Thursday, 9 July 2015

Knitting and Crochet Lessons: A Skill for Life

When should a child start?
A child is never to young to start learning to create something useful from yarn.

Although I was shown intermittently how to do basic knitting if I asked when about 10 years old, I largely taught myself as an adult and find it, along with being able to sew, a basic life essential.

If you have a child with only a little patience, they can get worked up very easily trying a new fiddly skill like this.  One of my children was getting very panicked and annoyed until I realised it was because she thought dropping the yarn - not a stitch - just simply not grasping hold of the end when about to wind it around the needle, was proof of her failure and the difficulty of the craft.  Explaining that there was no need to panic, that we are taking our time, enjoying learning, and that I even drop stitches and sometimes have to backtrack and mend my work (particularly when hurrying or tired!) seemed to help.  She is now quite determined to master it.

Why should I teach my children how to knit/crochet?
It is a great activity for them on rainy days, or for cold dark evenings before bed.  One of my daughters (the same daughter as above who struggled with being patient and calm initially) takes hers to a dancing class for working on during rest periods.  It encourages a practical hobby which allows them to feel success and achievement, building their confidence.

Friendship bracelets, then later blankets and cushion covers or more complex creations, can make lovely handmade gifts for family and friends that are affordable and yet full of effort and thought as you can tailor them for the recipient's style/taste.

It also gives them a skill to aid them in self-sufficiency: in adulthood they will be able to create clothes and blankets for themselves and their family for a more affordable cost than buying them made.  They will also be able to offer warmth and care to others who do not have this skill and are in shelters, refuges and care homes, or are living on the street, or to the elderly people struggling to get by in the winter, or to those abroad suffering disasters and disease.

How should I teach my children how to knit/crochet?

By doing!  If you wish to buy child-size needles, go for decent ones rather than the flimsy plastic ones - they slip against each other and make it more difficult to knit than it should be.  I find once the children around about 7, they can handle proper knitting needles well.  Before that, I taught them how to chain and basic single stich crochet as crochet hooks are smaller and easier to manage.   Show by leading them stitch-by-stitch and be prepared to do this for a while for the youngest ones.  I often have to go behind one of the children and work on it in front of them so they can fully see a stich being worked, then let them try while you guide from the bottom of the needles if you need to.  I find kids pick it up pretty well this way, just be prepared to have to come back and refresh each time they panic they dropped a stitch or get tangled in wool.

What should we work on?
The little ones doing simple chains and single crochet can work on making friendship bracelets- I found this is a very popular activity, and even the older children enjoy it.  They enjoy giving these as gifts.

A good project is to have each child knit or crochet a square to be sewn into a blanket.  This, as it is likely full of dropped stiches, wonky edges and holes, is nice to keep as a throw in your family room or give to a grandparent who might appreciate their hard work.

Then what?
Once they have mastered simple squares, they must keep up practice.  Continue to knit squares and research a charity you would like to donate to - some charities that collect squares include: - this includes patterns on making creations from your squares, so you could sew them up into a dressing gown for example - blankets for AIDS orphans in South Africa - these blankets will be sold at festivals by Oxfam in order to use the sales for the charity
You could also offer sewn up blankets to local care homes or to projects for local vulnerable people in autumn time ready for the cold period.

Other stitches
As you knit the squares, you can introduce other stitches to adorn them.  Once these stiches are mastered, then a pattern for a cardigan or jumper can be followed with ease.  Most patterns you find, including free ones on the internet, are marked with their level of ease or difficulty, so that the children can build up their skill.

What if I can't knit/crochet?
Then see all of the above and apply it to yourself.  There are tons of basic tutorials on YouTube.  If you prefer being taught in person, you can ring your local library who will hold details of community groups so you can go along to a knitting group; the knitters are usually glad to help beginners! 

Do you instruct your kids in knitting/crochet and what do you create together?

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