Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Knitting with Children

Have you ever tried to teach a child to knit? 

If you're picturing it being like trying to wrangle a wet cat back into the tub, stop.  It's nowhere near as dangerous or noisy.  Or wet, for that matter.  Messy, yes.  I've seen knots created that would do the most talented sailor or Boy Scout proud.  And like so many things with children, their attention will drift in and out.  But it's fun!  And for me, it makes me appreciate the patience shown me by my grandmas and mother while I was learning to knit.

One little girl I worked with wanted to make a blanket for her Barbie doll.  This seemed like an ideal project for the 6 year old knitter.  I cast on for her, and taught her the knit stitch.  She did it for a row or two, very slowly and deliberately.  Then she decided to "invent" her own stitch.  It was hilarious, and very involved.  (As I recall, it involved taking the yarn off the needles and using fingers for a minute.) We left her original stitch in the "blanket", and went back to knit stitch for awhile.  Soon enough she was inventing again.  Goofy-ness ensued.  I never did see the finished product, but two years later, she still considers herself a knitter.  Good stuff!

I've also taught two of my three daughters to knit, and they have invented creations for their own toys, and accessories for themselves.  Both prefer yarns with glitter or metallic elements in them.  Maybe the intrepid and colorful Colleen is rubbing off on them.  Neither are devoted knitters, and I'm fine with that.  I wasn't devoted at that age, either.  They look at it as a fun thing they did.  But the fact that I learned very young gave me the confidence to go back to it over the years.  If I could do it at 7, I could surely do it at 16, ditto 18, etc.  When they want to, they can come back to it without worry.

Every time I teach anyone to knit, I learn something about them, and something about knitting.  It seems everyone's reason for wanting to learn is different.  Maybe their Grandma knits.  Or they want to create something with their own hands to give to a loved one.  Maybe they're ill, and need something creative to do while recovering from illness or surgery.  The different perspectives always move me, and remind me that knitting means something unique to the soul of each knitter.

My favorites are always the children, though.  Their creativity isn't limited by patterns, available yarn, budget, or even basic physics.  They just think in terms of "wouldn't it be cool if?"  They want to knit because they want to produce things that express themselves, much like they color with crayons and model with clay. 

I'm looking for a project where I can knit with kids.  My daughter's third grade class had a "craft day" in which I taught 15 kids to knit.  Incredibly fun!  Sticky - I think there were cupcakes involved - but fun.  Maybe a summer camp craft project.  I'll think of something.  Do you knit with kids?  In what way?  Any finished projects you'd like to share?  I'd love to see.


Gwyn said...

I tried to teach my 6 year old daughter to knit. She told me I was doing it wrong. We haven't done much since then. My 10 year old has been knitting for about a year now, she's working on a scarf for Grandma.

Elisabeth Marino said...

Even the 6 year old may come back to it. It's funny the things that become nostalgic memories. Her telling you you're doing it wrong sounds like my own daughter. I've got to say, the absolute conviction on her face when she said it still cracks me up!

f1bercat said...

I'm hoping to start both an adult group and a kids' group in my neighborhood this summer. For the kids', I plan to hang out at the pool twice a week during swimteam with needles and yarn to "check out" to interested kids. If I get any who stick with it, we have a short school day every Wed., so the club can continue during the school year. Hope it works.