Leenah Abojaib uses digital media to learn hands-on skills.

Leenah Abojaib / Photo by Tommy LaVergne

With the growing availability of inexpensive, mass-produced items from big-box stores and online retailers, some might assume that handmade goods are falling by the wayside. To the contrary — digital resources such as YouTube tutorials make learning new skills easier and more accessible than ever. In fact, that’s how sophomore biochemistry major Leenah Abojaib learned multiple crafts.

In 2014, while watching YouTube videos for a different do-it-yourself project, she was reminded of a tool — the crochet hook — that would spark a whole new passion. “My aunt gave me a crochet kit,” Abojaib recalled. “I forgot about it for a whole year. And then when I heard the word ‘crochet’ again, I thought I might as well try that in more depth.” She grabbed her supplies and began searching for tutorials on YouTube. “My first project was a super little, very uneven and asymmetrical flower,” she laughed.

Crocheting / Photo by Tommy LaVergne

The art of crochet uses a single hook to interlock loops of yarn, resulting in a fabric that can be used in different ways depending on the type of stitch and yarn chosen. Knitting, on the other hand, uses a pair of needles to manipulate yarn. There are different types of knitting needles, including straight, circular and double-pointed needles.

Knitting / Photo by Tommy LaVergne

In 2017, Abojaib expanded her fiber arts horizon even further. “My AP English teacher had an informal knitting club. I used to come there every Friday morning and crochet, but then I would see everybody else knitting,” she said. This sparked her crafty instincts and, once again, she turned to YouTube — but not without some creative flair. “I had yarn already, but I didn’t have knitting needles, so I got two pencils and started using them as straight needles. It did the job.”

Abojaib has since upgraded her tools and actively enjoys both crafts. But crochet in particular, she said, holds a special place in her heart because she learned it first, but it’s also sentimental. Originally from Syria, Abojaib grew up in Saudi Arabia and moved to Minneapolis in 2016 before coming to Rice. “In Saudi Arabia, we didn’t have a lot of outdoor activities because it was so hot. So whenever I wanted to do anything productive or interesting, I would just crochet and watch a movie. I have a lot of good memories with crochet.”

For Abojaib, yarn crafts provide an opportunity to take time for herself — but it’s about others, too. “This hobby brings me closer to family and other people,” she said. “When I make a gift for someone, they feel more appreciated.”