When I taught knitting I would often get asked if my kids knit. I think a lot of people thought I would have little knitting savants at my house — my then four-year-old clicking away on socks, turning heels as naturally as the sun shines. The truth is my kids’ interest in learning to knit has ebbed and flowed. As a parent I understand that it’s my job to guide and teach them — it’s a responsibility I take very seriously & feel honored to have. But unlike things like homework & following directions & chores for which I hold a very firm line & push to maintain the standard, knitting is and always will be different. With knitting, they are in the driver’s seat. When they want to work on it, I work with them. We stop when they get tired or bored. Knitting is for fun. Period. We take it at their pace and in their time and it is always their choice to be knitting. Knitting is an outlet for me. A hobby. A beloved past time. In this way I cannot imagine forcing someone — anyone — let alone my own children to knit. I firmly believe that to learn to knit, to love to knit, you just have to find your own path to it.
When they asked a couple years ago for the first time, I took both kids to pick their own yarn & ever since they’ve had their own little knitting project bags. They contained a set of straight bamboo needles with about 25stitches that I cast-on for them with a basic cotton yarn in a color of their choosing — pink for my daughter & red for my son. My daughter was originally very determined, but was quickly discouraged when her then four-year-old fingers struggled to make the motions. My son tried once and a while, but he didn’t stay interested enough for long enough to get anything to gel. There was a brief revitalized interest around Christmas when I gave my daughter the Annie and the Swiss Cheese Scarf gift set. My girl tried using the book to augment my directions, but — being a very bright girl who is generally a very quick study of just about everything — she just got so frustrated that it didn’t come to her instantaneously. In the end, she stuck her knitting under her bed (just like Annie does in the book — like a time-out for knitting) and it has only made one or two appearances since.
Enter my 8year-old son. Now keep in mind that his fine motor skills have been slow to develop. This is partly because his paws have always been much bigger than seem natural for a kid his size. My mom dubbed them ‘plumber’s hands’ the day he was born — a running joke in our family since no one understood what on earth that meant. According to my mom, it meant his hands were huge. Don’t understand the connection? Don’t worry, we don’t either (sorry Mom, we love you, but we still don’t get it). In any case, he also using both hands almost equally which hasn’t seemed to help a whole lot either. Fast forward to the present day and — still with giant hands — when he saw his sister reading Annie and the Swiss Cheese Scarf he took a gander and then asked where his knitting bag was. Like his sister, he grabbed me and the book and started to make some stitches. Then the craziest thing happened.
It all clicked.
He would sit down every few days and click away on his washcloth. He’d walk away for a week or two and when he came back to it, he hadn’t forgotten everything he’d learned the time before. As his basic garter washcloth grew at a pace equal to his confidence, he started to ask when he could be done with it and start a new project. What could the next project be? And most importantly, could that next project be a knitted toy? Being a boy who loves snakes, who owns a pet snake, I proposed a toy snake. A little stockinette in the round seemed like a good next step. His eyes lit up and suddenly he was on a mission to not only perfect his knit stitch, but to finish that washcloth asap. Within a week he had done just that– his knit stitches looking nice & even and he was clearly ready to move onward & upward.
Because it was a big deal for him, I promised to let him pick his own yarn for his snake, so the first free afternoon after school we went to our closest yarn shop, Firefly Fibers, and he picked out three skeins of Rowan Pure Wool Worsted, a nice worsted superwash wool — perfect for both toys and beginner knitters.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these are the same colors as his pet snake, Jack.
I wanted to keep it pretty simple for him, so we made a deal that I would make the head and he would knit the body. I got right to work.
I opted to use the Slithery Snake pattern by Zoe Mellor just because a friend lent me the book and it was nice & easy to follow a pattern to expedite the process. The only pattern modification I’ve made is to knit it in the round so my son wouldn’t have to purl just yet. Also, since we are using a worsted weight yarn instead of the DK weight the pattern calls for, I am using a US 7 needle. I could probably, should probably go down to a US 6 just because it will eventually be stuffed and denser fabric would be nice, but my boy is knitting rather tight right now and since the US 7s seem very comfortable for him, I think we are going to not try to fix what isn’t broken. In any case, I started the head via magic loop and then switched over to a 12″ circular for the body. Another reason I went with worsted weight yarn was so that I could put him on a 12″ circular — small enough for the toy, but not a 9″ circular that I think would feel awkwardly small for him. The results…
He is doing a-maz-ing. A-maz-ing as in I can barely tell the difference between our stitches. I help out from time to time if he splits or drops a stitch, but generally speaking more often than not his ‘mistakes’ are actually non-existent — just his attention to detail double-checking that he is still on track.
Bear with this proud mama, I even took a quick video with my phone…
In all honesty, I have taught a lot of people to knit, but to watch my own son … it is just the most mesmerizing, unreal thing to watch his hands deftly move those stitches from needle to needle.
It was a trip last night when he picked up his knitting and knit a few rounds before bed as we watched some TV. This afternoon after he finished his homework, he picked it up and we talked about his day over our knitting. I think part of me never thought my kids would really take the craft up in earnest. Since it was always out of my control, I just never really considered what it would be like to have another knitter in the family. Now I know what it’s like…
It’s pretty spectacular.
I realize his interest will still most likely ebb and flow. My daughter may take it up or she may not. Whatever the future holds, I’m going to stay the course of letting my kids chart their own knitting futures because I think that’s the way it should be.
I’m just glad I get to be along the for the ride.