Friday, 21 October 2011

The zen of finger crochet

 A pair of hands and a ball of wool. For this, that's all you need... that simple, and in a complicated world, boy do I love simple!
If I could capture one tenth of the quiet wonder of this little journey, that would be something.

It started, when beginning to teach crochet to class two last month at our local Steiner school- finger crochet seemed a wise warm-up activity. I'd never done it myself before, but my son is a dab-hand. They do this 'two finger knitting' in kindergarten and he loves it. We made these simple flowers at home from the finger crocheted cords before doing it with the class.

I thought back to a 'social saturday' we'd had over the summer as part of our woollygatherings. A visiting mama joined us with her small boy who goes to a Waldorf school in America. And as we all sat around knitting, he nonchalantly began to crochet on all fingers of one hand. Wow, I was impressed with his focus and dexterity. He laughed as I tried to follow along with his movements but couldn't keep up. Before I knew it, and with the greatest of ease he was wearing a headband he'd just fashioned. That done, he ran off and joined the other children to play : )

Got me thinking about lots of things, chiefly how lovely to have a wee one 'knitting' at your side while you knit. And I remembered reading that Rudolf Steiner once said
 "the child's most ardent wish is to imitate the work of grown-up people, whether it is done with a spade or with a knitting needle."
 And while this five-finger knitting is actually crochet and not knitting, the process is a wonderful experience of the mechanics of how a stitch is made.
I wondered about a scarf that a child could easily make, a child who cannot yet knit. I made one this way for fun to see how it might work.

I connected the rope into a big loop and added a couple of those finger knitted flowers. It falls into a different configuration every time I put it on : ) The only use of a needle in the making of this was in stitching the flowers in place, the rest all done on the fingers. Somehow I've grown quite fond of this cosy neckwarmer.

What I'm really chuffed about though... is that my small boy took this photo!

At six, he has not yet learned to knit...feels like he will be ready soon and I am excited to teach him, but I'm biding my time. I taught him this five-finger crochet and he took to it easily and quickly. Amazing for me (and for him!) to see that thick, crocheted rope getting longer, and longer.

 The day he got to the end of the yarn, I helped him to fasten off and he promptly wrapped it about his neck, and with quiet satisfaction headed outside to play. And I have never succeeded in getting him to wear a scarf all this time ; )

Here's the thing...for a child's hands to become skillful is vital to their holistic development. And in ways I'm only beginning to learn about- handwork supports literacy and numeracy skills later on... Steiner wrote of how 'knitting begets thinking'. It is as much of course about joy and peace, for the practice of handwork offers many therapeutic benefits.
 We have a basket now in smallie's patch of our living room where he's got a few different finger crochet projects on the go. I see him go to it at various times of the day... or hear him say 'I want to do some finger knitting now' especially once home from school, tired, and I'm busy in the kitchen. Often I'll notice a quiet has descended on the living room, and when I look he'll be sitting there stitching away contentedly. He settles in to it quietly and I see something universal in that. I too go to my knitting or other handwork when I need to throw off the shackles of the day, to shed the cares of the outside world. I see the deep personal satisfaction for him when he produces and finishes something, especially when he gets to use it in some fun way.

On the practical side, you can take this anywhere easily, its a perfect low maintenance, clean activity for long journeys or trips away. Half of a 50g ball of yarn is probably plenty, I would go for chunky weight and variegated colour for ease and fun. You'll find a tutorial here.
And what to do with all these fine finger crocheted cords I hear you ask? The kids will come up with endless possibilities I've no doubt, but here's some I've come across so far;
 as straps for bags
for tying and binding toys in different ways in play
for making the boundary of a field or pond in a play scene or puppet play
for use in weaving projects
for making necklaces or bracelets
And the lengths produced in the more sophisticated five-finger crochet;
Worked in hemp or twine, these make great skipping ropes
mighty fine scarves or neckwarmers, or a very sweet scarf for a teddy bear
garlands for decorating at home
hairbands and belts
And though I've not tried it yet, you can make a basket by coiling the rope around and stitching in place.

Speaking of stitching in place, and on a seasonal more glossy conkers to be found around our favoured chestnut trees last time we looked. Shucks, all over for another year. But before the ones we'd gathered dry and harden, I just had to make them part of the place somehow.
Made a simple garland to honour a favourite sculpture... (Once I'd placed it there I kept seeing 
India, and how I often happened upon a Hindu statue decorated just so when travelling there.) 

And who could resist making a conker cobweb? Smallie and our little friend loved making these.

The wonder of
  fingers and yarn... and all you can do with them : )


  1. Such beautiful projects, I love the autumn garland! I remember doing finger knitting when I was young; can't wait till Kaya is old enough to have a go!
    I totally agree about the therapeutic value of handwork; during my training as an anthroposophical art therapist I ran a 'seasonal arts and crafts' group, which also included knitting! The best therapy for me, anyways! xx

  2. What a serene and heartwarming post. I must get the hang of that handknitting. I love that smallie wore his own scarf, having rejected any attempt to wear one 'forced upon him' before! Those spider webs are just wonderful. I know my Grandchildren would love to make them. Me too. What a lucky boy to have a creative Mummy like you.

  3. This post makes me smile the whole way through. I am sooo happy you are here crafting this way, and in the school. This is all radiant work, full of your care and creativity, as Mom artist and teacher. Thanks Mia. x

  4. I get so inspired reading your words. I want to drop everything and try all these lovely crafts! Looking forward to finger knitting lessons with you! Still loving your photo's and smallie has the knack as well. My boys have already picked their color for a soon...Franci