All wound up

“Knit one, purl two, knit one, purl two.” This is not your grandmother’s knitting circle – Julia Roberts, Lauren Ambrose from HBO’s “Six Feet Under” and fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi are members, too. Knitting is not just for old ladies anymore, and GW students are catching on to the trend, along with some of the nation’s celebrities. Knitting, among other crafty hobbies, is keeping students busy during their free time.

“I love knitting,” junior Alison Newman said. “It’s a wonderful stress reducer and it gives you the opportunity to be artistic but utilitarian. I like being able to blend visual and textual elements together.”

Newman said knitting is a great way to be productive while watching television or listening to books on tape.

“I am an antsy person, and it is really nice to have knitting to keep my hands busy while I’m watching TV,” she said. “I also feel like I am not wasting so much time and that I am actually accomplishing something. It’s great to do on vacation as well because it’s very portable. I can just sit in the airport knitting.”

Students said one good thing about knitting is that it is fairly easy to learn.

“I was visiting my aunt for the afternoon when I was in elementary school and I got bored,” freshman Samson Elsbernd said. “She was working on a knitting project and I thought it looked interesting. I asked her to show me how to do it and she got me started knitting a scarf.”

Elsbernd said that while frustrating and slow at first, his knitting speed and accuracy increased and the scarf became more consistent in shape.

“My frustration became amazement as I saw the scarf steadily grow before my eyes,” he said.

Friends are also great knitting teachers, as are online guides such as www.learntoknit.com.

Depending on what types of yarns and needles one purchases, knitting can be a fairly cost- effective pastime.

“Knitting is also a money- saving thing for the D.C. winters because I can make a scarf and hat for about $5 cheaper with the ’40 percent off Michael’s coupons,’ instead of buying one for as much as $50,” Elsbernd said.

Knitting is a great hobby to have for gift giving. Students said one of the benefits of having crafty hobbies is that it saves them money on purchasing gifts, and it makes gifts much more personal and appreciable.

“Mittens, hats and scarves are great gifts,” said Newman. “They are fairly quick to make and are inexpensive.”

In addition to being soothing and calming on an individual level, hobbies can also help to unite a group and help people find their niche.

Recently, students in the Elizabeth Somers Women’s Leadership Program at the Mount Vernon Campus began a knitting group called “Stitch ‘N’ Bitch.” The group, which meets Tuesday nights at Hensley Hall, knits scarves to donate to My Sister’s Place, a shelter for battered women.

“Anyone is welcome to come, and we will give you yarn and needles and teach you how to make a scarf,” freshman and group-founder Chrissy Caggiano said. “We wanted to have a catchy title where people can come and learn how to knit and sit and talk and de-stress.”

Some students also make jewelry as a way to unwind and simultaneously do something productive. Jewelry can be made using beads, pottery or metals.

“For a long time now, I have made beaded jewelry as a way of coping with life,” senior Elizabeth Sampson said. “It requires a lot of focus and concentration at times, which helps to lift your mind off of what is bothering you, and I get such a feeling of satisfaction when I am finished.”

Bead shops are generally the best places to find a variety of beads, such as Beadazzled in Dupont Circle at 1507 Connecticut Ave., but wires, strings and pliers can be found in most hardware stores.

“For Christmas this year, I gave my grandmothers some beaded eyeglass holders,” freshman Jessica Clark said. “They were pretty cheap and it took me about an hour to complete each one. It adds more meaning to a gift when it is custom-made.”

Scrapbooks are also becoming the rage in crafty hobbies today because it is a great way of incorporating many hobbies into one. In essence, it is like making a very decorative photo album.

“Scrapbooking is a way of taking the little things in life and creating a book to tell all about them,” said sophomore Annie Miller, who has been scrapbooking for two years. “You make each page a different theme and decorate it with pictures, ribbons, memories or whatever. I love looking back at my high school pages and adding onto them as well. It brings back memories.”

There are many Web sites and books on the market that cater to scrapbookers’ needs. They give readers creative ideas on what to do in their scrapbook and even provide sample pages or templates.

Miller added that scrapbooks also make great gifts.

“Sometimes I find out information about my friends or family and begin a scrapbook for them,” she said. “I include pictures of them and some of the memories that I have shared with them. It’s pretty cheap to do, and if you don’t want to use original photos, you can always make colored copies.”

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