The possibilities for knitting and crochet artists are endless, from making multi-colored tote bags to winter scarves, hats and even teddy-bear sweaters.
Aedy VanHouten has hand-crafted each of these items, and has taken on an even bigger project creating a fiber works club called SCSU Yarns.
VanHouten, freshman studio art major in the Honors College. Despite being new to the university, VanHouten is starting the spring semester with ambition by forming a new club on campus for fiber artists, like herself.
“I started during the pandemic, which is how a lot of people got started,” VanHouten says. “It was something I did while I was a junior and senior in high school. I was not doing well mentally at that time in my life. It was a way for me to feel better and be doing something productive at the same time.”
What began as a relaxing activity quickly became a passion for VanHouten. Though she typically sticks to her favorite mediums, sketching and painting, she has a growing interest in fiber arts.
“I think I’ve been realizing more in the past year, year or two, that I can make things without having to follow patterns or anything, so it kind of got more creative for me in that way. I’m a person that’s down to do any kind of art,” VanHouten says.
VanHouten says that she initially assumed the university would already have an established fiber works club.
“When I came to Southern, I kind of expected it to already be a thing,” says VanHouten. “When I realized there wasn’t, I was like, ‘There really should be.’ This is something I definitely want to do and there’s so much you can do with it. So, when I was thinking of all of the possibilities, I was like, I need to do this. It’s kind of one of those things where, even though I was kind of apprehensive about it, I was kind of like, ‘this just needs to exist.’”
VanHouten says she recalls meeting several students who expressed a desire for a fiber works club on campus. Discovering this significant demand supported VanHouten’s idea.
“I did my first-year research project on something related to knitting, so I got to interview a few upperclassmen who do this, and they were talking about how they were thinking of starting a club. OK, it just needs to be me who does it, I guess. It’s definitely something that people want,” VanHouten says.
Still, VanHouten says she was hesitant to start the club because she thought the process would be too overwhelming.
Additionally, VanHouten says that experience from her arts administration minor helped give her the confidence to start a new club.
“It [the arts administration minor] has kind of shown me a lot more of the field of art. It’s definitely something that’s kind of out of my comfort zone because I’m not a business-y person or anything like that,” VanHouten says. “But it’s shown me how many careers in the arts we just haven’t heard about since they’re so obscure or specific. It’s given me more perspective on what you can do with art in your life and with community engagement.”
VanHouten says that one of her favorite parts about the craft is the burgeoning community.
“I think it’s just important for people to have a space where they feel like they can do something they care about, and talk to other people about it, because it’s kind of a niche interest. I’m in Student Arts League, I’m the assistant coordinator of it now. I think it’s kind of unlike any other club on campus. Everyone there just feels very tight-knit. I wanted something like that for people who can knit and crochet where they have this place they can go, and, hopefully, people will make friends or find people there,” VanHouten says.
Though the SCSU Yarns is not exclusively for art students, VanHouten says she thinks the club will establish a new, supportive space for creatives.
Abby Ashbey, a graduate student in communication disorders, attended SCSU Yarn’s first unofficial meeting in February. Ashbey says that she is excited to become part of a larger community.
“I’m really looking forward to connecting with other knitters and crocheters and having a space to engage in one of my favorite hobbies with other people,” Ashbey says. “I think it’ll be nice to hang out with other fiber artists, especially since knitting is something I usually do alone.”
VanHouten says that the community she discovered in the newly revived Student Arts League proved especially inspirational.
“So many people are just willing to help you with whatever you’re doing. Elisedd McGinley, a studio art major and the Student Arts League coordinator, definitely helped me a lot,” VanHouten says.
McGinley hopes SCSU Yarns will encourage student artists.
“On a surface level, I think Yarns is going to provide a great space to connect fiber arts folks both in the art department and beyond, given that crochet and knit are hobbies that people of all backgrounds and professions find joy and comfort in,” McGinley says.
“But to go deeper, Yarns will be the third arts club to emerge in the last two years, alongside the Creativity Club, a workshop space for artists of all mediums, and the Arts League. It’s my hope that it will continue to show that Southern artists are alive, united, and ready to take back our spot as part of the fabric of our broader community.”
VanHouten says she hopes that the club will also eventually have a positive impact on the broader New Haven community through community engagement projects.
“There’s a lot of charities and nonprofits, like Warm Up America, where the idea is that people will donate squares for a blanket or knit mittens or hats to donate,” VanHouten says. “So, I was hoping we could accomplish something like that, too, where we can contribute handmade items that help keep people warm.”
By: Gabi Tunucci