It has taken a long time to get to this place, these knitting lessons, but the journey has been worth it. Aria now knows where the wool she knits with – and that she sees me knit with – comes from and much of what it takes to turn it into yarn. It’s not just some obscure thing bought at a store but the product of a lot of hard work and a valuable gift from a lovely animal.
It’s the perfect time in Aria’s life to learn to knit; I understand much better now why the Waldorf curriculum waits until 1st grade to teach this. When she was about five, Aria begged me for weeks to teach her to knit. I put her off a while but she was very persistent and I started to wonder if she wanted to do it that much whether or not it was right to hold her back. Finally, I gave in, sitting her on my lap and having her hold my hands as I went through the process. I showed her step by step what to do and then let her try on her own, helping her through each stitch. After awhile, she wanted to do it on her own and make scarves and crowns. She was still having a lot of trouble but insisted she was ready. It became an exercise in frustration for both of us. Every stitch had to be aided or reworked and the projects had big holes in them. Mistakes are common in new knitter’s work, but this was more than typical mistakes – she really didn’t understand what to do…even though she desperately wanted to and even believed she did. She eventually finished a couple “scarves” but they really didn’t resemble actual scarves. I tried to encourage her enough that she wouldn’t associate the experience with knitting itself and would feel good about her work, but not so much that she would continue trying to knit just yet. She just wasn’t ready.
This time has been a very different experience. After weeks of working with wool and years of seeing me knit, she was anxious to get to this lesson. We started with another reading of the precious fiber tale, Pele’s New Suit, then I taught her the following verse, one often used in Waldorf schools to teach the knit stitch:
In through the front door
Run around back
Peek through the window
Off jumps Jack
She wanted to know what the verse meant, so I told her Jack was a doggie going into a house, running around to the backyard, looking into a window and then jumping through it. We repeated it together a few times, she said it on her own and then I showed her how to knit a stitch step-by-step, using the verse. I did a row of ten stitches, saying the verse each time and having her tell me what to do with several of them. Then I handed her the needles and reiterated the verse as she did each stitch. I showed her a few mistakes and how to correct them and provided some guidance on how to hold her needles and yarn. After that, she was off! Repeating the verse to herself with each stitch, she quickly got the hang of it. She did a few rows, took a break and came back to it a short time later. She looked at me and said she was proud and that she liked it and wanted to do more.
Since that day, I can ask her to work on her knitting and she can go get it and do it on her own. She made a rectangle (a fat bookmark) the first time, now she’s moved on to a pouch. She occasionally makes mistakes, but is learning to recognize them and fix them on her own.
This time she was ready.