Kids Learn to Knit author Lucinda Guy shares her secrets on the best ways to teach children to knit
A very patient auntie taught me to knit when I was about five, and some of the first things to come off my needles were clothes for my toys.
I remember being allowed plenty of time to persevere and get to grips with it – it is something that all kids are capable of learning and of course it’s good for you! Everybody can knit, they just have to give it a bit of time and practise.
For me, the real incentive to practise and learn more came later, when I was a teenager and actually wanted to knit things to wear. On a school science trip to Iceland and the Faroe Islands I found myself buying hand-spun hanks of yarn, Faroese socks and an Icelandic cardigan (I still have the socks and cardigan!), and I just knew I wouldn’t be doing sciences anymore. I became a potter’s apprentice for a while, but finally went to art college, where I studied constructed textiles and specialised in hand knitting.
When I met my partner François Hall, he was working as a graphic designer and children’s book illustrator and I was making collections of knitted children’s clothes under my own label for Conran and Paul Smith. The British Crafts Council invited me to exhibit at what was then Chelsea Crafts Fair, and François came up with the brilliant idea of combining his illustrations with my knits to produce an original, quirky look for my brochures and business cards. He also made fantastic, large cut-out cardboard illustrations of children and animals that I was able to dress up in my knitted hats, scarves and sweaters and use for display – they were a great success.
The ideas for the books developed from there really – luckily for us the winning combination of illustration and knitted things was so distinctive and original at the time that it was snapped up by Rowan when we approached them with ideas for our own book.
When I started to write the instructions, I just concentrated on every single thing I did and then made it more and more succinct. Even when you think you have simplified enough, you can always simplify it more. When it comes to teaching children or adults, the key is to keep things really simple and to be patient – take it nice and slow and let people know that it really isn’t something that’s going to be mastered overnight.
Kids Learn to Knit became the first in a series of affordable, really well-designed how-to books for children, using a fun and interesting learning process. We were very keen to provide a style of simple, clear step by step instructions that children could understand and really enjoy working from on their own – and Kids Learn to Knit, Crochet and Stitch are the end results!
It would be great if knitting, crochet and stitching were taught as art in schools, with the emphasis on creativity and having fun, as they are all about using colours and exploring textures. It is all too prescriptive if you are just made to learn by rote, and anyway, kids will have plenty of time to learn how to form neat and tidy stitches. Primarily, they must enjoy themselves!
- Give kids their very own needles and yarn – short wooden 4mm needles and a medium-weight or DK yarn are best to start with.
- Wool-rich yarns are much easier to learn with than cotton yarns.
- Let kids have fun choosing their own colours.
- Encourage them to play around and enjoy using the yarn – it should be fun!
- Learning a knitting rhyme really helps.
- Let kids know that they can go slowly and try to get them to make each stitch carefully.
- Be patient! Every child is different and learns in different ways.
- Be creative and inspire kids to find out how much fun it can be to construct things.
- Encourage kids to put their new-found skills to work and make up their own projects.
- Reward them with a little project bag to keep all their knitting bits in.
Words: Lucinda Guy
This article is an extract from Issue 170 of Knitting magazine – buy your copy here or the digital edition here
Lucinda Guy and Francois Hall’s Kids Learn to Stitch can be purchased here