To the best of my memory, I’ve taught one or two people to knit. Back in college, I was usually in charge of teaching crochet to newcomers to our knitting group, and my friend handled the knitting. It was based on what we were comfortable with, and who showed up for the meetings.
A few days ago, I had a whole new teaching challenge – an eight year old girl.
As a gift, my cousin received knitting/crocheting kit in an adorable little basket. One set of knitting needles, one crochet hook, and six little balls of brightly colored acrylic yarn were nestled together.
I was super excited that she wanted to learn how to knit. I thought I was ready. I had an extra pair of knitting needles and a few small balls of worsted yarn so the loops would be big enough to see clearly. My plan was to follow Stephanie Pearl McPhee’s advice in Knitting Rules!, and aim for making a swatch that could later be sewn into a hat so that my knitter-to-be would have a finished project in mind that didn’t require a lot of commitment.
It was a lot harder than I thought. I think I’d forgotten how awkward it can all feel in your hands, trying to hold on to two large needles and yarn, and then do something with them. And, being the proud cousin that I am, and her being the awesome kid that she is, I thought she’d pick it up in no time and we’d be a pile of smiles and giggles.
But it was tough. It took a good deal of patience, and I had trouble balancing being laid back enough to not jump on every mistake, but also helping her get something that looked right. She wanted to zoom along when I thought she should go slow, and then was sad when her row didn’t look like mine.
To break it down, I ended up picking a few words to describe the steps, specifically aimed at where she was having trouble. We chanted “Under, Around, Through,” and eventually added “Slip Off” when she started to get the “Through” part.
Under – We had to emphasize where the right needle should go in relation to the left needle.
Around – Wrapping the yarn around the back needle, this one she was pretty good with.
Through – The challenge. The part where using one stick of wood to grab a tiny piece of yarn and magically pull it through the correct loop. This one was our biggest challenge, and it took us a while to get to…
Slip off – (okay, it’s not a one word, but she liked “slip off” better than just “slip”) Slip the old stitch off the left needle. I’m sure this one will get much better, it’s just that darned “Through!”
(I found this blog entry about teaching kids to knit, and they used “In, Around, Through, Off.” It’s a beautiful series of letters, and I highly recommend reading them even if you’re not trying to teach a kid to knit right now. http://www.gsheller.com/2011/04/teaching-children-how-to-knit-letters-to-larkspur.html )
So, after a rough attempt at knitting, and a half-start attempt at finger knitting (I forgot how to do it, and we got a couple of tangled messes!), she went home with yarn and needles, and a finger-knitting bracelet on her wrist.
And I’m hoping I get a chance to try again, because I’m so glad that my grandmother taught me how to knit. Though, I can’t remember how she did it, or how old I was. I really hope I can pass it on to my cousin, and that she’ll enjoy it too.
At what age did you learn how to knit? Who taught you? (Or did you teach yourself?)