My teaching life interferes with my knitting. I have to get up early, go to school, and teach 3rd graders all day. I would love to stay home sometimes and knit. When I’m in school, and have a few minutes of downtime, I often find myself thinking about my knitting. Wanting to knit. Planning my evening’s knitting. Looking forward to my knitting time.
I have found times that I can knit during the school day. Once in a while, the entire school will assemble in the gym for a concert or special performance. I used to bring papers to correct so that I felt like I was making good use of every moment of my time. Then it hit me. I could knit. The last few times we had assemblies, I brought my knitting and happily clicked my needles while I watched my class and watched the performance. I’d see little necks craning to see what I was doing. I’d see little faces staring at my hands. I’d hear little voices saying, “Look! She’s making a hat.” “Look! She’s making a sweater!” Look! She’s not even looking!” Lots of little girls, and more little boys than I expected, were fascinated with my knitting. Cuteness.
This week, one of my girls came in with a knitting kit that she’d received as a gift. It had fat needles (17s?) and super-bulky yarn. She proudly showed me the kit, in a fancy clear plastic zippered carrying case. “Do you think you could teach ME how to knit?” she asked. It warmed my little heart. Then I spent about 20 minutes of my prep time untangling her blob of yarn.
Outside during recess, I casted on 5 stitches and knit a few rows to get her started. Then, I showed her the knit stitch. She fumbled and fiddled, trying to get used to holding the needles and keeping control over the yarn. I showed her again. She gave it another try. She got it. I watched as she knit a few rows, and then she headed over to sit on the blacktop with her back against the side of the building. She kept on knitting. By the time we had to go back inside, she had knit several inches. The other girls were oohing and ahhing all around her.
The next morning, this little darlin’ came in to the classroom wearing her brand new scarf. “I knit it while I was watching Dancing with the Stars,” she told me. “You sound just like me,” I told her. “Can you start another one for me?” she asked. “Absolutely, I answered.”
During snacktime, I got scarf #2 going for her while she walked around the room showing off her scarf to her classmates and . . . get ready for it . . . taking orders for scarves! She had a clipboard, paper, and a pencil and was writing down each person’s name and the quantity of scarves requested. Then she grabbed a calculator and totalled up the orders. 32. I only have 19 kids.
She sat down at a table and began to knit. A bunch of the girls and a few of the boys gathered around her, watching and asking questions. I got a kick out of it, but I had papers to correct, so I sat down at my desk and got to work. A few minutes later, there were two girls standing in front of me. “Can you teach us to knit, too?” That’s when I noticed they were each holding two pencils. “We can use these as knitting needles!” A-freaking-dorable.
Let me just say . . . pencils . . . not so good for knitting. We tried. We wrapped blobs of masking tape around the ends of the pencils. That was good. The wood tips kept catching the yarn. That wasn’t good. I tried to assure the girls that knitting with needles was easier. “Can you teach us? Can we have a club?”
So guess what? I’m starting a knitting club.
To gauge their interest (ba-doomp-boomp), I brought knitting needles and yarn to school with me the next day, and sat with a group of seven (!) kids trying to teach them to knit. I did all the casting on and knit the first few rows of each, and then proceeded to . . . um . . . teach. Under the fence. Catch the sheep. Back we come. Off we leap. I found that rhyme on a few different blogs and message boards and thank goodness I did. The kids loved it and said it really helped them remember what to do. A few of them picked it up right away. A few of them . . . not so much. The great thing was that both the confident knitters and the strugglers asked to take home the needles and yarn so that they could practice at home. Some of the needles were plastic ones that I had bought for myself, but others were needles that originally belonged to my mother. She gave them to me when she taught me. (Thanks, Mom!) I told the girls that they needed to take good care of them and be sure to bring them back to school the next day.
This wasn’t an official meeting of the Knitting Club. We won’t start the real club until the second week of April. I sent home information and permission slips, and in addition to several of the kids already signing up, I had two moms ask if they could come, too – to learn. Thankfully, one of the girl’s moms wrote a note on her daughters permission slip saying that she would love to come in to help. Did you hear that? The angels are singing. I wrote her an email that started with “Have I told you lately that I love you?” She wrote back to tell me that her daughter “feels so special that you let her borrow your mother’s needles.” I love that this little girl realized the importance of those needles. Another mom wrote to thank me for teaching knitting to her daughter, saying she wished she knew how to knit so her daughter would be able to say, “My mother taught me.” I’m so glad that I can say that. I’m lucky.
So again, the next day, the girls brought their yarn and needles. A few had knit up all of the yarn that I’d give them (just little balls) (balls!) and were ready to bind off. I did it for them and then cracked up as they tied the two not-woven-in-yet ends together to make blindfolds and headbands.
I had gone to the store and bought them each a skein of Jiffy bulky-weight yarn. They acted as if I’d just given them a year’s worth of No Homework Passes and 50 pounds of candy. So excited. I got them all started again and they sat there knitting and talking like a miniature version of SnB at Panera.
There are, though, a few things that take a little bit of the smile off of my face.
1. They keep trying to knit when they’re supposed to be doing their work or participating in a lesson. (“That’s going to have to come live at my desk for a little while,” I tell them.) The principal even had to “speak” to them when they were trying to knit during play rehearsal during Drama Club.
2. When they mess up, they all seem to mess up at the same time. Sometimes, I can figure it out and fix it. Sometimes, I have to do the best I can and have them continue on. Sometimes, I have to frog it and start over. This is hard to do when there’s a girl standing at each of my elbows saying, “I need help.” “I messed up.” “Am I doing this right?” One girl’s knitting was so tight that she couldn’t get the needle tip under the stitch. I frogged it and started it over, showing her that she had to try not to pull the yarn tightly. She insisted that she wasn’t pulling it tight. A few minutes later, she was back with a tight mess again. “I’m not pulling it tight!” she said. I started her again. “Show me,” I told her. She was only inserting the very tip of the needle into the stitch, wrapping and pulling it through. She was making teeny tiny little stitches. I showed her again. She tried. Tight. Almost some tears. (Hers – not mine.) We’ll get there.
The club will probably be a little bit stressful, but there’s more good to this than bad. I love that these kids want to learn to knit. And if just one of them keeps at it, or goes back to it when she’s grown up, and says, “My 3rd grade teacher taught me,” that will make it all worth it!