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Pleasant Valley Middle School students learn the fine art of needlework

  • LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS The Crochet and Loom Knit Club at Pleasant Valley Middle School learns more than needlework and enjoy the comradery of their group. Some of the members are, sitting left to right: Mrs. Jennifer Dean, Connor Smith, Meaghan…
    LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS The Crochet and Loom Knit Club at Pleasant Valley Middle School learns more than needlework and enjoy the comradery of their group. Some of the members are, sitting left to right: Mrs. Jennifer Dean, Connor Smith, Meaghan Doerbecker, Sabrina Meli, Samantha Catania, Vanessa Meroro, Katrina Stenger. Advisers are, standing, left to right: Diane Dudak, Amelia Meixsell and Catherine Barrett.
Published April 12. 2012 05:00PM

Many of us had grandmothers who sat in a favorite chair, hands busy with needles or hooks, with a ball of colorful yarn at their feet, knitting or crocheting baby sweaters or afghans for some lucky recipients.

Sometimes they passed on this needlework skill to their daughters and granddaughters.

But what if you are in middle school and aren't lucky enough to have someone close to you who could teach knitting or crocheting?

Well, thanks to some teachers and staff members at Pleasant Valley Middle School, young people are learning this art form in the Crochet and Loom Knitting Club. (They do not teach knitting with knitting needles, since they are not allowed in the school, but on a knitting loom.)

Amelia Meixsell, an PVMS eighth grade paraprofessional, has been crocheting since her grandmother taught her at age 7.

"I kept at it sporadically over the years. My friend, Diane Dudak, got me interested in it again.

Mrs. Diane Dudak, PVMS grade 8 Language Arts teacher, has been crocheting since she was 13 years old, taught by her grandmother, who lived in Germany. She and her brother had gone to Germany to visit her.

"She taught me to crochet to keep me out of trouble while she was at work. I learned how to crochet from German patterns. When I came home, I had to learn how to read patterns all over in English," she says.

Also, her grandmother was left-handed and so, the young Diane, who is right-handed, learned how to crochet, left-handed.

"Diane and I had tried to get an arts and crafts after-school program for years. Then one day we saw Ms. Barrett knitting and we asked her to help us get a club started," says Mrs. Meixsell.

Ms. Catherine Barrett, PVMS eighth and ninth grade computer literacy and infoprocessing teacher loves to knit and crochet.

"I had students ask me to teach them and I thought I would like that. When Mrs. Meixsell approached me about a club, I loved the idea. I wanted to give to the students and the community. This seemed like the perfect way," says Ms. Barrett.

She says in no time at all they had about 20 kids signed up for it.

On a recent visit to the newly formed after-school club, six students were busily crocheting on their own individual projects as Ms. Barrett, Mrs. Dudak, Mrs. Meixsell and Mrs. Jennifer Dean, PVMS 8th grade reading teacher, sat with them, each working on projects of their own in between answering student's questions or giving a demonstration on a stitch.

Mrs. Dean's father-in-law suffered a stroke last November and is in a nursing home.

"I wanted to make him a blanket and blankets for others in the home. I joined the club hoping they would be able to help me. They have made me feel very welcomed," she says.

Samantha Catania says her friend Amber got her into crocheting.

"I thought I'd try it and I love it. Once I started I couldn't stop. I'm making a beanie. It's a work in progress. I love Crochet Club," she says.

Sabrina Meli knew how to crochet a little but wanted to learn different techniques. Since she started in Crochet Club she has learned the single stitch, double crochet, slip stitch, how to read a pattern and how to make a Granny Square.

"It's very relaxing. You can see the progress as you go," she says.

Katrina Stenger says her mom taught her how to crochet when she was younger. Since she joined the club she has learned chaining and double crocheting.

"I joined to learn more and to give back to the community," she says.

Meaghan Doerbecker's grandmother crochets and she wanted to learn. She recently made a bunny pin and is now crocheting a prayer shawl for someone who recently lost a family member.

"It's fun," she says of crocheting.

Meaghan, Sabrina and Katrina have enjoyed crocheting so much and like the idea of doing something nice for their community, they taught several members of their church's youth group how to crochet so they could make prayer shawls.

Some other ways the club is helping the community through their handiwork is by making items like winter hats for Pleasant Valley Ecumenical Network, Relay for Life, elderly care residents and tote bags for residents at Mrs. Bush's Personal Care Home.

So far they have made 12 blankets out of Granny Squares and eight hats. They're hoping to make at least 60 ribbons for West End Relay For Life.

Eighth grader Connor Smith saw some of his friends' parents crocheting and he thought it would be neat to learn and that's why he joined the club. He's made some Granny Squares and a duck.

Mrs. Meixsell adds that Connor is so much fun to have in the class and he's willing to try anything.

Vanessa Meroro is working on purple ribbons for the West End Relay For Life and says her goal is to learn as much as she can from the Crochet Club. As the only left-hander in the club, her advisers say they go online to find patterns for left-handers and she is teaching them.

When the students arrive for the club, they eagerly ask, "What are we doing this week?" They have made things for the different holidays like wreaths, candy canes, flowers and leprechaun hats.

"We like to provide them with small things they can make and take," says Ms. Barrett.

Sometimes there are only six who can attend the club and sometimes they have as many as 20, it all depends on their other activities which range from drama club to sports.

Some of the educational benefits to crocheting and knitting are how they teach higher level thinking skills, even math and problem solving.

Ms. Barrett says the club helps the students with their social and communication skills, builds up their confidence level, and that their crocheting circle has formed a very comfortable comradery.

The club has been given a display case in the school and Mrs. Meixsell changes it regularly to feature the works of the students with their names.

Since the club does not receive any monetary aid, they could sure use some donations. Their biggest need is for yarn, followed by crocheting hooks, books, patterns (new and old) and scissors. If you would like to donate any of these items, please drop them off at the PVMS front office in care of Ms. Catherine Barrett.

"I think crocheting is a great tradition to carry on and I think it's something we should be teaching our young people," says Mrs. Dudak.

"Our main goal is to teach the students respect and to give back. It is a talent that they can give to others for the rest of their lives," says Ms. Barrett.

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