The Bright Side of Playing with Your Food

Alex holding up the Preserve sock with a bunch of students in the background doing stamp art

When asked by Michelle, our guru marketing designer, if I would be interested in taking part in an art project to celebrate our Knit to Give program with local students, I was initially hesitant, only because I have had very little exposure around kids in my adult life.

But then, I realized the students I would be working with are the same age I was when I was introduced to art and had discovered that I was artistic. I have a very vivid memory of being in kindergarten and asked to draw and color a giraffe. Mine was so good that my piece of art was displayed in the school hallway.

Designing the Preserve

Launched earlier this year, Knit to Give is our commitment to release socks on where all profits support the Vermont Foodbank. These socks feature unique designs inspired by the Foodbank’s work.

For Fall 2022, the new Knit to Give sock is the Preserve, a design featuring the age-old food preservation endeavor, canning. For inspiration designing this sock, I looked at Mary Azarian’s ‘Canning’ and ‘From the Kitchen Garden’ art prints for veggies.

Preserve knit to give sock next to drying stacks of artwork

Her work used beans and peppers, and I threw in some of Product Developments favorite veggie snacks. Pickles for our design manager, carrots for our product line manager, and beets for myself. On the upper leg we have ‘Knit to Give’ name stitched into the labels of the jars.

The Students of Northfield

To celebrate the launch of the Preserve sock, we wanted to find a local artist(s) to create an artistic interpretation of the sock. We had the privilege of working with a local barn quilt artist for the Barnyard design.

Art supplies for food stamping laid out on the table, including paper, paints, and vegetables

For the Preserve, we couldn’t think of any better artists than the students in town at Northfield Elementary School, with the medium of fruit and vegetable block prints. Prints are a fun way to explore different textures and patterns, and to create them you cut fruit and vegetables in half (or minced into a million pieces) and stamp with paint.

When each K-2 class came in, they were told there were special guests from Darn Tough helping with an art project. Many students told us someone they know who works at Darn Tough. It was adorable to see how proud the kids were to say their mom/dad/uncle/neighbor works here.

Child rolling corn cob in paint

One youngster, after sharing who his dad is and asking what our names were, declared that his dad knows us and talks about us all the time. This kid is already the mayor of Northfield.

Stamping & Expression

After introductions, we talked about how this sock will support the Vermont Foodbank to help feed hungry Vermonters. I held out the Preserve sock to them and pointed out the veggies in the jars - onions, beets, peppers. Some of these same vegetables and more were on each table.

Student pressing onion onto paper to create a cool texture

Michelle encouraged the students how art can be a way to express yourself when you don’t have the words to describe your big feelings. 

“Think about how that makes you feel, let that encourage your creativity on how you will stamp veggies onto the paper and canvas, think about the people you will help give a meal to.”

From there, we invited them to begin selecting vegetables and fruits and begin stamping.

A New Perspective

Reflecting on my experience helping the art class for Knit to Give, I came out of it with a new perspective on being around kids and how a design of mine could inspire and affect the Vermont community.

Kids are highly creative, regardless of if it’s shown on a piece of canvas or how they think. Some kids were very knowledgeable on what color to mix with another to make a new color. Others could not resist the urge to just dive their hands into the paint and squish it all around to finger paint.

Student holding up his finished artwork - gold star

From time-to-time, Michelle and I would look at each other totally impressed when we thought students would cut a vegetable one way and they ended up dicing them and making a more unique texture block.

Student rolling paint from corn onto the paper to create a cool texture and paint design

One thing that took me by surprise (I learned something new) was a kid who took an orange, squeezed the juice into the paint, and made a watercolor paste. Although mixing paints and turning them into watercolors was not the assignment, it was especially neat to see how their creative minds work.

The Preserves socks on the table next to student's artwork and cut vegetables

I also realized anew how powerful ‘Knit to Give’ is. This is by far the biggest program I have been a part of, creating a design that will be knit into a sock that helps people in need and using overstock yarn that needed to be given a new life.

Thank You

Alex and Michelle holding up some of the artwork from the art class for knit to give

We would like to thank Principal Russell and the art teacher, Ashley Torrez, at Northfield Elementary for sharing their students with us to do this fun art project with them. We can’t wait to come back and paint with them again.

About the Author

Alex McClain is a Catskills 3500 peak completionist, Long Path End-to-Ender, Trail Maintainer and Product Designer for Darn Tough Vermont. She enjoys hiking, peak-bagging, and birding. Her favorite socks are the Luna Micro Crew.