One of my aims for half-term was to teach Zebra-girl to knit. I was slightly apprehensive about this project as I am not a good knitter - my tension is always wrong, and I always leave projects half-finished...but I did really enjoy it as a child, I just seem to have lost that skill along the way somewhere. When I was small all of the mummies would come into the tiny village school that I attended and we'd sit around in little knitting circles and create small coloured squares that were eventually sewn together into large blankets for the PDSA to keep donkeys warm (it used to be the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals...but I see that it has now morphed into 'Pets in Need of Vets'). This really caught my imagination and as the grown-ups chattered I would excitedly think about the soft grey poorly donkey that might be warmed by my holey square. Once the donkey-project ended (well, maybe it carried on, but we moved to Australia at that point) I don't remember knitting again until I was about 10 years old, when I suddenly became quite prolific in the manufacture of knitted glove puppets and I remember being particularly delighted by the creation of a grey elephant with a tubular trunk shooting out of his face.
So, with all this in mind, I thought it was essential that my little Zebra be taught (I told my mother that it had the potentially added bonus of her being able to make me all the clothes that I want, but lack the ability to knit once she is older...she said that sounded like I had 'sweat shop' intentions for her. Oh dear, how easily one's ideas can be misconstrued....).
Zebra-girl is very gratifying to make things with as she is always so enthusiastic and her excitement had her leaping round the house when she saw the wool that I'd chosen for her. We decided to make a blanket for her bear. Never having taught someone to knit before, I don't know whether she was slow or quick to pick it up, but I felt surprised and delighted that by the sixth row she was able to hold it all by herself and knit away, slowly but steadily. So...I thought just in case anyone else is thinking of teaching their small ones, I might make a list of things that we found helpful (not least finding the most wonderfully knowledgeable lady in my local yarn shop).
- When I was initially trying to teach the steps that form each stitch we found the best way of sitting was in a little boat so that I was directly behind her and able to hold her hands to guide her through the actions.
- I gradually reduced the amount of steering that my hands were doing on hers, until eventually they were just there to give her confidence, by the sixth row she didn't need them there at all....and we could return to sitting normally.
- For various reasons I think a thick yarn is good to start with: the bulk of it helps the child see progress being made more quickly, it's less fiddly and the inevitable holey bits can be fluffed over slightly more.
- But even though I chose a thick yarn I tried also to pick one where the strands didn't divide up too easily (not entirely successful).
- I chose a wool that has a graduated colour...this really made a difference to persevering - Ours blended gradually from pink, to red, to orange and Zebra was so desperate to get to the orange bit that this became almost as exciting as the prospect of the actual item being completed.
- I bought children's knitting needles - they are a little shorter, and have a nice character on the top.
But what have I unleashed? Some sort of knitting addict. My little one can barely stop to eat she loves knitting so much. We have been teasing her that by the end of the week she may have created a giant knitted tea cosy to go over the top of our entire house. She giggles at this and carries on clickety-clicking.
This morning we sat in bed knitting next to one another (which seems wonderfully companiable and grown-up) and she suddenly exclaimed 'it's so funny, I actually look like a real old person knitting when you look down at my hands. I'm just like an old lady!' - she was so delighted by this that one can only assume that she has no issues with the aging process.
Below is a picture of her progress so far - you'll see she has gained a few stitches along the way...but the blanket could probably have done with being a little wider, so we'll look on that as a bonus. She went to bed an hour later than usual tonight and 'just one more row' has quickly become a familiar phrase.It would appear that in the last fortnight my crafting posts have been mainly child-centred...I've been feeling oddly unenthusiastic about any of my own projects. I have stacks (literally) of wonderful fabrics waiting to be turned into lovely things...but nothing seems to be getting made. But I do have a determination not to rename my blog 'crafting with mother'....so I must sew my way out of this rut!