Thursday, September 13, 2007

Knitting Club at the Library: Week One

So amongst the chaos of raving after-school children that were unmannerly trying to cause utter disaster in my library today, I pulled 8 girls into our auditorium for week one of Knitting Club. It was not intended to be only girls--but only girls signed up. It was supposed to be ten--but two girls were not able to arrive because their father was in an accident and mom wasn't home from work yet. Rumor had it a half dozen adults were planning to join us (bring your own materials). None did. (Anybody want to come next week?)

So after a morning spent trying to diffuse personality bombs and bring peace, harmony and lightly amusing commentary to the world at large--I now had eight balls of energy to try and bring to heel and knitting.

Okay. So, first we looked at some knitting examples that either I or my roommate had made. They liked some of the stuff, I think either a shawl that I made or my roommate's ruffle scarf probably would have tied for most popular. Then everyone was given needles and got to pick out a colorful yarn. Now we get to create those first few stitches--a knitting technique called casting on. I'm told that I do it in an unusual way but as far as I can remember, it's the way I was taught and it works. I've taught adults this method with success--usually in five-ten minutes.

The girls took 40 minutes to grasp the concept. Apparently making a loop around one's thumb with a piece of yarn is difficult. All but one finally managed to get it--with one girl taking it to it like a fish to water (her needle was stuffed with stitches.) Then we moved for the last twenty minutes to basic knit stitch. I have never seen such disasters.

I'm sure my grandmother did--when she was teaching me to knit when I was seven. But by the time I was 10 and older--which is the average age of the girls I have--I was the lone kid in a knitting class as my local library and while not fast, I was pretty good at ye olde basic knit stitch. And after they figured out what I was doing wrong whilst purling and put an adult on me for an hour to watch my hands...I had that one too.

I ended up working in the auditorium for an hour after the class. Until about 6:15 I still had my full complement of girls. Slowly they trickled out until I was left with the two youngest and most frustrated. With one in a chair on either side of me, we went over and over and over the steps: push the empty needle in through the bottom of the stitch, making an X with the needles (empty needle in back); now hold both needles in the X with your left hand (no, your other left hand); the yarn attached the skein is behind the needles and you can pull it out to the right--now wrap it counter clockwise around the back needle (pause to explain counter clockwise) and between the needles; let go of the yarn; Pick up the yarn and the back needle (empty needle, right hand needle--whatever) with your right hand; spread the needles apart a bit--see the yarn you wrapped is now between them? ; Okay, pull the right needle down and make a new loop with that yarn that's in between it (This stage takes FOREVER); Now slide the old loop/stitch off the left hand/full needle.

Both were incredibly frustrated--one complaining with loud regularity that it was too hard. I kept saying that no it wasn't and she could do it. Interestingly--while she complained, she also was the most vigilant about wanting to try again. Finally--when she had two needles that were nowhere CLOSE to the same size as each other--she could see how to make the loop. She managed four knit stitches by herself. The other young girl was less vocal but just as frustrated. When I was able to demonstrate to her though without the noise and rambunctious energy of the other girls, she picked up a little faster and said it was much nicer with just us.

Both told me it was "getting easier" and they'll be back next week. I have four weeks to try and get these girls to make it through a couple of rows of knitting. I told the girls that if/only if it's dead quiet in the library we'll add in some extra knitting time other than Thursdays.

Angels and ministers...

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