When I am excited about a new project I often take my knitting to work, hoping to polish off a few quick rows before class and during the break. Lately it's the Embossed Leaves socks which are really stretching my capabilities but will be so gorgeous when complete. There are always a few students who show interest but when I offer to teach them they usually become embarrassed and change the subject.
Imagine my surprise last week when Guadalupe and Juan, two adolescent boys from Guatemala began to show interest in learning to knit. I thought they were just joking around but they insisted they wanted to learn so we made plans to stay after class tonight. I brought some nice worsted weight wool in bright colors and some size 7 bamboo needles which I find a perfect combination for beginners: not too big or small and, more important, not too slippery. A few of the other kids hung around at first, apparently as shocked as I had been that they wanted to learn. When one girl offered the opinion that knitting was only for women I sent the gawkers on their way so we could concentrate.
I was floored by how quickly they picked it up; they were easily the quickest learners I've ever taught and their beginner stitches were even and perfect. It occurred to me that, unlike many of the American teens I've taught, these young men probably grew up around fiber artists. They're from the Guatemalan highlands after all, home of some mighty fine textiles. My very minimal understanding is that Guatemalan men have traditionally been weavers and makers of beautiful things (as well as women) so it's very likely that these boys grew up with lots of examples of creative, talented men.
I filed my taxes today and one of the things I realized is that I really ought to be keeping track of the endless pairs of needles I buy for beginning knitters as I have spent a small fortune and, while I don't mind it at all, a tax deduction is never unwelcome. I now have some muscle on my side in the donation department, however. The fabulous folks at The Naked Sheep Knit Shop in North Portland will be letting me put a plea for donations for the refugee knitting circle in the next newsletter. As more and more women join us on Wednesday mornings, we are in need of more supplies. Knitters are a wonderfully generous bunch and I have no doubt we'll be the recipients of more yarn and needles as people read about what we are doing. Teaching people to knit is one of the joys of my life, but working with people who are new to this country and in need of positive experiences and new skills is that much more satisfying.