Passing on a Craft

Jan 14, 2013

Like most modern sewists, I dabble in other crafts--mostly knitting and mostly patternless scarves. Sewing can get pretty complicated, and sometimes it's nice to just slip into the soothing, simplified world of knit and purl.


Sometimes, all it takes is a little sibling
rivalry to pass on a craft.

Last summer during a family visit, I was taking my 9-year-old niece Bella shopping for her birthday present and she spied a knitting kit that was packaged for her age group. To my surprise, this was what she wanted "Aunt Amber" to buy. Apparently, she had learned a bit of knitting in camp and wanted to continue. It was an easy garter stitch scarf project--right up my alley.

We worked on the scarf together for a few days, and then I took it home with me, along with a promise to finish it for her. Neither her mother nor grandmother knits, so I knew it would quickly go to the global pile of UFOs if I didn't give an assist.

Of course, I put the project away, and the holidays and another family visit in another place crept up on me with not more than a few rows completed. I packed the project in my suitcase with a resolution to finish it before Bella showed up.

Once I arrived, I took the project along with me when I spent an afternoon at another sister's house, with yet more nieces. One is the same age as Bella, and as soon as she discovered that her cousin was learning to knit, she wanted to learn, too. And then little sister had to learn what big sister was learning.

Both girls sat there with me, working intently with me on completing Bella's scarf. By the time we finished, we had a few dropped stitches, but it was the most beautiful scarf I had ever seen--and one made with much love. Before the holiday had ended, these nieces also had their own needles, skeins of bargain yarn, and projects under way. Bella had her community-completed scarf. And I felt like I had made the world a slightly better place by getting my nieces started in a craft that has given me much peace in the chaos.

Don't you know that familial rivalry is at the root of all crafts getting passed along? At any rate, it doesn't hurt.

If you are a sewist who dabbles in knitting, like me, you should consider subscribing to the gorgeous Interweave Knits magazine.

And I would love to hear your own stories of how you have passed on crafts to the next generation in your family.

Happy stitching!


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Comments

on Jan 14, 2013 6:11 PM

Oh, my, when I read the title of this article I thought, "Wow, someone who can give me advice on how to pass on a (learning a new) craft!  There are so many fun crafts out there to do and so little time to do them!

I have passed on the 'craft' of quilting through offering free classes at my church.  I passed on the 'craft' of sewing to my mother ... when I was 16 years old I taught her to install a zipper and she went nuts making clothes as she had never been able to master this skill from her 'home ec' class in high school.

I gave my son's fiancee craft storage boxes, jewelry tools, bead, etc for Christmas and she and I are sharing patterns we find on the internet!

AnnC@24 wrote
on Jan 14, 2013 6:15 PM

One Christmas I decided to give both my daughters easy garter stitch knitting kits with the hope that they would learn the lifelong skill.  The older one took to it like water, and now, many years later, knits beautiful complicated lace shawls, Nordic sweaters and other items that put my skills to same.  The younger daughter made it through about six rows and asked me to finish the scarf for her.  That was 15 years ago.  Recently the younger one asked for another knitting kit for Christmas.  She wants to give it another try (probably out of a bit of envy of her sister.)  I'm more of a sewist and credit my cousin who I'd watch make doll clothes for her Muffie dolls.  I think it's seeing the joy in crafting we older folks get from handwork that inspires the next generation.

on Jan 14, 2013 6:42 PM

Over the past nine years I have started sewing classes in my home for young girls.

I start them at 7 yrs old and up. They love it and we take pictures of all their projects.

I feel that sewing is getting to be a lost art and I wanted to teach the next generation to sew. So far I have had 14 students and they have done amazing sewing.  One of my sewers was a 14 yr old boy and now he is married and makes clothes for his wife.  It's very rewarding to teach them.

on Jan 14, 2013 6:42 PM

Over the past nine years I have started sewing classes in my home for young girls.

I start them at 7 yrs old and up. They love it and we take pictures of all their projects.

I feel that sewing is getting to be a lost art and I wanted to teach the next generation to sew. So far I have had 14 students and they have done amazing sewing.  One of my sewers was a 14 yr old boy and now he is married and makes clothes for his wife.  It's very rewarding to teach them.

Kel51 wrote
on Jan 14, 2013 6:56 PM

When I was 8 years old my fathers Aunt, My Great Aunt Katie, taught me to knit. I was hooked from the start. She would aways say, Every French girl should know how to knit.  She was a inspiration and my way to learn needle arts of all kinds.

My daughter has learned how to quilt, needle point, rug hooking, and other wonderful crafts from my interest. We have shared many wonderful hours enjoying and spending time together doing making something together.

Now my Daughter-in-law has started to knit, and my grand son 3 years old, loves to handle the yarn too. As a gift this Christmas I found a group of knitting Needles to give her and add to her basic equipment.

It is so much fun to watch young people have an interest in something other then technecal internet devices....and that they can put them down for a time to product something of beauty and practicality.

redjanfan wrote
on Jan 14, 2013 6:56 PM

Somehow, I managed to pass on to my daughter my love of sewing.  She started with simple envelopes or drawstring bags to store her little girl treasures.  Then she graduated to simple clothes and wanted to actually take sewing lessons.  A local store offered lessons and she was soon making T-Shirts, dresses, bags and things.  We eventually started making purses for sale and have sold hundreds, that business was retired,  but she takes contracts for altering draperies for hotels, sews for her friends and herself, and is totally awesome!  

on Jan 14, 2013 7:06 PM

Having learned to sew at my mother's knee, it's my first love. But my 5th grade teacher taught me to crochet, so it's a close second, and I've enjoyed a number of other crafts as well.  There was always a shortage of girls in our family, but when my first granddaughter came along, I started her crafting at an early age.  She didn't live close to me, but when she was here on a visit we crafted and at age 8, she said that I had to teach her to crochet so that she could someday teach her granddaughter!  So I did.  She didn't start sewing until she was in college, and now she loves to sew, so it must be in the genes.  She's 27 now, and never goes anywhere without a crochet project!  She does all the crafts I've done and more.  I do enjoy the sewing tips in Sew Daily (old dogs can learn new tricks!), and keep every issue in a file for future reference.  

on Jan 14, 2013 7:07 PM

Having learned to sew at my mother's knee, it's my first love. But my 5th grade teacher taught me to crochet, so it's a close second, and I've enjoyed a number of other crafts as well.  There was always a shortage of girls in our family, but when my first granddaughter came along, I started her crafting at an early age.  She didn't live close to me, but when she was here on a visit we crafted and at age 8, she said that I had to teach her to crochet so that she could someday teach her granddaughter!  So I did.  She didn't start sewing until she was in college, and now she loves to sew, so it must be in the genes.  She's 27 now, and never goes anywhere without a crochet project!  She does all the crafts I've done and more.  I do enjoy the sewing tips in Sew Daily (old dogs can learn new tricks!), and keep every issue in a file for future reference.  

Shari Elaine wrote
on Jan 14, 2013 8:29 PM

When he was younger, my brother wanted me to knit a sleeping bag for his GI Joe. I told him I would teach him, and he could make one. I designed a mummy bag, with a hood and everything. Quite an experience, teaching a 7 year old ( I was 19) to knit, especially since he was a lefty and I'm not. We got it finished, and I put in a zipper for him. I doubt that he has picked up knitting needles since,  but it was fun.

Shari Elaine wrote
on Jan 14, 2013 8:29 PM

When he was younger, my brother wanted me to knit a sleeping bag for his GI Joe. I told him I would teach him, and he could make one. I designed a mummy bag, with a hood and everything. Quite an experience, teaching a 7 year old ( I was 19) to knit, especially since he was a lefty and I'm not. We got it finished, and I put in a zipper for him. I doubt that he has picked up knitting needles since,  but it was fun.

tjalston wrote
on Jan 14, 2013 8:55 PM

I loved, loved, loved reading this post! I grew up in New Jersey in the 70s where crafting and home economics were part of the curriculum. I was fortunate enough to "dabble" in many crafts as a child which I credit to my life-long love of working with my hands. Today, I am so incredibly lucky to be an elementary school teacher, and I get to teach new generations to "make" in the same way that I learned. An entire section of my classroom library is dedicated to arts and crafts (it's a very popular section), and once per semester for several days at a time, we hold what we call "Kid University" where kids learn new crafts, and teach each other the crafts they already know. In our most recent KidU, one of my students taught a course on block printing. She's 9! I teach knitting, crocheting, sewing, scrap booking, and several other crafts throughout the year. I'm even the knit/crochet nurse for my former students, who are down the hall in middle school, when they drop stitches. I adore the sense of community that this has created between me and my students. Thank you for this post!

crazyleaph wrote
on Jan 14, 2013 9:01 PM

Two years ago, I started teaching my then 8 year old granddaughter to sew.  She has great concentration and with me, has made paper-pieced pillows and a night shirt.  Although she does not live near me, she sews with her Aunt, too.  Since she sews regularly with her Aunt, I've begun teaching her how to spin.  The first time she tried, she did extremely well - better than I did on my first (few hundred) tries.  We tried again when she was here at Christmas.  She didn't do quite as well, but if we work on it each time she comes to visit, I'm sure she will catch on.  She seems to really enjoy it.  Since this is a craft that is not common, especially in the city, this will be something she will be able to pass on to friends and to her own children (once she learns) - to people who are less likely to learn elsewhere.

Melissa222 wrote
on Jan 14, 2013 9:06 PM

Passing on the art of sewing is the mission of my pattern company. It's why I do what I do. I try to teach both children and adults to sew by thoroughly explaining each step of my patterns. And at home, I teach 4-Hers to sew. And you know what? Between my business and my 4-Hers, the 4-Hers are the most rewarding, hands down! Thanks for this great post, Amber. -Melissa Stramel, Lilac Lane Patterns

silversigner wrote
on Jan 15, 2013 12:00 AM

I made my daughter learn to crochet and knit when she was about 12. I told her she didn't have to continue if she didn't like it. "But when you're old it's better to say "I could do that if I want to," than "I wish I had let Mom teach me." She learned, put it down for about 7 yrs, then picked up the crochet hooks and made a dozen fancy scarves for her friends. Currently working on a baby blanket. And I keep nudging my long-distance daughter-in-law towards the needles. I will win her over eventually.

on Jan 15, 2013 1:54 AM

A few years ago my 30-ish niece was here at Christmas and decided to start a sweater. It had a couple of cables in it and she had her mind in a snarl that she couldn't "do" cables. I showed her how to use a cable needle, slide X stitches onto the cable needle, work X stitches, then work X stitches from the cable needle and be on her way. Ah, that easy. Too bad she didn't bother to learn how to put the pieces together to make a complete garment. Wonder what happened to that project?!?!?!?

rmatth52 wrote
on Jan 15, 2013 10:31 AM

I am an avid crocheter and my 9 year old nephew (now 39) watched me crocheting.  It wasn't long before he asked me if he could do it.  Giving him the biggest hook I could find I showed him how to make a starting chain and told him to make one as long as he wanted it to be. A short time later he said he was going outside and I thought that his interest was short lived. A while later he came in trailing the longest starting chain I had ever seen behind him.  From there we went through the basic stitches one row at a time.  The chain was so long by the time he got to the end he had mastered the stitch.  He lives in CO. so I don't see him very often but he has croched some amazing things over the years and he sends me pics of his work and that of his daughter who he taught the same way I taught him.

wrightjude wrote
on Jan 15, 2013 2:43 PM

I have passed on the craft of drop spindling. My niece saw me spinning at a family gathering and came over to watch; she eventually 'helped' me by spinning the spindle while I drafted the wool out.

When I got home I made her a simple drop spindle out of waste wood and gave it to her on the school bus (which I take to work most days) along with some hand combed wool. We spent the bus ride happily learning to spin in an unstable environment; there were lots of giggles and everyone on the bus contributed ideas and were very supportive of success.

I have given her two more bags of combed wool since then and she has also developed an interest in knitting so she can use the beautiful wool she makes.