Trudi Johnston - Knit Stop for Kids

Trudi Johnston - Knit Stop for Kids

Thanks to a grant from the Big Lottery Fund the newest community project that we are working on is Knit Stop for Kids, teaching knitting and fibre art in schools. The overall aim is to understand the difference that learning to knit makes to the children and also to develop a model that other schools can use for their own learn to knit programmes.

Knit Stop for Kids grew out of the foundation laid by Nicki Duminel last year where she regularly knit with children in four local schools. At the end of the school year we thought it would be a good idea to try to develop the programme in a more studied and formal way, and the grant funding has allowed us to do just that.  Trudi has been delivering the workshops at two schools in Exeter in addition to teaching our regular Knit Stop for adults course. We took some time to have a chat with Trudi to share more about her work with the Knit Stop and the Knit Stop for Kids.

Trudi Johnston, our Knit stop Co-coordinator

Trudi’s main work background is in sales where she enjoyed working with people and as part of a team. In addition, Trudi volunteered as a Girl Guide and Scout Leader, supporting children in her community. When she moved from London to Exeter, Trudi decided to indulge her love of craft and meet new people by attending a knitting group and taking along her crochet. This group was one of our Knit Stop groups that had opened up to new members once the learning part of the programme was completed. 

The Knit Stop is a community scheme supported by Wool on the Exe that delivers low cost knitting tuition within small groups at various cafes in Exeter. As well as teaching a new skill the aim is to establish a regular social group that will continue to knit together once the teaching is complete.

The Knit Stop course was run by Nicki who challenged Trudi to learn to knit! So eventually Trudi joined a Knit Stop group that was just starting up and benefited from the eight week course that taught her a range of skills.

When Debbie approached Trudi about delivering a Knit Stop course herself she was a little apprehensive at first, feeling that she was relatively new to the skill. However, she was very familiar with the groups and completely supported the aims of the programme to bring people together over knitting, so she agreed. After successfully teaching three Knit Stop courses Trudi was on board for The Knit Stop for Kids.

Currently the Knit Stop for Kids teaches knitting in two secondary schools in Exeter. Both schools run an open group that takes place once a week at lunchtime in the school libraries. Anyone can join in, to learn to knit or to make pom poms. Trudi also runs a closed group that teaches the same five children for a one hour session once a week over the course of the school year. The five participants have been nominated by the school as children who would benefit from the course, and were invited to take part. 

At first one of the boys in closed group was reluctant to learn to knit as he was concerned that it wasn’t really ‘a boy thing’. His teacher encouraged him to try the first lesson just to see what he thought of it – and of course he’s been attending every week since! 

Another boy on the closed course had a hard time at the beginning. He started the course half a term late due to absence from school and so when he first attended he felt very frustrated. He called Trudi an awful teacher, threw wool around, hid under the table and left the classroom numerous times. At the end of the lesson Trudi spoke to the teacher to explain that she is not trained to deal with such challenging behaviour. The teacher said that he wouldn’t attend the group in future. However, after speaking to the boy he was devastated and asked for another chance, promising that he would apologise and behave better. Trudi agreed and ever since he has been joining in with a great attitude, even telling Trudi, ‘I really like it here with you miss!’

Trudi takes a bundle of yarn, knitting needles and pom pom makers to her school sessions. She alternates between teaching the students to knit and letting the children relax with pom pom making.

Other feedback that Trudi has had from the kids has been encouraging. One girl told her that knitting has helped her anger management problems. Another girl said ‘This really chills you out, don’t it miss?’ and other comments are; ‘I love coming because I can chat about personal stuff.’, ‘It’s fun!’, and ‘I like making things!’

It must be clear to the kids that Trudi enjoys her time with them. She ensures that she spends time with each individual, giving them feedback and encouragement as well as fostering a supportive and friendly atmosphere within the group.

Asked why she thinks the Knit Stop for Kids is important Trudi told us;

Learning a new skill gives the kids pride, confidence and a creative outlet. There are social benefits preventing loneliness. Some of the kids learn to knit and then go on to teach each others to knit, making them feel that they’re part of a team. They benefit from the informal environment, which is relaxed and casual, giving them some freedom. At first when they make mistakes, they panic, like they’ve broken something or dropped their dinner on the floor. I’m helping them to learn that they don’t need to do that. They can fix their mistakes and this promotes their independence. It also helps teach the kids to chill out, manage stress and have fun!

At the end of each of the Knit Stop for Kids session Trudi collates data and writes up a report so that the overall project can be assessed and its value measured. From experience we know that there are many benefits in learning to knit, and in knitting with others as a group, so we’re pleased to have the chance to develop this programme and share its results.

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