Spotlight: Kerry Kimber, Knitter and Author

Learning to knit

Spotlight: Kerry Kimber, Knitter and Author

Kerry Kimber’s mother not only taught her to knit when she was little, she also gave teenaged Kerry free reign to raid her stash. Her mother’s gift of creative joy and freedom inspired Kerry to keep knitting and then to inspire a love of the craft in future generations. With a firm foundation in how kids and adults learn, Kerry’s knitting programs are suitable for all ages.

Kerry Kimber portrait

How long have you been knitting? How did you get started?

I learned to knit when I was about 7 years old. I don’t have a clear memory of it, but I do remember both my Mother and my Granny sitting with me at different times when I was quite small.

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My passion for knitting truly began when I was a teenager. My Mother attended a workshop with Kaffe Fassett that really inspired her, and in turn, I inspired me, too. She shared Kaffe Fassett’s book “Glorious Knitting” with me, along with her stash of colourful wool, and she allowed me to help myself and enjoy experimenting with texture and colour. My Mother was incredibly creative, having been a fashion designer, a textiles teacher and latterly an embroidery artist.

She always encouraged me to try things without setting boundaries for myself. I think this approach to art and creativity has had a big impact on many different aspects of my life! My first knitted project was a huge striped cardigan; my version of one of Kaffe’s designs from “Glorious Knitting”. It set me off on a life-long passion for knitting.

What is the most important takeaway you want readers to gain from your new book, Kids Knit: 20 Projects with Fun Techniques to Learn?

Knitting is easy and fun for everyone! I want to inspire children to learn new skills, knit cool projects and get creative with fibre.

Kerry teaching knitting

What makes this book unique?

“Kids Knit” is based on clearly presenting basic knitting skills designed to build confidence. As children work their way through the book, it builds on the previously learned skills to develop more expertise. The step-by-step instructions are all photographed—we chose a larger photo format for clarity. I wanted to have children’s hands (we used my daughter’s) to show the steps to make it more relatable to kids. Every project has lots of step-by-steps and really clear instructions for sewing up.

I’ve included lots of ideas for children to get creative and use their imagination. They already have ideas and with a little guidance and inspiration, they can create incredible things! All of the 20 projects in the book have been tried and tested by children in our Kids Knit classes.

Knitted lady bugs

What are the benefits of knitting for kids?

When children make things, whether it’s knitting, sewing, sticking bits of cardboard together or playing with cookie dough to make fun shapes, they see themselves as creatively capable. This is good for their confidence and sense of self and has a positive impact on all areas of their lives.

Knitting has some additional educational benefits. For a start, knitting makes math relevant and practical. Often children don’t even realise they are learning math when they are knitting! They count stitches in twos, do simple subtraction when they’re working out how many more stitches to cast on, and then when their knitting skills become more advanced, they do math to work out pattern repeats and shaping. Knitting is also good for learning about spacial recognition, how shapes fit together, for developing sequencing skills and understanding the consequences of actions.

Of course, all knitters love to talk about the wonderful health benefits of knitting! Knitting is a relaxing activity that has been likened to meditation. Its rhythmic and repetitive nature is deeply calming and induces a sense of well-being. Children benefit greatly from this – it’s a great antidote to the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Close-up of knitting

Is there a best age to start? What should an adult look for when deciding whether a kid is ready to learn to knit?

When a child is learning to hold a pencil properly to write their name, that’s a good time to try teaching them to knit. When they are learning to read and write, it suggests that they have the capacity to understand the sequences required to make a knitted stitch, and then a row of knitting.

Attention span is also an important consideration. When my children were very small, I used to sit them on my knee while I was knitting and have them do one part of each stitch as I was working along a row. They loved it because they felt involved in what I was doing. But they didn’t have the attention span to do more than a few stitches at a time. They would soon climb down and go and play with something else.

Often children who are five or six years old have enough attention span to start and finish a project; this a good time to encourage them to try knitting. However if interest wanes, don’t push it. Children develop at different speeds and it’s important to let them go at their own pace.

Learning to knit
Playing with knitted monsters

What suggestions do you have for a beginner knitter to get their knitting tension “just right” for a project? Not too tight, not too loose.

Sometimes beginners find their tension varies as they knit. Stitches may be loose at the start and end of rows, or they may find some stitches are so tight they can’t move their needles. For this reason, it’s a good idea when you are first learning knit to make projects that don’t need to be a certain size; avoid garments like sweaters and hats that need to fit properly. Instead choose patterns for toys or accessories, and then try to relax about your tension. With practice, you will soon discover your natural knitting gauge that makes a consistent knitted fabric with stitches that are all the same size.

Once you establish this and you feel confident about starting to knit something ‘fitted’, it’s important to read the instructions about gauge in the pattern. Patterns are written with the gauge of the designer in mind, so all knitters, beginners and experts alike, must always check their gauge by knitting a small square to see how many stitches and rows are achieved in 4”/10cm. If you count more stitches than specified in the gauge instructions, use larger needles. And if you count fewer, use smaller needles. It may be necessary to knit several gauge swatches before casting on the project itself. This is an important part of the process for all knitters, regardless of experience.

We teach this to our teens in our YPK (Young People Knit) classes, as teenagers often want to knit clothes for themselves.

Showing off knitted bean bags
Playing with knitted bean bags

Is the learning process the same for teens and adults as it is for kids?

Children can take a little longer than teens and adults to learn the mechanics of making a stitch. However, often they are more patient than adults. They learn new skills all the time, and they don’t expect to know how to do it straight away. Whatever the age of the new knitter, I recommend that the first projects are small. Lots of new knitters want to make a scarf because it’s a simple rectangle. However, it’s a bigger project than people realise and can get boring! It’s better to start with a small project like a toy, a little bag or wrist warmers.

It’s also a good idea to use good quality materials so the experience is enjoyable. Choose wooden needles as they grip the yarn better than metal or plastic, and knit with smooth, chunky, natural fibres. Be sure to choose a color you love!

For those who are helping a new knitter, I suggest that you don’t correct them too much. Just keep them going and be encouraging. Help them to finish something quickly so they gain confidence.

What do you do with all of those little bits and ends of yarn? Do you have some suggested projects?

Oh, I love those leftover bits and pieces! I always save them and I encourage the children in our classes to do the same. Usually oddments of wool and thread become crazy hair on a toy. You can see an example in the pattern for a Monster Hand Puppet my book.

Tying hair onto a knitted monster

They are also useful for weaving projects. We have a great project in our Kids Knit classes where we cut a shape in cardboard. Then we create a little weaving loom.

Kerry teaching knitting to her daughters

We keep all our oddments of Rowan Big Wool, no matter how small. They are lovely for adding to fleece for felting projects. Our Kids Knitters rub them together with soapy water to make bangles or friendship bracelets. Or they make cute, soft balls for keychains.

Felt bangle made from bits of yarn
Felt balls made from bits of yarn

When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?

I used to be more of an improviser than a planner; I have always enjoyed giving things a go to see if it works! But over the years I have learned the self discipline required to prepare properly. I know I’ll get better results in the long run. How much preparation I do varies greatly. When designing a new Kids Knit project for example, I usually start with a few sketches and some notes about stitch patterns, texture and colour before launching in and starting to knit my first sample.

Girl with a knitted doll

When you travel, do you create while on planes and in waiting areas? What is in your creative travel kit?

I love travelling and always carry some little double pointed needles and a ball of sock wool with me. I cast on once I’m through security and then try to knit both socks by the time I return. But I don’t often achieve it! Knitting is a great activity for those who don’t like to waste time and who get bored easily. I’m very glad to have such a portable hobby!

What is your favorite storage tip for your yarn and creative supplies?

In the context of our classes, keeping our materials organised is an important part of classroom management. Whether we are in a community center, classroom or private home, we carefully consider the layout of the room. That includes where the children will sit, where they will leave their jackets and bags when they first come in and where we will place the buttons, beads and other crafting paraphernalia.

We usually transport crafting supplies in clear tubs and bags. Then we lay them out neatly for the children in advance of each class. Keeping the materials well organised encourages the children to respect the supplies and look after them. It also minimises the chance of someone tripping on a stray ball of wool!

Kerry Kimber Quote

Tell us about Knitting for All. What do you hope people will gain by visiting that community?

Knitting For All provides training and ongoing support for knitting teachers. With that support they can run their own business delivering our programs. We currently have 22 Accredited Knitting For All teachers around the UK and Ireland. In 2021 we will expand to other countries around the world by offering our training online.

Our teachers deliver three teaching programs in the areas where they live: Kids Knit for children, Young People Knit for teens and Knit Night & Day for adults. Most of these classes are in person and we hold them in schools, local community rooms and private houses. Though recently many of our teachers have also started offering their classes online.

To find out about our online Knitting For All Accredited Teacher Training Course starting in January 2021, visit my website.

If you would like to see where our accredited teachers are based and what classes they are offering, please visit Find A Class.

Kids Knit will be available in the US November 2020.

Interview with Kerry Kimber posted October 2020

Browse through more knitting projects and inspiration on Create Whimsy.

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