BY CAROL ROEHM
Using sashay yarn, Becky Doss knitted a ruffled multicolored scarf with the ease of a pro. In reality, Doss, who works in the information division at Danville Area Community College, picked up a pair of knitting needles for the first time just a week earlier.
“My grandmother has been knitting for years and she tried to teach me, but it didn’t happen for me,” Doss said.
Thanks to a group of about a dozen DACC employees who meet informally during their lunch hour every Thursday, Doss not only has learned how to knit but is working on her second sashay yarn scarf.
Laura Williams, director of adult education and middle college, spearheads the group that has dubbed itself, Darn It!
“My friend started a knitting club at her home last year,” Williams explained. “It was supposed to be four weeks, but nobody wanted it to end.
“It’s been so therapeutic,” she said, adding that the craft helped her and her friend during a rough patch last year when William’s mother passed away and her friend’s husband died.
Williams, who just took up knitting again in the past year at her friend’s gathering, decided to start a knitting group with her coworkers at DACC.
“It’s really an extension of what my friend started,” she said of the Darn It! group. “I thought some of the girls at school might want to do it. It’s fun and you’re learning a craft.
“Everyone has a base of knowledge and if you don’t know something, someone will jump in and show you,” she said.
The Darn It! group, which started meeting last semester just outside of the student union, has caught the attention of some DACC students who have shown interest in joining the group, proving that knitting and crocheting — once thought of as old-fashioned crafts — are gaining in popularity.
“It keeps growing,” Williams said of the group.
On Thursday, eight women showed up with various projects in different stages of completion.
Isela Rangel, who works in DACC’s records department, said she started knitting again because of the Darn It! group.
“This is my first time since third grade. I learned how to knit in an after school class at East Park,” she said.
“I think I did pretty well for my first project since third grade,” she said, referring to a scarf she knitted with Red Heart boutique sashay yarn, which she said gives the scarf “a nice, designer look.”
Rangel admits, “I’ve messed up a couple times. I lose my stitches.”
Veteran knitter, DACC Spanish instructor Roxie Nixon offers Rangel words of encouragement, “Nobody will ever know.”
Nixon was knitting an orange-and-blue scarf for the son of Stacy Ehmen, DACC’s director of enrollment services and registrar. Although most would identify the color scheme with the University of Illinois, it’s actually the young boy’s elementary school colors.
The Darn It! women have been taking turns knitting the scarf.
“I’ve been knitting and crocheting for decades,” Nixon said. “I taught myself when I was a kid.”
However, if anyone is interested in taking up knitting or crocheting, there is plenty of help to be found on the Internet.
“If anyone wants to learn, there are so many videos on YouTube,” she said.
Carol Neff, DACC’s payroll specialist, has been knitting and crocheting for years and sells many of her wares at the Vermilion River Fall Festival and the Christmas Village Craft Fair at Harrison Park.
Neff estimates that she crochets 150 dish rags and 300 crocheted-top towels each year for the two shows.
“I can crochet two dish rags a night while watching TV,” she said.
Neff, who learned how to knit first as a child, said she draws the line at fancy cable knitting but can do just about every other kind of stitch and willingly gives pointers to the other women in the group.
“We do it for the camaraderie,” Neff said of the gathering.
Johna Bolton, who works in DACC’s accounts payable, just started crocheting a purple blanket for her granddaughter’s baby doll on Thursday. She also crocheted hair scrunchies for her granddaughters as Christmas gifts.
Sue Mosiman, DACC’s science lab assistant, said she’s been crocheting on and off for years. On Thursday, she was crocheting matching hats for a mom and son.
“To me, it’s a craft, it’s not a profession,” she said. “I learned it from my grandmother. It’s something to keep the hands busy while the mind is doing something else.”
Dawn Nasser, DACC’s recruitment coordinator, said she first started knitting in September. She was knitting a sashay yarn scarf on Thursday, and she said someday she’d like to make a rug.
“I went to the first class and it was fun,” she said. “I found it to be relaxing.”
The Darn It! women all agreed that knitting and crocheting are soothing, but the crafts still carry with them a stigma as being a pastime popular with grandmas.
Nasser said she brought her knitting with her while watching a DACC game, but her friends made fun of her, saying that she wasn’t going to meet a boyfriend that way.
Tracy Wahlfeldt, executive director of the DACC Foundation and grant development, said her family has had a lot of fun teasing her about her newfound hobby, too.
“My kids have great fun making fun of me and my old lady craft,” she said.
Still, Wahlfeldt said she is glad she learned how to knit.
“I’m on the computer all day at work, so I want to do something mindless at night,” she said. “And you can take it with you in the car.”
Wahlfeldt said she “didn’t know anything about knitting.”
After joining the Darn It! group, Wahlfeldt knitted four scarves, including three Santa scarves, last month.
“It’s kind of fun and you get to see people you don’t normally see,” she said of the group.
Taking up knitting also has helped bridge a generational gap and created a bond between Wahlfeldt and her 87-year-old grandmother.
“It’s a common thread we have now,” she said.