6 Tips for Raising a Maker

Let me be the first to tell you I’m not an expert in parenting (far from it), but I did happen to make a pretty awesome maker. In our digital age, when it seems like kids have cell phones before they can walk, I think raising a maker is a rather special accomplishment.

So how did I do it?

Sometimes I think it was entirely by chance; other times I look back at my kids’ younger years and recognize there were things I did that made them makers. My daughter Lauren, 14 years old and the youngest of 3, is my craftiest kid. She knits, crochets, sews, and draws, and agreed to let me share these photos with you along with details on how I’ve raised her to be a maker.

1. START THEM YOUNG

It’s a pet peeve of mine when I hear adults say, “oh, I’m just not crafty.” I firmly believe anyone can learn to make things with their hands; someone just needs to show them how. I set out to teach my kids that they could make things as soon as they had the dexterity to hold tools in their hands. Lauren was introduced to knitting needles and crochet hooks around the time she was learning to properly hold a pencil and write the alphabet.

You can ease little ones into knitting as follows: Start with a basic garter stitch scarf, be okay with no 2 rows having the same stitch count, and accept the scarf will probably never be finished. It’s more about the act of making than the finished object when they’re little. Once they show an interest in working on something start to finish, You Can Knit by Stephanie White is a great book to get a tween or teen introduced to knitting.

Lauren crocheting a chain with novelty yarn at age 8 (left) and crocheting an edge on a fleece blanket at age 12 (right).

2. DON’T DUMB IT DOWN

Another thing I’ve always done with my kids is to use and teach them the right terminology for the craft they’re learning. Kids are smart and they’re sponges for information. There’s no reason to dumb things down. We don’t put the stick in the hole; the needle goes in the stitch.

The importance of teaching kids the language of craft was reinforced for me last summer when Lauren started taking drawing lessons with a local artist. After her first lesson, her teacher said how much she loved that she could talk to Lauren as if she were a college student taking an art class, not the young soon-to-be 8th grader she was at the time. She knew what it meant to shade and contour, even if she wasn’t quite sure how to do it.

I’ve knit Lauren a few pairs of mittens over the years and her favorite pair is a thrummed set where she helped: she made the thrums for me. As I showed her how to make thrums, I also showed her all the parts of a mitten. She learned what all the parts are called from the cuff to the thumb gusset, and she learned that thrums she made will felt over time to provide extra warmth. If you’re looking for a fun thrummed mitten pattern, Kate Atherley shares a great how-to in her soon-to-be-released book, Knit Mitts. It also happens to include an entire section on sizing mittens for kids!

Lauren learns to make thrums for a pair of cozy mittens. She also learned what it means to draft roving.

3. ENCOURAGE CURIOSITY

It’s a bit cliché, I know, but it’s true; you need to encourage kids’ curiosity around crafting. When you’re doing something you love and a kid wants to know what you’re doing, show them! Let them feel the yarn, put the needles in their hands, ask them to throw the yarn for you on a couple stitches—make crafting feel accessible to them.

This goes for anyone interacting with kids while they craft, not just parents. I was knitting a sock in an airport terminal while waiting for a flight when I heard this voice from a few aisles over say, “Mom, what’s that lady doing?” I replied, “I’m knitting a sock. If it’s okay with your mom, would you like to see?” He shouted “MOM, SHE’S MAKING A SOCK!! How is she doing that?” The little boy came over to see what I was doing up close then ran back to his mom and again shouted about my sock-making. I’m convinced that boy will someday knit a pair of socks himself.

Anytime Lauren has been inquisitive about my making, I welcome her into trying it for herself. That usually means I have to stop what I’m going and let her experiment, but that’s okay. It’s part of the process when you’re raising a maker.

Lauren takes over the sewing machine to sew a pillow case of her own design.

4. DON’T KEEP CRAP

If you’re doing it right, you’re starting them young and you’re encouraging them every chance you get, you might end up with a lot of, shall we say, less than stellar items made by kids’ cute little hands. I’ve taught my kids that if everything is special, then nothing is really special. So, we don’t keep everything. We keep the things they’ve put their hearts into and they’re okay with it!

Lauren beamed with pride after making a necklace to wear to school using my tools and beads.

5. SHARE CRAFTING SPACES

Whether it’s the local yarn shop or your personal studio space, I think it’s important to share sacred crafting spaces with kids. You don’t need to take them every time—I get that places become sacred to mamas because they allow for a few kid-free hours. However, in the interest of raising a maker, you need to show them how awesome these spots are and why.

Lauren has learned over the years that when we go on a family vacation, I’m going to drag her to the LYS in the area. She was actually mad recently when I went to the grand opening of The Black Purl and didn’t take her.

When I had a working jewelry studio, Lauren spent countless hours crafting with me and meeting other makers.

Lauren hangs out in my studio painting.

6. KNIT & HOPE

In the end, when raising a maker, the one thing I’ve done more than any other is knit and hope. I’m always knitting (or crocheting, or weaving, or sewing) and my kids see that. I’m showing them that you can still make with your hands despite working full time, managing a household, and keeping up with 3 busy kids. I hope by the time they’re my age, with families of their own, that they’ll model the same behavior for their kids.

Lauren winds her own skein with my swift.

I would love to hear if you’ve raised a maker. Do you have any thoughts to share on how you’re doing it? Please tell us in the comments below!

-Kerry Bogert
Editorial Director, Books


Let Us Help You Raise a Maker!

 

12 Comments

  1. Melanie S at 3:10 am September 8, 2017

    Provide them with good quality materials and equipment. Don’t give them the cheapest and flimsiest to learn on. We weren’t wealthy growing up, but my mother had us learn with proper watercolor paper, paints and brushes.

    • Kerry B at 10:49 am September 8, 2017

      I agree! The right materials for the job are important. Using the wrong ones can lead to frustrations.

  2. Carol H at 8:35 am September 8, 2017

    I’ve been knitting since age 8, when my mother taught me. Her mother had taught her.
    My granddaughter lives 3,000 miles away but I always have knitting with me when i visit. She’s 3 and sits in my lap, takes the needles, and I guide her hands. I have a picture of her knitting – at 3 years old – that I dearly love and will keep for her forever. When I’m there, she comes bounding downstairs to my room – very bright and early every morning – announcing at the top of her lungs, “I WANT TO KNIT!!”

    A future knitter – I couldn’t be more thrilled.

    • Kerry B at 10:50 am September 8, 2017

      YAY! I’m so happy to hear you’re passing your love of craft on to your granddaughter.

  3. Dionne B at 9:29 am September 8, 2017

    Really enjoyed this article. Built I’m left with regrets that I didn’t do this with my daughter. I was taught to sew by my mother, knit and crochet by my grandmother. Not enjoyable experiences, but now these crafts bring me great joy. I’m newly (4 years) addicted to knitting again. My daughter constantly drew as a child and teen, which we encouraged, but I wish I could share my passion and excitement with her. Well done for doing this with your daughter!

    • Kerry B at 10:52 am September 8, 2017

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the article. It was fun for me to write. Don’t be too hard on yourself! It’s never to late to welcome a “kid” to crafting. I learned to crochet when I was just 5, but I didn’t learn to knit until I was 30. Invite your daughter to your next knit night with friends!

  4. Marlyn W at 10:42 am September 8, 2017

    Include you child’s friends. I am the only maker most of these kids have ever seen! Broaden your audience. Teach a Girl Scout troop, church youth group; at summer camp, college dorm or sorority. There is a great deal of interest these days in a hand made life.

    • Kerry B at 10:53 am September 8, 2017

      Yes! That’s a great recommendation! I do the same with Lauren’s friends when they’re around.

  5. Ann A at 5:28 am September 9, 2017

    WONDERFUL article! So many memories. My mom sewed – everything. Patterns were suggestions, not law. Her mother knit and crocheted and taught me to crochet at 5, knit at 6. She didn’t even read commercial patterns. Instead, she had scrapbooks of pictures from newspapers and magazines. They both taught me embroidery about 7. When I was 10 my grandfather died so she moved off the farm. I found a tatting shuttle in the thread we were packing and Grandma taught me that. She gave me a motif and told me when I could duplicate it, I could have her thread. I did it over the next week, not to get her thread but to let her see I could because her eyesight was failing. Along the way, I picked up cross-stitch, needlepoint and crewel embroidery. By 12, I was making mittens for everyone each Christmas. Good sturdy warm ones suitable for farm work in Minnesota. I even sold a few shawls after people at church saw the one I made for my mom.

    When my daughter was 2, I got a BOND knitting machine and she helped me knit rows. We made dozens of hats for the homeless. As she got older, she learned basic hand sewing and tried hand knitting. We tried several other crafts together too. While I don’t machine sew like my mom, I own a machine so she learned a bit of that too. She designed her senior prom dress and helped make it. It wasn’t elaborate sewing, but the only commercial part was a purchased corset used for the bodice. That dress was modified to become her wedding dress a few years later. Now the mom of 3, she has told me more than once how glad she is I taught her the basics of hand sewing so she can mend, modify and get creative when it comes to her kids clothes. She isn’t addicted to thread craft like I am, but I will forgive her as she had a story published in an anthology last year, three more due out this year and is working on a book.

    I’m hoping the creative/making trend continues. Her oldest (4) started pre-school this week, so I made her first day of school dress. She was at my house when I started, so she knew Grandma made it. She was making ‘decorations’ for it with her playdoh while I was sewing. (We were both working on the same table.) I explained they wouldn’t stay in the wash, but we did try them on the pieces to see what they would look like. 🙂

    • Kerry B at 7:29 am September 11, 2017

      Thank you so much for sharing! I hope making continues to be an important role in everyone’s lives too.

  6. Anupama N at 12:29 am September 11, 2017

    My little girl, Sanchita started knitting when she was 8 years old. She made a cute baby sweater set, with a bit of help from me for her niece. We still have it with us and plan to frame it as it is too frail to be used again. She has been knitting stuff for herself lately, but mostly starts them off and I finish the project. That’s fine by me as she is still interested in knitting. I taught my boys too, but they never did anything seriously, just small swatches.

    • Kerry B at 7:31 am September 11, 2017

      My oldest, now 20, never liked making anything but tackles when he was younger. So while I tried, and he was certainly creative with writing, he wasn’t my craftiest maker. My middle, also a young man now 18, loves to build and sculpt! He loves computer aided design and is now in school for architecture. He knows how to knit, a bit, and loves when I bring new yarn home. He’s always hoping I’m going to make something for him with it.

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