Knitting is the most common form of handwork available in Montessori classes for very good reasons. It is relatively easy to pick up, but can grow increasingly challenging depending on the choice of project. The materials are inexpensive and easy to store and there are many experienced knitters in school communities who can help young learners.
If you are thinking of introducing knitting in your class, you need to start at the very beginning. In my Handwork Album, I introduce each craft with an exploration of the history and tools.
In a future post, I will talk about the History of Knitting.
Our beginning point today is tools. Wherever possible, children should begin by making their own tools for a craft. There are many reasons why this is important:
It gives a deeper appreciation of the mechanics of the craft as the children need to think through the reasons for each aspect of design.
Children come to appreciate the work that goes into creating all the tools around them.
It gives children an opportunity to work with a more diverse range of materials.
Children are more likely to take care of the tools that they have put time and labour into making.
Children are more likely to persist with the craft as they are already invested.
Everyone who has had the lesson will have their own tools, eliminating the need to purchase several of each tool for your handwork shelf.
I have made knitting needles with children as young as six and as old as twelve – they have all thoroughly enjoyed it.
If you are teaching this in a mixed age class, you will find you can teach it to the older children yourself and they will pass the lesson on to the younger ones (who will be desperate to have a go).
This is how I make knitting needles with my class:
Note: Text in Italics = what I say
Standard text = what I do
Gather a small group of children, it is helpful if they already know how to finger knit but not essential. It is also helpful if they understand the process wool goes through to become yarn. I will discuss this more in a future post.
Today we are going to have a go at knitting. You will probably have seen children knitting in the classroom, or maybe you have family members who knit at home so I’m wondering if anyone can tell us what knitting actually is?
Establish that it is process of turning strands of yarn into a fabric using rows of loops (stitches) on a pair of needles.
Show children examples of knitted fabric – either swatches from the handwork shelf or garments.
If we are going to have a go at knitting we are going to need some tools. What sort of tools do you think we need for knitting?
Knitting Needles. We are going to make our own knitting needles.
Knitting needles can be made out of all sorts of materials, such as metal, plastic, bamboo and even bone, but we are going to make ours out of wood.
We could find some sticks outside to make our knitting needles from, but it might take us a while to find a stick that is just the right thickness and as smooth and straight as we need it to be, so for our first pair of knitting needles we are going to use dowel.
Dowel is wood that has already been smoothed into an even, straight cylinder.
Invite children to look at/ feel the dowel.
The first thing we need to do is decide how long we want our
needles to be. Let’s have a look at the knitting needles from our shelf.
Take out a knitting needle and tape measure. Decide with the children if you want to make your knitting needle the same length as the ones you are looking at, or slightly shorter for smaller hands.
How many knitting needles are we going to make (each)? Two, right? And we want them to be a pair, so we have to make sure they are the same size. Let’s use a tape measure and pencil to mark our dowel so we know where to cut to make matching needles.
Invite children to assist you to measure the dowel.
Invite/assist the children to cut the dowel so they have two equal length pieces.
If we have a look at the needles from the shelf we can see that the tips are slightly pointed. Why do you think this is? – To help them slip into the loops of yarn easily.
Do you think the tips of our needles will slip easily into the loop of yarn? Probably not, so we need to make them slightly pointed to.
Invite a child to use a pencil sharpener to slightly sharpen the tips of the needles.
Do you think the needle will easily slip in to the loops of yarn now? It feels bit scratchy to me, I think it will catch and snag the yarn. What can we do to make it smoother?
Invite children to sand the needles.
Note: for the tips, it is easiest to place the sandpaper flat on the table and rub the tip against it. Make sure they keep rotating the needle to avoid flattening it on one side.
We need to do a lot of sanding until the needle is completely smooth.
Note: This takes a lot more sanding than children expect – be very fussy with any little rough bits.
Now that we have smoothed our needles out we can give them polish. This will make it feel smooth in our hands when we are working with them as well as protecting the wood.
I know you had lessons in polishing in the Casa, do you think you can remember how to do it?
Guide the children in polishing both needles. You may need to allow some time for them to dry before the next step.
Let’s have another look at the knitting needles from our shelf. What do you notice at the opposite end to the tip? – The have a wider part, don’t they? What do you think that is for?
Guide children to realise it is to stop the stitches sliding off the end.
So we need to put something on the ends of our needles to stop the stitches sliding off too.
Brainstorm ideas for things to use as stoppers – seedpods, nuts, dice, polymer clay etc.
Today we are going to use these wooden beads. We can glue them on with wood glue…….
Work together to glue a bead onto the end of each needle. PVA glue works fine as long as it is allowed to dry undisturbed.
The glue is going to need some time to dry, let’s find a safe place to leave the needles while you begin work on your own.
Children can work together to make their own pairs of knitting needles.