A Ball of Yarn

Yarn and knitting needles tiptoed into the room last week. Some girls brought in some knitting and then some other girls wanted to learn.  Then some boys wanted to learn.  And then I wanted to learn.  Knitting has formed some unlikely partnerships in our classroom: a boy, who can be tough and rough, tries and tries again while a soft-spoken girl shows him how to get it right.  Another boy, known for his size and strength and gentleness, works the yarn deftly in his large hands.  Everyday new knitting needles come in with a novice knitter, and the newly taught become teachers to whoever moves forward to learn.

There are not enough knitting needles. A boy has the idea of chopsticks and brings them in.  Another thinks to knit with pencils. I have raided abandoned craft closets for yarn.  It is good to do something with our hands after a morning of state testing.

No one knew how to cast on the stitches.  Two girls took responsibility for finding out how — then they cast on for others. They weren’t getting enough time to work on their own knitting.   That’s when I knew it was time for me to learn.

I went to Ben Franklin and got my own knitting needles and yarn.  I came home and searched You Tube for a demo on how to knit and I hit replay over and over while I fumbled with the yarn.   It is good for a teacher to remember how hard it is to learn something new that does not come easily.

I watch children knit and can’t help but think of Maria Montessori.  She wrote often about the child’s capacity for concentration and love of silence, order, work, and beauty. The knitter’s silence sings with these truths.

There is something perfect about our class learning to knit at the end of the year.  At the beginning of the year we explored our hopes and dreams for third grade.  We learned the Room 204 routines.   We “cast on” well as we created life and learning together. As the year is ending we are learning to finish well. There are no dropped stitches.  Each person is honored as part of the pattern.  In knitting, if you don’t take the time to finish your work, it unravels.  We have worked too hard together to unravel.  We will take the time to finish beautifully.

About Annie Campbell

Annie Campbell is a National Board Certified teacher and loves her work. After a forty year career in the classroom, she continues to support teachers. Annie enjoys cooking for family and friends; she likes to lose herself in a good book; she loves discovering new ideas, restaurants, perfect picnic places, and movies with her husband, Ben.
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11 Responses to A Ball of Yarn

  1. Juliann says:

    What a lovely post! And such a great way to end the year. Seems like you have done well in allowing your students to be partners with you in their education.

  2. Sparkelein says:

    I wonder if I ever told you one of my favorite stories. If not, you’ll soon see why not. Mama used to knit professionally in the early 1930’s when knit dresses were all the rage. These dresses were made on one round needle. She amazed her friends – and ultimately her daughter – by her ability to carry on without looking at her hands as they worked and her speed, because she used the “continental” method – a bit harder to learn but much faster to execute.

    We were living in Honolulu at the time. Mama and Rog were still in their 20’s and some of Rog’s shipmates were still bachelors, Mister was almost two years old and I was four. Quite often, after Mister and I were put to bed, we’d sneak out to the top of the stairs and listen to a party downstairs in our living room. There would always be music – piano, ukelele, singing, dancing – and revelry.

    In the morning, Mister and I always got up before our parents did and crept downstairs, to see what we could find. On the first occasion which I remember specifically, we discovered the half-finished knitted dress Mama was making draped across the piano. I could not help myself. The needle slipped easily out of its myraid loops. Worse, I couldn’t resist pulling the bumpy, red boucle yarn out of the dress. After a few minutes and a few inches, I grew tired of that delicious activity. Or maybe it was because Mama came downstairs and exploded in anger. And worst of all, I cried, “He did it, he did it,” and Mama picked Mister up, threw him across her lap, and whaled the tar out of him.

    I thought that was pretty great. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, that I did it again at the next opportunity. But it wasn’t funny anymore when Mama realized that I had been the culprit all along. I wonder how she knew. Mister couldn’t even talk yet!!

  3. Whata wonderful way to end the year. Enjoy the balls of yarn and the silent concentration!

  4. Annie says:

    Great story, Mom! No, you never told me that one!! I’m glad YOU didn’t believe in spanking.

  5. Libby says:

    Annie, I’d love to come in and knit with you and your students one day! What a great end-of-year activity!

  6. Lisa says:

    I think that sounds fabulous! You have reminded me: when I was in grade 4, one of the teachers had looms for knitting scarves. Kids in her class got to make a scarf. I wasn’t in her class. I was so jealous!

  7. blkdrama says:

    Perfect, you are learning side by side with them. Great way to end a school year,

  8. teachin' says:

    “We have worked too hard together to unravel. We will take the time to finish beautifully.”

    That line made me cry. I hope my kids feel we finished beautifully.

  9. girlgriot says:

    What a wonderful story! As a knitter, I’m always thrilled to hear about new knitters, always that much more thrilled when boys get interested in knitting. Your connection between the work of learning to knit together and the work you’ve done as a class is just beautiful.

  10. Wendy Martin says:

    So this explains it!

    Josie came home with Eva’s knitting basket since she didn’t have materials of her own. Seeing that she could truly knit, I stole upstairs and found the knitting needles that belonged to her namesake, my great-grandmother (“Nana Jo”). Before my great-grandfather died, I asked if I might have a set of her needles — she was a master! — and he was happy to comply.

    I presented those needles to Josie, explaining their history and importance. She took them solemnly. How nice to have a knitting “Jo” around again!

  11. Abbie says:

    As always, I am in awe…you are one of the best teachers I have ever known. Not jsut in “public ed.” or whatever, but just in life. 😉
    Thank you.
    ps, my grandma “Polly” always tried to teach me to knit. I couldn’t. She taught me how to cross-stich, use a sewing machine, hem, attach buttons, use patterns…and more. But I never could knit. must learn.

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