BATH TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Gavin Hill’s brow was knit almost as tightly as the stitches on his knitting needles.
He wrapped yarn around the tip of one stout needle, his fingers gripping tightly, his movements slow and purposeful.
Knitting, after all, requires muscle memory, and developing muscle memory takes concentration.
Gavin, a second-grader, is one of 11 pupils who are learning the age-old craft as part of a five-week knitting program at Herberich Primary School. The second-grader is the only boy in the group, which didn’t seem to trouble him a bit during one of its recent after-school meetings.
The program promotes not just knitting, but also compassion. The young participants are contributing their work toward the creation of a couple of knitted blankets, which will be raffled to raise money for the Copley Township, Ohio, Police Department’s Share-a-Christmas effort.
Allison Chrien, the volunteer who leads the group, said the blankets should be on display by the end of June at River City Gift Shoppes in Copley. Raffle tickets will be sold at the market, where she runs Yellowbird Yarn Room.
Second-grader Teresa White took the charitable aspect to heart.
“People don’t have blankets, and they don’t have a home,” she explained earnestly. “They live on the streets, and they’ll be cold.”
The program is a hit, Herberich principal Kathy Ashcroft said.
“Every year we get more people,” she said. “... The kids are excited about it.”
So is Ashcroft. The program improves eye-hand coordination and instills discipline, she said. It also gives the more seasoned knitters an opportunity to coach the newer ones.
Fourth-grader Marinna Hill is one of the group’s veterans. She sat on the floor of the library, patiently going over the basics of a knitting stitch with a friend.
Marinna learned knitting from a book and has honed her skills to the point where she has finished a number of projects and is now working on a pillow for a friend.
What does she like best about the craft?
“You can be creative and make a lot of things from just string,” she said.
Chrien has her students use bulky needles and the thickest yarn she can find, which she said makes it easier for knitters to see how the stitches are formed. Each child gets some yarn in a favorite color and a pair of knitting needles, which go home with the child at the end of the five-week program.
The children all knit 7-by-9-inch rectangles, which Chrien takes home between meetings. Eventually she’ll add their rectangles to those already created by knitters at Arrowhead to create a pair of patchwork blankets.
Last year, she ended up with so many knitters between the two schools that she was able to create four lap blankets. Rather than raffle them all, she arranged for the two blankets made from the Herberich knitters’ rectangles to be donated to Summit County Children Services.