– The knitting student

Today Grace, George, and I had an impromptu and inaugural meeting of Jane’s Knitting Club.  All are welcome.

Because the two of them are a mere 8 and 6 years old, a lot has to happen before knitting begins. Bickering. Bathroom trips. Yogurt. And the unknotting of yarn and the finding of needles.

I smoothed out some mistakes in Grace’s swatch, and I cast on 35 stitches for George’s scarf.  He wanted “a hundred” stitches; I recommended 30 or 40.

They set to work, sitting in chairs in the dining room.  I sat in the living room, where I could only eavesdrop and not observe.  From the frequent scolding of George by Grace, it sounded as though our friend was occasionally sitting on the table, or knitting while pacing. I did not intervene.

After a few minutes, George slid on stocking feet into the living room.  “Jane, will you fix this?” Unknit stitches of the cast-on and first rows — the ones I had started for him — were hanging precariously off the needle. I pulled out the whole thing and re-knit it. “Thanks,” George said and walked back to Grace.

Five minutes later, George returned to me. “Jane, will you help me?” Same error, same solution. He went back to his knitting.

A few minutes later, the same thing: unknit stitches hanging off the needle.  In novice knitters, I expect to see a lot of errors: the occasional dropped stitch, a “doubled” stitch (from not slipping the completed stitch from one needle to the next), tight stitches, and weird yarnovers.  This was an entirely new error. I wondered what had happened to the fine motor skills that are characteristic of George.

“Come ‘ere, George. Sit down. Show me how you knit.” We sat side by side, and I watched him.  With one needle, he dug awkwardly at the yarn on the other needle.  Why didn’t I notice this when I “taught” him how to knit a few weeks ago? He didn’t seem to have the body sense of knitting.  Hmm.

This question suddenly occurred to me, the sign of an unconscious inkling: “George, are you right-handed or left-handed?” He gave me the George look, as if I had asked him, Are you a Democrat or Republican? In other words, I asked him a teacher-centered question.

Next question.  “George, do you write with your right hand or your left hand?” He looked at Grace. She shrugged.

Grace started to catch on, though.  “Let’s do a test,” she said, and found a clipboard and pen.  “Write your name.” First, George wrote his name beautifully with his left hand.  And then, voluntarily, he wrote it with his right, legible but with a wavering line.

“So, George, you’re left-handed?” I asked. He wasn’t sure.

“George, if you were in school, and the teacher gave you a worksheet and told you to work on it, which hand would you hold the pencil in?”  He transferred the pen to his left hand and held it there.

“You are left-handed! Ah ha!”

And so I went to YouTube, and I found this video, and I figured out in about 5 minutes how to knit left-handedly (it helps to already know right-handed knitting) and demonstrated the moves to George.  He got it in about 3 tries.  And now the errors he is making are typical of novice knitters.

What’s the lesson? There are two.  (1) It’s hard to learn something, as a student, when the world is set up to teach ONE way of doing something.  (2) To teach, you have to be master and novice in one: know the skill, and be willing to (re)learn it — along with your student.

Georgie and Gracie walked out the front door around 5:30pm, heading to Julie for the dinner shift. And I heard the littlest knitter say, rehearsing what he would tell his mom, “I am a left-handed knitter.”

9 thoughts on “– The knitting student

  1. Yes, George is indeed a left handed knitter. And writer. And batter. I am trying to shake off the sadness I feel in his not knowing this as it is the one trait of his that can be directly traced back to me. In fact, both my kids are lefties – although Harrison, much to my chagrin, “mouses” right. As he has never knit I cannot comment on whether he does that incorrectly, too, or not.
    Thanks again to the best neighbor (and voice of reason) anyone could ask for!

  2. You are a fabulous pedagogist! What a smart solution!

    (Elena and Sara were just asking me to teach them how to knit. I laughed. Like they think everyone knits. I am sure they would love to join you.)

  3. George is a way more facile knitter than I–knitting while pacing? Wow!

    A couple years ago, a friend tried to teach me to knit in the “Continental” style–she’d grown up on a military base in Germany, and learned from a local. I just could NOT get it. But then another friend–a retired art teacher–did exactly the same thing you did, but in reverse. She just said “Let’s try it the other way” (the “English” style) and I got it immediately. Huzzah!

    Unfortunately, I’ve been stuck at that basic level ever since. Wish I could join Jane’s Knitting Club for some advanced instruction, so I could get past the scarf stage!

  4. That’s right, Julie, you’re a leftie, too. A sign of genius, I’ve read. (My father is a leftie, and that’s it for the Kokernaks.) Sal, I’ll have to make a regular time for the knitting club, and I’ll be happy to teach my nieces. It’s a good winter sport. Rosemary, I’d love to know how to knit Continental, but I’m working my way up to it. It would be a new way of thinking for me. I’ll check out the videos; I’m not aware of that site. And if it’s any comfort, right now I’m working on a scarf, because I don’t have any available attention for reading a pattern. Scarves rule.

  5. I am again struck by how I like reading about your interests and am so glad you have many…yet they are completely and opposite of mine. I shudder to think about using the finite movements of my fingers, pinkies, hands, etc. I am going crazy just thinking about sitting at your table! I like big dramatic movements – like in painting a room with a big fluffy roller brush, raking leave but not planting flowes, and in swimming, skiing, acting, gesturing, etc.

    To sit there quietly, I would surely get RLS (Jimmy legs!)

  6. Em, you reveal yourself — and suddenly I know why you wanted me to make a dollhouse with you when I was 13 and you were 6. Even then you must have preferred gross motor movement and figured out how much I liked fine motor activities.

    (I do, however, love the big movements of ice skating and x-country skiing. They free the mind.)

    I was trying to come up with something that gives me RLS. The answer? Meetings! After about 20 minutes in an agenda-driven one, I feel as though I’m going to crawl out of my skin.

    And you know how I feel about retail shopping. Same.

  7. and braid my hair!
    So while Sally, and then Brian and I, would build huge Little People cities and creating natural disasters one after the other…you might be rearranging the Little People furniture. Again…we do have a common bond…I love to teach and seeing that lightbulb go off in someone’s head and walking away thinking – hey I just DID something there!

  8. Pingback: - Three new knitters « Leaf - Stitch - Word

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