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Knitting Diaries: A Guest Post by Melisa Nielsen

In Melisa’s words:

Knitting to me is a sacred thing. It hasn’t always been.  I didn’t grow up with knitting.  I learned when my oldest was in kindergarten and I was preparing to home school the Waldorf way.  It was not an easy task for me.  I am left-handed and everyone that ever tried to teach me gave up.  I don’t give up on myself easily so I continued to wrestle with it until my very first wash cloth was completed.  The feeling of accomplishment was amazing.  A few months later, after knitting a few horses, a recorder case and many, many more wash cloths, I was ready to teach my oldest son.  My oldest is on the autism spectrum and knitting, while a challenge at first, knitting became a balm for his soul as much as it was mine. The rhythmic, mid-line crossing actions seemed to keep his mind active while helping his body stay put.  As he progressed in his Waldorf journey, he learned other handwork, but it was knitting that gave him a sense of piece.

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In time, I taught others to knit, my middle son, my oldest daughter and later friends.  For our business, I made knitting videos that have helped hundreds learn to knit as well as learn to teach their own children.  As my youngest son, Sam,  approached first grade, I began to reflect on my other students and the steps we took toward knitting before picking up the needles for the first time.  This series aims to follow those steps as I bring them to Sam.

In my years of teaching others to knit, I have noticed differences in hand strength and how it mirrors a child’s school readiness and also their temperament. I found that phlegmatics and melancholics tend to have less strength in their hands and cholerics and sanguines have about right amount.  Some children also tend to have a really tight grip, while others can’t seem to get tight enough.  All of these factors go into how easy it will be to teach your child to knit.

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If you have a child that is struggling with fine motor skills, one thing that Ingun Schneider in her journal article “Supporting the Development of the Hand” suggests is to teach your child (five and up) how to eat with chop sticks properly.  This can help with fine muscle control.  She also suggests being careful with block crayon usage.  As instructed in Sigi’s DVD “Coloring with Block Crayons” there is a certain way to hold them that is not like a regular crayon.  Paying attention to posture and encouraging fine motor development will help your child as you are on the knitting journey. 

 As I began to teach Sam, I started in the final months of kindergarten.  We played with the yarn to get him comfortable with it, I let him pick out his own colors and we made sure that our purchases were for bulky or super bulky yan. I chose wool, but you will have to be your own guide here.  I love the feel of a good bulky wool yarn as a first experience for a young child.  Synthetics are often chosen for cost, but if you can get some wool, it is worth it in my opinion. (But you should also know that I have been called a handwork snob, lol)

 While Sam properly learned to roll a ball from his nice orange hank of wool yarn, I told him a short story of a little fish that lived in a nearby lake.  When the fish gets excited, he jumps up out of the lake.  This story was the foundation for learning to finger knit.

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You can see a video of me with my daughter using the story here:


I could see almost immediately that Sam struggled with tension and strength in his hands.  While some might question his hand development as a baby, I did not feel like this was the issue.  I carefully recorded his hand development, crawling, etc. and then began to reflect more and more on his temperament.  Sam is a sweet, round boy that loves comfort and a good meal.  Finger knitting was a good journey of several months working a few times a week to get him used to the tension his lake needed to give the fish a fun space to jump from.  Each learning session was not without frustration on his part, but I sat next to him and we worked together bit by bit.   I also used some modeling to help strengthen his hands and I continue to do so today, several weeks into first grade.  Working with play dough, clay, mud and beeswax give him the feel for different textures and the strength needed to manipulate it in his hands. Coloring with block crayons with the correct grip also helps his hand strength.  Each week as we work, I have watched his grip get stronger.

After finger knitting, we tackled shoe tying. Many children struggle with tying shoes well into first grade, so do not be worried if your child is one of them.  I chose to wait until after our finger knitting lessons because the yarn tension of the lake is similar to that in making loops with our shoe laces.  Everyday for a week we worked on shoe tying.  He worked with me, with Daddy, with his big sister and brother and finally it clicked.  He was so very proud.

2013-09-02 14 07 37 Many will choose to go on and do hand knitting or crocheting.  If you have not done it, I encourage you to try.  It is a bit like finger knitting and another great way to work on those fine motor skills.

In our next segment, Sam tackles the knitting tower or knitting mushroom.  I hope you will come back and join us!

Ingun Schneider, Supporting the Development of the Handhttp://www.waldorflibrary.org/journals/15-gateways/428-fallwinter-2001-issue-41-supporting-the-development-of-the-hand

 Sigi’s drawng DVDhttp://meadowsweet.creocommunico.com/item_470/Coloring-with-block-crayons-3-DVD-set.php

 Thanks so much Melisa for sharing this lovely segment with us!

If you would like to find out more about Melisa, you will find their Waldorf Curriculum here and blog here.

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