Almost a month ago, I spent the week teaching a beginning knitting class to a group of 10 school-aged girls (ages 7-11). I couldn’t wait to see what would happen. I’ve taught people to knit before (but always grown-ups), and I’ve taught kids before (I teach sewing lessons as my day-job). But, this would be an interesting new experience. I was excited, but also oddly nervous. Would they be able to do it? Would they like it? Would they get too frustrated?
Here are some things that I learned:
1. Fine motor skills are definitely needed for knitting. I don’t think any of the girls under 8 really “got” knitting, which is too bad. I just hope they remember that knitting is fun, the next time they try it. It also makes me wonder about those stories you hear of girls in Ye-Olden-Times, who learned to knit at the age of 4 to help their mothers with keeping the family clothed. Maybe olden-time-y girls had better dexterity, but that seems unlikely.
2. Focus isn’t really a problem, when the kids are excited about what they’re making. My girls complained and whined when they had to leave class for recess! It kind of made my day to hear them all go, “Just let me finish this row!”
3. Except when focus is a problem. Sometimes the chatting got a little too much for the girls, and that’s when they’d start adding extra stitches, dropping stitches and otherwise causing themselves problems. But that’s not really a kid problem. Everyone messes up their knitting when they get distracted.
4. Nothing is better than when a difficult, new skill “clicks” with a kid. They get all excited and giggly and proud. One girl had never picked up knitting needles at the beginning of the week. Her first project was more hole than knitting, and her second project looked sort-of like knitting, albeit a little wonky. But halfway through her third project, you could actually look at her knitting and see the row where she finally figured out knitting. It was amazing. She got so excited, and told me that she had even gone to JoAnn’s the night before to pick out her first pair of knitting needles and her first ball of yarn.
5. Knitting is a slow process, and sometimes kids need someone to push them a little bit. I didn’t force anyone to work on a project that they didn’t want to do, but there were definitely a couple times when one of my girls wanted to stop halfway through a project, and I gently suggested that they kept going. Once they got back in the swing of things, they’d invariably finish the project. When kids are used to instant-gratification, working on a single project for a whole day (or two or three), can be a test of their patience.
6. The best part of knitting, whether you are a kid or a grown-up, is sitting around with your friends and shooting the shit. I ran my class like a knitting circle, helping one kid at a time with their projects, while everyone chatted. I had a few super-basic projects for everyone to start with (a garter-stitch book mark, a garter-stitch headband, a garter-stitch bracelet…see a pattern?). But, everyone worked on their favorite pattern at their own speed, chatting and helping each other out.
I hope that I sparked at least a couple of the girls to take up needles and do some knitting on their own. But even if they never knit again, I think everyone had a fun week, and at least walked away from class thinking that knitting is pretty neat.