Monday, October 15, 2012

Teaching Knitting to Children

Every summer (for the last at least 5 summers) at our camp I lead a Knitting Skills Class during our girls camps. It is the highlight of the summer for me because each girl starts off thinking that she is incapable of learning this complicated skill, only to leave a few minutes to hours later feeling like she is very capable and has achieved something most other girls her age can't do! Plus, getting to sit beside them, teach, help and talk about their lives is really the biggest advantage to knitting and teaching children to knit.

Knitting is a craft that initially seems very complex and difficult only to become easy quickly when the basics are learned, then it has the amazing ability to match you in complexity as your skill level grows!

Knitting Rocks!

Below is the method I use in teaching knitting to the 8-18 crowd. I hesitate to teach a child younger than 8 to knit for a few reason... (and trust me I have tried with my 7 year old 3 times now... and she isn't ready yet... but is a very advanced girl in most ways.)

1. I would hate to frustrate them, because it is to difficult and to cause them to decided they don't like knitting, when really they aren't yet ready.
2. Little hands have poor motor skills, and both fine and gross motor skills are needed for knitting... I think needle point or even crochet are better for younger children and help them develop the skills needed for knitting later on.
3. Knitting, as any other thing, is best done when a child shows both interest and ability to comprehend and complete it.

Additionally it is best to chose bigger needles and yarn... it makes it easier to see what you are doing and also easier to manipulate with your fingers... sort of like giving fat crayons to toddlers. Also, as pretty as they are, help your student/child to NOT choose a yarn that has nubbys, fluff, loose strings and such. It will just frustrate their attempts... Make the yarn as simple and as fat as possible.

Sorry... love this yarn... inspiration!

~ How to Teach Children to Knit ~

1. Show them the things you need to knit: two needles and yarn. Let them choose needles and yarn that appeal to their personal taste and style. We all like to look at needles and yarn and find something that sort of speaks to us and inspires us! Let them do the same... and enjoy the entire process!

2. Explain how knitting works. The basics I usually go over are...
- When you knit you are basically creating loops... that must stay on the needles.
- If the loops come off it destroys what you are creating and makes it unravel.
- When you knit you are basically transferring the loops from one needle to the other using a stitch.
- You create loops in a pattern that goes back and forth over and over again creating the length you desire.

3. Choose a fun but simple first project. I think the best is a scarf, dishrag, head band or cuff bracelet. Help them think of how big this needs to be and help them design an easy pattern for it.

4. Explain how to make a slip knot and put it on the needle.

5. Teach them how to "Cast On" using the basic knit stitch...
I know there are other methods to casting on, but I think the best is to teach them to knit straight away and since you can cast on using the entire knit process (just minus the dropping of the previous stitch) it is a perfect way to help them learn to knit and cast on. Simply follow the rhyme and stop prior to "Off jumps Jack" or where you'd take the old loop off of the left needle. ((I loath the "finger" method to cast on... really silly, if you ask me... when you can just teach one thing... knitting.))

6. Teach them the Knitting Nursery Rhyme!
I have always used this little rhyme... it has yet to fail me (can't remember where I learned it)! It is ever so helpful in teaching children to knit as it helps them connect an idea to some words that they can memorize easily.

~The Knitting Nursery Rhyme~

In through the front door. 
(Put the needle through the first loop/slip knot).

Run around the back. 
(Place the thread of yarn between the two needles by running it around the back).

Down through the window.
(Gently pull the loop and right hand needle down through the loop on the left hand side).

(Stop here for "cast on" and continue until you have as many loops as desired)

And off jumps Jack. 
(Gently drop the loop as you transfer the "new stitch" on the right needle).

7. Remind them of these knitting basics...
- Keep your hands and fingers up on the stitch you are currently working on (not down low on the needles like some beginners tend to do).
- Teach them how to hold the stitch they are working on and to control the loose yarn with their right hands (even if they are left handed).
- Don't let your loops/stitches become too tight, as this will break the yarn and make it hard to put your needle in the stitches.
- Don't let your loops/stitches become too loose as this creates uneven work and dropped stitches.
- Count your stitches at the end of each row to make sure you didn't drop any or create extras.
- If you are getting extra stitches it is usually because at the end of the row you are pulling the loose yarn upward and that makes it appear like their are two stitches instead of just one.
- When they are ready teach them to cast off... by knitting two, passing the first one over the second until the end.
- Show them how to correctly finish their piece of work by tying it off and weaving the loose end into the work with a needle or crochet hook.

8. Show them. Watch them. Show them again. Let them.
This is where relationships grow. Be patient. Just keep showing them over and over. If they are frustrated and want to stop, let them... or say, "Why don't you give your hands a break and just watch me for awhile..." You can even hold their hands and do it with/for them.

9. Give feed back and encouragement!
Undoubtedly if your student/child is over the age of 11 or 12 the first thing that will come out of their mouth about their work will be negative. When I hear this I always say, "Oh, wow! Are you serious!?! When I first started my work/piece looked exactly like that... everyone has to start somewhere. It will get better them more you try. I think you are doing an amazing job for only just learning!"

Knit On!

And if you were wondering who took that amazing photograph 
of my daughter (still pre-knitter) please check out Amy Brothers
She is an artist with her camera lens and knitting needles too!


Julianna said...

We been Knitting here to. I still need to learn :), someday.

Cheryl said...

I'm teaching a group of children (for the first time) on how to knit tomorrow. I just happened to find your article and I just wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed it! Thank you for posting. :)