Posted by: Aunt Magaidh | December 22, 2009

Fluff and Teenagers

Last week I took advantage of being “between jobs” and volunteered to teach 18 teens how to knit and spin.  My friend Micah is a teacher at an alternative high school in Hayward and this “Week Without Walls” for the whole school.  It’s basically when the kids get to sign up for a class that lasts a week and covers one subject in depth.

On Monday, we introduced the students to circular needles and yarn.  We started off with acrylic yarn in the ghastliest colors and went over the basics of casting on, the knit stitch, the purl stitch, and counting stitches.

Oh, the mutterings.  Oh, the groanings.  Oh, the  sounds of frustration and puzzlement.  I kept telling them that it takes 2 to 3 hours to learn a technique.  They didn’t believe me.  But by the end of the day all 18 kids had learned to cast on and knit the garter stitch and stockinette stitch.  A few advanced students had moved on to ribbing, seed stitch and binding off.

On Tuesday, I moved my spinning stuff to a local coffee shop where the class had a field trip.  I started off with a quick history lesson on spinning, followed by a demonstration of spinning on a top whorl hand spindle, a bottom whorl spindle, a Pueblo spindle, and then a Saxony wheel and an upright wheel.  We handed out wool and off they went.  Again, the groans and moans and sounds of frustration.  But by the end of the day, every one of the students had spun at least 2 yards of single ply yarn.  And 5 of them had played at the wheels.

Thursday was a trip to a wonderful lys (local yarn store) in San Francisco called Imagiknit,  They finally were introduced to why knitters love yarn.  Friday was clean up day, working on hats and scarves and doing some Kool-aid dyeing of handspun.

I have great hopes for the young lady who is planning to study fashion design.  She has been focused on these lessons with laser vision.  She’s asked questions and watched fingers and hand position and really looked at the fibers.  She tried every technique we introduced her to.  She spun on 3 different spindles and 2 different wheels.  She now knows how to knit flat and in the round.  She asked for a place to search out an internship to learn about fiber work.  (I directed her to Lisa Souza’s in Lafayette.) Ah, yes.  An addict is born.

I was often asked how long I had been knitting and where I had learned.  it made me think about it.  I’ve been knitting for about 18 years, off and on, mostly on for the last 10.  I told them that I had been taught by my wonderful grandmother-in-law.  What was fun it was telling them that Grandma Cain was blind when she taught me to knit, explaining how she could feel her knit and purl stitches with her fingers and knew the craft so intimately that she could tell where my infant knitting had gone wrong.  And I told them about my solemn promise to her to teach “the girls” in the family…and how I considered all 18 of them to be “the girls”.

What has been fascinating is how these young women, plugged into iPods and cell phones and up on the latest songs and celebrities, picked up needles and yarn and became part of the newest generation of knitters.

So here’s to passing on our crafts and skills and passions.  Raise your glass in toast and teach someone what you know.



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