Classes 1 and 2
In Class 1 and 2 the children develop their basic knitting skills through a series of small knitted items that become progressively more challenging to create. The children learn to make thread by twisting fleece, to make a stitch by weaving the thread and to make fabric by joining together many stitches through the act of knitting. The children discover about ‘transformation of substance’ by experimenting how, what begins as a one dimensional thread, changes into a piece of two dimensional fabric, which in turn takes on a three dimensional function in the shape of a rabbit, scarf or gnome.
The practical nature of Handwork balances other subjects in the curriculum. Using stories, songs, verses, colours and characterful projects, the lengthy and practical nature of knitting is warmed for the children, turning what could be a repetitive, exhausting task into a labour of creativity and love. This mode of teaching also cultivates the children’s rhythmical development, their listening and reciting skills. The physical nature of handwork fosters their awareness of their body and its place in space. The social nature of handwork, with its sharing of ideas, skills and materials encourages the children to develop their social interaction skills. The individual nature of knitting encourages them to develop their concentration and will. The child engages their will each time they encounter their slowly progressing projects, gaining great satisfaction as each item is successfully completed.
Once children have practised knitting plain and purl, they are introduced to crochet. In order to crochet well children need to develop a strong rhythm and sense of number as they work. In crochet the emphasis is on the dominant hand.
In Class 3 the children continue to build on the knitting and crochet skills that they have gained in Classes 1 and 2. Lots of small projects, like gnomes and animals, help them with their sewing up skills and pattern reading. The culmination of these skills is when the children create a Fair Isle flute case. This project ensures that students develop precise knitting skills. The complex patterning ensures they count every stitch and choose the correct colour with which to knit the stitch.
Classes 4 and 5
The two new Handwork techniques that Class 4 learn are cross stitch and knitting in the round with four needles.
Cross stitch, with its symmetry and discipline, helps the Class 4 children to gain confidence and inner firmness as they explore their growing independence. Through colour and form they explore how design can reflect the purpose of the object.
In Class 3 the children learnt Fair Isle Knitting. In Class 4 they are able to be more creative with this technique. They learn to knit on four needles, in the round, are able to combine the Fair Isle techniques they have learnt to create a personalised hat for themselves. The precision that this project involves sharpens and challenges their knitting skills. The counting and pattern making required encourages the Class 4 child to become more aware of each stitch they make.
By the time the students have reached Class 5 they have a wide range of skill and interest levels. There are no set projects that they must complete at this time. Instead students are encouraged to catch up on skills they have missed out on such as fine sewing, cross stitch, the essential knitting skills or crochet. Those who have mastered these skills are encouraged to concentrate on refining them by reading more complex patterns, using their fine sewing skills creatively, or taking a particular skill one step further than they have before.
In Class 6 the students’ growing social and intellectual needs are met with a complex design project. This is an animal of their own design through which the students are able to express their individuality in a more elaborate way than they have done in Handwork in previous years. Unconsciously, for many students, their animal becomes a symbol of themselves and the process of its creation encourages self-esteem and exploration of identity.
In Class 7 the fine motor skills of the students are increasing and refining as are the social structures of the class. In this way the intelligent and purposeful use of the hand parallels and influences the development of thinking.
The Handwork curriculum assists in this process by asking the students to create a doll, the archetypal image of a human being. Unconsciously, for many students, their doll becomes an image of themselves and that furthers the process developing their self-esteem and exploring their identity.