Elysse Meredith designed her first knitting pattern not for a sweater, or scarf, or winter hat, but rather a chess set.
Knitted toys and stuffed animals drive the doctorate student at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
“When you really get down to them, they’re more sculptural,” Meredith said of the three dimensional stars, elephants, and sea creatures she has made during her nearly six years as a knitter. “You really wouldn’t want to give them to your 3-year-old.”
But Meredith, 26, of North Potomac, doesn’t just make art; she made about $3,400 from Jimmy Beans Wool’s Beans for Brains Scholarship, an award given to knitters or crocheters with strong academic records.
About 3,000 students applied for the scholarship, which is in its second year, and six landed the financial break for their educations, said Bethany Steiner, marketing director for Jimmy Beans Wool.
The applicant pool was so impressive that all six of the winners had a 3.7 grade point average or greater, volunteered in their communities, and participated in school-sponsored activities.
“Knitting and crocheting is becoming less of that thing that your grandmother did and more of a thing that you do with your friends over the weekend,” Steiner said. “We wanted to make an award accessible for people who knit and crochet.”
Meredith’s chess set and essay about someday gathering the patterns she has written into a book struck the right chord with the judges. Knitting offers a nice juxtaposition to her studies in Medieval literature, she said. Working on a doctorate can seem endless and grueling while knitting proves relaxing.
“It’s really nice to knit something up quickly and have something done that I can actually hold up and show people,” Meredith said. “It’s a hobby, but it’s also a tool that keeps me going.”
Meredith said she took about three months to write the pattern for the chess set because she had to design each piece, which she weighted with marbles.
“You can only knit so many pawns before you want to just throw them across the room,” she said of the project.
And her living room in Scotland, shared by flatmates Fiona Hastings and Kristin Lynch, has become known for the strange knitted toys on the sofa.
“I can’t remember a time when she hasn’t had a project on the go,” said Hastings in an email. “She has started to branch out recently into spinning and dying yarn, which has resulted in our flat smelling of vinegar ... and mysterious pink handprints appearing around the bathroom and kitchen.”
Both girls have learned a stitch or two from Meredith.
“From watching Elysse knit, I have learned that knitting is undeniably a labor of love,” Lynch wrote in an email. “It is a true craft that allows her to put her imagination to the test and create something truly spectacular, all starting from a skein of wool.”
Meredith recently embarked on a pattern outside her comfort zone: a sweater.
Just the Basics Knit Scarf
Pattern by Elysse Meredith
Materials: 6 mm needles; one ball of DK yarn
To begin, cast 25 stitches.
Row 1: Purl all stitches
Row 2: Knit two stitches together, yarn over. Repeat knitting two stiches together until only one stitch remains
Row 3: Purl all stitches
Row 4: Knit all stitches
Row 5: Purl all stitches
Repeat rows 2-5 until scarf is the desired length, then finish:
Row 6: Knit two stitches together, yarn over, repeat knitting two stitches together until only one stitch remains
Row 7: Purl all stitches
Row 8: Bind off
Weave in ends with a tapestry needle, and you’re finished.