Naptown Knitters: The prisoners making Super Bowl scarves
INDIANAPOLIS - Organizers of the 2012 Super Bowl want to leave a legacy for the east side of Indianapolis. There are plans to build a new facility at Arsenal Tech and revitalize the 10th Street corridor. There is also a legacy component thanks to an unlikely group of east side residents. Over the barbed wire of the Indianapolis Re-Entry Educational Facility, 350 offenders are serving time. But a few are trying something that may seem unusual for prison life.
"It's a knitting class in a prison facility," said instructor Doreen Tatnall. "We are called the Naptown Knitters. We did not know how to knit before. We are trying to create scarves for the Super Bowl. We just keep knitting until someone says stop until I think November."
Men convicted in homicides and burglaries are turning to knitting needles and yarn, creating thank-you gifts for Super Bowl volunteers.
"Especially in a place like this, I never thought this is what I would be doing," said Mark Hughes who has been in prison for four years on a robbery conviction in Carmel. "I am really doing this for myself because I've made mistakes and I want to better myself. This is a calm and peaceful thing in a place like this," added Hughes.
Hughes meets with the Naptown Knitters twice a week to create scarves.
"I think patience is the main key for good scarf," said Hughes. "We just laugh and joke and have a good time while we're doing it. This environment takes your mind off everything. While we're (knitting), it's like we're not even in here. There are a lot of things in prison that aren't very nice. When we come in here, you just forget all of that. This is very peaceful. You've got two sticks and you slide one up underneath the other one, you wrap the string around it, and you slip it through there. That's one stitch."
"The first scarves, I would call the Charlie Brown scarves. We had a few holes in them," laughed Tatnall.
James Law, in prison for 15 years for being an accessory to homicide, quietly knits at a table.
"You just take this needle and put it under this thread and pull this one around, tuck it over and pull it across," said Law. "It's better to bide your time doing things like this than sitting in front of the TV all the time. I'm a big Colts fan, so I figured I would do this for the city."
Law believes there is a common thread between his life and his first scarf, which took three months to finish.
"Probably a lot of similarities. Starting out in life with a lot of mistakes but got back on track," said Law.
"I think I've done a pretty good job. Everybody else says it's good. So, if I go by what other people say, I think it's good," said Bradley Phelps.
Many of the Naptown Knitters will still be behind bars when the Super Bowl kicks off at Lucas Oil Stadium in February, 2012. The group knits every Wednesday and Sunday evening at the prison and are required to show up. They say knitting blue and white scarves makes them feel like part of the Super Bowl organizing team.
"All of us are really close to getting out. So, this is part of our re-entry," said Law. "I know we'll be all labeled as felons, but I wanted to prove that misnomer wrong."
"I know the Super Bowl is a big thing for the city, and I won't be out there to actually be a part of that, I won't be home in time for it, but doing this, I will be a part of it because this is part of the Super Bowl, so me doing this, I will be part of it," said Hughes.