Knitting teacher spreads art one stitch at a time


Praveena Somasundaram

While waiting for students to arrive at her knitting class, Carol Phillips, a resident of Jamestown and knitter for 50 years, works on her latest creation, a lace blue shawl, at the Hemphill Branch Library. Photo by Praveena Somasundaram/The Guilfordian

Name an article of clothing, from a lace dress to a Doctor Who-inspired scarf, and Jamestown resident Carol Phillips has probably knitted it at some point in her life.

Originally from New Orleans, Phillips has been teaching knitting at the Hemphill Branch Library in Greensboro for about 10 years, but her learning of the craft began much earlier in her life.

“(I’ve been knitting for) something over 50 years,” said Phillips. “I found my grandmother’s knitting needles and decided I wanted to knit, and my mother couldn’t teach me so I bought a little book and taught myself.”

Although Phillips admires the various knitting projects she has completed over the years, the process itself is of more value to her.

“I don’t know if I have a favorite piece,” said Phillips. “My favorite part is the process, just using the stitches to create something.”

Phillips and her husband decided to relocate to Jamestown, North Carolina after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, where they had previously lived. Although now retired, Phillips served the Greensboro and High Point areas as an occupational therapist with a focus on pediatrics.

This career taught Phillips about working with children, a skill set that became useful as she started teaching knitting every Friday at the Hemphill Branch Library.

“(When teaching) … you always learn new ways to create,” said Phillips. “I guess the thing you learn, which you learn when you work with children anyway, is just to be patient and expect the unexpected.”

However, in recent years, Phillips’ classes have catered to people of many different ages who want to learn how to knit.

“Children who were active (in class) have grown up, and there are a lot of things going on nowadays and children don’t have as much time,” said Phillips. “And their parents don’t bring them to the library as much.

“But I don’t just teach children anymore, I teach anybody.”

When individuals attend Friday classes to learn from Phillips, the yarn and knitting needles are provided, and students can keep their final products. Yarn is often donated by Greensboro residents to use for Phillips’ classes.

Often times, people become interested in attending the knitting classes after chance encounters with Phillips when she knits in public places.

“I always have (a project) with me,” said Phillips. “What usually happens is, or what often happens is, I am knitting somewhere … and somebody will come up and say, ‘Oh, what are you doing?’

“And I sit there and I explain it, and I show them how it works … They may ask if I can teach them how to do it.”

Phillips appreciates that her classes and students give her the opportunity to teach others about the art form she has practiced for so long.

“I guess the big thing for me is enjoying passing on an art,” said Phillips. “I don’t consider it as a job. I know years ago … this was how they made clothing and stuff like that, but to me, it’s my art and I express myself through that.”