Mississippi Made: Knitting & Crocheting Through College

Knitting and crocheting is not just for grandma says Dani Thomas, a junior majoring in integrated marketing communication at Ole Miss.

Thomas began crocheting in the seventh grade when her mom walked in from work one night and started teaching her. Since then, Thomas has made it a nightly routine to crochet her worries away before going to sleep.

She is a busy student, involved in multiple organizations from Ambassadors, to Orientation Leaders, to the Student Activities Association. 

“I would say this is my stress relief,” Thomas said. “I kind of like to sit with it. It’s like when I’m watching TV, I obviously have nothing else to do, but I also don’t want to be lazy, so I’m like ‘I have to do something productive while I’m being unproductive.'”

Thomas must make it look like fun, too, because she now has a following within her sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi. She said she is encouraged that college students want to learn about crocheting. 

 “I just want to keep it going. I think a lot of the arts are dying down, like knitting crocheting and sewing. I feel like it’s kind of my job, because I know how to do this, to teach people how beneficial it can be and how useful it can be.”

Nuts about knitting

As for Long Beach, Mississippi native Sinclair Rishel, she says she’s been hooked on knitting since she was 12 years old. That was more than a decade ago and she has not slowed down since.

Rishel is an Ole Miss graduate and full-time associate editor of the Nautilus Publishing Company, but she also works as a technology consultant at Knit1 Oxford.

“I asked my grandmother, who was an amazing craftswoman, to teach me. She taught me the basic knit and purl stitches, I did three scarves in a row,” Rishel said.

Rishel has since moved onto more complex projects than scarves. 

“For a while, I loved doing hats,” Rishel said. “For a long time after that, I was hooked on socks. Right now, I seem to be in a sweater and blanket kind of mood.

Rishel said she has two cardigans and a blanket “on the needles right now” — knitter’s lingo for in the works.

Throughout her busy college years, she managed to achieve some of her most challenging knitting milestones.

She once knitted an Aran fisherman’s sweater for her father, which is comprised of complex patterns. 

“I designed and knitted him a sweater in the traditional style, right down to stitches with special symbolic meaning,” Rishel said.

However, she says her projects don’t always go seamlessly. For example, she struggled with her first heirloom style shawl, which is traditionally 6 feet in diameter, but is so finely made it can slip through a woman’s wedding band. 

“I’ve always wanted to make an heirloom lace shawl,” Rishel said. “I knew I was going to be spending a lot of time on planes and trains and I’ve never been a person who can just sit still, so I knew I’d need a big knitting project.”

Rishel said around the time she was planning a trip to Europe for a writing class, she bought a skein of lace weight yarn. 

“It’s not quite an heirloom, but I am very proud of how it turned out,” Rishel said.

Even though Rishel is a seasoned knitter who champions her own spinning wheel at home, she is no stranger to mishaps with her chunky needles.

 “Knitting is full of things that go wrong on an almost constant basis,” Rishel said. “I like to tell people that if their work has a mistake that it’s okay because only God is perfect.”

Rishel she said once wound up with bicolored, enormous and fully-ribbed socks that had to be taken in so they would not fall off of her feet. She still wears them around her home, often when she is knitting.

“Honestly, they’re still some of my favorites,” Rishel said. “They’re so cozy.”

She spends about 75 percent of her free time knitting.

“When I’m getting ready for work, I’ll sometimes find myself with an extra 15 or 20 minutes before I have to leave,” Rishel said. “During that time, I’ll pick up the needles and work a few rows. I knit almost every evening after dinner. During weekends, I can fairly easily wind up knitting at least four or five hours a day.”

Rishel thinks of endless possibilities when it comes to her craft. It is a habit she cannot kick, but she is not complaining.

“If I’m on a road trip where I’m not driving, I’m knitting. If I’m in a coffee house, I’m knitting,” Rishel said. “I used to knit in class in high school and college. If I’m sitting down and my hands are idle, I usually find myself reaching for the needles.”



Story contributed by Ariyl Onstott: aonstott@olemiss.edu, Scarlett Fox: safox@olemiss.edu, Lyndy Berryhill: lsberryh@go.olemiss.edu and Alexandria Paton: ajpaton@go.olemiss.edu.

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