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When I moved back to Iowa City, home of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, where many serious writers come to hone their craft, I used to imagine I could hear their hands tapping out stories and poems. That made me sit up straighter, aim higher, and try to push my own wordy musings further.

Now in the evening, or early morning, when I am likely to pick up my needles to add a row or turn a heel, I imagine hearing another sound, a click-clacking, like an echoing of my own needles. Someone has been at work increasing the number of knitters in our town.

Meet Angie Jordan, Banjo Angie. When Angie was little, her older sister Gabby called her Angie-Bangie and the name stayed. So when Angie set up her knitting project to “get more knitters in the world,” she called it The Banjo Knits Project. For the record, Angie doesn’t play the banjo. Frankly, that’s a relief. Besides all the knitting and spinning work she does, she’s a runner, a volleyball player, and, with her husband Jason, an involved and dedicated parent to Buffy and Teagan. I’ll stop there. I am not sure how Angie manages it all. That’s how it is with busy people, though; they just keep doing more.

Angie was born in Iowa City, and lived here until the summer she was nine years old and her parents divorced. Then her life split between Texas and Iowa City. At first, the Texas move left her in a new place without any friends. Her abuelita came up from Mexico for a visit, turned off the TV which she felt was being watched far too much, and taught Angie how to knit. Knitting helped keep her stress away, but her abuelita left before she could teach her how to bind off.

In 2004, Angie found knitting again during her freshman year at Williams College. This time it stuck. From her new knitting mentor, Mary Johnston, a teacher at the local elementary school where Angie had a work/study job, she received one-on-one lessons in “craft, education, and life.” With Mary’s guidance, knitting became about following a pattern, making pullovers, socks, and binding off when needed. Knitting also became about empowerment, and that “bled into” Angie’s studies, and her developing beliefs in the “power of mindfulness and patience.” As a graduation gift, Mary gave her a swift and ballwinder.

Back in Iowa City, Angie looked for ways to bring others into knitting. Through volunteering, she met another mentor, Stephanie Van Housen, who at that time led youth knitting classes and summer youth programs. Stephanie inspired and shaped the way Angie would eventually run her own knitting groups.

To date, Angie and The Banjo Knits Project have taught over 150 kindergartners to sixth-graders to knit. And, in doing so, she has created all kinds of community.

Partnering with Juvenile Court Services, some kids with community service hours created needles from dowels and knitting kits for new school knitters. The project bags, which young knitters earn as they master technique and mentor newer knitters, are sewn by Angie’s mom and her quilting buddies. Much of the yarn and needles come from local knitters’ donations. To boost the items for sale at the annual fundraiser for Alexander Elementary School, the newest and most diverse of Iowa City schools where Angie does her core teaching, members of Prairie Yarn Over, our local knitting guild, knit hats and scarves in the school’s colors, yellow and blue.

One Friday afternoon, not too long ago, I stopped over at Angie’s house. She showed me the garden her mother, who lives with them now, created, and her “happy place” on her deck, where she spins and knits. She told me sometimes the neighborhood kids drop by to join her. There’s plenty yarn and needles for them, and even a spinning wheel.

As we were about to say goodbye, Marie appeared. A fourth grader, she’s one of the neighborhood knitters Angie had just told me about. Her family came from Tanzania a couple of years ago. Marie has a baby brother, and she’s the middle of three sisters, all fine knitters. At 10, she’s already made herself a sweater. She’s thinking about learning to spin this summer. From Angie, of course.

Angie Jordan believes that “more knitters equal more kindness and patience in the world.” When she talks about empowering and mentoring young and new knitters, I feel my harder edges softening with hope, and when I lift up my own needles, I listen for the growing echo of their knitting.


To find out more about Angie and Her Banjo Knits Project, visit The Banjo Knits Project Facebook Group.

About The Author

Michelle Edwards writes about family, friendship, and community. Her work chronicles the large and small victories and defeats of everyday life. She frequently posts her illustrations on Instagram, her website, and at StudioScrawls, her Etsy store.


  • Brilliant!!

    • Thank you! From the moment I met Angie, I knew I wanted to tell her story.

  • Wonderful story!

    • Thank you. It felt good to share Angie with more knitters … Onward!

  • Once upon a time, as educational support, I ended up teaching an entire classroom of kindergarteners how to knit – with the help of one small girl who had already learned from her aunts. 8 years later, my now husband, recognized the young woman in his social studies classroom (due to her unique name). He jokingly asked if she remembered teaching her kindergarten classroom to learn to knit with Ms. Koontz. She slowly blinked and retorted doesn’t everyone learn to knit in kindergarten?

    Well, in some places it looks like they do. That warms my heart.

    • Thank you for sharing that story. It warms my heart too. I love the image of a kindergartner’s knitting circle.

  • Inspiring❣

    • Thank you!

  • This makes me so happy!!

    • That’s so nice to hear, thank you!

  • Love love love A Hat For Mrs. Goldman! It belongs in the collections of all knitting evangelists.

    • Thank you. It means a lot to me to hear this.

  • In these difficult times, people who bring joy and meaning to everyday life, warm my heart. Lovely!

    • You are so right about sharing stories about people like Angie, it warms my heart every time I think of her. Thank you

  • What a great story!

    • Thank you!

  • Wonderful!
    What a great woman.
    I also love “ A Hat for Mrs. Goldman”

    • Thank you … and best wishes from Mrs. Goldman and Sophia.

  • Great story! I recently borrowed your book from the library and read it and loved it! My kids are older now but I made my 17 year old read it too. We need another Mrs Goldman story. Maybe about how she learned to knit?

    • Thank you! I have another Mrs. Goldman story — maybe someday it will be published!

  • I was knitting a sleeve for my new project on the el (a kind of elevated subway) when an 8-yr old and her mother sat in the seat next to me. The girl was obviously intrigued, and her mother asked about my knitting. I told her what I was making, and that I learned mostly from You Tube. The mom said that she and her daughter would love to try that together. The girl kept watching as I worked the four double-points, and I narrated while I was knitting about what I was doing. I took a deep breath and asked “would you like to try?” I handed her my knitting and talked her through a round until we reached our stop. Wonderfully, she did very well and her stitches were perfect! She didn’t let all those needles bother her and she was clearly smitten with the process. I not likely encounter that mother and daughter again. But it was such a great experience for me to hand over my precious sleeve to a child and see how she responded to my trust. Hopefully, a new knitter blossomed that day!

    • What a lovely story, thank you for sharing it with me. I am sure you increased the number of knitters in the world that day.

  • What a great way to teach children real life, like a Dad teaching his kids to fish. Five stars for this lovely lady…

    • Yes, you are right –it is like teaching kids to fish … thanks!

  • I taught elementary school kids to knit in an after-school program where I taught. It was so rewarding to watch them get their legs under them and take off on new knitting adventures!

    • Absolutely. What a wonderful gift you gave them. Onward!

  • It’s like knit-in-public on the local scene, expanding to the world!
    I also knit on buses and subways, in lines, everywhere I have time, recently on a big city public bus and all ages of people were watching me. I desperately wanted to know if they knew what I was doing, but alas, time hurries on the move. I tried to teach my two grandchildren but they weren’t interested at that time, so I continue to knit, waiting patiently for the day that they will ask me to learn.

    • They probably knew you were making something. I have had the same experience with people watch me knit with interest. Good luck with sparking knitting love in your grandchildren!

  • Thank you for another great story!

    • Thank you!

  • Great story!!

    • Thank you!

  • I love projects that start from a good place and grow good things. Nice work, Angie Jordan!

    • Onward, Angie! Thanks for writing.

  • Beyond awesome. 🙂
    I remember seeing the children who arrived early at the Montessori grade school my kids attended pick up their yarn and needles and knit in the quiet classroom before the rest of the students arrived.

    • Oh, what a fun thing to see. A great way to start the day, lucky kids. Thank you for writing.

  • Wonderful article, Michelle! Love all the threads upon threads upon threads that stitch us all together.

    • Thanks, Sharon. Good to hear from you!

  • What a wonderful article about 2 of our area’s knitting stars! Thank you so much for highlighting their great work.

    • It was so much fun to share Angie with the bigger knitting world.

  • Ooh, nice talk! I’ll listen in more often for inspiration. Happy autumn!

  • Love the stories about how knitting has affected people’s lives. I’ve been a knitter since the age of five. My dad taught me to knit, hoping it would help keep my hands busy and stop biting my nails!

  • Thank you for sharing such a lovely story. I always feel so inspired by stories such as yours; it takes so little to do good in this world. I shall go forth and to try harder. Thank you.

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