New Trend At Hartford's Bulkeley High School: Knitting

By VANESSA DE LA TORRE, vdelatorre@courant.com

The Hartford Courant

5:46 PM EDT, April 26, 2012

HARTFORD

Gabriela Rosario has a new obsession.

The Bulkeley High School sophomore indulges in the hobby between classes and at home, whenever she feels anxious and has minutes to spare.

"It's calming, but at the same time it's entertaining," said Rosario, 16, an outgoing brunette with blond streaks in her hair. She headed toward the balls of yarn in the school library.

"I knit."

Rosario has created four scarves in just the past couple of weeks since she learned the knit stitch from a classmate, 16-year-old Cristal Parrilla, who learned how to knit last year from Bulkeley support staffer Debbie Solinsky, who was taught by Wilma Hoffman, a retired special education teacher who is a project facilitator at the school.

Hoffman is the den mother for the Bulkeley knitters, a growing group of students who have taken up the yarn to relieve teenage boredom and the stress in their lives.

On Wednesday morning, nearly 20 girls and two boys had gathered in the library to knit during the school's weekly activity hour. Half of them had recently signed up and sought lessons from Solinsky and Hoffman. The knitting demand has been so high, Hoffman said, that she had gone to the crafts store three times this week to buy more supplies with a $500 grant from the Petit Family Foundation.

"It helps them so much," Hoffman said.

Some students even knit during classes, which is how Rosario caught on to the skill when she saw Parrilla working a stitch. (A few teachers tolerate it, according to Hoffman.)

The latest project for Parrilla is a soft, canary yellow baby's blanket that she began knitting over the weekend for her unborn daughter.

The 10th-grader's due date is May 19, but she feels the baby could arrive any day now. Parrilla knits so much at home, she said, that even her mother is incredulous at times: "Again?"

"I can knit until I fall asleep," said Qusharia Perry, a sophomore who turns 16 Friday. She sat next to Parrilla in the library Wednesday, chatting and knitting a green hat with brown stripes she planned to keep. Perry figured she'd make socks next, then gifts for her niece and nephew, although "my sister is like, 'I want my scarf.'"

"It's a good way to pass the time," said Perry, who has made new friends in the knitting club. "I can multitask knit and read and watch a movie and listen to music at the same time."

And knitting is "a good way to get out anger ... Knitting out your frustration," she said. "By the time you're not angry anymore, you've made something."

At a nearby table, Solinsky instructed a few newcomers on holding the knitting needles and looping the yarn. Solinsky learned how to knit in Jan. 2011, and on Wednesday, wore a skillfully woven plum and fuschia wool cardigan that she made over a six-week period.

"Every time you do a new project, you almost have to learn a new skill you're really working your brain," Solinsky said. There are two basic stitches: knit and purl. "So your brain has to constantly think about what's next, the order of how you're doing things, and how it's going to create this fabric...

"You have to have patience."

Kevin Fortuna, a 15-year-old freshman, spent the hour knitting a mustard-colored hat for himself. He has made three scarves to date, including one for his mother.

"It's fun," he admitted, quietly. "When I'm bored, I'm doing this."

http://www.courant.com/community/hartford/hc-hartford-bulkeley-knitting-0427-20120426,0,259659.story