I noticed something when I was teaching my seven-year-old niece to knit.
She isn’t that keen on sums in her homework, but if I asked her to keep track of her stitches she would happily tell me how many she had gained or lost. And if I asked questions like “You’ve knitted three rows this afternoon, how many stitches is that?”, she would be quite happy to sit and do the mental arithmetic. She didn’t notice it was sums.
Like many crafters and craft teachers, I have often argued that knitting, crochet and other skills teach a range of useful extras including mental arithmetic, so along with my UK Hand Knitting colleagues I was pleased to hear this radio feature on the links between maths and crafts. It talks about how knitters think in 3D and use geometry to solve shaping problems.
What you learn from knitting can be applied elsewhere as computer scientists are showing. A scheme to interest girls in careers in coding starts by teaching them about knitting. This is because knitting and crochet patterns are “programs” – a set of step-by-step instructions that often use symbols or letter codes to replicate an action.
It is exciting to see knitting used as a way into writing computer code but it isn’t a new idea. The mother of modern computing Ada Lovelace drew inspiration from the punch cards used by weavers when she worked with Charles Babbage on their Analytical Engine .
So if you decide to teach some youngsters to knit during these school holidays, you will be doing more than just occupying them on a wet Wednesday. You will be providing them with both the skills to make lovely objects in the future but also to do well in certain school subjects and preparing them for possible future careers.