Vijay Shivnani, a 13-year-old student at Renner Middle School in Plano, donated over 40 handcrafted beanies to charity. The 8th grader picked up knitting during the COVID-19 pandemic and has been working on this project since March.
Shivnani decided to start the project to put the skills he’s developed to good use by helping others. “I believe if you find an activity you enjoy, you owe it to that activity to pass it on,” Shivnani tells Local Profile. “I have taught almost all of my family how to knit.” These skills were used to make beanies for premature babies and even transferred to Shivnani’s other interest, robots.
This all started with only four balls of yarn, a round loom, a hook, a needle, online tutorials and lots of determination. “Knitting seems an ambitious task to tackle at first, which is why some don’t even try, but it is actually quite simple to learn,” he adds.
After some initial troubleshooting, knitting became easier and easier and now it only takes Shivnani a little over an hour to get one beanie ready because he knits miniature beanies intended for preemie babies. “If someone wanted to knit beanies for an adult head, the loom would have more pegs and as a result, take longer,” he says.
According to Shivnani, he also used his knitting skills for another hobby he started during the lockdown: robotics. “I will apply the patience I grasped from knitting in robotics, making sure to carefully assemble the robot instead of rushing through it.”
When the lockdowns began, Shivnani was in 6th grade taking remote classes for school and joined the FLL (First Lego League) a robotics team at RMS. When the school moved back in person the next year he was elected captain of the team and took the responsibility of assembling and testing the robot. Here’s where all that knitting patience paid off! He says,“It is very similar to the patience required when troubleshooting with the robot.”
Now, two years later, Shivnani has moved from the Lego robots to larger robots with frames, gears and nails at the First Tech Challenge (FTC) and even co-created the curriculum at the FTC’s summer camp at RMS. “When the FTC teacher sponsor offered me a spot to teach I couldn’t pass it up,” he says.
Here, knitting wasn’t just another thing Shivnani added to his calendar, it actually helped to keep up with all his activities. “Lots of kids, including myself, are busy nowadays, but setting some time aside to knit is a great way to ease the stress,” he says, adding, “It gave me a chance to breathe and let my mind wander where it wanted to.”
In case you want to learn how to knit, Plano's Public Library has a knitters club you could join.