Friday, October 7, 2011

Knitting Club

A 7th grader proudly shows off her first knitted textile. It's a UKO (unidentified knitted object)!  She is learning how to bind-off. 

Knitting Club is in full swing for the 2011/12 year.  Several students have plans for making phone cases, scarves, blankets, and fingerless mittens. 

Two 7th graders work together.  One young lady is a returning knitter from last year, and she is teaching a new member how to make a slip knot, cast-on, and knit. 

Yes!  I have several young men in the 6th/7th grade group! 

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Whole Schools Institute: Knit It, Solve It!

Several of the math problems for the workshop involved measuring this log-cabin blanket.  We calculated its area, perimeter, estimated number of stitches, cost, estimated time to knit, and yardage.  Can you believe that there are about 1.3 miles of yarn in this blanket?  Incredible!  Students always ask me how long it takes to make something I've shown them or how many stitches there are in a piece.  With a few basic math skills, students can calculate the answers themselves. 

Any good teacher knows the importance of being both well prepared for a lesson and leaving room for flexibility.  For Knit It, Solve It! (developed and facilitated for the Mississippi Arts Commission’s Whole Schools Institute), I created all of my handouts from scratch, gathered links from the Internet, determined their usefulness, collected books, and researched what others have done when teaching children and/or teens to knit. It took some time, but I hope to use pieces of the workshop again in other settings.

This area showcased my almost completed "mathghan" and the materials needed for a lesson using triangular numbers and geometric transformations such as reflection, rotation, and symmetry.  I prepared poster-board squares made from two triangles in contrasting colors so that students could create their own designs and transfer them to graph paper with crayons to make a pattern. 

This was my display table for knitting books and handouts for classroom use with children and teens.  I used my first log-cabin blanket as the table cloth.  Most of these books are listed in my Amazon shop linked on the right side-bar of this blog.

While I didn’t have to dye my yarn for the knitting kits, I wanted to share the possibilities of Kool-Aid dyeing for classroom use and make the yarn more colorful.  This was the color of the yarn before dyeing.  Photos of the dyed yarn are on an earlier post.

In designing the content and flow the workshop, I tried to make sure that I had enough time to teach 20 people how to do the basic knit stitch and leave enough time for them to solve hands-on knitting and math problems within the confines of a two hour workshop.  In the end, I wasn’t able to set up my classroom the way I had envisioned it or break into small groups, and I had some technology hurdles to overcome.  Flexibility is always a virtue in a classroom setting!

Even though it was the last workshop of three, very full days and I had the 3:30 - 5:30 slot, I thought the workshop went well given its constraints.  I limited the workshop to 20 participants and requested that participants have a little experience with knitting, but I also allowed beginners to register.  Only 2 of the workshop participants had ever knitted before; most of the participants were beginners. 

My friend and co-presenter for the Fibonacci Folding Book Project (more here and here), Sarah Campbell, took some photos of the workshop in progress which you can view on her blog here.  Thank goodness she was able to pop in when she finished packing up from her workshops.  Besides the photo documentation, she was able to help individual students with their beginning attempts at the knit stitch.  Her extra set of hands and eyes and knitting expertise were invaluable.  The experience underscored for me again that a low teacher to student ratio is essential-- even with the capability of projecting knitting videos for people to see. 

With 16 beginning knitters, I think my methodology of creating the knitting kits (or training wheels), giving some initial instruction about how to hold the needles, and projecting two different video tutorials for the basic knit stitch worked well.  Some of the students caught on more quickly than others, and almost every student needed a little one-on-one time with an instructor.   Mistakes were made, discussed, and corrected, but I think all of the students left with enough practice and resources to continue after only about 40 minutes of instruction. Yeah! 

This is an example of a knitting kit.  I cast-on and knitted several rows so that students in the workshop only had to try the basic knit stitch.  I organized the kits into Ziploc bags so that they wouldn't get tangled up and so that participants could carry them away after the workshop.  These kits are "training wheels" for learning to knit. 

I prepared a table with some of my knitting samples and essential knitting tools.  I brought examples of yarns not to use with beginning knitters.  Using the right materials (preferably worsted weight wool yarn on wooden or bamboo needles) yields higher success rates for beginning knitters. 

One teacher who plans to try some knitting for her math classroom asked how she should respond to parents and or administrators who question why students are learning how to knit at school or how much time it may take away from “instruction.”  My response:  it will take time to teach a classroom of students how to knit.  In my opinion, however, this is not lost instruction time.  It takes time to teach anything in a classroom-- even with simple pencil and paper.  Through learning to knit, students may gain a lot of other skills beyond math.  Through knitting, students can develop concentration, focus, persistence, learning from and problem solving through mistakes, relaxation, mentoring skills, small-scale bodily/kinesthetic intelligence, joy, pride, and contextual connections to history, social studies, science, and language arts.  Lost instructional time?  I don't think so. 

To be fair to this evaluation, however, I may be able to envision using knitting in a classroom because I have been knitting for a long time and I have experience teaching people how to knit.  Teaching knitting is a skill in itself, and I have learned through trial and error (and I'm still learning) what works and doesn’t work.  I can imagine that it might be difficult for a beginning knitter to feel confident, but if you can make a slip knot, cast -on, knit garter stitch, bind-off, and weave in ends, you can teach measurement and number sense (I gather from some of the math teachers in the workshop that measurement is one of the most difficult objectives to teach in the classroom).  If you can increase and decrease, you can explore geometric concepts.

If you want to try-out knitting with your students but you don't feel confident enough about your skills, invite other knitters into your classroom.  This is a great opportunity to include community members, parents, grandparents, or others.  If you start a program in your classroom and decide to do it again the next year, you will have some knitting teachers within your school-- your own former students!

I would like to thank the Mississippi Arts Commission for allowing me to develop and facilitate this workshop, Sarah Campbell for showing up right when I needed her most, the teachers who gave this workshop a chance when we were all feeling a little tired at the end of the day, and my knitting students who have taught me so much along the way.

Comments?  Questions?  Suggestions?  Concerns?  If you use knitting in a classroom setting to teach core curriculum areas, please share your experiences.  The hand-outs for the workshop are gathered together in the upper right hand corner of the blog. 

P.S.  It is very funny to me how much math has crept into my life both through the Fibonacci Folding Book Project and this Knit It, Solve It! workshop.  You might never suspect that math was my least favorite subject in school.  You never know where life will lead you.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Countdown to WSI

Dyeing. . .

Drying. . .

Getting everything ready and in line. . . 

Arranging and rearranging. . .

Winding balls. . . 

Blocking. . .

I've been busy getting ready for my workshop on Knitting and Math at next week's Whole Schools Institute.  The countdown (and counting rows) has already begun as I've been finishing up several pieces for the workshop and begun casting on and knitting a few rows for 20 knitting kits (or sets of "training wheels" to learn the basic knit stitch).  I can't wait to meet the participants in my workshop, and I hope that some of them will decide to use knitting with their students and share their experiences in this space. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Knitting & Math Problems


This is a compilation of resources created for a workshop I developed on knitting and math called "Knit it, Solve It!" for the Mississippi Arts Commission's 2011 Whole Schools Institute.  

Gauge problems:

  • Using your UKO in progress and/or using a swatch at your table, practice measuring garter stitch gauge.

  • Pretend you have designed a pattern for a simple garter stitch placemat.  Your gauge on size 8 needles is 5 stitches per inch.  How many inches wide is your placemat when you cast on 60 stitches? 

  • If your classmate’s gauge is 6 stitches per inch, and he/she casts on 60 stitches, how wide would the placemat be?  Would you change to a larger or smaller diameter needle to achieve the correct gauge?

  • If another classmate’s gauge is 4 stitches per 1 inch, and he/she casts on 60 stitches, how wide would the placemat be?  Would you change to a larger or smaller diameter needle to achieve the correct gauge?

  • If you cannot change needle sizes to get the correct gauge, how could you modify the pattern to make a set of placemats that are all the same width? 

Transformation Design with Triangles:  Using translation, reflection, rotation, and/or symmetry, create a design for the triangles provided.  If you like, transfer your design to graph paper and/or create a border.  What are the measurements for your design? How many triangles will you need?  How many squares? 

Blanket Problems:

  • Perimeter/Area Problem:  What is the perimeter of this blanket?  What is the area? 

  • Stitch Problem:  Approximately how many stitches are in this blanket? 

  • Time Problem:  About how many hours (or days) did it take someone to make this blanket using the estimated stitches and area of the blanket from the previous problem and an average time of 20 stitches per minute?

Note:  To achieve an even more accurate idea of time, one would need to consider the different amounts of time it takes to execute different kinds of stitches in the blanket.  Picking up stitches and binding off stitches takes almost double the time of a simple knit stitch.  Then, we would have to consider how long it takes to weave in ends.  

It might be interesting to ask students to keep a detailed log of time spent knitting  on a project and compare this time with an estimation of time worked out from measurements and average stitches per minute. 

  • Cost Problem:  How much would it cost to make this blanket? 

                        Factors to consider: 
      • yarn costs $2.99 ball (20 balls used)
      • shipping costs $15.00
      • needle cost: $19.99
      • tapestry needle: $.99
      • time compensation:  (use time from previous problem and agree on a fair wage to use)

  • Weight Problem:  If this blanket weighs approximately 3 lbs, how many balls of yarn at 2.5 ounces each did it take to make the blanket? 

  • Yardage Problem:  If a ball of yarn is 122 yards each and a blanket uses 20 balls of yarn, how many yards of yarn are in the blanket?  If the yarn from the blanket were unraveled in one continuous piece of yarn, how many miles long would the strand of yarn be?  (1 mile = 1760 yards) 

Design a Problem to Solve!  With prior knowledge or knowledge from today’s workshop, what problem can you think of that would be appropriate for the grade/grades you teach?

Questions or comments?

Teaching Tips & Tricks

This is a compilation of resources created for a workshop I developed on knitting and math called "Knit it, Solve It!" for the Mississippi Arts Commission's 2011 Whole Schools Institute.  

Teacher/Student Ratio

1.      The best ratio for teaching knitting is 1 to 1.  Then, each student can “pay it forward” and promise to teach at least one other student.  In no time at all, students will be learning to knit exponentially!
2.      If you must teach a larger group at one time, either recruit some outside volunteers or students you have previously taught to achieve a smaller teacher/student ratio.  As an alternative to mentors, project a knitting video or set up videos on multiple computer stations.  Try to have some books with diagrams and/or photos available, too. 

Supplies for Students

1.      Intro letter with resources
2.      Worsted weight, wool yarn
3.      Size 7 or larger wooden or bamboo needles
4.      Gallon size Zip Lock Bags or plastic shoe boxes
5.      If you let students purchase readily available metal or aluminum needles at local discount stores or acrylic yarn that is difficult to knit with, they may experience frustration.  It might be better to take orders for interested students, and place a bulk order from an online source so that good materials are available.   
6.      Some type of notebook to use as a knitting journal/project diary
7.      A crochet hook (around size 7 or 8) for picking up dropped stitches

 Classroom Supplies

1.      Tapestry needles for weaving in ends
2.      Scissors
3.      Rulers or tape measures
4.      Knitting needles in various sizes and types that could be checked out
5.      Knitting books with kid-friendly patterns
6.      Collection of downloaded, free knitting patterns in a notebook or file
7.      Guidelines for how and when students may knit in the classroom or at school
8.      A few crochet hooks (various sizes) for picking up dropped stitches

Set-Up for First Lesson:  Knit a UKO!

1.      Students may want to knit something to wear or use from the first try.  Instead of setting up a goal to knit a scarf or potholder, plan to knit a UKO, an Unidentified Knitted Object!   It won’t matter what mistakes are present or what it looks like.  The UKO will be a  funny keepsake of their first knitting experience.
2.      If possible, prepare knitting kits in Zip-Lock bags.  Previous to class, cast on and knit a few rows onto wooden or bamboo needles with worsted weight, wool yarn.  Let your students learn the basic knit stitch, and give them video links to learn about slip knots and casting on later.  The first class will be so much more successful if you start with the basic knit stitch as the goal. Learning to knit is so much easier if the first few rows have been established.
3.      Stress that mistakes will happen!  Stress that students are training their hands to do something totally new!  Stress that it will become easier as muscle memory is developed!

Learning from Mistakes

1.   If students keep at it and bring back a UKO, you can look at it with them and help them see their mistakes.  In no time at all, students will be able to help each other analyze mistakes in UKOs. If they get frustrated and unravel their UKO while at home, they won’t be able to learn from their mistakes! 
2.      Holes or decreasing stitches indicate dropped stitches or yarn-overs. 
3.      Split or knotted stitches indicate the student is not sliding the needles all the way through the entire loop of yarn.  The needle may be going through part of the yarn and dividing the plies. The needle may not be going through the loop against the other needle.  
4.      Increasing stitches indicate students are wrapping the yarn around the needle in the wrong direction. 

Suggested Order of Basic Lessons

1.      Knit stitch (garter stitch is rows of knit stitch only)
2.      Binding off
3.      Making a slip knot
4.      Casting on
5.      Knit stitch (garter rows)
6.      Purl stitch
7.      Increasing and decreasing
8.      Weaving in ends
9.      Gauge, needle selection, yarn selection
10.  Pick a project!

Questions or comments?


This is a compilation of resources created for a workshop I developed on knitting and math called "Knit it, Solve It!" for the Mississippi Arts Commission's 2011 Whole Schools Institute.  

Knitting Books

Knitting books relevant for the workshop are gathered together in a Knit School Amazon StorePlease remember to support local bookstores and/or yarn shops when possible.  Any revenues from Knit School Amazon Store will be used to support teaching children and teens to knit.

Online Knitting Community

Ravelry is an amazing resource!  If you are a knitter, you have to check this out.  You can search for free patterns.  You can search for a pattern and see what yarns other people have used.   You can keep track of your own projects, stash, needles, books, etc.  AMAZING! 

Online Knitting Videos

The following sites have multiple teaching videos.  For other videos, search knitting terms, projects, and abbreviations on You Tube for a plethora of how-to videos!  Find one that works for you.
Guidelines for Teaching Kids to Knit 

Curriculum Guides 
Knitting and Math 
Higher Math, Science, and Artistic Knitting: Inspiration  
Inexpensive Knitting Supplies
  • for inexpensive natural fiber yarn and knitting needles (including good quality circular needles) 
  • for inexpensive wooden and bamboo needles made by ChiaoGoo (the needles used at the workshop—9 inch size 7, 8, and 9 single point needles)
Please remember to support local yarn shops when possible! 

Just For Fun!  

Questions or comments?