Why children need to knit

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Amelia Holmwood discusses the importance of passing a stitch on to the next generation

 

Why Children Need to Knit

Little Boy Knitting

A little boy learns to knit in London.

The process of reinstating knitting in schools is something that has been developing over the last few years. The UK Hand Knitting Association, in partnership with the Craft Council have launched initiatives to encourage knitting in the classroom and are now doing so with the help of the WI. However, these craft clubs are held during extended hours and are not included as part of the main curriculum.

Watching a mini documentary on Saint Paul's Primary School in Brighton it is clear how much the children enjoy their after school knitting club.  It is obvious that where ever these clubs are, Sussex, London, or Kent they are hugely popular and inevitably have long waiting lists. While this is all very encouraging I can't help but wonder why this activity is not included in our national curriculum. The teachers at Saint Paul's school in Brighton spoke wistfully of knitting eventually being incorporated in to Design Technology classes, or Art and Design. As not all schools have the facilities or resources for after school or lunch time clubs I fear that these hopes may never be met.

Knitted Sea Scape

A knitted seascape made by children in an Essex primary school.

I was lucky enough to learn to knit at my school, which was a Waldorf Steiner school, when I was five years old. The class would sit in a circle, all with the same project assigned; I believe our first was a little stuffed lamb. The point was that, at five, we were by no means very good, but we were able. We learnt how to concentrate, how to commit and how to over come the inevitable tragedy of a dropped stitch. Whilst knitting used to be a skill that was taught to every child, it has now become something that parents have to seek out for their children. Call me old fashioned but basic skills such as knitting and indeed sewing are apart from anything else, practical and we should endeavour not to loose them.

After the introduction of the National Curriculum in the late 1980's knitting appears to have been gradually phased out. It is clearly time for it to be officially reintroduced. Whether or not these children grow up to be avid or accomplished knitters is irrelevant. I believe that the skills learnt in the process alone are crucial.

 Kids Knitting

In Suffolk primary school children knit in the playground.

One of the most valuable benefits from group knitting is the quality of communication and the level of conversation held by the children. I distinctly remember the extended and in-depth discussions we would have whilst knitting.  When our brains were re-engaged in a different context and our hands were busy and our minds were focussed we were permitted a different kind of expression. We were busy and thus far removed from the hysteria and irrepressible giggling that small children are so prone to emit, instead, we sat quietly and talked. I can guarantee that there isn't a parent or teacher in this country who would not appreciate this state of affairs.

If you can knit then you should teach those around you to as well. Particularly those smaller than yourself.

Now, with allegation that design and technology curriculums are being 'dumbed down' with the inclusion of subjects such as knitting, cooking and gardening I fear that these prejudices will only lessen the likelihood of knitting being officially reinstated. Critics argue that design and technology classes should focus on scientific and mathematical contextualization and not on what have been deemed 'practical life skills'.  These critics I think are missing the point. Whilst for some, cookery, gardening and knitting are passed on at home, for many children this will not be the case. It is important that these fundamental aptitudes are delivered to children at a young age. All of the subjects that have been dismissed as 'diluting' the curriculum hold valuable, cognitive as well as strategic components, be they mathematical, creative or practical.

Learning To Knit

In Surrey this popular craft club has been running for two years. 

 

All images sourced from UK Hand Knitting Association website. 

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