Knitting new life into old duds

A few of them came to unwind. Others needed the bonding time. Some just wanted to learn how to turn old T-shirts into rugs.

Students in the REcycled Knitting class at the Selah art salon in downtown Las Vegas got all of the above on a recent afternoon. Their instructor Alison Turner describes the class as a way of introducing people “to the creative possibilities of many materials around them.”

With chopsticks for knitting needles, eight women sat by as Turner demonstrated how to do something for the environment and for themselves.

Equipped with a pair of fabric-cutting scissors, a rotary blade and a cutting mat, Taylor destroyed a perfectly fine high school marching band T-shirt. That it was perfectly fine wasn’t its purpose in the REcycled Knitting class. That it would never be worn again was its purpose.

Rather than toss it or donate it to a thrift store that has an abundance of T-shirts no one wants, Turner showed students how to give the old, unappreciated piece of clothing a chance at reincarnation.

After turning the T-shirt into one long tubelike string, Turner rolled it into a ball, finally bringing the whole “knitting” part of the class into the realm of possibility.

As the students, all women, tried the cutting process, they socialized. One griped about a husband who hadn’t taken the treadmill out of storage for her. Another joked about having to hide her fabric-cutting scissors from her children who will otherwise use them for every snip imaginable. Several shared mixed feelings over their pending empty nests.

Chatter and laughter filled the small room where the class was held. Turner had to raise her voice and gesture with her hands to get the students’ attention. As soon as the knitting needles, which double as Asian food utensils, got busy, though, the room grew quiet.

Many of the women were turning their old T-shirts into rugs for their kids who are heading to college in the fall. Turner also teaches students, who pay $100 for three classes, to knit plastic bags and old sweaters.

“I knit for fun and I knit to relax,” says Turner, who’s been teaching the craft for 15 years. “That’s how I teach it. I get some people who are so balled up. They need it. When I’m knitting I’m so relaxed and knitting so loosely, I have to go up a needle size.”

That logic is primarily what brought Gwen Campbell to the class.

“I’ve been told I don’t relax well,” she says. But Campbell also wanted some “me time.”

“Everyone has to have something for themselves,” she says. “My kids had play dates, our family has family dates, I used to have girls’ night. Now I have things like this.”

Campbell learned how to knit today. She also learned her friend Ami Vaughn is buying Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.”

The women talked all about it while pulling and knitting their T-shirt yarn.

“I like that this is a creative outlet,” says Vaughn. “As moms, a lot of our time is so bogged down doing everything for our kids and husbands.”

Campbell was quick to note that most of them are turning their T-shirts into gifts for their kids and husbands. More laughter.

Contact Xazmin Garza at xgarza@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0477. Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.

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