Every Wednesday at 12:30 p.m., a group of teens gather at the VAST building on Redford Street for an hour of knitting and conversation.
Last Wednesday, there were just under a dozen girls there, some of them experienced knitters and others just starting out.
MaKenzie Chester, 22, just started the program that day.
“It looked interesting,” she said of her reasons for joining.
Heather Wesley, 17, on the other hand has been in the program for two years. She’s moved up from dishcloths to scarves.
“I learned to knit when I was really little and I just wanted to learn again,” she said, adding that she’s learned new patterns since joining the group.”
While there’s yarn on the table and needles flashing, the conversation veers away from knitting to everything from boy problems to makeup to sports.
But while the conversation is lighthearted, the girls get serious benefits from participating in the program.
Zoey McGee, 17, joined the group in September. While she’s been knitting since her grandma taught her how as a child, she’s already seen improvements in her knitting.
For McGee, the benefits range far beyond simple knitting.
“I joined because it was less stressful for me, less people pressuring me to do things I didn’t want to,” she said.
The mathematical component of knitting helps her control her anger.
“I can count things when I’m mad so I get mad at the numbers instead of people.”
Carey Creber, 18, also joined the program in September.
“I’m excited to learn how to knit scarves, I think that would be really cool.
“I’ve learned new [knitting] techniques, it’s fun, it’s relaxing. I’m a very stressed person and it’s a really good stress reliever, I find.”
School trustee Rosemarie Buchanan has helped run the knitting group since it started in 2012. The group is open to all genders.
While Buchanan is an avid knitter herself, she sees the benefits outside of knitting. She’s heard from many students that they feel a positive change in themselves as a result of joining the program.
“One of the girls in the first year said to me that [knitting] calmed her down so much that if she was in a stressful situation and started getting wound up, she closed her eyes and would feel the needles and the motion and she said that in itself would calm her down.”
Diane Best, one of the group’s supervisors, agrees.
“It’s not always just about knitting here, it’s the conversation that we have while we’re knitting.”
Best sees parallels between mistakes in knitting and those in the girls’ everyday lives.
“Do you want to go back and fix [the mistake]? How big is the mistake, is it going to have much impact overall?”
“It’s a great time to chat. Sometimes it’s like being on a comedy show and sometimes we have really interesting, deep meaningful conversations,” added Buchanan.
While the group is currently offered as an extracurricular choice through the VAST Education Centre, Best is looking to make the program an elective.
“I’m in the process of starting to go through government documents to see how we can make this a credit for the Textiles 12 course. They’re putting time in so we want to give them credit.”