Knitting: Creative Community is Contagious to Children

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Knitting Kit-Jimin (Photo credit: nist6ss)

Knit night was, of course, wonderful. I think of my knit group as my temple of friends, in a way that would horrify anyone with dogma at the center of their spirituality. Unlike most spiritual communities, however, there is no politics at knit night.

There are (at most) less than two dozen of us active, and we only congregate when we want to, and our spiritual practices consist of tying knots in yarn to make interesting things and talking (mostly) about sex. That isn’t to say we don’t talk about politics, but that there is no knit night politics, no jockeying for position, no competitiveness, just companionship and friendship and acceptance.

As we were setting up this evening, the Mistress of Corruption and I were joined by the daughter of the owner of the establishment where we hold knit night, a six year old little girl who is bright and happy and unafraid and insatiably curious, the way children can be if they’re very very lucky and the world doesn’t show them its heel.

For two solid hours she hung out with us women (and two men, as members came in dribs and drabs), watching us work and listening as we engaged in (heavily censored) conversation, learning the difference between a hook and a needle, seeing yarn as it was made from fiber, watching people make things with their hands that they wore, and gifted one another, and contributing her own take on the conversation, eliciting some giggles from us as we continually and carefully kept our conversation G rated.

This is the way life once was in most communities, where knowledge was transmitted from one generation to the next through interest and apprenticeship, where children drifted in and out of adult conversations that waxed and waned in tone as the children came and went. It is the way I learned to knit, from my mother, and my husband learned to crochet, from his granny. It is the way that Teenager learned to shoot a gun and clean and butcher a deer. It is the way cooking is passed down from generation to generation.

What made this evening special wasn’t simply the transmission of knowledge from adult to child, but the communal nature of the tutors, members of the tribe of ‘people who utilize the space in the bowling alley’ where the little girl spends much of her time. Within the bounds of the tribe, the owner’s daughter is safe and cosseted and protected from harm, and given enormous freedom to wander and learn.

I had a similar childhood, and where possible I have encouraged conditions that have allowed my children to experience the joy of being part of the ‘village’, but I have a sense that many children today never get that feeling that they are a part of something, that the adults around them are people they can trust and learn from.

We are so afraid of the boogie man, so afraid of the unknown other, that too many of us have transmitted that fear, instead of the joy of community, creativity, and learning, to our children. And even where we allow such community, it is no longer the free range learning feast that used to dominate the years of childhood, but is now codified, packaged into discrete lessons and doled out in measured portions.

In this, the unschooling community is probably right. Children need freedom to explore their world, and a safe ‘village’ to watch for their safety, love and discipline them (even if ‘discipline’ is simply, ‘go home to your mother if you can’t behave’) and teach them the skills they need – the soft skills of cooperation and teamwork as well as the ‘hard’ skills that are easier to quantify.

What have you done to participate in your village life, to help the children in your community catch the contagions of community and creativity?

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