Just Knit It!

SNR's Laura Hertel relaxes with crafty hobbies

Hertel shows off a knitted triangular scarf.Laura shows off a knitted triangular scarf.

A few days ago, Laura Hertel asked her husband if they could buy a sheep.

Although she was (mostly) kidding, the wool from that hypothetical sheep would be put to good use. Laura has been knitting for years, and recently took a class in felting – which she loved – which has then led to interest in needle felting.

“It’s really relaxing,” Laura said of her creative hobbies. “I fall asleep easily so I try to keep busy while watching TV. If it has a needle, I enjoy it!”

Her mother knitted and sewed and Laura said she’s also enjoyed those activities. Laura only had knitted simple scarves until about 10 years ago, when she began to branch out into other more elaborate projects like hats, baby booties, bibs, stuffed animals and more.

“I was determined to follow a pattern,” she said. Watching tutorials on YouTube taught her how to go beyond a rectangular scarf.

A felted bowl, created by Laura.A felted bowl, created by Laura.

She enjoys gifting her creations to friends and alumni of the School of Natural Resources, where she is the coordinator of student services. Many new babies of her former students have enjoyed her projects.

One of her favorite stories about her hobby was the day an alumni, who works for the Home Shopping Network, had her personal diaper bag shown on-air – with an elephant Laura had knitted sticking out of the side of the bag.

“My elephant was on national TV!” Laura said.

Felting was a natural next step to knitting. Felting is essentially creating a knitted piece a bit larger than usual, and then washed to shrink the fibers. The result is a beautiful blending of colors of the yarn – almost like watercolor.

Laura said there’s another bonus to this type of work: “The best part of felting is the mistakes wash away,” she said. When pieces are felted you can no longer see the individual stitches.

Her advice to others looking to get into these relaxing, creative hobbies is to find someone to teach you one-on-one.

Laura shows the original yarn skein and a felted piece. Note how the colors become almost watercolor-like when felted.Laura shows the original yarn skein and a felted piece. Note how the colors become almost watercolor-like when felted.

“Find other people who like it,” she said. Many yarn stores offer knitting groups, for example.

But this hobby also comes with a warning:

“You get hooked on buying yarn,” Laura said. “I don’t even know what I want to make most of the time!”