Project keeps Pine-Richland students in stitches

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Crocheting isn’t just your grandmother’s pastime.

Students in Pine-Richland High School’s mixed media classes have learned to use a crochet hook to turn a ball of yarn into a work of art.

Their work will be displayed in the school's first Stitch the Staircase project this month. Thirty of the two classes’ students created panels, which will be attached with twisty ties to the railing side of a staircase in the lobby of the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) addition to the high school.

The project was inspired in part by the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh’s 2013 Knit the Bridge installation on the Andy Warhol Bridge. Another source was the Knitta Group, contemporary fiber artists in Texas who installed yarn graffiti on park benches and tree trunks.

“Students have looked at the work of contemporary fiber groups and have seen how these artists have converted public spaces with fiber work,” art department chairwoman Mary Anne Andreassi said.

She said there has been a big push for crocheting in recent years. Hooked needles, bigger than ones used for sewing, are used for the needlework. The art teachers taught the stitches, starting with the chain, then single crochet, one-half double, double and triple crochet. A few, like Rebecca Klobuchar, 16, already knew.

“My aunt taught me to crochet when I was 9 or 10, and I really enjoy it,” said the teen, who constructed a long, ruffled, multicolored piece for the staircase.

On a recent morning, the students, with Mrs. Andreassi, were hanging their panels in a preliminary step to see how they would fit.

Sophomore Olivia Folmer, 15, of Richland made turquoise crocheted covers for the crutches she is using after breaking a bone in her foot at a cast party for the school’s musical, “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” She plans to re-crochet the coverings in red. Sophomores Monica Shope, 16, and Gina Gebhardt, 15, both of Pine, combined Monica’s bright pink and Gina’s green pieces into one large panel. They like their class, they said, with Monica saying she likes 3D art and Gina laughing as she said, “I can’t draw.”

One of the two males in the classes, Caleb Swineford, 15, said about crocheting, “It’s not hard and I do enjoy it a lot. My favorite thing is making flowers and black ones will be my signature thing.”

The students are crocheting small flower pins for teachers to wear to promote the upcoming art show at which the staircase project will be featured. Some of the yarn was donated and the rest ordered from Barnati Yarn, using money available from the art supplies budget. Between 40 and 50 skeins of yarn are being used, Mrs. Andreassi said.

The STEAM staircase is the focal point, but plans call for decorating another staircase in the older part of the building, too. Mrs. Andreassi said if there aren’t enough panels to cover the second one, other members of the faculty might contribute their work.

“I opened it to others in the building about making panels or small motifs, and maybe using woven paper from other art students,” she said.

The students’ crocheting has created a commonality among generations as they talked about it with their mothers and grandmothers.

“It is our hope to continue building a sense of community here and to make Pine-Richland High School a brighter place to be in,” Mrs. Andreassi said.

The art show will be from 6 to 9 p.m. April 24 and 25 and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 26.

Virginia Miller, freelance writer: suburban

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