The click of knitting needles could be heard amid chatter in teacher Joanne Anderson’s fourth-grade classroom, where focused students settled in for a half-hour of creating cozy items out of yarn.
Surrounded by balls of yarn, students sat on the floor to stitch rows into scarves, hats and potholders for East Grand Rapids’ Breton Downs Elementary School Knitting Club.
“You wrap your yarn around the needle, come over and slide that stitch off the needle. You keep doing that,” said Kai Manspeaker, a fourth-grader demonstrating how to knit a blue and green scarf. Kai used to attend Waldorf, a private school where first-graders are taught knitting, so he’s known how to knit for years.
But Anderson has kept kids in stitches for many years herself. She has spent about a session a week on wintry afternoons for the past 20 years teaching girls and boys the time-honored skill of transforming textiles into warm and wooly items, a craft she says benefits them in many ways.
“I really think it’s important for kids to learn that eye-hand coordination in a different way,” said Anderson, a longtime knitter.
Students use math to count stitches and learn patterns, reading to follow directions and practice patience to create their pieces. Fine motor skills develop, and they see how following a process leads to a product, Anderson said.
Grandmothers, aunts and community members volunteer their time to help teach knitting.
Fourth-grade student Avery Van Hekken worked on hot pink ear warmers.
“Knitting is fun,” she said. “You can make stuff and if you mess up on a stitch you can take it out.”