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Archive for July 17th, 2007

Summer CityKidz Knit!

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

I am about half way through my special summer edition of CityKidz Knit! program at Foster Community Center. I have 13 kids, three of them boys, four of whom I’d not met before this session. Usually this program is a “walk in” program during the school year but after a summer when I had 23 kids who had never knit before and 45 minutes to teach them, I quit summer program for 2 years.

This year my boss lured me back by allowing me to set boundaries about the number of kids and she let me keep the same enrollment list all summer. This means I am having some excellent progress with the kids.

citykidz0707longfingerknit.jpgLast week I had kids knitting small rectangles and felting them by hand in soapy water, sitting on the floor with the lid from a rubbermaid bin which I made into an impromptu felting/shrinking station. I had three kids there most of the two-hour session.

At the end they were surprised that the water looked somewhat dirty. I reminded them that wool is a natural product and that sheep live in fields. They understood after my explanation. This is good information for a city kid to think about.

This week I wore a dress from Ethiopia to the center, because I had a musical performance right after work and the dress was the right kind of formal for the musical occasion. One girl had not heard of Ethiopia but had heard of Africa (these are young elementary-aged kids for the most part).

I keep a wall map of the world, so we walked over there and talked about different countries, and how HUGE Africa is next to the United States… how Africa is not a country but a continent.

How Egypt is in Africa even though it also is a mideastern country and also a Mediterranean country. How when I was in Egypt I saw very old gravestones that were marked in Greek. I showed them Kenya as well, because that was the other country I visited when I went on my trip. Most of the kids had heard of Kenya before (I’m sure they see wild animals from Kenya on TV, if nothing else). They also learned that Nairobi is a city, the capital of Kenya, and not a country (as I had once thought).

I love teaching the kids about places outside their world. This is a very international part of the city where the Foster Center is located, so it’s pretty wonderful to wake up about our neighbors, on our block or on our earth. Let’s face it, so many of us have roots outside of North America (and sometimes we talk about that in knitting class as well, for example I’m Norwegian and we have talked about Norwegian mittens… and when we got a donation of Icelandic wool we learned about that as well).

Lucky for us, restaurants in Lansing now can teach us a bit about the world outside our corner, (at least two of my regulars like to eat at Altu’s Ethiopian restaurant). Also in my case my wardrobe is full of things from other parts of the world, mostly parts of Africa and India.

After all, knitting is culture, it is Folk Art, it is textiles and science (felting) and math (how many stitches should I cast on). I love rolling it all into one… because life is a combination of learning curves and we need to use what we have learned in different combinations, every day.

OK, end of that train of thought for now.

The kids want me to thank everyone out there who has donated supplies to their program. They understand that all the supplies in the room came from you (my knitting friends, local and internet). A huge huge thanks in particular to one Person who lives in the Washington DC area, who has sent box after box after incredible box of very special yarns.

There has been an abundance of luxury in the last several months for these kids, many of whom do not have the resources to have things this special, at least not often. We’ve had small-producer handpainted yarns and Colinette and much Rowan, for example.

The dozen or more balls of Rowan Biggy Print went home with my most accomplished knitter. She first wanted to felt it into a rug, but once she made it up, she decided it was a superb lap blanket and will not be felting it after all. Yes, she really does know how special this rug/blanket really is. I keep requesting a photo or for her to bring it in. We’ll see if I can get that to happen.

I also had a swift and ball winder donated to the program! Of course it is a tool for using in only certain instances. I do not allow playing with tools other than using them for their proper use. It is no surprise, then, that all the yarn that came in twisted hanks (the kind which requires winding into a ball before knitting) is all gone. Not a hank left in the room!!!

One boy was so in love with the tools that he had a very hard time keeping his hands off them after all the yarn was wound. He learned how serious I am about boundaries, although I was sure to tell him how much I like *him* even when I don’t like his actions. Not to worry, I have yet a few more hanks that were donated which ended up in the trunk of my car for a little too long. He will be put to work winding that yarn when he returns next week.

Another of my boys was a late addition to the program. He is the brother of one of my regular knitters from last term. She showed him how to knit before he came, and also how to “finger knit” (which makes a knitted tube not unlike I-Cord but sloppier and much more loosely constructed).

The photo of the day is this youngster on the far side of my classroom, with me on the camera at the other side of the long room. I think his finger knit cord is at least 15 feet long, maybe 20 feet (5-7 meters). He joined us late, but he certainly fits right in!