Today we extend a warm MDK welcome to Tanya Singer. We first met Tanya when she shared with us a fascinating bit of knitting history (more about that later). We soon discovered that she also has wisdom and encouragement to offer on a subject near and dear to our hearts: passing along knitting skills to a new generation. We hope you’ll be inspired to share the love of knitting with a young person in your life.
—Ann and Kay
The Impromptu Knitting Camp
Equipped with my bulky yarn and size 19 wooden needles, I was ready to face a group of teenage girls who were homebound due to the cancellation of summer camp. Having my own teenagers in the house, I knew what I was walking into—an increase in anxiety, sadness and loneliness due to months of full-time virtual school coupled with the elimination of favorite summer activities. I was ready.
The girls’ parents knew that I taught school-aged children to knit in the South Bronx through my work with Green Bronx Machine, and had asked me to help occupy their kids during the summer. None of us expected what happened next: My schedule went from non-existent to running a totally booked knitting camp, all outdoors, with distance and masks, in the hot and humid New York summer, just miles from the original epicenter of the pandemic.
We started by choosing favorite colors of Loopy Mango Merino No. 5. Then, with teaching guidance from beloved educator and knitter Cat Bordhi, we began to learn to knit.
So much more than mastering a few stitches and making a cozy No Gauge Neckwarmer came out of these classes. While the campers were enjoying learning to knit, they would talk about what they gave up. Some lost family members, most gave up family vacations and summer camps. My own rising high school senior questioned if college would even be an option for him next year.
It’s easy for each of us to dream of life “B.C.”—Before Covid—with a strong dose of melancholy. The weight of the pandemic and the fears and loss that accompany it are heavy.
Those feelings can sometimes cloud the fact that the B.C. days weren’t perfect for everyone. Too many children and teens were already suffering from anxiety and depression at alarming rates. Add the pandemic to these stress levels, and many become at risk for toxic stress and, in the words of California’s surgeon general, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, “increased stress-related cognitive impairment and diseases.”
Knitting camp provided a relief for these teenagers that went beyond occupying a few hours.
Yes Ewe Can
Why not give the children in your life the gift of a hobby they can turn to throughout this challenging time and for the rest of their lives?
Here’s where to begin: Get some super bulky yarn, size 19 [15 mm] needles (ideally wood), and check out the detailed handout in this one-minute read for recommendations based on my experience with children ages 8 and older.
Teaching children to knit will inspire confidence, independence, and joy!