It’s not too often that adults hand children pointy instruments and encourage them to run with it. But that’s exactly what’s gone on at the Lewiston Public Library for the past two years.

Children’s Librarian Lorraine Quinn Yaeger and volunteers from the community have armed dozens of Lewiston children with knitting needles and hope to see each learn the craft.

“Knitting used to be a craft kids would do before there was television,” said Milli Crane, volunteer teacher. “I think it’s going back to that now.”

The project was Yaeger’s brainchild two years ago. She decided to see if experienced knitters in the community would donate time to work with the children to teach them a skill few had been exposed to.

She found a small legion of volunteers willing to work one-on-one with the students.

“I knew it wouldn’t work without the volunteers, without having someone to basically work individually with each child,” Yaeger said.

Getting the children going wasn’t too difficult, Crane said.

“They were all pretty receptive to learning how to knit,” the Lewiston resident said.

The teachers would cast on, or get the project started, for the children. Then they learned the basic activity of knitting.

In many cases, the volunteers would sit behind the child and guide them through the motion until the student had the process down on their own.

The next step is teaching pearling.

Some took the task very seriously.

Volunteer Margaret Bowen, a Lewiston resident, said one little girl would get six or seven stitches in and then rip them all out. She wanted them to be perfect.

“It can be frustrating at first,” Crane said. “Some are going to knit loose and some are going to knit tight. We have to teach them to relax.”

But once they got it, the volunteers said the children found the craft to be fun.

“One little boy asked me ‘Can you knit without looking,’ “ Crane said. “I told him yes. And he closed his eyes and said ‘I can too.’ “

Seven-year-old Morgan Lester of Lewiston said keeping the stitches in a row and tight was the most difficult part of learning to knit.

“I think this gives the children a sense of accomplishment,” Crane said of the craft.

The program is open to any child, but 7 or older is the preferred age.

And some women and even one little boy took advantage of the class.

Many mothers of today’s children never learned the skill, Yaeger said. They were raised in an era when education systems attempted to break down gender barriers and encouraged to explore activities typically associated with male students.

“The inborn differences between the sexes were denied by education,” Yaeger said. “But spending to with women and learning skills like these and identifying with that is really important... Being with women is healthy for little girls.”

During the program’s first year, the 12 students learned how to knit a bean bag. The skill was reinforced in its second year as students worked on knitting squares, which were later stitched together to make an afghan for Carolyn’s House, a shelter for women and children in Niagara Falls.

The volunteers just finished a workshop with children in November. But Yaeger said parents shouldn’t look for the program again until the summer. She said parents can call the library and let them know their child is interested in participating. The library will give them a call back with specific dates when the summer approaches.

Contact Emilie Arkin at 693-1000, Ext. 150.

•••

Get in the knit of things

• WHAT: Knitting classes for children taught by volunteers.

• WHERE: Lewiston Public Library, 305 South Eighth St., Lewiston.

• WHEN: Dates to be announced in late spring or early summer.

• FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact Children’s Librarian Lorraine Quinn Yaeger at 745-4720.

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