Saturday, November 20, 2010

Paying it Forward

photo by Bill Price, III

Ruth A, Kris C, Ruth C and I are teaching knitting and crocheting to a group of Cornell grad students at Cornell's Big Red Barn on Monday nights. Kris, who is a manager of this grad and professional gathering place, thought the idea up as our previous charity knitting group was dissolving.

The four of us volunteer our expertise and services while the students gets these classes for free but, in exchange, make one item for charity for every item they make for themselves.

Our local Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Task Force, along with other local services, is targeting Trinity Place as our current receiver of knitted goods.  There have been 4 public knitting sessions at Out for Health with local yarn shops and dyers donating yarn and goodies for the cause.

I am used to teaching middle schoolers so the level of continued interest and understanding while teaching knitting is uplifting to me.  These folks have come a long way in just a few short weeks. Of course we have some attrition, but the students who have continued are fabulous.

We began with basic knitting, learning to knit a garter stitch swatch the first night, all with circular needles.  By the end of the evening several of the women had also learned how to do a purl stitch plus a long tail cast on.  We have given no homework but since these folks have an incredible self drive they continue as time permits during the week.

For the second session several were ready to start a hat in the round, while a few frogged their swatches and became much better at keeping a consistent tension and number of stitches on the needle.

As the women ask questions we talk about knitting history and knitting language and knitting culture. The hour and a half flies by, and goes even faster when Ruth and I are treated to a glass of beer.

I made a Beginner's Hat sheet for them to follow.  Essentially, finding gauge from their swatch, measuring their heads and figuring out how many stitches to cast on.  Most came out with 4.5 st/in which is spot on for the yarns we were using (all worsted weights).  The majority started a hat that evening.  Basically a tube that is kitchenered at the top. Then the ends are folded down and held with a button.

Cute and simple.   By Session 3 we saw incredible progress.  One student had finished her tube and was waiting for kitchener instructions, but was so in love with knitting she went ahead and started a second hat with a ribbed bottom.  Another student made up her own stitch, which was really a version of basket weave 5 x5, only hers decreased  to 4 x 4, 3 x 3, etc as she decreased stitches on her needle, and then was stopped by too few stitches to move around the circ.  So that evening Ruth and I taught a few of them how to use dpns.
They are so incredibly into this!  I get so excited and high at these sessions just from the combined enthusiasm and joy we are all creating together.  Really, the beer is just an added bonus.

These are some of the crochet students.

Next week we were supposed to have a week off for Thanksgiving but our knitting students asked for a Field Trip instead.  We will be meeting at a local yarn shop, then going to Joanne Fabrics to look at buttons, then over to AC Moore for yarn shop contrast and then back to the original mall to have dinner or soft drinks and knit together for a while.

1 comment:

Rose said...

That is so awesome! Wish I was closer so I could take knitting lessons from you!