McAllen ISD International Baccalaureate junior Gaby Markle learned to crochet during the summer of 2020.
“My grandma tried to teach me, but I am left-handed, so she gave me a book and a link to a YouTube video to learn,” Markle said. “I was not very good, so I wanted to create a club to improve and to get others involved.”
Rather than establishing an official school club, which means electing officers, taking written minutes of minutes and following a number of other rules, Markle decided to create The Crochet Circle. The effort would fulfill a requirement for Creativity Activity and Service, which is one of three essential elements all IB graduates must fulfill. Students must complete a CAS project that shows initiative and demonstrates perseverance. Projects must also develop skills, such as collaboration, problem solving and decision making.
“CAS is based off students’ interests and passions,” said Vivian Tamez, a CAS teacher at IB.
Markle posted an email about The Crochet Circle in her personal Google classroom. Fellow junior Joan Gutierrez saw it and knew she wanted to join.
“A few months earlier, I got into crocheting and painting, and I got excited when I saw the email because I knew Gaby,” Gutierrez said.
A handful of students joined Markle for The Crochet Circle. She planned to teach different stitches to her fellow IB students during their meet-ups.
“But that was a train wreck,” Markle said.
She decided instead to make short videos of three to nine minutes to teach stitches like the single stitch and double stitch. Circle members could watch the videos on their own time. Then when they gathered each Wednesday afternoon, they could discuss their projects and just have a chance to talk.
“It is an open conversation about how we were dealing with staying home so much,” Gutierrez said. “It is very freeing to have that outlet.”
Connecting Students To Local Nonprofit
In early March, instructor Tamez heard about a need at The Lamb’s Loom. The McAllen nonprofit sells yarn, notions and handcrafted items to fund their mission of teaching people to knit, crochet and loom knit. It also collects donated knitted and crocheted prayer shawls, hats and other items. The organization then sends these items all over the world to people in need.
A Winter Texan volunteer at The Lamb’s Loom shared information two years ago about Knitted Knockers. The handmade breast prostheses are for women who have had mastectomies or other breast procedures. Unlike traditional prostheses, Knitted Knockers are soft, comfortable, and handmade. When placed in a bra, they look and feel like a real breast.
Some of The Lamb’s Loom’s volunteers began making them. They are now sending the prostheses to the national Knitted Knockers organization, which fulfills requests from women in need at no cost. Tamez learned that if The Lamb’s Loom could get enough local people making Knitted Knockers, the organization could keep all of them here and work with a local oncologist to get them to women in the Rio Grande Valley. Jeanie Rowell, one of the founders of The Lamb’s Loom, said that would mean 25 sets or more of Knitted Knockers each month.
“My job is to facilitate projects,” said Tamez, the instructor. “We talk about providence all the time.”
Providence came to pass when Gutierrez reached out to Tamez because she wanted to enhance her CAS student project, which involved crocheting a Harry-Styles-style sweater. Tamez told her student about Knitted Knockers. Gutierrez reached out to Markle, and the two students began researching them.
Working With Lamb’s Loom
The students sent an email to Jeanie at Lamb’s Loom. They made a flier seeking donations. They then set up a plan to recruit IB students and involve students from other schools in McAllen ISD. McAllen Memorial’s National Honor Society has already signed on. Gutierrez and Markle are also considering asking the community to donate yarn from the approved list. Their first deadline for Knitted Knockers is May 5. Tamez said a box to collect them is in the front office of Lamar Academy, where IB is housed.
Individuals and organizations can reach out to Tamez at Lamar Academy in McAllen to help. They also have free knit and crochet Knitted Knocker patterns available. Approved yarns have been tested and are washable, remain soft after being air-dried, are breathable and durable, and are the correct weight.
“This project gives women in the RGV what they need and meets the requirements for the CAS project,” instructor Tamez said.
By purchasing the yarn at The Lamb’s Loom, a donation benefits all as the purchase fulfills the organization’s mission and benefits The Crochet Circle student organization in crocheting Knitted Knockers.
The students have been inspired by the project and are working to make a difference.
“We are hopeful that we can expand this,” Gutierrez said. “It is heartbreaking to think women have to go to such lengths to get something more comfortable.”
Now that Gutierrez and Markle have learned about Knitted Knockers, their mission is to change that.