Following on from last week's post Knitting with Children, we look this week at what knitting needles and other materials you might find helpful when starting to teach your children to knit.
Selecting Tools and Materials
Picking the right kind of needles is important at this stage. Ideally you want something with a little bit of grip to keep those stitches safely on the needles as young hands learn to work the knit stitch.
Addi make these super cute kids needles – they have a special coating that gives them the extra grip needed. The heart shaped needle caps are coloured red and blue to help orientate left and right when knitting.
Addi also make circular needles with slightly shorter tips, perfect for smaller hands that are slightly different colours to help with learning to identify left and right.
You could also use bamboo needles as these also have that extra touch of grip on the needle surface that helps to keep stitches from falling off the ends.
When selecting a needle size, choose needles suitable for the yarn, I would try and aim for something in the region of 4mm – 5mm as a starting point.
As we all know one of the best bits of knitting is choosing yarn. When selecting yarn for a beginner project choose something that is light, bright and smooth. These qualities will help the new knitter to see their stitches easily and a smooth yarn is far easier to work with. I would also opt for something soft and squishy, as it is more likely to appeal to a younger knitter than something slightly more robust. Don’t worry, if you are like me and love more rustic yarns you can always introduce them to the wonderful world of sheep breeds as you continue along the knitting journey together.
Some ideas for yarns:
Some of our favorites:
Debbie Bliss Rialto DK
Rooster Almerino DK
Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran
Libby Summers Fine Aran
The learning process
Should you focus on casting on or just get cracking with the knit stitch? Having taught beginner knitting I think learning to cast on is very important, however I have also seen the frustration building as some tries again and again to cast on when they actually just want to be knitting!
It is up to you what order you teach the various elements of knitting in but I would recommend not dwelling on the cast on too much. Get going with the knit stitch and then revisit the cast on again a few times along the knitting journey.
Using a rhyme can help children to remember the order of actions needed to create a knit stitch.
As you progress mistakes will happen, yarn overs sneak onto the needles, stitches jump off the needles and race down the knitting, creating ladders. Try to keep it all light hearted, as we know almost everything in knitting is fixable – and if it isn’t then you can always start again. Keeping a positive slant on the learning process is key.
Books that encourage knitting
There are some really wonderful books out there that encourage knitting for children. One of my favourites is Annie and the Swiss Cheese Scarf by Alana Dakos. I have one of these books safely tucked away in my cupboard as a gift for my little one this year. The book is beautifully illustrated throughout, has a wonderful story and some hand knitting resource pages at the end.
When selecting first knitting projects I would steer clear of the long garter stitch scarf, by the time they have knitted enough garter stitch to make a decent scarf your young knitter may be well and truly over the knit stitch. Think about small projects where they can practice existing skills and develop new skills.
Easy starter project idea
Two garter stitch squares folded to make hand warms would be a far more satisfying knit. Using double knit (and 4mm needles) or aran (and 5mm needles) cast on between 12 and 20 sts depending on how large their hand is and the yarn chosen, knit in garter stitch until the piece almost wraps around their hand and cast off. Sew up the garter stitch square leave space for a thumbhole and decorate with buttons.
Alternatively you could work a simple garter stitch square to be used as dolls blanket with lots of room to add extra learning elements in the next blanket – more casting on, casting off, the purl stitch … the options are endless.
Cat Bordhi also has a wonderful resource on her website. While it is aimed at teaching knitting in schools it has some lovely ideas and projects that could be easily translated to a home learning environment.
Older children can quickly progress to making simple hats and cowls. Once they have mastered the knit stitch, this cowl would make a great project to learn to knit in the round.
I am a firm believer in ‘dream big’ when it comes to knitting skills. Encourage older knitters to choose their own projects and support them to learn new skills. There are lots of excellent resources online. One of my favourites is The Simple Collection by Tin Can Knits.
We'd love to hear what your experiences have been teaching your children or grandchildren to knit please do share in the comments below.
Happy knitting! Clare x
About the Author
Clare Devine is a writer and designer. Originally from South Africa she has nomadic tendencies and is currently knitting her way around the UK. She is passionate about all things fibre related (especially if it’s grey), knitting, travel and sunshine in equal measures.
She regularly blogs at www.yarnandpointysticks.com. You can find her on Ravelry as Knitsforklipskaap, Twitter as @KnitShareLove and Instagram as @Clare.Devine.