Read more about Tracey Todhunter and view some of her patterns here: www.insidecrochet.co.uk/blog/meeting-tracey-todhunter
My earliest memories are of sitting on the sofa playing with a crochet hook. I can’t remember being formally “taught” to crochet, but I do recall the hours my grandmother would spend showing me how to turn my wonky rectangles into coin purses and shoulder bags. As a teenager I would sell cuffs made in football team colours to boys in the playground or tiny knitted brooches to the girls. Even at that young age, I would save the money I earned for a trip to the wool shop. The excitement of discovering a new yarn or anticipating a new book of designs has never worn off, and those early lessons have paid dividends as now playing with a hook and yarn is how I earn a living. How lucky am I?!
Although children’s lives are now much more sophisticated than my 1960’s childhood, their interest in crafts hasn’t waned. I’ve lost count of how many train journeys I’ve made where a child has sat fascinated by my knitting or crochet, and it only takes a few minutes to teach the art of finger knitting or finger crochet. The early skills of chains and double crochet are relatively easy to teach, but once they have made a phone cosy or a case for their ereader, what do you challenge a child with next?
The patterns featured here have been tested extensively on children and adults in my Learn to Crochet classes. They are simple, quick and offer all kinds of possibilities for embellishment. Unlike adults, children are prepared to take risks with their early crochet. They are unaware of technical issues such as tension or hook size, they just want to “make”.
Take advantage of their enthusiasm and let them loose with your stash (maybe not your prized collection of hand-dyed) to find a yarn they like, give them a suitable sized hook and sit down together for a crochet adventure. I doubt my grandmothers realised how important knitting and crochet would be to me in my adult life, but I’ll always be grateful to them for the time they took to pass on their skills and love of yarn. So next time your child picks up a ball of yarn from your work basket, don’t shoo them away. Talk to them about the fi bres and yarn composition: children are fascinated to discover that yarn comes from many animals and love learning about man-made fi bres. Give them a hook and make a chain together, plait it to form a bangle or a bookmark and next time move on to something more advanced together. But be warned, once they’re “hooked” your yarn stash will become fair game for future crafty adventures!
➻ Pick a suitable yarn and hook
➻ Aim for a smooth yarn. My favourite for beginners is Rowan Wool Cotton DK, as it doesn’t split and has good stitch definition. Avoid novelty yarns – even though they look fun, they’re difficult to learn with, so save them for later.
➻ Allow children to move at their own pace
➻ If a child can manipulate a pencil, they can probably handle a crochet hook. Start with simple stitches and don’t forget the importance of making chains. Teach new skills as the need arises – if they come across a knot in the yarn, show them how to join in a new colour.
➻ Be positive
➻ No matter how old you are, your first projects might look crooked. A little judicious seaming can hide an uneven edge, or try working a round of double crochet in a contrasting colour to turn a swatch into a coaster.
➻ Work on a project together
➻ Suggest making the front of a phone cosy while the child works on the back. Or make a dishcloth and let the child edge it in a contrasting colour.
➻ Learn to sit on your hands!
➻ One of the hardest things can be learning to resist the temptation of “helping” too much. Far better to wait until a child asks for help or to offer encouragement than to take over completely.
➻ Teach the language of crochet
➻ Don’t be afraid to use the correct names for stitches. Learning the “special” words, deciphering charts and reading patterns are all important skills.
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