“Inside recess.” It’s almost an oxymoron. The kids can’t run; they can’t throw things around — there’s nothing recess-like about it. But it’s a fact of life when the weather is inclement. What’s a teacher to do? Legos, games, and videos only go so far. Last year, students in grades 3-6 at Kings Road Elementary School in Madison, N.J., added knitting to the list of indoor activities.

Is a 9-year-old too young to learn to knit? Not at all. “Knitting is the kind of thing that’s easier to learn as a child,” explains Sheila Barboza, the third grade teacher who started the Kings Road knitting club. “If you learn it as a child, there’s a brain patterning that happens. Even if you put it down for awhile, you’ll remember it later. It’s like riding a bike.”

One, Two, Three…Knit!

As long as you have experienced knitters on hand, getting a knitting club going is a snap. Here are a few key steps.

1. Form an Organizing Committee. Barboza is a teacher who loves to knit (or perhaps a knitter who loves to teach). She wanted to share knitting with the students. All she needed was an organizing committee and seed money. Angie Donovan and Kathy Ginocchio, two other teachers who knit, worked with Barboza to get the club going, and the PTO agreed to provide the necessary funds.

2. Send Out an Announcement. In the fall, a notice was sent out to all students announcing the start of the knitting club for grades 3-6. About 50 students signed up.

3. Buy and Prepare the Materials. Needles (Red Heart starter needles, 7-inch plastic needles in sizes 7, 8, and 9) and worsted weight yarn were bought. You may need to special order the needles; most craft stores won’t have the number you want on hand. The needles run about $3.25 apiece. Some craft stores offer discounts for teachers. Before the first meeting of the club, the yarn was wound into 2-inch balls, and 10 stitches were cast onto the needles. These materials were put in individual, resealable plastic bags.

4. Recruit Volunteers. The organizers lined up parent and senior citizen volunteers to help. The local senior center had expressed interest in helping in the schools, and the knitting club provided an excellent opportunity. Each adult worked with only two or three new knitters.

5. Announce the Schedule. Beginning in January, the knitting club met once a week during recess in the school library. (Recess and lunch period are connected, so students were invited to bring their lunches with them.) Until the students got the hang of knitting, third- and fourth-graders and fifth- and sixth-graders came on alternate weeks.

6. Knit One, Purl Two. There were about 30 students who came regularly to the knitting club. Their first project was to knit 10 stitches back and forth, hopefully without gaining or losing stitches along the way. Next they made a knitted purse, which taught them to decrease. After that, most of them chose something they were interested in making from a knitting book.

Assessing the Results

The knitting club turned out to be popular and successful in its first year. Here are some things that worked and didn’t work.

  • Having third grade as the minimum grade worked. Some of the volunteers also teach at the local library and have tried to teach younger children to knit in a group setting. It was frustrating for all concerned.
  • The participation of the senior citizens was wonderful. They were able to share their expertise with the students and to enjoy the cheerful, productive atmosphere.
  • Giving the students something else to do during indoor recess was a real plus. On days when they were stuck inside (and there were a lot of them last winter!), the students would gather in knitting circles in classrooms throughout the school — even if the knitting club wasn’t meeting.
  • Loaning the needles to students did not work. Despite pleas to get the needles back from the students, few were returned. From now on, the club will sell the needles ($2 to $3 per pair) to students who sign up.
  • The club will now start in November rather than January. In its organizational year, planning happened during the fall. This year the knitting club can get started once the students have settled in to the new school year.

Creating a Fine Fabric

By the end of the school year, there were knitted stuffed toys, purses, hats, baby blankets, and scarves. But the greatest accomplishment of this group of students, teachers, seniors, and parents was a community service project. As a culminating activity, the knitting club created a blanket that was donated to Project Linus, a non-profit organization that makes handmade blankets and quilts and gives them to children in need. Students, teachers, and parents knitted 36 squares that were assembled into a blanket. Students were very proud of their work and were thrilled to be helping others who are less fortunate. This will be done annually as part of the knitting club.

Linda O’Gorman is a free-lance writer, knitter, mother of two knitting daughters, and active PTO member.

A Few Good Books

Kids’ Easy Knitting Projects (Quick Starts for Kids!) by Peg Blanchette and Marc Nadel
Knitting (Kids Can Do It) by Judy Ann Sadler and Esperanca Melo
Kids Knitting by Melanie Falick

By the Numbers

Red Heart starter knitting needles, 50 pairs, $3.25 per pair $170
Yarn (2-4 skeins of budget, worsted weight yarn, $3.70 per skein) $15
Resealable plastic bags $8
Resource books (start-up cost for first year only) $30
Total Cost $223