Monday, March 31, 2008

Knitting Survey

I was spoiled by my 3rd quarter knitting class. Not that I haven't enjoyed ALL the other quarters, but in particular, 3rd quarter was exceptionally enjoyable. The combination of students made for a quieter class session each morning--not too much drama or controversy. There were fewer than normal students (about 14-15, depending on the tutoring schedule). And they inspired one another on a daily basis. That was the pleasure. Sometimes I felt I could slip into the background of the class and watch them knit and chat and look at patterns and figure out what they wanted to make next. It was amazing. The teacher who soooooo graciously shares her classroom with me and all the stuff that comes with me suggested I survey the students about some of their experiences while learning to knit. Fourteen students were surveyed. Here are the results.

1. On a scale of 1-5 how much do you enjoy the craft of knitting? Circle one.
(1 = Don't like it 5 = Love It!)

Two gave it a "3"
Two gave it a "4"
Ten gave it a "5"

2. How difficult was it for you to learn to knit? Circle one.
(1 = Super Easy 5 = Really Hard)

One gave it a "1"
One gave it a "1.5"
Four gave it a "2"
Seven gave it a "3"
One gave it a "4"

3. If knitting was difficult for you when you began, has that changed? Why or why not?

Four said "It wasn't difficult"

The others said:
"Now my hands are used to it."
"It was at first then was easy."
"Because I had never knitted before and I didn't know what to do at first."
"It was hard because I added stitches. It was challenging and after (being pulled out for academic tutoring and then coming back) it was easier."
"Yes, but then I got the hang of it."
"In the beginning it was hard to know where I was at, but I knit faster."
"It took awhile to get the hang of it, but now I am pretty good."
"It is really easy to do now. I want to be in it again."
"It was easy after I got used to it."
"Yes, it helped me a lot with concentrating."
"It changed because I practiced it."
"I tried really hard to learn how to knit."

4. What have you learned about your learning style from knitting?

"It depends on your mood in order to see if you knit tight."
"That I do my best by doing it over and over and over!"
"It helps me be calm and patient."
"I'm not sure."
"Purling and knitting."
"It helps me relax and be calm."
"You can patch up clothes and do other things."
"It may take me awhile, but if I dedicate myself, I can succeed."
"I have learned many styles like purl, knit, etc."
"That I can grasp things really easy sometimes."
"Um...not it really helped me."
"I watch people."
"I learned better when someone showed me and explained."

5. Is there a way you could apply your experience of learning to knit to learning other subjects or life skills?

"Yes. Because I know that if I try I can be great at something."
"Yes. Because knitting is like life. You have to go one step at a time."
"I heard doctors need to know how to knit and sew...might have been just sew."
"I don't know."
"Yes, my creative ability."
"I could use finger knitting to make a rope."
"Yes, to be calm and patient."
"When I am old."
"Scrapbooking. I can knit stuff into a scrapbook."
"BE PATIENT! Don't be in a hurry. It will come to you."
"Yes. In knitting."
"Take your time on everything."

6. Which words best describe you when you knit? Circle all that apply.

Relaxed (10)
Frustrated (0)
Time flies (4)
Proud of my work (10)
Stressed (1)
Able to think (4)
Takes too long (1)
I stink at it (0)
Calm (10)
Bored (1)
Productive (7)
I could do this forever! (8)
Talkative (1 written in)
Fun (1 written in)

7. How ofter do you knit at home?

Three said "Never"
Four said "Once/week"
Five said "2-3 times/week"
Two said "Nearly every day"

8. What other types of projects would you like to knit?

Hat (4)
Teddy Bear (1)
Anything (1)
Monster bear (3)
Stuffed animals (3)
Scarves (1)
Tank top (1)
Socks (2)
Shirt for monster bear (1)

9. How many quarters have you enrolled in knitting? Circle one.

Five said "1"
Seven said "2"
Two said "3"

10. Circle the two that apply to you.

7th grade (5)
8th grade (9)
Boy (9)
Girl (5)

Whew!!! Some fun information there for me to digest. To close I'll showcase some of the final projects from the 3rd quarter and leave you with my favorite survey response. "Knitting is like life. You have to go one step at a time."

Saturday, March 22, 2008


So here's something that baffles me.

The students in our school get to choose new electives every quarter. During each 9 week quarter, there are three three-week sessions during which selected students are pulled from their electives in order to receive more individualized instruction from their core teachers in subjects they need help in. Great system. It works very well for the students who need extra help.

Because of the way our system is set up, I can have students actually attending knitting class only three weeks out of a nine week quarter. The other extreme is that students may return for more than one quarter and stay with me the whole time. Sometimes they're with me for consecutive quarters and sometimes they're gone for nine weeks (or three or six) and then return to me.

Obviously there are a variety of lengths of time that students can be in my knitting class, however, time in the class hasn't been the key variable in performance. Some just catch on quickly, while others don't.

I've been trying to observe this learning process in order to improve my own teaching abilities. In my observations, the one occurance that baffles me the most is when I have a student (and there have been more than one) who has a very difficult time with knitting. He or she tries daily for the 3-9 weeks that they are with me, but for some reason, the finished product is filled with holes, extra stitches, split stitches, etc. It just doesn't happen for them. Then they leave me for awhile. Then they come back. (Here's the baffling part.) When they return, they pick up their sticks and start knitting at a MUCH higher level than when they left. It's like they've been knitting and practicing the whole nine weeks they've been gone! But of course they haven't. They have no idea why they can knit soooooo much better now than when I last saw them in my class. It's a bit of a phenomenon for me. It has really interested me in the whole learning process. Perhaps we need foundations. Then a break. Then return.

Here are some examples of some knitting from these students. You'll see a variety of abilities here, but for me each one has demonstrated amazing leaps in his or her abilities. "before" pictures. That might have been embarrasing at the time. Hindsight is always clearer.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Monster Ball

The lastest trend in my class is the Little Monster Bear from 101 Designer One-Skein Wonders, edited by Judith Durant. It started with one student who was looking through the book for something to knit. When she showed the picture to me, my first thought was, "Why would you want to knit THAT?!!" But then of course, it became clear when I remembered this is JUNIOR HIGH knitting. Of course! Brilliant idea!! Let's get started. This little project was so fun to watch. She used her increasing and decreasing skills and learned to make I-cords. She also got a heavy dose of finishing by sewing up seams and attaching the legs, arms, and ears. The little guy (gifted to her sister) caught on like wildfire and spawned a huge crop of more Little Monster Bears.

Don't you want one too?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The One Row Scarf

It baffles me what interests and captures the attention of the junior high knitter. I'm always bringing in ideas, easy patterns, showing websites, etc. Most of the time it's received with lukewarm attention. They're polite. They come over to the computer to look at it. Make a few comments. And then nothing. I thought the ballband dishcloth would be so fun for them to do, but not one took it up. Then I come in with the pattern for Stephanie Pearl-MchPhee's One Row Handspun Scarf. I hand it over to a student on a piece of scratch paper. I say, "Here, try this." She humors me. Next thing I know, she's taken off with this scarf and finishes it in a matter of days (which is warp speed in junior high knitting). Everyone declares it as having the look of "store bought," which in my class is a huge complement. And the NEXT thing I know, there are two more of the same project being started. Here is the first scarf (which has already been gifted) of this little trend.

Bernat's Softee Chunky.

And here are the others.

Bernat's Softee Chunky. With a hat of her own design. This set has also been gifted to a lucky recipient.

Lion Brand's Jiffy.

My envy rises as I continue to admire these scarves and I make the comment, "I want to make one of these," when a student promptly reminds me that I keep on saying that. (Smart alec.) So I go home and start one myself.

Paton's Divine.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

A Little Bit of Mason-Dixon

I had heard so much about Mason Dixon Knitting, by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne and looked through some online pictures that I was quite tempted to purchase the book...but ultimately decided not to because knitting for my home just wasn't appealing to me. Then my neighbor borrowed the book from our local library and let me look at it for a few days. Wow, is it addicting! With three WIPs and two abandoned projects I had no business starting anything new, but what's a little dishcloth? The Ballband Dishcloth knit up so fast and was so fun to do that I am tempted to make more. I love pulling it out of my kitchen drawer to use. Then there are the Moderne Blankets, based on Log Cabin quilting. I pulled out every blue cotton yarn I own (some purchased 16 years ago--ouch!) to start my own garter stitch log cabin dishcloth. Thumbing through the book inspires me to play with yarn in new ways and to tap into whatever creativity I might have.