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Summer holiday tips: Knitting with kids

July 24, 2017

Ahhh, the school holidays. They seem like something to look forward to, but when they finally come around I’m left scratching my head, despite being lucky enough to work from home.

How to entertain an adventurous nine-year-old while still getting my work done? Taking six weeks holiday over the summer just isn’t an option when you’ve got a mortgage to pay. And trying to edit patterns or write something meaningful with interruptions from my understandably bored offspring every five minutes just doesn’t work.

So what to do when the playdates dry up and the doting grandparents are too busy to take over?

Well, I have tried and failed before, but I’m going to have another go at teaching her to knit in the hope she might be able to keep herself entertained a little more

Susan B. Anderson’s brilliant Kids Knitting Workshop has been languishing on my bookshelves for years so I'm going to crack that open asap.

Kids Knitting Workshop book

But what about the raw materials? And what on earth should we make? My nana taught me to knit with squeaky lemon yellow acrylic DK yarn - leftovers from the charity blankets she used to make - and long skinny metal needles that I found very difficult to manipulate.

I had ambitious plans to create a floor length gown for my Sindy doll but this quickly became a micro-mini as I grew frustrated with the amount of time it was taking.

There was nothing exactly wrong with the yarn or the needles I used, or the ‘pattern’ I made, but they weren't very child-friendly and I lost interest really quickly.

How to help the habit stick when teaching my daughter?

Firstly, we’re going to use thicker yarn. The fabric made from DK yarn grows too slowly to keep children’s attention at first. Super chunky may seem the obvious solution, but 10mm needles aren’t great for small hands until they've mastered the basics.

So we’re going to try aran weight (DY Choice Aran with Wool is a favourite) and DY Choice Alchemy. It's a brilliant value chunky yarn at 400m per 200g ball and comes in beautiful variegated colourways, like these:

I'd suggest giving Alchemy, or any other fluffy yarns, a go once your young one's got the hang of knitting as its halo makes it more challenging to use than a 'standard' yarn. Kids really do love fluffy yarns though!

As for patterns, there are lots of small projects in the book I mentioned, but we're going to try this for our starter project:

Teddy Bear scarf

Cast on 12 stitches using chunky yarn and 6mm needles.

Knit every row until the scarf is as long as your teddy bear is tall or until it can tie comfortably around teddy’s neck.

Cast off.

Cut 20cm lengths of yarn and, using a crochet hook or tapestry needle, pull through the cast-on and cast-off edges in groups of three or four. Knot together to make a fringe.

Alternatively, if they know how to knit and purl, why not make a stocking stitch cowl?

Just cast on 30 sts in chunky yarn and knit one row, purl one row until it's about 50 to 60cm long, cast off and seam the ends together.

Once you've taught them shaping things can get a bit more interesting.

For a teenager keen to make something they can wear, this slouchy beanie hat in DY Choice Alchemy is fab and only takes one ball so it's a great pocket money project.

It's worked in the round so you may need to give them a little help with that, but learning how to knit in the round early is a great skill to have. I didn't even try until I'd been knitting for years!

DY Choice Alchemy hat

If like their projects bright then this easy cowl in Conway + Bliss Elektra is a brilliant one ball knit that makes a real statement


Finally, whatever needles you're using, choose a pair that are on the short side as this makes them easier for small hands to manipulate.

Brittany make 25cm/ 10inch needles that are just the right size for little ones and the birch they're made from is smooth and warm to the touch  - perfect for beginners.

If you're teaching little ones how to knit this summer let us know how you're getting on in the comments below or on the Designer Yarns Facebook page.

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