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Teaching Children How to Knit, and other adventures…

What happens when a 6 year old and a 9 year old want to learn how to knit? How long does it take to teach them? Will they stick to it? How many brain cells are lost in the process? Aurelie shares her experience below. Grab a large mug of your favourite tea or coffee, and a few cookies, because it's a long one!

In other news at Baa!

A couple weeks ago, we introduced a "Pre-Loved Books" section on Baa! website, and we are happy to report that more pre-loved books have been added, including quite a few crochet books!

Come back often, as books get added now and again to this section!

Virtual Knit Groups

We are very happy to report that Virtual Knit Groups (and crochet too!) are still going strong at Baa! and we are delighted to see that new faces keep appearing, along with our core of returning "knit-group-regulars".

If you are still on the fence about joining our Zoom meetings, please go ahead and give it a go! Come and knit or crochet along with us as we discuss the most random subjects, including crafting of course. Everyone is welcome!

When: Every Wednesday at 7pm and Friday at 10.30am (GMT)

How: Visit Zoom website or download the Zoom app, and click "Join a meeting". Follow the instructions, using meeting ID: 288-959-5554 and password 238462.

Visit the Shop

Finally, we would like to remind you that the shop is open as usual, still operating under an appointment system. There are a few appointments left for this week. Book a slot and come visit us! Alternatively, you may pop into the shop during working hours as long as there is no sign on the door that says "Appointment in Progress", and there are less than 2 customers in the shop.

We'd be delighted to see you!


Little Man and Little Miss want to learn how to knit...

(recounted by Aurelie, from the Sand Pit)

For several months, I had random requests from my Little Miss, aged 5 back then, to teach her how to knit. I had taught Little Man when he was much younger, as he was exceptionally calm and focused, observing and dissecting everything until he fully understood. He was maybe 3 years old when I taught him the knit stitch and he could knit garter stitch independently. At 4, he could also spin on my little wheel. After that, he promptly moved on to other things. Anyway…

Back to Little Miss' request. I put it off for a while as it was never quite the right moment. Children have this extraordinary capacity to imagine that you are just in the perfect position to teach them something while you are doing the dishes, picking up dog poop, or working poolside.

She also wanted to learn how to sew, so we did a couple sewing projects at the beginning of lockdown. You know, these couple months when we were still hopeful it would be the affair of passing the spring months, keeping busy as the schools tried to organise some random virtual learning… Little Miss had virtually nothing to do, and needed some extra projects, I had some time, so we sewed a few things for her Barbie, and she made a fully lined, zipped pencil case almost all by herself.

But then, “summer break” was upon us, which, with the current “sheltering-in-place” situation, meant that things didn’t change that much, except that Little Miss turned 6… I kept “homeschooling” the children over the summer, albeit a lighter version of it, because…”holidays”. And she kept asking about knitting so, one day, I gave in. Lockdown makes you do silly things sometimes! Little Man asked to join too, so I ended up searching for suitable yarn and needles for two sets of little hands instead of one.

What shall we knit...

A few months back, for Easter, I had this brilliant idea of “whipping up” a couple hand knitted bunnies to surprise them… Because, you know, how long can THAT take? (clue: a lot longer than I had planned, and bunny number 2 got finished in the wee hours of Easter morning…). Anyway, I had some yarn left. For both bunnies, I had used a wonderfully bouncy, plump and soft DK/Worsted yarn. So I suggested they use these. It was perfect!

I gave them a choice of 2 projects: a scarf for their teddy (in garter stitch), and a square of garter stitch that they would be able to turn into a bunny. I would have sworn that they would go for the square-to-turn-into-a-bunny project. Both of them chose to go for the scarf for their teddy. Go figure! Anyway, we had a plan!

Now, the needles… Actually… I have no other needles over here in the Sand Pit than my posh interchangeable sets, so these will have to do! I prepared two pairs of interchangeable metal, pointy tips (size 3.75 mm or 4 mm) with their cords. No cheap needles for these beginner knitters! Aren’t they spoilt?

Hands of Little Miss trying to master the slipped knot
Attempting the slipped knot

And so we cast on

Both children sat on the sofa, and I promptly tried to show them how to do the long tail cast-on, with the “thumb method”. After a few tries, Little Man managed to cast on his 12 stitches. Little Miss, however, managed to cast on a few stitches, and as she was pulling the tail to tighten a new stitch, the fresh new stitches would invariably fly off the slick metal needle and she had to do it all over again. After trying many, many times, she was getting increasingly frustrated (understandably), so I ended up casting the 12 stitches for her. “How do you manage to do it so fast, mummy? It’s like magic!” Suddenly, mummy felt a bit like a superhero for a second!

Then, I showed them the knit stitch. I knit a couple rows first, to make it a little easier than knitting straight into the cast-on row. Before handing them the needles, I would knit the first 3-4 stitches, and then guide them for the next stitches. Little Man got the hang of it very quickly. It was like his hands remembered what to do! Very interesting! So he settled comfortably, and off he went. At first, I would start the first few stitches in each row. Sometimes, I would also add a row here or there, but mostly, he just got into a rhythm and made good progress. Later on, I was just helping him a bit when the tension of the last stitch would make the first stitch in the next row a bit wonky for instance. He likes to “be first”, so he somewhat raced through his rows, not too bothered about keeping the stitches nice and tidy...

Little Miss had a slower start, as it was her very first time holding needles and yarn. At first she struggled to keep the working yarn in her hand while poking the next stitch with her right needle. But then, she figured out a way to hold the working yarn and her needle at the same time, and it all fell into place.

Still, I would knit the first 2-3 stitches of a row, to help her a little. And sometimes, I would add a row here or there, to make her knitting grow a little faster… But very soon, she told me that she could start her rows herself. And she did! She is very consciencious, and not nearly as bothered about "being first", but a lot more concerned about being neat. Very quickly, she paid attention to keeping her stitches tidy, and her knitting was beautiful!

After a while, I could relax a little, and attempted to pick up my knitting too. In my overly-optimistic (and slightly selfish) brain, it would be smooth sailing to knit a few stitches before being asked to help… Ha ha ha ha ha! Silly me! Of course not! Not with two little ones armed with pointy sticks and wild stitches!

“Mummy, why do I have 13 loops now?” (you just picked up the bar, no harm done)

“Mummy, can you look, I think I’ve done something wrong.” (just a wonky tension… it'll block out…)

“Mummy, it looks like I have two loops here.” (yes, you wrapped the yarn twice around the needle, it’s okay, just drop one loop)

“Mummy, why do I have 11 sts now?” (wait, let me help, looks like you dropped the stitch on the edge...that’s a tricky one to fix)

Extreme knitting... somehow, it works out and stitches don't even fly off the needles!

And then, after a while, the questions got a little less frequent. Until this one which made me laugh: “Mummy, why is your knitting on your knees and you’re not knitting on it?” (ha ha ha maybe because I’m helping you?)

The next day, they picked up their knitting again, and the conversation with Little Man is worth reporting here…

The planner

As they are knitting slowly on their first ever project, the children are already asking whether they can make a jumper when they know how to knit properly… Of course, I nod. I want to encourage them to keep knitting! Then, the big question… “Mummy, we could use your yarn in the cupboard, you have a lot of yarn there!”

My heart skipped a beat, I think. I love my children, I really do. But... sharing my stash? My carefully curated stash? Oh dear… My brain was racing, and then I thought I had a clever answer. I was going to outsmart them… “Well, yes of course you could find things in my stash, but what about I buy you some yarn you can choose, this way, it can be the exact colour you want?” (Phew! I thought. Crisis averted, my stash is safe that way, they won’t turn down an offer to pick their own from Janice’s shop). And both children replied together “oh yes! and then we can even have a whole cupboard each!”

Baa! could have two new young customers very soon… Oh dear, I am in trouble!

Boy knitting on his little scarf while talking
Little Man showing his progress to the teddies, anxiously waiting for their scarves, cosy under the blankets!

Not long after, Little Man continues… “Mummy, knitting is really cool because then once you know how to knit, then you can knit your own jumpers (pause… he keeps knitting… then continues) and we just need to buy 150kg of wool and then we can make our own gifts to ourselves too!" (Has he been weighting my stash? Where do the 150kg come from?)

To which I replied that it's already what I do, I buy yarn that's a present for myself and Little Man was looking at me with astonishment… ”What?” And Little Miss replied to him, quite blasé... "Well yes, obviously, mummy buys yarn, and it's for her so it's her own present"

Apparently, my daughter fully understands that it’s indeed why mummy has a stash! Ha ha ha!

Little Man knitting and discussing his future projects at the same time

The inquiring brain

Little Man and Little Miss have very different ways to approach things. When Little Man makes a mistake in his knitting, he hands it to me to fix. With Little Miss, things started that way too but quickly, she changed her approach.

Later that day, Little Miss asked again to knit some more, and I sat with her on the sofa. After a little while, she told me that she thought she’d made a mistake. I replied “let me see” and reached out to get her project off her hands. She interrupted me: “Mummy, how am I ever going to learn if you fix my mistakes without showing me? You need to show me how to fix it so I can do it myself.” I was taken aback. Six years old, and wanting to fix her knitting, yes, sure…

So I did, I showed her how the stitches were supposed to look again, and how that stitch was weird, and that you can drop a stitch and pick it up, and how to do it with the right leg in front, etc… She was delighted, and promptly fixed the mistake (and a few of the following ones) by herself. And thanked me for teaching her how to fix it.

Never mess with a smart little one…

Hands of Little Miss holding her knitting. One of the stitches appears to be split
Identifying and fixing a split stitch when you're 6...

As she was knitting, Little Miss has been asking clever questions. In particular, she seems very intrigued about the process of joining a new yarn. “Mummy, what happens when your roll of yarn runs out? How do you add a new one?” (it’s a ball, not a roll, but don’t worry, it’s easy, I can show you, you just start knitting with the new one, and later you tidy the ends). “But mummy, how do you do it when you have several colours?” She’s knitting with a variegated yarn, so I ask her if she means like the yarn she’s using or when she wants to control where the colours go, and needs several strands. Of course, she meant colourwork, not variegated! I’ll show you another time, sweetie. “Maybe for my next project?” (Hmmm yes, maybe…)

A little later, as she was knitting on her garter stitch scarf, while I was knitting on a piece of her jumper, knit in stocking stitch with some ribbing at the hem, she paused for a few minutes and looked at what I was doing. “Your knitting looks different, mummy, why is that?” So I explained the difference of the knit stitch and the purl stitch, which is like the knit stitch, but on the “wrong” side, and how I simply knit one “right side” row and one “wrong side” row while she knits all her rows in the same way, etc. “Can you teach me the other stitch next time?” (Yes, sure)

She seemed satisfied. But then, just a few minutes later, she put her project on her lap, and grabbed mine. She was intrigued by the ribbing in particular, stretching it out and letting it bounce back, and she asked "so how do you do that? Is it a different way of knitting? Or is it again the right side and wrong side stitches but you make them in a different order?”

I was gobsmacked.

It’s nice

The day after that they continued knitting... And there we were, the three of us on the sofa, knitting happily together. Yes, I still had to interrupt my knitting quite often to fix a stitch here, start a row there, or just knit a couple extra rows to help make their knitting grow a little faster.

“Mummy, isn’t it NICE, we’re all doing the thing you like all together and you teach us and it’s really nice we can talk and knit and we’re on the sofa together and we’re making scarves for our teddies.” (yes, they’re cute and know how to be even cuter) It was very nice indeed…

The pretend knit group

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Baa! has been hosting virtual knit groups every Friday morning and Wednesday evenings. I have attended most of them, and the children have often been around during these Zoom meetings. They both use Zoom for their school, so keep calling our virtual knit groups “zoom class with Janice”. I must admit that I haven’t corrected them, and have let them believe that we were “working” during these calls, or at least, “learning” things about knitting… Needless to say, they quickly asked if, now that they can knit, they could join the next “Zoom knitting class”. Well, yes of course…

But now is not Zoom knitting class time, and Little Man surprised me: " we can just pretend that I am Janice, you're... what's the name of the other lady again? Addy? Abby? Mummy is mummy, and we just sit and knit and chat".

Busted! They KNEW all along that we’re NOT working on Zoom!

What then?

Little Man continued to work on his project a little later that week or the week after, keeping me company on the poolside, as I was teaching swimming. His first “knitting in public”, I suppose! He knit a few rows despite the hot sun (and 40 degrees or so). That was brave!

Hands of little boy, knitting by a pool. Ball of yar rolling on the ground
Little Man knitting poolside

After that, they moved on to other things, but that’s okay too…

Fast forward a couple months… Little Miss has asked a couple times randomly to add a row or two on her project. Little Man hasn't.

Will the teddies ever get their scarves? Probably not, but hopefully, the children ask again to learn how to knit. And when they do, I will be more than happy to show them, no matter how many times it takes! For these few moments of bonding, sharing my hobbies with them, and seeing their little hands learn new skills, are simply perfect.

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