UA Museums merges history with DIY crafts

By Katie Bedrich | Contributing Writer

UA Museums merges history with DIY crafts

Arm knitting is sweeping the nation because of how easy this "do it yourself" craft really is. Photo courtesy of Katie Bedrich

Arm knitting has quickly become the latest trend in the world of so-called “do it yourself” crafts. All a person needs is their arms and some yarn to knit creations ranging from scarves to blankets.

The fashion statement is making a comeback from its nineteenth century origins, when DIY was the only way to do it, this semester with an event in the Gorgas House Museum.

University of Alabama students can learn how to arm knit at the historic Gorgas House Museum on Wednesday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. This free event aims to teach students arm knitting while incorporating the history of the University of Alabama campus.

Education Outreach Coordinator of the Alabama Museum of Natural History, Allie Sorlie, helped found the idea for the Teach Yo Self-Arm Knitting class as a way to get students into the university museums.

“Some students don’t know that there are museums on campus,” Sorlie said. “We really want to connect the history that’s here with things that are tangible and can translate into real life.”

In addition to her passion for history, Sorlie said she is an avid arm knitter and will be teaching the skill to students.

“I was looking around online one day when I found arm knitting, and that was it,” she said. “Now I have arm-knitted everything all over my house! Anything you can knit, you can arm knit.”

Sorlie said she wants to teach students how to knit because there is so much history behind the craft. If someone needed a scarf for a nineteenth century winter, she said, they would have to knit it themselves.

Museum Director of the Gorgas House, Lydia Ellington, also collaborated on the Teach Yo Self program that will likely continue throughout the semester.

“This is the first time we’ve done something like this,” Ellington said. “This is kind of our trial run.”

Students will get the chance to knit with just their arms while learning about the history of the Gorgas House, the oldest building on campus, having been originally built in 1829 as the University’s dining hall.

Ellington said this is one way to bridge a gap between today’s society and the people of the past. She has spotted several students knitting around campus since forming the idea for the class.

“The physical aspect of it makes it a little more interesting than sitting with just two needles,” Ellington said. “I like to think that anything, especially dealing with history, could become a trend again.”

It takes 20 to 30 minutes to knit the trendy scarves students will be making at the event, but the class is being held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to accommodate as many schedules as possible. Students can drop by the Gorgas House Museum anytime during the two hours and leave with their own arm-knit creation and new knowledge about campus history.

In addition to the class, there are many online video tutorials available for beginner arm knitters. Allie Sorlie said she recommends Pinterest and Youtube for “Do It Yourself” projects.

“Anyone interested is welcome to contact me for an encore presentation as well,” she said.

For students who enjoy the Teach Yo Self-Arm Knitting program, University of Alabama Museums are already planning another event for March. It will be held at the Museum of Natural History in Smith Hall. Students will again have the opportunity to learn a new skill, this time related to the work of state geologist Eugene Allen Smith, who is the namesake of the museum.

For more information about UA Museums’ events, find them on Facebook or contact Lydia Ellington at

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