If you’re trying to keep your campus connected during a pandemic, it doesn’t hurt to have a master knitter on hand. Enter Margot Hanson, officially a librarian at Cal Maritime but with a special talent with needles and yarn. Since the fall, she, along with Makerspace technician Erin Cole and Community Engagement coordinator JoEllen Myslik have gathered interested community members over Zoom for “Fiber Fridays” and taught them to knit. Their goal—create knitted items they could donate for the Christmas at Sea/Knitting for Mariners project. 

Freshman MacKenzie Finck tuned in most Fridays for the sessions from Eureka, CA. The global studies and maritime affairs major had no experience knitting but was craving a way to connect to the campus since she was studying virtually. “I met a lot of cool people this way and since I wasn’t on campus and don’t know many people this really helped me,” she said. 

Plus she had a goal—finish a navy blue knitted scarf by December. She enjoyed knowing that someone might find comfort in something she created. “It’s been hard to do something beneficial for someone other than me during Covid,” she observed. “This was one small way I could do that.” 

Back at Cal Maritime the team had realized that they’d need to support their knitters by sending supplies. So everyone who participated in Fiber Fridays received a packet of needles, yarn, and a pattern in the mail. “We wanted to make it easy for everyone” said Myslik. “We even let them choose what color yarn they wanted.” 

The group started each session with a lesson by Hanson and spent the second half of the Zoom call just chatting and knitting. “We had 15 staff members, cadets, and faculty take part in this activity during the fall,” said Myslik. “It really was a success.” 

In mid-December Hanson and Myslik took their special delivery to the International Maritime Center in Oakland. In addition to the output of the Fiber Fridays group’s bags and scarves, they had a special bonus. Dolores Walp, a member of the knitting group at the Florence Douglas Senior Center in Vallejo had knitted two big bags of warm hats for the project. “Big shoutout to Dolores Walp—she is amazing,” Myslik announced on Facebook along with the photos of the overflowing bags. 

Clergy at the Seaman’s Church Institute will be delivering ditty bags during the holidays to mariners on ships in the Port of Oakland over the next two weeks. In addition to items like toiletries and playing cards, the mariners will each receive one of the knitted items. Many mariners can’t go home for the holidays under normal circumstances, and this year, it’s out of the question. 

That’s what kept MacKenzie Finck knitting all fall. 

“It warms my heart to know I have the opportunity to make people feel good even if I’m not there in person,” she explained.  “It still feels really good.” 

Established in 1929, California State University Maritime Academy is the only degree-granting maritime academy on the West Coast. Located in Vallejo, California, the campus serves nearly 1,000 students and offers undergraduate degrees preparing students for careers in engineering, transportation, international relations, business, and global logistics. The new oceanography degree program launched in the fall of 2020. Cal Maritime also offers a master’s degree in Transportation and Engineering Management, as well as a number of extended learning programs and courses.