Knitting supplies that were donated to the school. Submitted photo

A group of students at Lisbon High School is learning more than science, math and history. Math and technology teacher Lauralee Pearson has been teaching students to knit, a project that started in November 2019 when she taught students how to finger-knit after school hours. When the pandemic hit last year, they were unable to meet.

“I am not quite sure what got it started,” said Pearson. “I would come home from school and knit and work on a project, and sometimes when I used to bring small projects to school and work in my free time, students always seemed interested.”

Pearson said she came up with an idea to see if the students would want to learn how to knit and spoke with the school principal, who initially was skeptical about it.

“The principal said she does not know if she wants kids walking around with knitting needles in their book bags,” said Pearson. “But it worked out wonderfully. The kids when they would come in would have the little knitting projects that brought them off in my classroom.”

The group is now known as the Spill the Tea knitting club. An average of eight to 10 students in ninth through 12th grades would meet with Pearson after school hours until the pandemic disrupted their meetings.

“While we were in school last year, things were restricted because of COVID-19, and we weren’t able to meet,” said Pearson. “When the students would meet me in the hallway, they would say they were still knitting or would email pictures of projects that they were working on.”

It was only when the school reopened this year, and the possibilities of enrichment activities were being explored is when the idea to start the knitting club popped up again, said Pearson.

“Knitting is a very big social activity in itself for kids,” said Pearson. “It brings different students together who wouldn’t normally hang out with one another. Initially, I was worried about helping so many students, but students help each other a lot, and when one student knows how to make something, they teach other students.”

The knitting classes will be resumed as part of the club after school hours for 30 minutes from the second week of October. Meanwhile, Pearson is reaching out to people on social media to donate knitting supplies like skeins of yarn, needles, hooks, and stitch markers.

Studies say that around 45 million Americans know how to knit or crochet, and one-third of them buy supplies at least once per month.

Christine Macchi, the executive director of Maine Fiber Arts in Topsham, said that knitting is a tool to express artistic ideas about the world.

“Knitting is fantastic as an art form. There is a lot of tradition in Maine, but lately, people are taking it in a new direction. Knitting is a tool to express artistic ideas about the world,” said Macchi. “It’s a versatile technique, and many people are pursuing it.”

Macchi said that Maine is known for its excellence in the fiber arts, and there are cultural heritage travelers who visit Maine to participate in workshops and study new techniques, who then go back to their practice.

Knitting is still extremely popular, and the quality of yarns these days has become incredible, according to Macchi. However, she feels that it’s difficult to make a livelihood out of knitting, considering its hand intensive and very slow.

“You will see people selling weaving felting quilts, but you very rarely see knitting for sale,” said Macchi. “I don’t see knitters around the craft show because it takes so long to create a piece. There are many people knitting, but I believe they are knitting for their children, homes, and improvement. I don’t think they are trying to do it for commercial purposes.”

Macchi added that it is difficult to make a livelihood out of knitting, but one can make a life.


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