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Back to school is back to knitting at Waldorf

Parent James Marca sat in one spot, slightly away from the organized chaos that was back to school night Friday at Waldorf School of Orange County in Costa Mesa, completely focused on his knitting project.

Marca seamlessly moved between stitches in an attempt to turn the green, brown and black yarn into an 8-inch square.

"When I first started knitting, I found it very stressful," he said. "But when you get the muscle memory and the skill, it becomes relaxing. I like the feeling of finishing a project."

Along with their parents, Waldorf students from first grade to high school spent back to school night knitting squares for donation in the private school's first-ever Knit-a-Purlooza.

Students and parents will work through January to knit at least 1,000 squares for charity. They will ultimately donate the finished products to Knit-a-Square, a nonprofit that turns 8-inch squares into blankets for orphans in Africa.

Although public schools nationwide have moved away from crafting in the classroom, knitting has been a pillar of the Waldorf school curriculum for decades.

"It's about having our kids connect with kids far away in need, using something that they all know how to do," said parent Liz Wenger, who helped organize the event.

In kindergarten, students learn to knit with their fingers. As they advance into upper grades, they knit hats, scarves and other clothing items. By the end of elementary school, the students learn to create dolls and make other three-dimensional items.

Throughout the Knit-a-Purlooza, Marca took breaks to help struggling parents perfect their stitches.

He learned to knit after his daughter, Grace Tomblin Marca, now a freshman at Waldorf, brought home her knitting project in first grade.

His wife vowed to start knitting, but never got into the hobby. Now, years later, Marca admits that he spends a ton of money on knitting supplies.

"I have yarn stashed all over the house," he said.

Knitting has become a hobby for several Waldorf students outside of the classroom as well.

Grace often knits gifts for friends and family, including clothing for her younger sister's plush dog.

"It's relaxing and fun," the 14-year-old said.

Studies show that knitting and other crafts help develop hand-eye coordination, stimulates intellectual development and supports the integration of both sides of the brain, said parent and volunteer Wende Zomnir.

"Kids get an amazing sense of pride and satisfaction learning to do this," she said.

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