When 11-year-old Kristina McGraw of the District picks up her yarn and knitting needles, she's concentrating on one thing: "In through the front door, out around back, in through the window, off jumps Jack!" It's a handy way to remember basic knitting maneuvers. Kristina picked it up at a parent-child knitting class at Stitch DC's Chevy Chase store. Her mom, Georgia McGraw, also learned the rhyme, which helped to get Kristina past her initial frustration with the craft. "I got upset because I couldn't do it, but I learned to keep trying until you get the hang of it," Kristina says. Now she's on her way to knitting a scarf for herself, and one for her doll, too.
In libraries, recreation centers, yarn shops, craft stores and after-school programs, kids are discovering how to cast on and knit their way to a finished hat, scarf, purse or even a sweater. The phenomenon that has 20-, 30- and 40-somethings picking up knitting needles also has kids -- girls and boys -- yearning for yarn. Though youngsters might not think of knitting as just their grandmother's hobby, it's certainly not the tech-toting, video-game-playing world they're used to.
Classes, as well as knitting groups that meet regularly, are usually for kids 10 and older, but some children start as young as 6.
"The primary factor is their motivation, not their skill level," says Lyn Ermer, owner of Knit and Stitch = Bliss in Bethesda. "They have to want to learn. If it's their mom who wants them to learn to knit, forget it."
At Capital Yarns in Chantilly, owner Melissa Johnson says she thinks it's important for kids to learn without their parents around. "The moms will teach them wrong, and it becomes frustrating for mother and daughter," she says.
Private knitting lessons, including birthday parties that incorporate a lesson, are available at many places, and some invite children into their regular adult classes.
For students busy during the school year, summer is the time to break out the fiber. "We'll teach them to dye yarn with Kool-Aid," says Laurie Gonyea, an instructor at Stitch DC, which plans to offer a knitting camp.
Once kids have a grip on knitting, a club or group can provide instruction on more advanced projects as well as a social outlet. Debby Bruce, young-adult librarian at Bull Run Regional Library in Manassas, started a knitting group that meets twice a month. "The kids enjoy being able to sit and relax and talk without someone telling them exactly what they have to do," Bruce says. In other words, it's a creative outlet that's also nit-picking-free.
Many area libraries, yarn shops and recreation centers offer knitting classes for kids. Upcoming opportunities through March include:
The DistrictMARIE H. REED RECREATION CENTER 2200 Champlain St. NW. 202-673-7768. A program through the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation teaches the basics of knitting and crocheting. Ages 12-18. Tuesdays from 7 to 8 through March 13. No registration; come to one or all sessions. Free. STITCH DC 731 Eighth St. SE. 202-544-8900. Kids' knitting class teaches the basics. Ages 8 and older. March 24 from 11 to 1. $45 (includes materials).
MarylandTHE CELTIC KNOT YARN SHOP 8480 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City. 410-203-0133. Kids Knit class teaches basics. Ages 9 and older. March 10 from 10 to noon. $30.
ENOCH PRATT FREE LIBRARY -- CENTRAL LIBRARY 400 Cathedral St., Baltimore. 410-396-5484. The first Saturday of the month, Knitlit meets for beginning and experienced knitters to work on projects while listening to an audiobook. Ages 12 to 17. March 3 from 2 to 4. Free.
GAITHERSBURG LIBRARY 18330 Montgomery Village Ave., Gaithersburg. 240-773-9490. A new knitting club begins March 1. Bring your own needles and yarn, and staff members will provide instruction. Ages 10 and older. Thursdays from 4 to 5:30. Free.
G STREET FABRICS 11854 Rockville Pike, Rockville. 301-231-8998. A knitting class for kids who know the basics but need some help to make a simple project. Bring your own needles and yarn. Ages 8 and older. Three-class session: Tuesday and March 6 and 13 from 4 to 6. $59 (plus $4 kit fee).
JO-ANN FABRIC AND CRAFT STORE 6161 Columbia Crossing Dr., Columbia. 410-872-0550. Kids' Knitting I is a two-session class to make a purse. Bring your own yarn and needles or purchase at the store. Ages 8 and older. March 10 and 17 from 10 to noon. $28.
KNIT AND STITCH = BLISS 4706 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda. 301-652-7194. The store offers a basics class and a group for children who know how to knit. Ages 6-13. Class: Saturday and March 10 from 4 to 5. $55 per class. Group: Saturday, March 10 and 24, April 7 and 21, and May 5 from 2 to 3. $60 for all six sessions (join anytime and cost is prorated).
MICHAELS 20902 Frederick Rd., Germantown. 301-515-4951. Kids Knit/Crochet, a two-part class, is held every Tuesday. March 6 is Part 1, March 13 is Part 2 and so on. Ages 5 and older. 6 to 7:30. $15 for the two classes (plus supplies).
MICHAELS 9041 Snowden River Pkwy., Columbia. 443-285-0808. The School's Out Knitting class is held when Howard County public schools have holidays. Bring yarn and size 10 needles. Ages 9-12. March 23 from 10 to noon. $15.
VirginiaBULL RUN REGIONAL LIBRARY 8051 Ashton Ave., Manassas. 703-792-4530. Bring supplies to the BRRLYAnce Knitting Club, and a teacher will assist. Sixth grade and older. Second and fourth Wednesdays of the month from 4:30 to 5:30. Call to register. Free.
CAPITAL YARNS 4300 Chantilly Shopping Center, Suite 2F, Chantilly. 703-263-9744. Class in knitting basics. Ages 10-14. March 17 from 10 to noon. $35 plus supplies purchased at the store.
CHINN PARK REGIONAL LIBRARY 13065 Chinn Park Dr., Woodbridge. 703-792-4800. The second part of a two-part workshop is open to those who didn't attend the first session. Novice and experienced knitters welcome. Bring straight needles size 9 or larger. Yarn and instruction to make a scarf provided. Grades 6-12. March 29 from 7 to 8:30. Free. Call to register.
CUB RUN RECREATION CENTER 4630 Stonecroft Blvd., Chantilly. 703-817-9407. Class on knitting basics. Bring your own yarn and needles. Ages 13 and older. Saturdays starting March 24 from 10 to 11 for 10 classes; Wednesdays starting March 28 from 10 to 11; Thursdays starting March 29 from 7 to 8. $75 for 10 classes, plus small supply fee.
DOLLEY MADISON LIBRARY 1244 Oak Ridge Ave., McLean. 703-356-0770. Learn to knit or bring a project to share. Bring your own supplies. Ages 10 and older. Monday from 4 to 5. Free. Call to register.
GREAT FALLS LIBRARY 9830 Georgetown Pike, Great Falls. 703-757-8560. The Knitting for Teens program focuses on knitting afghans for Project Linus, which provides new blankets for children who are seriously ill. Materials are provided, and teens can earn community service credit. Ages 13-18. March 6 and April 3 from 4 to 5. Free. Call to register.
MARTHA WASHINGTON LIBRARY 6614 Fort Hunt Rd., Alexandria. 703-768-6700. Learn to knit. Supplies provided for first lesson. Ages 10-18. Monday and March 5 and 19 from 4 to 5. Free. Call to register.
THE KNITTER'S COTTAGE 807 William St., Fredericksburg. 540-361-7875. During weekly Kids Knitting Workshop, children bring a project to work on, and a teacher is on hand. Ages 8-14. Fridays from 5 to 6. $5 per session.
PROVIDENCE RECREATION CENTER 7525 Marc Dr., Falls Church. 703-698-1351. Basic knitting class. Students should bring size 8 needles and one skein of light-colored worsted-weight yarn. Ages 13 and older. Saturdays starting March 24 from 11 to 12:30; Tuesdays starting March 27 from 6:30 to 8. $112 for 10 classes.