Not just for the gals

Men of yarn: Mitchell Muir and Allen VanNoppen, co-presidents of the Asheville School Bro-chet Club, gather some “bros” for an outdoor crocheting session.

Over the past 10 years, Asheville’s undergone a knitting and crocheting revival: witness groups like Stitch ‘n Bitch and and Men’s Knitting Night. And our eclectic town has, of course, touched the movement with its particular fingerprint.

The knitting fad has been reawakened, and knitters and crocheters all over Asheville are gathering at Malaprop’s, Purl’s Yarn Emporium, the library and The Thirsty Monk to spread the word — and the yarn. What these groups generally lack, however, are teenage boys. Until now.

At Asheville School, a new club has come into existence — a club for mostly guys, or “bros,” formally called the “Bro-chet Club.” Senior and co-president Allen VanNoppen says that he was inspired to learn the craft because of a male faculty member who would crochet on duty in the dorm.

Michael Saltzman, advancement administrator at Asheville School, taught the “bros” the basics of crocheting. He told them about the all-boys crocheting club that he was in at the College of Wooster. The college service club made hats, and donated them to homeless and women’s shelters. Each guy would make three or four hats a month for charity.

Since college, Saltzman has continued to crochet. “I enjoy thinking of new color combinations and ways to vary and improve each hat I make,” he says. “It is a very relaxing activity that can complement everything from watching TV to being on dorm duty, and it allows me to explore somewhat of an artistic side that I had no idea existed.”

Junior Mitchell Muir, co-president of the Asheville School Bro-chet Club, says that, at first, “I thought he [Saltzman] looked silly — what kind of guy crochets, right? After a few weeks, though, I began to think it was pretty cool.”

Muir admits that, at first, he wanted to learn as a joke. “It’s almost a mockery to the stereotype that only girls can crochet,” he says. “But once men start, they realize just how much fun crocheting is, and they end up doing it for enjoyment.”

After the club was announced at the start of the spring semester, “We had many people tell us they wanted to join, but they didn’t know how to crochet,” VanNoppen says. “If everything works out as planned, we will have taught almost 20 boys (and a couple of girls) how to crochet by the end of the year.”

The club is designed to teach its members (four-fifths of whom are male) to crochet or knit. Actual club meetings, however, aren’t necessarily tutorials; rather, they act as an opportunity to “simply get together and crochet/knit whatever we want. We might even listen to some music or eat snacks,” says Muir.

Bro-chet, like the club at Wooster, gives the crocheted garments to Asheville School's service group, Mitchell Cabinet, which will select local charities to receive the clothing. In return, Mitchell Cabinet supplies the club with money to cover the cost of materials.

Now boys all around campus can be heard talking about the various sizes of needles, stitches and colors of yarn. For VanNoppen, crocheting is a chance to get the “creative juices flowing” and give back to the community while enjoying the company of friends.

Men and women around Asheville have picked up on the trend and now high-school boys have joined them. So, if you are someone looking for a new hobby that is relaxing, inexpensive and easy to learn, pick up a crochet hook and teach yourself this nifty craft. Why not? The kids are doing it.

— Kathyrn Muller can be reached at kmuller@mountainx.com

who: Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s (with The Enemy Lovers)
where: Stella Blue
when: Saturday, Oct. 2 (9 p.m. $10. myspace.com/stellabluelive)
when: Saturday, Sept. 18 (8 p.m. Adult tickets $19/$33/$40/$53. Student tickets $12/$22/$28/$38. Season tickets available. ashevillesymphony.org)

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