Posted by: jinniver | February 20, 2009

Passing the baton

Jeffrey wants to knit.

Jeffrey knitting (1)

Unfortunately, this is what he usually means.  He likes to take my knitting on circular needles and then run the needles through the fabric as if they were sewing needles until he has them good and knotted in my knitting.  There have been times I’ve nearly had to detach the needle tips from the cable in order to get everything untangled.

So, for Christmas, I bought Jeffrey his own learn-to-knit kit:

Jeffrey knitting (2)

Nothing fancy, obviously. Some cheap but soft acrylic yarn, and a plastic circular needle. The idea is to knit a scarf made entirely of loops–the first one was already knit (the green knitted object in the case).  It took some careful perusal of badly written instructions, but I finally figured out how this was to be done–after the stitches were cast on in the next color, the needle was threaded through the previously knit loop, knit in the round, and then cast off.  Jeffrey checked me on the instructions.

Jeffrey knitting (3)

I decided to go ahead and cast on and then knit the first two rows, in order to get Jeffrey started.  That’s when I discovered how poor the kit really was.

The cable was simply too long to comfortably knit the required number of stitches in the round…but it couldn’t have been any shorter, because the needle tips were so long.  I got the first round mostly knit and then paused to consider the likelihood of Jeffrey having any success with this project.

Jeffrey knitting (4)

Seeing how stretched out those stitches were, the answer to me was a clear “none.”  So, Jeffrey got his first lesson in frogging.  He was surprisingly uninterested for a boy who loves deconstruction, but all he wanted to do was knit…something.  He didn’t know what, and I don’t think he cared, as long as he was knitting.

A chip off the old block.

So I decided to scrap the loops and simply knit a straight garter stitch scarf.  We’d knit all we had of each color in turn, and Jeffrey decided he wanted to shift to the yellow.  So I cast on again and knit the first two rows of garter stitch, then prepared to turn it over to my son.

Now, just so you know–my expectations were reasonably low.  After all, Jeffrey isn’t even 4 years old yet, and he’s got the manual dexterity and attention span of an average child his age.  I intended to really try to teach him to knit, but I wasn’t expecting wonders.  No fair isle by the end of the day, or anything.

I showed Jeffrey how to hold the needles and then reviewed the knit stitch rhyme:

Up from the bottom
Around from the back
Down through the hole
And off jumps Jack.

There are several different versions of the rhyme I’ve heard, but I like this one the best for how accurately it describes the motions (as compared to the ones that mention windows and doors, for example; my literal-minded son would be asking where the windows and doors were!).

Jeffrey knitting (7)

He had a good grip on the needles and stitches, so we began. I had Jeffrey sitting on my lap so I could watch over his shoulder and assist as needed. For the first several stitches (at least), I figured he’d need my hands loosely over his to help him feel the proper motions, and that’s what we did. The first challenge was getting the needle up through the bottom of the stitch properly. It took some wiggling, but he got it.

Jeffrey knitting (8)

Once the needle was through, I discovered we had a problem. I’m a thrower, which requires me to let go of the right-hand needle in order to wrap the yarn. Jeffrey couldn’t quite get the hang of letting go of the needle without dropping his stitches, but he wasn’t ready for the extra step of trying to control the yarn with his index finger (even if I had the knack to show him). And when he did manage to let go, he kept grabbing the yarn way too close to the ball and put no tension on it, so it never really wrapped properly. So we compromised by having him continue to hold the needles while I wrapped the yarn.

Now came, in my opinion, the trickiest part. It takes a bit of a tilt of the wrist to get the right-hand needle to pop through the right hole so that you’ve got a new stitch on the needle. I wasn’t sure how long it would take him to get that motion, or if he would. So you can imagine my surprise…

Jeffrey knitting (9)

…when the answer was not long at all. “Off jumps Jack!” announced Jeffrey triumphantly–it was the only part of the rhyme he remembered, no matter how many times I repeated it to him.

After several stitches, Jeffrey held up his work.  “I did it!” he said.  “I knit a scarf!”

Well, not quite yet, buddy.  There’s a ways to go.  But you’re off to a good start.



  1. I taught a 9 yo yesterday, and “Off jumps Jack” is pretty much what she remembered, too. I like your version better because of the descriptions. How does the door turn into a window?

    We also tried
    Under the fence
    Catch the sheep
    Back we come
    Off we leap

    which helped her remember to to go into the stitch. And put in a row of eyelets. She liked the yarn over. “YO!”

  2. That is great! I tried teaching Angie once and I think she still has a pair of my needles in her room somewhere.

  3. That’s adorable! It’s a shame that kit was so poorly put together. At least the yarns are bright and fun.

  4. So adorable! I hope he continues to enjoy it, and that it’s something the two of you can share for many years to come!

  5. Jeffrey is doing much better than my 40+ year old friend I tried to teach a few years ago…

  6. Do you have a rhyme for the purl stitch? I’m going to be teaching a friend’s daughter to knit sometime this year and I’d like to have a purl stitch rhyme handy.

  7. […] first knitting needles. Jeffrey has had some on-and-off interest in learning how to knit, and we’ve actually tried it a few times. But he hadn’t shown any interest recently…until I started sporting my own […]


%d bloggers like this: