Handmade: More children are learning how to knit

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News
Knitting instructor Rosemarie Russell teaches knitting to Gavin Perry, left, 11, and Michael Goloweyco, 10, both of Grosse Pointe Woods during a class at The Knotted Needle in Grosse Pointe Woods on Saturday, January 19, 2019.

Once thought to be your grandmother's favorite pasttime, knitting is fast becoming a popular activity among people of all ages, including children. 

Some as young as 7 are learning to knit at the hands of longtime knitter Rosemarie Russell of Harper Woods, who's been teaching children to knit at the Knotted Needle (20229 Mack) in Grosse Pointe Woods since the yarn shop opened in 2007. 

"I had a day off, and I was driving down Mack and saw a skein of yarn hanging from the back of a chair, and I slammed on my breaks," recalled Russell, who's clearly not one to pass up an opportunity! 

After going into the shop and expressing an interest in working there," Russell said she was asked by the then owner if she could teach children to knit. She wasn't certain she could, but later took in samples of her work, and has since been conducting the shop's  hour-long knitting classes for children, which are usually held at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturdays for a fee of $10. Supplies are extra, and should be purchased at the shop either the day of the class, or before.

"It's been an involved process. Some methods work better than others. It depends on the child and how precocious they are. A lot of it has to do with manual dexterity and hand and eye coordination," explained Russell. "With smaller hands, you have to be careful with the size needle you give them. It should be nothing smaller than an eight. And, I stay away from metal needles because there's not enough friction, and the stitches slide around.

"I used to teach them the long-tail cast on, but I found we spent an awful lot of time on it. Just learning to cast on would take most of the hour. So, I've started teaching with a different method by giving them several rows of garter stitch (on a needle), and getting them the coordination to throw the yarn with one hand. It's more fun for them, plus it gives me, and them, an idea whether or not they're going to like it."

"With beginners, it takes a lot of patience and encouraging. I tell them at the beginning that they may have to rip something out, and if they don't like doing that, then I tell them, 'This is not for you. This is a craft where you may have to rip everything out and start over.'"

Russell, who also teaches adults to knit and crochet, said, "It's easier to teach a child because they have no pre-conceived notion of what they're getting into." 

With only 2-4 students per class, she said, "Actually, I don't like more than that because I'm spread too thin (with more), and I want to give each child enough attention so that I can move them along in their skill set.  

"They can take as many classes as they want, and they don't have to sign up for a certain number. It's pay-as-you-go, and I'll take them as far as they want to go. It's up to them. I teach them how to read patterns, and they learn both stitches (knit and purl). And, if they want to learn lace knitting, yarn overs, etc., I'll teach it to them. But, as a beginning project, she said, "The first thing I give them to do is knit me a square with no holes -- even if it's just 12 stitches across." 

It comes as no surprise that the number of boys she's taught has been "small." However, "very recently," that has changed. She said, "Ninety percent has been girls, but now I have one little boy who brought in his friend, and now the little girls have started coming (more)."

Learning to knit, she said, is most often the child's idea. "Usually it's something they want to do. I don't find the parent(s) pushing them. A lot will start with finger knitting, or they've got someone at their school teaching them to knit, and if they become interested, they come in to me," said Russell, adding that kids who tend to be a bit shy, want their parents to stay, but others prefer to be dropped off. 

Her advice to parents of children learning to knit is "Be encouraging, be positive and be patient. If they make a mistake and get frustrated (during the week), bring them in to the store and there's always somebody there to help. I want them to remain interested." 

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, jbrown@detroitnews.com or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade. 

Contact the Knotted Needle (20229 Mack, Grosse Pointe Woods) at (313) 886-2828.

Knitting classes for children are also offered at:

Artisan Knitworks, 105 N. Main, Chelsea. (734) 562-2682

City Knits, 26050 Crocker, Harrison Charter Township. (586) 469-9665

Michigan Fine Yarns, 37519 Ann Arbor, Livonia. (734) 462-2801

Old Village Yarn Shop, 42307 East Ann Arbor, Plymouth. (734) 451-0580

Woolly&Co., 147 Pierce, Birmingham. (248) 480-4354