The Fiber Arts and Culture class at Mercer is doing a lot of good over in Groover Hall. What began as a 200-level elective course has blossomed into an hour and fifteen minutes twice a week committed to serving and helping people in both the local and the global community.
The class began with teaching thirty or so people how to knit. Alongside Mary Ann Drake, there were several faculty and students who donated their time to teaching the members of the class, including Linda Hensel and Ginger Young.
However, everyone acclimated to the complicated finger movements quickly and the first service project of the semester got underway.
The first project was to make baby hats for Caps for Good, an organization that takes donations of infant-sized hats and sends them to countries that show a need in access to better child survival options like India, China and Brazil.
The hats are given out to prevent early death in infants, since an uncovered head at a young age makes a child more likely to become ill.
The class furiously made hats and in mid-February they sent them away. The box contained nearly one hundred hats, and only around half of them were made by the class. Various friends of the fiber community at Mercer contributed to the project, including students, community members and faculty members. Mary Kot, professor of biology at Mercer, contributed over thirty hats of her own.
The project would not be possible without the help of Bobbie Shipley, who packed, organized, made hats and pretty much did everything to make sure that the good the class was doing actually got to where it was supposed to go.
“It was a really fulfilling project,” said Kelly Nightingale, a senior. “I wanted to take the class because I thought it would be fun to learn to knit, but I’ve gotten so much more from it.”
Many other members of the class have echoed that sentiment and the movement into the second service project of the semester has widened horizons in skill and in education.
For the rest of the semester, the class will be making knitted breast inserts for women who have had mastectomies. These are called “foobies” in the community of women who use them, and Drake’s class will be creating them until the end of the semester.
They will be donated to Creative Yarn, a local yarn store off of Vineville. The store acts as a distribution location for the foobies, giving them out to women who request them. They are always accepting donations of foobies, so students interested in knitting can keep this donation location in mind.
In between all of this knitting there is a constant academic push. The class has read multiple essays on indigenous fiber creation, as well as histories of specific fibers and locations where fiber is produced.
The class has also done hands-on training with creating the fiber. Every member of the class has had to create a loom from scratch as well as card wool, use a drop spindle and knit in the round with four needles.
As Drake always says, fiber is communication, and along with communication comes a sense of community. What the Fiber Arts and Culture class has achieved is a sense of community, both in the Mercer community and the global one.