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Archive for June 10th, 2009

Working with Kids: A Flag

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

I can not tell you how wonderful my time was with the 3rd graders this year. I started out in late fall, absolutely certain that I would go twice a week for maybe a month, and then I would set them on their own. Then I found myself charmed, just in love with being in their presence. And I couldn’t bear to quit.

This was a volunteer thing. I can’t really afford to give up time every single week to volunteer at this time in my life. I am self-employed without a secretary or other helpers. I not only knit samples, write patterns, write class handouts, schedule, do publicity, teach… I dye yarn, wind it into skeins, print labels, attach labels to skeins. I also invoice clients, make the bank deposits, package mailings and take them to the post office. I lay out my advertising, print my patterns, deliver patterns to shops within driving distance.

There is sometimes not quite enough time to sleep. I have volunteered a lot in my life, but right now is not a good time for it.

Yet regardless of what made good sense for my business, I found it impossible to say goodbye to these energetic, young, wonderful, joyful people. And now that school is over, I find I miss them very much. I’m very sad they are out of my life.

pakistaniflagbefore.jpg

Musings on Teaching Kids

I feel inspired to talk here about teaching kids to knit, in general.

I have taught probably hundreds of young people to knit, from age 5 all the way through high school. Most of the time, by about age 10 or 11, they become so busy after school that they find no time to knit.

Occasionally I’ll have an amazing young teen or two stick it out (these almost always have parents who encourage and support the knitting in the busy schedule). The teens are a lot of fun, because by then they can accomplish whatever they choose to do. They are rare, though. I do enjoy them when I have the luck to teach them.

I must say that my favorite age to teach (kids, that is) would be 3rd grade or so, about 8-9 years old. At this age, they are rather fearless, in part because their job in elementary school is to deal with learning new things all the time.

They learn to write, first printing and then in cursive, they learn to ride a bicycle, they learn their math basics, they learn to spell, they master their limbs in physical education. They start to piece together how the world around them works.

At this age, they are not yet self-critical. They are not playing it safe so that their peers will not be mean to them. They don’t need to conform. Yet.

A third grader does not usually expect to do something perfectly. They expect to make several stabs at a new skill. and get better as they continue to try. This is an excellent mindset for learning to knit.

LynnH’s Rule #1 of Kids’ Knitting: NEVER RIP a Child’s Work!!!!!

A child has to work very hard to master the movements of knitting. They are using two tools (one in their non-dominant hand) and a floppy string/yarn, to make something that requires a bit of fine motor skill mastery. Some kids struggle to make a few stitches. No matter how bad it looks, don’t rip!!!

A knitting teacher’s best tool working with students this age, is a sewing needle. If you can not fix the piece by chaining up a dropped stitch or knitting a few together to un-increase above the spot where increases were not needed, you need to sew the piece together and let the child keep working.

pakistaniflagafter.jpg It does not matter how much you need your own work to be right. A child who watches you take out his/her hard work, will almost always stop knitting. For the sake of your young students, you need to leave your perfectionism at home in your own knitting basket.

“Perfect,” as my friend Howlin’ Hobbit says, “is the enemy of Good Enough.” Well, he says it something like that, anyway. Elementary kids are all about “good enough.” Honor their intent.

The Successes that Can Emerge

You have seen two hats (here–scroll down, and here) made by boys who started out making a five-stitch wristband. I should have taken photos of the knitting before I sewed them into hats. They were incredibly messy, very large triangles. Where one side of the triangle could reach all the way around the boy’s head. Yup. Not what was planned at all. Cool, anyway!

It took some head-scratching for me to figure out how to make these pieces turn into something real, but it worked. It’s all about hand-sewing, my friends. About 10-25 minutes per hat, and worth every stitch!!! The boys were beside themselves, delighted to have made something that could actually be worn.

Follow Inspiration

So today I bring you before/after photos of another project. Sometimes kids notice that a small bit of knitting on a long knitting needle, can look like a flag early in the knitting. This term, I had two boys who wanted to make flags. One finished, one did not.

Many of the kids in this classroom were not born in the USA. They are in Lansing because their parents are studying (most of them Graduate Students) at Michigan State University. In fact, in this room I am quite sure that a majority of the kids do not speak English at home.

I just love this cultural diversity! It makes me very happy to be in a place where we have a sense of the largeness of the world and the alikeness of the people upon it. (Yes, I’m an idealist, and it’s quite lovely!) In this room, sometimes a sentence will start with… “In your country, how do they….?” I eat that up.

The Process of Completing a Flag

The boy who made today’s photographed project, was born in Pakistan. He wanted to make a Pakistani flag. I did not know what they looked like, but the school has flags lining the halls and so he could take me down the hall to see one.

He needed a moon and star. There was no way to knit these in, given this child’s knitting skills.

I went home and got a piece of white wool felt that I’d made while teaching a wet felting class some time ago. I took it in, we cut it up, and we glued the bits to his acrylic-worsted-weight-yarn flag. It worked enough for the child.

He then bound off the flag, and it was quite the mess! It turns out that two edge stitches had raveled all the way down to the cast on. I took his flag home to make it work.

I used a sharp-pointed needle with a large eye, and I worked all the green ends to the back of the fabric where they were hidden.

Then I used his white yarn tail to sew the flag to a chopstick. I finished the end and then used some white glue on the back side, to stick the yarn to the chopstick.

Smiles All Around

I think it looks great. Mind you, all of those knitted stitches, he knit himself. He guided me through cutting the star, and helped me cut the moon. He stuck the felt pieces on (with my help applying glue). So, he did in fact knit this piece. I just sewed the ends in for him. I admit there were a LOT more ends than I expected on this project!!!

He was a happy kid. I was proud of him.

I miss “My Kidz.” Pout.