Lion Brand Notebook

News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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A-B-C-K-2-P-2

August 6th, 2013

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Writer, illustrator, and knitter Franklin Habit joins us for his monthly column featuring humor and insights into a yarncrafter’s life.

I was a good student, but it would be fibbing of the most bald-faced and lamentable variety to tell you I enjoyed school. I hated school, in part because I invariably showed up on the first day wearing the wrong sort of sneakers, and was therefore declared by the girls on the playground to be covered in cooties.

I wasn’t much happier in the classroom. Each new year we were driven into a slightly more impenetrable thicket of the same dreary subjects by teachers who grew annually more gaunt and listless. Even the classes I enjoyed ultimately felt disconnected, irrelevant. I’d master the list of state capitals, or after days of tears successfully divide 283 by 14–only to think, “So what?”

“You’ll need this some day,” the teachers insisted, but that’s insufficient justification for a little kid. It’s tough to take the long view of things when you’re seven years old. It’s tough to see the horizon when you’re four feet tall.

Now I’m considerably older (though not much taller) and I’m wondering why the heck they didn’t just teach us to knit and crochet. If you can get a kid excited about a ball of yarn, you can get her excited about the entire curriculum that’s directly connected to that ball of yarn.

Check it out.

Spelling. W-O-O-L. C-O-T-T-O-N. M-O-H-A-I-R. A-C-R-Y-L-I-C. C-A-S-H-M-E-R-E.

Punctuation. Wool, cotton, mohair. Acrylic? Cashmere!

Grammar. I have been knitting. I am knitting. I shall be knitting. Stop bothering me, I’m knitting.

Geometry. Which shawl shape is most flattering: the triangle, the circle, or the rectangle?

Arithmetic. Georgie has six skeins of yarn. One pair of mittens requires one-and-a-half skeins. How many mittens can Georgie knit before he has to buy more yarn?

Psychology. How many mittens will Georgie knit before he decides to buy more yarn anyway?

Geography. This wool/cotton blend was spun in Turkey using wool from Australian sheep and cotton grown in India. Circle Turkey, Australia, and India on the map.

Botany. Where does cotton come from?

Biology. Where do sheep come from?

Chemistry. Where does acrylic come from?

Economics. Why does it take three countries to make one ball of yarn?

History. Who brought the spinning mill to America? Why is his face not on our money?

Physical Education. First one to climb to the top of the rope gets the ball of cashmere!

A-B-C-K-2-P-2 | Franklin Habit for the Lion Brand Notebook

Writer, illustrator, and photographer Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008–now in its third printing) and proprietor of The Panopticon (the-panopticon.blogspot.com), one of the most popular knitting blogs on Internet. On an average day, upwards of 2,500 readers worldwide drop in for a mix of essays, cartoons, and the continuing adventures of Dolores the Sheep.

Franklin’s other publishing experience in the fiber world includes contributions to Vogue KnittingYarn Market NewsInterweave KnitsInterweave CrochetPieceWorkCast On: A Podcast for KnittersTwist Collective, and a regular column on historic knitting patterns for Knitty.com.

These days, Franklin knits and spins in Chicago, Illinois, sharing a small city apartment with an Ashford spinning wheel and colony of sock yarn that multiplies alarmingly whenever his back is turned.

  • Linda Peterson

    Brilliant Franklin, simply brilliant.

  • erin

    Franklin, you make me smile. :-)

  • margieR

    May I share this on my page, with full credit to you, of course!

  • Ruby Cruse

    The brilliance of the best education!

  • Jack

    Actually, I have been seriously asking this question for some time now. My son has a couple different learning disabilities, including calculation and spacial relationships. I wonder often if he would have an easier time with math if knitting and crochet, and sewing were a part of his curriculum. Unfortunately, during the time I was desperately drilling him in addition, subtraction and multiplication and division, I was NOT knitting. And it never occurred to me. Now I am, and all I can say is that I think it is an excellent way to immerse a student in basic arithamtec.

    • AnneLibby

      I have successfully used crocheting with special needs students of varying levels. If a student can manage to sit still long enough to learn to crochet (ADHD students can not be still), it has helped with spatial and counting skills.

      • Jack

        My son does have ADHD too. But he CAN sit still when he wants it enough. Once he learned to read, (a challenge) he could always sit still for a favorite book. He is also a fidgeter. I find that knitting nails me down and makes it easier to sit still, once I learned.

        • Colleen McCaffrey

          My daughter has Aspergers, and she is a fidgeter, also. But I have found that when she is kniiting or crocheting, even her feet get still. The movement and sensory input from the yarn seems to be enough stimulus for her to not need to fidget during those times. :)

          • Elle

            I’m a 68 year old Aspie and this still works for me.

      • Rozann Corser Koistinen Gilber

        You aren’t really a teacher if you believe that ADHD students are incapable of sitting still! One of the biggest tells of a true ADHD is that there are always one of two (and only one or two) subjects that will get them to sit for hours before becoming bored: they usually centre around the arts because these subjects with multiple parts of the brain at once, thus quieting the urge to jump to a new thing. Singing, dancing, telling stories, colouring, knitting, and crocheting are only a few ways that I have successfully kept ADHD children engaged and entranced in my
        mathematics classroom.

  • LYNETTE O’NEAL

    This is priceless! I think, like you, I’d have been valedictorian in my class had there been knitting in the curriculum.

  • Tammy

    Music class….”the spinning song”

    • CatherineMcClarey

      I remember learning that one as a child in grade school! A lot of it was apparent nonsense words which imitated the sound of a spinning wheel going round & round.

    • hiramteach

      That song was “Sarasponda”. I loved it too…

  • Dragonstar

    I love this! School would have been much more fun!

  • Jennifer Simpson Hall

    I couldn’t pass College Algebra until I learned to knit. Trufax!

  • Sue Hopkins

    Somebody put this man in charge of the Department of Education!

  • meg

    Brilliant! Here are a couple more.
    Philosophy. I knit, therefore I am.
    Logic. If yarn is on sale, then I will by it, else I will knit from my stash.

    • Nanabee

      And the point to ponder. No matter how large your stash, you will never have the right colour you need to go with something else in your stash.

      • KnitterB

        Oh so very true, good excuse to get some more.

      • Rozann Corser Koistinen Gilber

        Please explain this to my husband. And if you happen to find the right colour, it will almost certainly be the wrong weight! Ugh

    • Cindy Vickers

      I like, “I am, therefore I knit.”

  • Whitney Jashinski

    as a teacher, I really love this!

  • Jayne DeBee

    Love this!

  • Diana

    So funny, yet so true! ♥

  • Anne-Maree Sleigh

    I’m a teacher and we’ve just been asked to say what subject we want to teach next year. I’m tempted to put this on the form and say ‘Look! I can teach anything!’

    Brillant, as always.

  • Ginger Scott

    Thanks for the laugh, Franklin. My fourth grade teacher taught me to knit, and a few years later, I taught my sixth grade teacher to crochet. Yarn nerds, Unite!!!!

    • Sockjoan

      In her Grade 11 art class, my daughter found a spinning-wheel in pieces. She reassembled it and taught the art teacher how to spin!

  • Atroposknits

    You are always brilliant, Franklin, but this is one of your best!

  • Pat Klunder

    Two weeks ago when the painter was here and I didn’t have any paint sample to show him the color I wanted, I grabbed 3 or 4 skiens of yarn and we decided on a soft brown (not tan) for the bathroom. When he came back he had a perfect match and the room is beautiful. Yarn works for me!!!

  • Bossmare

    Oh how nice it would have been had my teachers done something like this.

  • Darlene

    Absolutely love it

  • Anneaptl

    So clever and leaves you asking the question “Why don’t they teach this at school?

    • Atlnana24

      I believe Waldorf Schools teach knitting as part of their curriculum. Wish I’d have known when my kids were younger…

    • Sockjoan

      I’ve been told that all German primary schools used to teach knitting – because it’s a two-handed activity that helps link the two sides of the brain, thus helping with the learning of reading and writing.

  • Cornelia Donovan

    Absolutely brilliant and makes perfect sense!!

  • Anne

    Excellent – and very clever!

  • Noel Campbell Hinton

    Love it! I would have made much better math grades!

  • Kathy G.

    Fabulously funny and true. Like learning music helps learn mathematics, knitting would really help in so many ways. ADD and ADHD might be contained if not cured but learning the rhythms of the needles and the patience of knitting!

    • CatherineMcClarey

      And just handling different kinds of yarn would be a wonderful sensory experience for special needs students. (And having to roll up or wind yarn they dumped in a tangled mess on the floor – under supervision, of course – would be appropriate “consequences” discipline, too; I can easily imagine my recently-deceased autistic son both enjoying the feel of yarn and getting mischevious with it!)

  • cindypcm

    Many years ago…when I was in grade school, Miss Baker taught me to knit! Still knitting and she is the one teacher that stands out from all the others!

  • AnDee

    My daughter’s math teacher and I have been having conversations aobut this for a while. He recently attending a seminar about introducing knitting and crochet into math classes. I offered to teach if our district goes for it. My daughter usually crochets at lunch and he thought it was interesting to the point of asking her if she knew how many stitches it took to complete her project. We also discussed k&c from the stress reducing point as well.

  • AnDee

    My daughter’s math teacher and I have been having conversations aobut this for a while. He recently attending a seminar about introducing knitting and crochet into math classes. I offered to teach if our district goes for it. My daughter usually crochets at lunch and he thought it was interesting to the point of asking her if she knew how many stitches it took to complete her project. We also discussed k&c from the stress reducing point as well.

    • demelzabunny

      I’ve read that knitting and crocheting (and probably other needle arts as well) have the same calming effect on the brain as doing yoga. I believe it!

  • Charlene Marietti

    Few teachers are clever and creative enough to teach like this, but should you ever have one, you will remember him or her the rest of your life.

  • Vickie

    Makes sense to me.I would have been on the straight A list every year if knitting and crochet had been taught.Studies have shown knitting and crochet helps students learn in many different areas.Instead our children learn only enough to pass a test.And struggle through out life.

  • Fran

    A great way of learning…

  • Wanda

    As a Homeschool mom, yarn has always been in my curriculum :-).
    My oldest got her part time job (during college) at Joann fabrics. The fact that I had taught her to knit and crochet was a deciding factor.
    My youngest daughter majored in fashion design and got an A in textile class with her crocheted and felted wool purse. Her instructor was surprised that she could crochet. She also kept herself in spending money by making scarves to order.. Most girls in her dorm had one.

  • Janet from a crochet planet.

    You are absolutely right Franklin. Making knitting and crocheting is actually a form of permutations and combinations. Amazingly I failed that part of math miserably, however I can crochet a fairly decent item. Have a super sunny day everyone!

  • knittygirl52

    Oh Franklin, we love you.

  • Chris

    Love your posts! In Waldorf schools, which my daughter attends, the curriculum includes crocheting, knitting, embroidery, felting, and weaving, in addition to all the academic subjects. The boys and girls also made a doll, from scratch, that looked like them. My daughter’s teacher spent her own time searching for curly black doll hair for our doll.

    • Lani

      When I was in 2nd grade in the British West Indies, the class was taught knitting, weaving, embroidery (and how to set a “proper” table). It sure made an impression on this American! For some reason I can’t picture today’s second-graders being able to master those skills.

  • Grammy Cat

    I enjoyed most of the essay and really like the curriculum connections, but I am disturbed by your description of your teachers. Teachers then and today worked and work hard to motivate their students and provide interesting and useful lessons. Teaching is the most important job in the world.

    • wreck

      No one is saying that teaching is not important. But from a kid’s point of view, let’s face it, sometimes school is boring and forgettable.

    • CDragon

      Both of my parents were teachers. Yes teachers have a most important job…yup here comes the BUT. But for the last 30-40 years their hands have become increasingly tied to what they can and can’t do. As AnDee above said, she has a teacher that wants to try it but needs the school district to approve. My mother’s biggest pet peeve her later years of teaching was that she couldn’t taylor her teaching to the needs of her students anymore. She had to stick to a curriculum dictated. Her last years of teaching she said she felt more like a glorified babysitter. If our schools would allow these wonderful, dedicated people to really do what they do best and teach instead of prepping kids for exams … deep sigh … everyone would be better off. Most kids in elementary school just don’t see the point, I know with my own kids even into jr. high they just didn’t see the point. Me, my Mom and Dad did that for them … some with needle crafts, cooking, building things, fixing things and just plain being self-sufficient (which is a big thing for kids especially in their teens). All of a sudden those things they learned in school had meaning. THAT is what teachers used to do and are no longer allowed to do for the most part. Such a shame. I would Love to see the article and many of these comments shared with those that make the rules the teachers and school districts have to follow. I hate teacher bashing, but I also see the humor in this piece and see so much of what my Mother loudly bemoaned about how her profession was changing. she even tried pushing me to home school my kids. I wish I lived closer to her when my kids were in school. I’d have sicked her on them! She would have loved every minute of it and I think they would have too! Keep your chin up, keep routing for teachers everywhere and, also, enjoy some of the humor of life. Even a teacher will see it in this a wish they could do it. Someday, if enough teachers and parents push … who knows what can be achived!!!

      • demelzabunny

        Unfortunately, all true. Well put.

    • Judith Stuck

      Maybe where you are from but where I went to school, it was for the pay check. We have 3 schools within 10 miles here and they teach sports. Most grads have to take remedial classes to get into Community college so they can get into a university. I would like permission to copy this and give it to the teachers here.

      • Grammy Cat

        If you need my permission to copy my comment, then you have it. I am sorry to hear about the state of your schools. It is a sad situation. Good luck. Grammy Cat

  • AnneLibby

    Love this! I’m going to print it for my classroom wall–with credits of course!

  • Kim

    Hurrah! I LOVED this article, Franklin!! Personally, I confess to be mathematically-challenged. My Grade 3 elementary teacher, Mr. Brown, would keep me after class to teach me simple math on the giant chalkboard. Sadly, it didn’t stick :(
    Fast forward to middle age – I knit, crochet, sometimes sew, and need to do some math to figure out yarnages, etc. Since knitting, I’ve learned to do math!! I can even balance my chequebook & that’s a huge feat.
    Let us introduce knitting/crocheting math into all schools. Well done :)

  • Linda Monk Graimm

    I am mostly a crocheter and occasionally knit, however, I am in favor of craft humor and I love this particular blog because it speaks to me of my experiences in school. The one thing you didn’t include in your list was algebra…I still haven’t gotten why I needed to take algebra although I am sure that when I design, I use it somehow. I just don’t understand how. Smile. Thank you so much for sharing. I appreciate you. emmalemmon47@yahoo.com

    • Carmel Johnson

      I can report that I have actually used algebra in real life! I was trying to figure out which of two auctions on eBay was the better deal considering my budget and shipping- these were different DVD sets, so I had to go down to better deal per minute of footage.

      So to make this relevant to yarn, you can figure the better deal on different lots of yarn with different amounts for shipping within a certain budget, probably per yard or per number of projects you can get out of the yarn. Per yard, that would be: price (a) per yard (x) plus shipping (b) equals budget (c) to make ax+b=c, your basic quadratic equation.

      And I’m not a “good at math” person either. :) Amazing how we can learn and figure out stuff when we need to, right?

      • Linda Monk Graimm

        I know that I use it, but when I start thinking in equations then my brain says forget it. I guess I do it autopilot. thanks for the very intelligent reply.

  • Diane Ederer

    If only I had teachers like this while in school!

  • marlene

    I taught my grandson to crochet and used it to teach math, spelling, etc, before he was in kindergarden

  • louise from Quebec

    I love this story. In fact, I learned to knit from the Sisters on the first grade when I was 5! I am forever grateful

  • Elizabeth Casterline

    I taught a 2nd grade class to knit using circular looms. I have the same kids again this year for 4th gade and plan to do the same, plus teach them to crochet. Not only does ot teach them all these wonderfyl things, it also teaches them that they are capable of contributing to their community through making things for others. Last time we made hats and scarves for a homeless outreach program. I am thinking of focusing on hats for newborns this time.

  • snowbunny

    that was very enlightening.

  • Colleen Sheehy

    Knitting (and Crochet) works for EMDR (Eye Motion Desensitization Reprogramming) to sync the left and right sides of the brain for those of us with PTSD!

    • Eyrthjona

      when the men returned back from the first and second world wars they were taught to knit for this exact reason even though the condition was called shell shock.

  • HomeschoolMom

    You hit the nail on the head – homeschooling at its best.

  • Virginia

    This is the most sensible thing I’ve read all week, besides my latest crochet pattern!

  • Janice Beitz

    We did knit in school! 1958! The girls learned to knit in Girl Scouts. We brought our knitting to school. Our teacher taught the boys to knit. Even some of the tough guys. We would all sit in class knitting and taking turns reading aloud to the rest of the class.

  • Arizonaknitter

    I love it Franklin!

  • Carolyn Scott

    Want to find some people who would be good at writing computer code? Look for a bunch of knitters.