Rugs, blankets, halter tops. These are just a few of the things that come out of The Bronx School of Law and Finance’s after-school crochet club.
The brainchild of Lisa Rocco, the popularity of her crochet class at the John F. Kennedy Campus on Terrace View Avenue convinced the teacher to offer something more after-hours.
But if one thinks this kind of needlework is exclusive only with girls are behind the times. In fact, the boys at Law and Finance are shutting down gender stereotypes, one cool headband at a time, starting with Nathan Cruz, a linebacker on the Knights football team. The crochet club gives him a chance to connect with his grandmother, who enjoys the creative art as well.
“When I told her I was learning crochet, she got super excited,” the junior said. “She lit up and she pulled out all her little projects. She showed me pictures of the things she made for us when we were babies.”
The two now crochet together. “I like it because she’s alone most of the time, so she looks forward to it. And it’s a way for us to have fun.”
Balls of yarn are just the beginning of crochet club. As a new student at the school, Isis Jimenez found herself making new friends through the club. Others, like Victoria Hernandez, says the exercise helps with her anxiety.
“I would get really stressed about it,” Hernandez said of the various pressures the high-schoolers face, like Advanced Placement courses. “But then I would come here and it would just calm me down. I just started my scarf, so I was practicing first and then I would be on the train practicing.”
Crochet uses a looping method with a hooked needle to create a fabric with yarn. So far, Cesar Reyes has created a headband, an infinity scarf and a rug. When Reyes gave the scarf to his mother, she cried. Although he normally focuses on the abstract, it was the junior’s love for art that brought him to the club.
Not only does crochet stretch Reyes’ mind artistically, but it also exercises the wide receiver’s hands. For those afraid of joining the class because of what people might think, Reyes suggests stopping by anyway.
“Just give it one shot,” the football player said. “Sit down, even if it’s just for practice and see how you feel. If it makes you feel good, why not?”
In the beginning, Reyes and Cruz turned crochet into a competition to motivate them to work harder. Being masculine means something different to everyone, but when it comes to crochet, Cruz said, it doesn’t diminish anything.
“Being a man means standing up for what you care for and what you like, and who you are,” he said.
Cruz’s grandmother wasn’t able to pass down her crochet knowledge to her daughters, but Cruz is proud to show her what he’s learned from Rocco. Even when patterns were perfect, in the beginning, Rocco would pull apart the creations so the club members could get even more practice. Although frustrating, the students found purpose in her methods.
“We would just sit here and be like, ‘I worked on that,’” Reyes said, laughing. “But it was really satisfying to go to her and be like, ‘Miss, look, I did one row today. Oh, Miss, I did three rows today.’ And then, ‘Look, Miss, I finished.’ That helps a lot because it makes you want to come back and finish.”
Cruz, the perfectionist, says he’s willing to pull out two rows of work if it’s not right. Hernandez plans to make a blanket, and Cruz is constantly looking up new stitches online to challenge himself.
Even those club members not wearing helmets on the gridiron push to improve themselves. Isaac Serrano is close to completing an impressive pink-and-white scarf, but he wasn’t always working at this level.
“At first it was horrible,” the junior said. “So yeah, like at first I hated it, because it was like I was bored. I didn’t find it as fun as the other kids. But eventually I had to sit down and I started, and it turned out to be a good outcome. It’s really fun and I highly recommend it.”
It took Serrano three months to “get it.” Through the club, he learned the importance of taking his time and focusing.
Rocco is happy to pass this tradition down to a new generation.
“When Nathan told me about his grandmother, I think that’s what actually being masculine is,” Rocco said. “He’s spending time with his family. He’s taking care of his grandmother. It’s a shared experience that she probably never would have thought she would experience with a guy.
“Honestly, this is something amazing to share together.”