Photo courtesy of Kellye Self.
Margaret Splawn practices her knitting skills in the Fiber Arts Club, which is part of Hoover’s monthly activity period.
For a small group of Hoover High students, their backpacks carry something extra besides textbooks and pencils: a pair of knitting needles.
The HHS Fiber Arts Club has existed for several years, but current sponsor Kellye Self took on the role about four years ago. Self has been teaching for 26 years, most of that time at HHS, and her classes include government, sociology and online classes.
The knitting and crocheting club is one of many options for Hoover students in the “activity period,” a 30-minute period once a month for them to get involved in a group of their choice. Self said some of the activities include chess club, political groups, cooking clubs, book clubs and service organizations like Habitat for Humanity.
“The idea is for them to find small pockets of belonging in such a large place,” Self said.
Self said the knitting club typically has 10 to 12 students, but she sets a cap at 20 to make sure she has time to work with each student. Some students come in knowing how to knit or crochet, while others have no idea. Self uses the monthly activity period to teach the newcomers and help the more advanced crafters build on their skills.
“The idea was to teach students to knit if they didn’t know how to and have a place to sit together and knit,” she said.
Knitting is a hobby Self picked up years ago, and she said she enjoys sharing her interests with Hoover teenagers.
“It is a stress reliever for me. I like creating things; I like the process. It’s a nice portable hobby,” Self said.
Most of the students work on personal projects, such as scarves and pot holders. More important than the projects they build on their knitting needles and crochet hooks, however, is the conversation that takes place in the club’s circle.
“I think they enjoy the time to socialize with just a handful of people. It’s a nice quiet oasis,” Self said.
Sophomore Ashley Shanks is in her second year with the club, but she learned how to knit the summer before seventh grade. Shanks said she likes having something to do with her hands, and she enjoys learning from Self in the club.
“I enjoy knitting, and it provides me a way to learn new ways to knit,” Shanks said.
Shanks also runs cross-country and track for Hoover. Her latest project is a scarf.
“I always love seeing the finished project,” she said.
At a school the size of Hoover, even 30 minutes a month can be enough for students to form friendships that extend outside Self’s classroom.
“I think it’s important in this school for kids to find a niche. In a student body of 3,000, it’s important for them to feel like they belong,” Self said.