The fourth floor of the Kent State University Library was abuzz with activity as dozens of hands shaped colorful threads of yarn into hats, scarves and a variety of other items for those in need at this semester’s 12-hour Knit-a-Thon Friday.
While participants were encouraged to knit whatever matched their skill and comfort level, this semester’s Knit-a-Thon was focused on making insulated hats for the homeless. Students traveling to Washington, D.C. for this month’s university-sponsored alternative spring break will distribute the hats to the city’s homeless population as part of their community service program.
“A lot of students are not always aware of what’s going on around them with people who maybe aren’t as fortunate than they are,” said Louise Ditchey, the College of Business Administration administrative director and Knitting for Those in Need adviser. “This helps them develop some empathy for people who maybe don’t have a hat or a scarf for winter.”
Knitting for Those in Need is an organization started five years ago by Kent State alumnus Diane Baldridge, who works with the library once a semester to hold the event. The organization has partnered with over 20 different agencies to distribute items to those who need them. Past drives have included caps for chemotherapy patients experiencing hair loss and “knitted knockers” for breast cancer survivors who had undergone mastectomies.
“You don’t need to know how to knit before you come,” KTN President Riley Weatherholt said. “You don’t need to bring anything but your willingness to serve the community. We have all the supplies, we have all the yarn and we’ll teach you how to knit. Even if it’s just half an hour, you can come and make a difference.”
As many as 200 people have participated in past Knit-a-Thons. Last semester’s event set an all-time attendance record, though Weatherholt stressed that fall Knit-a-Thons have traditionally been more popular than sessions held in the spring.
Students, faculty and community members dropped in throughout the day to take up a loom and knit anything from simple winter gear to “twiddlemuffs,” thick mittens with accessories like ribbons and buttons sewn on to provide patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia with something to keep their hands stimulated.
Throughout the event, participants chatted amongst themselves, ate snacks donated from local businesses and added to the growing piles of finished, donatable items.
“I like to do a lot of community service but I didn’t necessarily have time to leave campus,” KTN board member Tara Rogers said. “I like the fact that I can stay on campus and still do something for the community.”
Kent resident Jude Rule has been with the organization for more than five years and finds the Knit-a-Thon to be a valuable opportunity to help others while developing a creative skill.
“Those of us who are able to do things for others should do things for others,” Rule said. “I like being able to take a skill — something I’ve been doing for more than 50 years — and put it to a really good use. Who needs another sweater, anyway?”
Knit-a-Thon participants said that the event is able to combine charity with creative stimulation and stress relief, making it an ideal way to serve the community and provide aid to those who need it.
“We are here to help take care of each other,” said Akron resident and longtime KTN member Faith Barnett. “We all need help at some time or another in our lives.”
The organization believes that the good that comes out of the Knit-a-Thon has a far greater impact than the relatively simple act of knitting.
"I like the end of the Knit-a-Thon when we look back on all the projects finished at the end of the day,” Rogers said. “So many people have touched these projects. The whole community comes together to make these awesome projects, and then we give them to people who need them.”
Conor Battles is the CCI and libraries reporter. Contact him at email@example.com.