ago when Kuhar was serving as a Girl Scout leader for troops involving her daughters Amy, now 22, and Matty, 17. Kuhar presented knitting as a one-time-only Scouting activity but "they loved it so much, they wanted to do it every meeting," she said. From there, Kuhar sought to form a school-based club at Immaculate Conception which her daughters attended at the time.
Although the Knit-Wits began as a girls’ group they are equal opportunity knitters, as evidenced by the two male students who regularly take part. Third-grader Noah Newhart — whose latest creation was a large glove — said he joined the group because "I thought it was cool and I liked to crochet," explaining that he began developing his skill "a pretty long time ago."
How did Noah get his start with this hobby? You guessed it: "My grandma taught me."
Kuhar added that interest in the Knit-Wits is not limited to students: "Parents and teachers come in wanting to learn." She said one former Immaculate Conception teacher/Knit-Wit has gone on to create a knitting group at another school, "which is exciting to me."
Some of the Knit-Wits’ finished items are brought home; others go to charitable causes. Kuhar said the group traditionally provides baby hats to Birthright of Ithaca and are providing bibs this school year as well.
So, the Knit-Wits do good for the community while enhancing a good practical skill — but above all, Kuhar said, being in the group is just plain fun.
"That’s what it ends up to be quite often — a nice time to unwind after school. It really meshes all the age groups. The kids just love it; it’s their social hour," she said.
Alyssa added that knitting is an enjoyable pastime for her at both school and home.
"I have to keep my hands doing something or I start biting on my nails. So instead of hurting my hand, I just start picking up my knitting," she said.
Another plus is that you can be a Knit-Wit anytime, anywhere.
"The doctor’s office, I’ve knitted in traffic jams," Kuhar said, also noting that she and Noah often crocheted together last school year while watching Immaculate Conception basketball games: "People with yarn kind of flock together."