For Eva Stanesa, learning to knit during sixth grade last year yielded many riches. It was during one of the middle school service afternoons that she picked up a set of knitting needles and yarn for the first time. Service-learning afternoons were of course reimagined last year due to the constraints of the pandemic. Despite the fact that students couldn’t travel for the various volunteer activities typically available on these Friday afternoons, our service-learning coordinators (Dan Balk and Colleen Hultgren) with the help of their colleagues found ways for students to engage in activities that were in service to others. That afternoon, Eva decided to step outside her comfort zone and try something new, joining a group of knitters. She remembers Mrs. White, Associate Director of Admissions and middle school coach, introducing a group of novice knitters to the fine art of hat knitting. Eva spent the afternoon working on her first hat, returning to Mrs. White each time she got stuck or needed help. “Over the weekend, I knitted a hat. It was not a pretty hat, but I knitted it!” She returned to school on Monday with her creation seeking a bit more help from Mrs. White in finishing. Eva was hooked! She went out and bought a bunch of yarn and proceeded to make hats for everyone she could. She remembers making hats for fifteen people as Christmas presents.

It was a bit serendipitous that Eva and her friend, Madelyn Blaney, wound up in baby hat production. During a visit to DCD’s health office, the girls overheard Mrs. Payton-Stone, one of DCD’s nurses, talking about her work in the NICU at Boston Children’s Hospital. Eva immediately piped in, “Oh that’s what I want to do, work in the NICU. Maybe I can even knit hats for you for the babies.” Mrs. Payton-Stone of course loved the idea.The girls went into major hat production knitting super tiny hats for these little heads.
Eva and Madelyn knit some hats for them last year and came back again this year with a whole bunch more. She and Madelyn are hoping to be able to see the hats on the babies down at the hospital when COVID limitations are lifted. They’ve perfected the sizing for these little heads and Mrs. Payton-Stone says they are perfect because there is enough space within the stitching to allow for all the necessary wires associated with special NICU equipment.

Eva sees a lot of benefit in her knitting. Not only does she produce something that can keep a friend or a tiny human warm, but it helps her to not fidget and to stay focused! This is especially useful for sitting on Zoom calls or watching informational videos. “I can finish a baby hat in 30 minutes; it’s crazy, and I can absorb what I need to at the same time.”

For now Eva is sticking to hats. She tried a blanket, but she wasn’t thrilled with how it came out. Eva, now in the seventh grade, is in her second year of DCD and is loving every minute of it. To her, the pandemic was a non-issue. “We just had to wear masks and social distance. I loved being in person and not being remote. When I came here, it was so cool.” Learning to knit was not completely a byproduct of the pandemic, but Eva acknowledges that it certainly gave her more time to spend on it. Next up, a tiny hat for Mr. Balk’s new baby, Rowen.