A lesson on 18th-century historical sports "accidentally" led to the creation of Chargers Who Crochet, a new after-school club at Stagg High School in Palos Hills with nearly 100 members.
"We were teaching our unit about the industrial revolution and we wanted to show how long it took to make something handmade. We decided to show some handmade things in class," said club co-founder Kate Schwartz.
"The students were hooked. They asked questions and wanted to learn more. We were amazed at how interested they were," she added. "We wondered if the wider school community would be interested in learning about this."
The club has been successful since its first meeting in November.
“We had more than 50 people in our first meeting,” Schwartz shared. "In the beginning, when people were trying to figure out things like clubs, we were just standing around. Right now we have 97 of them in our Google Classroom. So it's definitely a lot of fun."
Co-sponsor Jaime Bradshaw, who teaches history with Schwartz, said teachers and students have noticed the group, especially when students do crochet projects on campus.
"The staff asked, 'Is this student in your club?' Because during recess they were actually knitting in class," Bradshaw said. "There were a few teachers and a few different students, so they seemed to bring it into the classroom. If they had time instead of calling, they would do something."
Chargers Who Crochet has had support from the beginning, including Mary Pat Carr, assistant principal who runs the Stagg club, who "was able to find some money in the budget to allow every student to have crochet and some yarn," Schwartz said.
The club also does a service learning project each semester. The first one existsknitted scarf, an organization that sews together donated squares to make blankets that are given to disadvantaged and orphaned children in South Africa.
“It was the perfect project to start,” Bradshaw said. "Students crochet an 8×8 square of any color, any stitch, any design, so beginning students are able to create a project very quickly. We have 35 full squares. That's enough for organization. Make your own blanket."
This semester, the club focused on donating crocheted nests and animal shelter blankets, "as a way for students to learn a new skill — the magic circle," Bradshaw said.
She was thrilled when students who couldn't crochet started bringing in finished products.
"We had a student who made some Harry Potter characters. She made her own hat, she made her own bag. She was just excited to go to the meeting. "I made it this week! "
Bradshaw has been crocheting for almost seven years. "I learned to crochet so I could make newborn caps for the local hospital," she says. "I still have a bag of my first hats. ...Looking back, I'm glad they stayed with me."
Schwartz recently taught herself to crochet.
"Like a lot of people in 2020, I'm stuck at home a lot. I've always wanted to knit or crochet and I figured I'd have some time, so I taught myself through YouTube videos, which is what our students are doing through TikTok or YouTube or the Internet. way to learn," she said.
"My sister-in-law is having a baby and I won't see the baby for a while. I wanted to tell her how excited I was, so I made a baby blanket for my niece. It was a disaster. It wasn't It wasn't great .But on purpose...that's my hug.
"It's also a way to get me off my phone and stop scrolling endlessly. It's been a mental health benefit for me."
It speaks to the hobby's reputation for being good for mental health.
"One of the things that crochet does is it really grounds or focuses because your brain is able to focus. It's the same movements over and over again, so by focusing on those repetitions, it really relaxes the brain ," Bradshaw explained. "When you're talking on the phone or looking at something, you get a lot of stimulation, but when you're knitting, the repetition allows the brain to relax and focus. It's a great opportunity to find a place to reflect."
Schwartz likes the "collaborative nature" of the club. "There's no competition or placement factor. It's a positive and supportive environment," she said.
"Students who are a little more skilled are definitely willing to help students who are just starting out. I think we can predict that beginners who start this year will be more experienced next year and pay back."
Co-sponsors keep the club casual, with no committees or elected officials that someone else might have, and they let the students lead themselves.
"It's a very equal opportunity club," Schwartz said.
“One of the things we found very rewarding was taking a step back and having the students make friends and start discussing patterns, sharing ideas, complementing each other's work,” Bradshaw added. "By making it more informal, we invite the students to set up a meeting. place to be able to work, but also to meet with friends that they might not see because we have students from all four classes in the crochet club."
Catherine Purk Jr. joined because she had always wanted to learn to crochet.
"My sister took a photo of a slideshow (during the announcement) and showed it to me. I watched a YouTube video," she said. "'I made seven bucket hats because I like to wear them out'."
She made some creatures for her cousins because "hats take a lot of yarn" and it took six and a half hours to make.
Perk liked being in the club. "I love that we can crochet together and work on our own projects, but also see what others are doing and get inspired," she says.
Freshman Kayla Bass joins in helping her family. "I think DIY would help add to my wardrobe," she said, adding that she "thought the concept of DIY was cool." She designs a mesh beach bag that lets the sand fall.
"The club attracts really cool people ... it's a reminder that there are good people here," she said.
Sophomore Kara Chandler said she would see a girl crocheting in Latin class and be fascinated. She wants to make hats and bags and makes cases for her headphones. She gets inspiration from Pinterest.
“I crochet in the study room,” Chandler says with a laugh. "You'll meet new people, talk and just crochet. So much fun."
Freshman Abbey Cherep, one of the students who has already been crocheting for about five years, said she loves the club.
"I love the way I interact with other crocheters. It's not common to say 'I crochet', other people do, so it's nice to share projects and ideas."
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Cherep said her mother taught her to crochet and she's glad it's growing in popularity.
Schwartz agrees that manual labor is becoming more common.
"Fiber arts are on the rise. Crochet is very trendy," she said, adding that Bradshaw is "very good at handicrafts," the Japanese art of crocheting small stuffed toys.
"Making dolls and figurines is popular with young people. It's not just blankets and shawls anymore. People are creating new things," Schwartz said. "It felt like there was some innovation."
The club's reach can be extended if a stand is planned at the school's annual autumn craft fair.
“We had several students express interest in selling their wares at the Stagg Craft Fair in November, so some students are looking forward to that,” Schwartz said. "They're thinking about what to make, how to price it, so there's an extra layer of entrepreneurship."
Melinda Moore er freelanceskribent for Daily Southtown.