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.”