Teaching knitting to children

Martingale's Knit & Crochet Friday

teaching knitting to children

Last summer, I started teaching my seven-year old son, Jack, to knit. I had been patiently waiting for just the right time for—well, years! I didn’t want to discourage him by starting too early; I wanted his efforts to be successful. To help me decide on the right time to introduce knitting, I watched his drawing skills. As he started adding more and more details to his made-up superhero characters on paper, I could see his fine-motor skills were ready to tackle sticks and string.

We sat on the floor with needles, yarn, and a copy of the kid-friendly book Knitting with Gigi. We read through the book together first to gather some basic knitting knowledge. In the book, Gigi talks directly to children through poems and a cheerful “you can do it!” approach. By the time we got to the first step-by-step lesson, Jack was eager to begin.

Jack casts on 1 Jack casts on 2
Lesson-one success: Jack wasn’t the only one proud of his cast-on accomplishment!

Knitting with GigiOur first knitting lesson took patience on my part and determination on Jack’s part, and Knitting with Gigi proved to be the perfect guide. What the book does best when it comes to teaching knitting to children is explaining the steps from a child’s point of view. Gigi inspires children with her simple talk, enthusiasm, and encouragement. And she includes eight fun, easy projects to make, including a hat, potholder, and scarf—all completely doable, even by little hands’ standards.

In the following excerpt from the book, you can introduce kids to Gigi with a fun rhyming poem. Then, with your help, Gigi will walk children through the basics of making a slipknot and casting on.

Teaching knitting to children takes persistence. But when you see a child finish his or her first project, I can guarantee this: that child won’t be the only one filled with delight!

Knitting with Gigi 1

Gigi McGreedy will teach you to knit.
She’ll patiently help you to learn bit by bit.

Up through the stitch, put the yarn through the middle,
Down through the same stitch, and little by little

You’ll get less clumsy as you try but still fumble,
Working with needles and yarn in a jumble.

In no time at all, you’ll be stitching in bliss.
But when projects get tough, just remember this:

“Practice makes perfect” will never apply.
We all make mistakes, no matter how hard we try.

So be of good cheer and do not despair.
With time and some care, you’ll have something to wear.

Gigi has faith in what you can do.
Your knitting is special—just like you.

Let’s get started!
I’m so glad you want to learn to knit! I remember when I learned how to knit. It felt kind of awkward at first. My Grandma said that, with a little practice, my hands would learn to work together. She was right! I was knitting in no time! Now I knit almost everywhere—in the car, on the bus, and even at the beach. The yarn feels so good against my fingers as my needles click away. My friends and I have tons of fun together when we knit, and I can’t wait for you to join us.

What you’ll need
basic knitting suppliesOne of the reasons knitting is such a cool hobby is that you don’t need much equipment to get started. Besides a bag to put it all in, you just need knitting needles, yarn, scissors, a yarn needle, and a crochet hook. To get your materials, go to a craft store or your local yarn store. They will be happy to help you. Just tell them you need size 8 needles and some worsted-weight yarn. You’ll want a small, sharp pair of scissors, and the crochet hook should be about size 5.

Now that you’ve gathered your supplies, it’s time to cast on!

How to make a slipknot

How to make a slipknot
  1. Grab the yarn about 8 inches from the end.
  2. Pinch it between your thumb and index finger on your left hand.
  3. Wrap the yarn loosely around your left index finger until it crosses.
  4. With your right hand, grab the yarn about 4 inches from the short end, pull it around the back of the yarn, and slip the yarn into the hole created by your index finger, gently pulling it up. Don’t pull the short end all of the way through. Instead make a little loop and gently tighten the yarn around it. You’ve just made a slipknot!
  5. Now, place the slipknot onto a knitting needle: this is your first stitch. Make sure the stitch is snug on the needle but also loose enough to poke the other needle up through it. The slipknot is your first stitch on the needle.

If you’ve tried my instructions but can’t make a slipknot, don’t get discouraged. Just tie the yarn in any old loose knot and slip it on the needle. You can figure out how to make a slipknot later.

Now it’s time to put more stitches on the needle.

There are many different ways to cast on. I’ll teach you one way!

Here’s how to cast on:

How to cast on
  1. Hold the needle in your left hand. Leave the short end of the yarn hanging down—it’s called the “tail,” and you will weave it in at the end of the project.
  2. With your right hand, take the yarn that’s attached to the ball, and wrap it around your right index finger until it crosses.
  3. Take your left needle and insert the tip up into the hole that’s been created by your right index finger.
  4. With the left needle, pull the stitch off your finger and onto the needle. Give the yarn a little tug to gently snug up the stitch on your left needle so that it’s next to the first stitch, and not too loose and not too tight.
  5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 until you have 15 stitches on your needle, including the slipknot.

Now you’re ready to start knitting!

Have you taught a child to knit? What kind of tips and tricks did you use to help them along? Share your teaching adventure in the comments.

7 Comments (leave a comment)

  • Many moons ago, I tried to teach my youngest sister, then about 6, to knit. Having taught myself, I carefully showed her how it was done, kind of making the steps song-like. She did well while I coached her through each step. Once she seemed to get the hang of it, I would pick up my knitting and would very shortly hear "uh-oh, I think I goofed." I wish they had a book like this back then. I might just get it in order to teach one of my many grandchildren to knit. I know one of them already wants to learn to quilt!

    —Krafty KC on November 30, 2012
  • The Clothing and Textile Advisors of Washington (CTAs) teaches one-week classes for children every summer. The first thing we teach them is how to spool knit. This gives the kids an understanding of how loops become fabric.

    Next, they decide how to hold their needles. There are usually four or five adults, and they use different methods of holding their needles and yarn. So the kids walk around, looking at each adult, before deciding how they want to hold their own needles.

    At this point, they are ready to do a starting loop and cast on. Because there is a tendency to drop/add stitches, the first project is an I-cord. The I-cord is so much like the knitting spool, the kids catch on right away.

    —Lynne on November 30, 2012
  • In January my eldest turns 27, my next one turns 25 in June and my youngest is turning 10…..27 years ago I would not have thought that I would be teaching them to knit or quilt…but now they know the basics of quilting, knitting, and crochetting….When they made their first quilts I almost cried…the feeling is just so wonderful watching them learn and try and then create on their own…..

    —Darlene Krystal on November 30, 2012
  • Rather than use your method of casting on, I knit mine on. It just seems easier to me. I like the look of the first row, because it is tighter and ready to sew pieces together with a flatter seam.

    —Jan Stewart on November 30, 2012
  • One of my shipmates, a person I would never have believed was creative in any manner other than tying her shoes, is a Knitter. She has made all 5 of her children knitted bedcovers. Then came the 12 grandchildren and she is presently working on bedcovers for her great-grandchildren. One of the grandchildren is learning to knit.

    I tried to do knitting, but old fumble-fingers here couldn’t. My dear friend told me to stick to my quilting. Something she never could get interested in, but in either case, we’d cover the world.

    Keep smiling,

    Lynnita Shipman on December 1, 2012
  • I understand why many people want to wait until their children are ‘old enough’ to learn how to sew/quilt/knit/crochet, but I urge you all to consider how quickly a child learns how to do EVERYTHING they see. Look back in history and there are many examples in books and museums of needlework done by children as young as 4 and 5 years old; and I’m not talking about long-stitch pictures on hole punched paper!

    I was so young when I was taught to knit that I have no memory of anyone teaching me, yet I can clearly remember knitting a baby bootee and reading the pattern at 5 years old. I know I was 5 because I remember a woman asking my mother if I was really reading the pattern and asking how old I was 😀

    I learned to knit on metal knitting needles. Needles that were the size required to create the garment in the pattern. We didn’t have oversized, javelin-style needles with yarn thick enough to tie up a tug-boat!

    Give your children some credit for being the intelligent, capable people they can be. And remember, "You’ll have someone’s eye out with that if your not careful!!" was a phrase we grew up with, but I don’t know anyone who lost an eye learning to knit.

    —Kayt on December 2, 2012
  • In through the front door,
    Out around the back.
    Back though the front door,
    And off jumps Jack.

    —Cindinas on February 6, 2015

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