Sunday, 24 February 2013

"We need bottoms on seats if

the knitting group at the library is to survive," I was told.
Our library is desperately short of space when you consider all the things it is expected to handle. 
There are book groups, Scrabble and chess groups, a writing group, computer groups and terminals, story-telling groups, sing-along nursery songs and "story" for the very youngest, school groups coming in all the time, school holiday activities, teen discussion groups (and clothes swaps), visiting doubt I have missed some things. No doubt other people would like to see things added. 
The knitting group has never been looked on kindly by some members of staff. I was once told. "It has nothing to do with books." Oh. Right.
Yesterday we had fifteen people come. We actually had to fold back the partition doors between the two small meeting rooms in order to make enough room to do all the teaching and learning which was going on. All of that was good.
What was even better was that two new people arrived, mother and daughter. We welcomed them enthusiastically - as the group is always inclined to do. It is friendly.
We then discovered that it was daughter who really wanted to learn to knit. She is six and she has apparently been asking to come ever since she managed to read the notice displayed at the library at the end of last year. We do not meet in December or January because of the heat so she had to wait.
And wait she did - but she did not give up on the idea. So yesterday her mother brought her. Her mother was a bit anxious. Was she too young?
Normally most of us would have said, "Yes a six year old is a bit young."
There are issues of coordination and concentration. Not many six year old children have enough of either. But this child? 
Her eyes were bright with expectation - and anxiety. I could almost hear her thinking, "What if they say no?"
Her mother could not knit either. We suggested she needed to know the basics if her daughter was going to learn. She agreed and we split them up so they could be taught one-on-one.
I was helping someone else when they arrived so I did not help the six year old. The woman who did it has two boys and had never taught any child to knit. I kept watch in case they needed help but they needed no help. 
The woman teaching her had cast on nine stitches - enough to produce a piece of knitting about three centimetres wide. The row was both long and short enough to feel both the rhythm and a sense of accomplishment. The stitches came off. They started again - and again - again. 
For almost two hours that child concentrated. Right around her the adults were talking and doing things. She concentrated. The tip of the needle went into the stitch, the yarn went around and was hooked off. At the end of each row she hesitated and then turned her work. At the end of two rows she could barely get the stitches off the needle because her tension was too tight. She undid it and they started yet again. Now she hooked her finger under the yarn as she put it around the needle. After she had made the stitch she tugged it very gently until it was sitting not too tightly or too loosely on the needle. The person teaching her had not suggested that. She did it herself.
At the end of the afternoon she had about two centimetres of knitting three centimetres wide. She looked pleased with herself - and relieved. 
I found two knitting books for children in the junior section of the library and suggested she borrow them. They are both intended for children about ten or eleven years of age so her mother will help with them. If they run into trouble before next time I am an e-mail away and they live locally so we can meet and get help.
"Will you come back next month?" we all asked.
She looked at her mother in a questioning way.
"Do you want to?" her mother asked. There was an enthusiastic nod.
If birthday parties for friends, ballet classes or something else does not take precedence in the social diary of a six year old I think we may have found two more "bottoms on seats". I just wish more of them were six and that determined to learn something.

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