Monday, January 30, 2012

Learning to Knit

     Anna has been begging me for years to teach her to knit, and I've been putting it off and putting it off.  I taught my self to knit as an adult, (when Anna was a toddler) and I had a really hard time getting the hang of it at first.  I'm not sure why; maybe it was partly to do with the fact that I was so comfortable crocheting, (which was learned as a child) that my hands didn't want to adjust to the new moves.  So, even though knitting is just as easy as crocheting to me now, I still had the idea that knitting was a lot harder to learn.  I taught Anna how to crochet a few months ago, and she's been making all her dolls scarves; but since she sees me knitting all the time, she kept asking, "Mama, when are you going to teach me how to knit?"  I have to admit I was intimidated at the thought. 
     I knew in Waldorf schools they teach every first grader how to knit, so I thought, OK, what's their trick?  I started researching how Waldorf schools teach children to knit, and came across this little rhyme: 
"Look in through the front door,
Go around the back,
Peek in the window,
And off jumps Jack!"
     I know this is a common little rhyme, but I had never heard it before.  After I saw it, I knew that I wasn't going to have any trouble teaching her.  I wish I had learned to knit this way! I decided to have her go through the whole experience of learning to knit, starting with making her own needles.  Ideally, we would have seen a sheep get sheared, then see the wool get spun into yarn first, but since it's winter, we will have to wait until spring to see a seep shearing.  I already have a farm that we can visit lined up.    She has seen someone spin a couple of times, and I thought that would do. 
     For the needles, I got a 1/4 in. dowel, fine sand paper, and some little caps for the ends.  I cut the dowel into ten in. lengths, then Anna got to work.
     First she sharpened them on our pencil sharpener, just like you would a pencil.  Our pencil sharpener does a very gradual tapering off, which I find a little annoying with pencils, but worked perfectly for the needles.
     Next she sanded them as smooth as smooth can be, starting with 150 grit, and ending with 600 grit, which was the finest I could find.  She also rounded off the tip so they wouldn't be sharp.
The ends were glued on by dipping the end of the dowel in the glue bottle, then putting on the caps.
     After the glue dried, they were waxed with a beeswax polish and buffed smooth.  They turned out to be a size 10.5 according to my needle sizer.  The needles were now ready to be used, and she couldn't wait to try them out. 

     She caught on so quickly I was amazed.  The rhyme broke every step down, so the she could understand what she was suppose to be doing.  So much better than me saying, "Now put your needle in here, around here, now in here", etc.  I can't get her to weave the yarn through her fingers to control tension, but she seems to get on OK without doing it. 
     I got single ply "fulled" wool yarn for her to learn on, since I figured that would be easiest, and I got cream so that we could dye it too. 
     I used turmeric, onion skins, and tea to dye it.
     Here are the skeins drying.  Didn't they turn out pretty?  I have a wonderful book "Making Toys With Children", which has some simple knitted animal patterns.  I decided to use these for her to learn on, since in very little time you can actually have a neat finished product.  Anna has trouble finishing any project that takes longer than a couple of days to complete, but nobody wants to just make pointless little swatches.   The pattern for a chicken couldn't be easier, (It's just a square) so that is what she did first. 
Isn't that cute?  She is thrilled to have not only learned to knit today, but also have a little stuffed chicken to show for it.  I think she took the chicken to bed with her. 
     Of course, now that she has her own knitting needles and yarn, she needs a bag to keep it in, so I made her a linen drawstring bag with an "A" on it, just for her. 

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