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Gretchen Kessler, an OU alumna, knits and sells scarves to fund her travels around Europe. (Provided via Gretchen Kessler). 

Ohio University alumna sells homemade scarves to travel in Europe

An Ohio University alumna has funded her travels through a lifelong passion — knitting.

Gretchen Kessler, who graduated from OU in 2015 with a dual major in video production and theater production, decided to use yarn she bought from the cities she traveled to in order to make scarves that funded her travels throughout Europe.

Kessler started “The Wandering Yarn Project” a few months ago to help fund her traveling. It only takes two to three scarves for Kessler to pay for transportation and to stay in a hostel.

She sells the scarves at about 25 to 30 Euros, which is $26.41 to $31.69 a piece as of press time, depending on how much the yarn costs. She uses a personal website as one medium to reach people interested in her scarves. 

“I thought to myself, ‘I love creating, and I love traveling. Wouldn't it be cool if I could combine the two?’” Kessler said in an email.

She learned how to knit from her mother and would knit in class in fifth grade. She would bring knitting needles to school because she would fidget too much.

Along with sending the scarf to each buyer, Kessler sends a story along with it.

“Each scarf tells a story, and I send that story to the customer along with their item, so they know where I bought the yarn, where I knitted it, and what I was looking at or who I was speaking to,” Kessler said in an email.

Emily Forrester, a longtime friend of Kessler and an OU alumna, also knits often. The two would occasionally attend a knitting club together before they graduated, Kessler said.

“(Knitting) is an easy way to kill time when you’re traveling,” Forrester said.

Kessler has used yarn from Wales, Germany, Iceland and Ireland so far. Most of the yarn that she uses is from smaller, local shops.

“Sometimes I'm weak and can't resist a really beautiful yarn in the window of bigger craft shops, but I really delight in finding the hole-in-the-wall shops,” Kessler said in an email.

The average yarn that Kessler buys is 4 to 5 Euros, or $4.23 to $5.28. She also occasionally purchases handspun and hand-dyed yarn, which costs more.

Kessler has recently finished a set of Harry Potter-themed scarves, which include the house crests. She has a company laser-print them onto leather and then she sews them on. Kessler is thinking about starting a Game of Thrones series with family crests, also.

“They also give me something to do, because those long bus rides — albeit accompanied by amazing scenery — can be a little trying when you're as restless as I am,” Kessler said in an email.

Kessler’s latest project is creating OU-themed scarves. Her goal is to sell enough so she can come back for Homecoming this coming fall.

She is still using locally-bought yarn but adding a paw-print to the scarves to make them OU-themed.

“It’s kind of a neat way to capture the travels as you go through different countries,” Forrester said.


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