My older sister taught herself to knit from a book when she was quite young and, as has often been the case, she taught me. I was delighted by how I could turn long strands of yarn into solid blocks of regular, neat looking material. Being mirror images of each other, knit and purl intrigued me and I would spend days playing around with the two stitches, seeing what different looks I could make. The button holes Hannah learned to make right in the knitting were greatly admired by me, but it was beyond my capability to follow her in her more complicated endeavors. We had only one simple pattern, a dishcloth, which I easily memorized and turned out a sufficient supply for my hope chest. I was too young to be able to follow a pattern of any sort by myself and I was not ingenious enough to put increase, decrease and knit stitches together to make my own things, so gradually my needles found a quiet place as other exciting new projects filled my time.
It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I again took out my needles. They were now a far greater collection, since I had kept adding to them through the years, knowing that someday I would knit something big. My first attempt at re-familiarizing myself with knitting was a failure. The simple techniques eluded me, so I got out the book and step by step cast on and began to knit. Suddenly that skill which I had mastered when only six or seven came flooding back. Book forgotten, I went on to purl, increase and decrease, the only stitches I knew. They were all there! What I had learned so long ago in those impressionable years was still mine, and I expect they always will be! Now I could read a pattern and keep track of my place, now I could learn anything further I needed to know, now I could knit something big.
For lack of simple patterns that young children can easily memorize, our little ones do not make many knit items. However, because knitting is so simple, we do introduce the basics to them while they are quiet young through our dishcloth pattern. As they grow up and become more coordinated and self-assured we encourage them to try more complicated patterns. Once they have made at least one other item they may choose that they don't want to go on, and that's fine, we all enjoy some things over others, but they will have a basic understanding of knitting and will be able to pick it up again easily if they ever decide to do so.
I started knitting when I was seven years old. Hannah helped me learn and when I knew the row I could do it all by myself. I only use yarn that the big girls aren't going to use on other projects since dishcloths get dirty so fast. There was not much of a pretty blue yarn so I made one dishcloth out of it. It is my favorite one. I can knit a dishcloth in about half an hour unless I make a mistake like dropping a stitch. When I get older and can read a pattern, I will knit other things. One of the sweaters my sister Sarah made is very nice. I think I will make some too when I grow up.
Not long ago I knit a hat for one of my brothers. Within the first ten rows, (these are the hardest) as I was swapping between knit and purl, I got mixed up and knitted where I should have purled. However, this was not a big problem because this part of the hat forms the inside, since the hat is two layers thick, so my mistake is never seen. If you teach your children to knit, use a forgiving pattern like this one.
Sometimes you'll get cotton or wool yarn that is very fine (the size of string). This was the case for us when we were given spools of yarn used on knitting machines. The solution is really quite simple. We combine several threads into one, thus creating yarn that is 2, 3, even 5 times heavier than the original product. In the case of the mittens I made, I combined four different yarns (blue, green, yellow and white) creating a multi-colored yarn. It was a lot of fun making those mittens. The right hand mitten has a flap which allows me to use my fingers. It was a lot of extra work so I decided to make the left mitten plain.
For years color has captivated my imagination. In flower arranging, painting, quilt designing, contrasting accents on clothing, I enjoy playing with color, trying something new, learning what looks good and what doesn't. That's what attracted me to Fair Isle knitting, the complexity of color, it intrigued me. The way several values of two, three even four different colors could be made into a beautifully complex sequence captured my imagination. I wanted to be able to do that. Only one book that I found went into the details of Fair Isle knitting. From it I learned about designing my own Fair Isle sweaters, from authentic color theory to the layout of the multiple designs so that they met perfectly on the size of sweater being made, to
The sweater I had designed was a men's pullover in greens, blues, browns and grays, with a single line of maroon in one of the repeat bands to add a spark. Getting through the waist ribbing, I began the first design row, only to decide that the multi-colored ribbing wasn't what I wanted. I ripped it all out. This time, a solid color waist band, and then back to the design rows. Knitting went well, though slightly puckery from making the floating
I have not yet finished it but I already know that there is a lot more I will do on my next sweater. There will be even greater color complexity, more colors, more interest. That's what draws me!
If you have ever made lace, you know it can be a slow process that takes a bit to get used to. We prefer to crochet our lace, but on one occasion I knit two matching collars, one for Sarah and one for myself. We do most of our handwork during family Bible study time and I found that using 12" needles on a crowded couch was just too much. With only ten or twenty stitches per row I was constantly swapping the needles from my left hand to my right. If I were going to knit lace very often, I think I'd like a pair of knitting needles that were only about 5" long!
You will notice as you look at different patterns that there are very different looks to lace depending on whether they are knit, crocheted or tatted. In our family we like the look of crocheted lace best. You may find that you develop very particular tastes for certain styles of lace as well. Perhaps your taste will be for lace that's already made. That's all right, too! Just enjoy what you do and make things that are practical. I don't think you will ever regret it. The season of life for handwork will pass much quicker than you expect.
Once your children can knit there is so much variety, so many options of what to do with their new skill, let them explore and find what interests them. If it's what they want to do they will find a way to do it no matter how difficult, no matter how many times they must try again. They will need encouragement, at times they may even need you to firmly force them on, but in the end, when it's finished, let it be something they will personally be glad they've done.
So, you've never done it yourself? Don't hold your children (or yourself) to what you already know. There are so many books, so many people who would be happy to help you. The personal discipline of taking on a new project and taking it to completion is such a valuable ability, teach it to your children. There are lots of ways to inexpensively get supplies, so starting a new project doesn't have to be expensive. You can advertise for yarn (or whatever you need) in many local papers, thrift shops often have craft tools and supplies, and you can reclaim yarn from second hand sweaters as we show in the recycling/reclaiming section. Be creative, use what you have!
Remember, it's not bad to fail. So much more is learned when you fail and learn from it, than when you succeed and don't think about what you've done. Life is full of disappointments and your kids can learn to conquer their disappointments, learn from them and go on, all in the safety of home. If, like my sweater, their work isn't turning out right, encourage them to discover why, take it out and try again. The first time is always the hardest, but it is also the most important. Without it there is never a second time. So try, try and try again. Those who persevere, succeed!
Copyright © 2006 The Stover Family - all rights reserved.