Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Knitting in Custody

Today's Featured Mitts
Pebbles in the Stream
(Texter/Smoker Fingerless Mittens)
           Michelle, a former colleague of mine, recently sent me an article about men in a Maryland prison learning how to knit (link to article).  The article explains that initially when the knitting instructor, Lynn Zwerling, offered to teach the prisoners how to knit, the burly prisoners were not very interested.  Once started, however, it has become the most popular class in prison.  Over the last two years Zwerling and her associates have taught more than 100 prisoners to knit and there are several names on the waiting list to get into her class.  The men started out making comfort dolls for children being removed from their homes due to domestic issues.  They then moved on to making hats for under-privileged children.  Zwerling believes the men have found the "zen" nature of knitting.  The assistant warden observes that the dynamic within the knitting class is soothing and calm, and that this dynamic goes with the men when they leave knitting class to return to the mainstream of the institution.  When Zwerling was asked in an interview if the men were reluctant knitters, her response was, "They want to knit, they just don't know they want to knit."
The High School Knitting Club
(Chapter 1)
        This prison article reminded me of a "knitting in custody" experience I had in my career as a high school teacher.  At the suggestion of some of my students who knew I was a knitter, one year I started a noon hour knitting club at our high school.  The club was a moderate success, attracting a diverse group of teens who were interested in learning how to knit and how to drink tea.  (I was known to have the occasional tea party for my various English classes.)

        The Knitting Club was rather fluid and relaxed as far as rules, and the students came and went to the weekly meetings.  The closet in my classroom held all the tools necessary for a Knitting Club---needles, yarn, teacups, teapot, teakettle, teabags, the occasional package of cookies.  The Knitting Club was a comfortable place to be and I did actually teach some people how to knit! 
Knitting in Detention 
(Chapter 2)
       During this period of my career, I was not a fan of detentions as a classroom management tool.  There were times, however, when I was forced to impose detentions to comply with school rules. There came a day when I had to impose detentions on one of my homeroom students, John,  for his repeated tardiness.  I had a good relationship with the young man and he was totally cooperative when I told him he had to come to my classroom at noon hour to serve a detention.  I was not content with him sitting there doing nothing and since he had no schoolwork to do, I gave him a tangled mess of yarn that needed to be untangled and rolled into a ball.  I got him started and I worked at my desk while he quietly finished winding the yarn.  When his period of incarceration was over, I released him back into the halls of the school.  The next day he inquired about joining the knitting club.  I encouraged him, of course, and he came to the next meeting and untangled a few more messes. 

 Knitting and Hockey
(Chapter 3)
           Shortly after this incident, one Saturday morning I was walking through a parking lot near my home when I heard someone calling my name.  I looked up to see John, my detention/homeroom student, about to board a yellow school bus.  "Mrs. Fullerton," he yelled across the parking lot.  "I learned how to cast on last night."
         "Really?" I responded, rather surprised at his enthusiasm.  "Who taught you how to do that?"
         "YouTube," he answered.  This was before YouTube was very popular and it was definitely a new field for this middle-aged knitting teacher.  I was impressed but did not want to scare him off with an over-zealous response.   
          "And I bought some white yarn this morning," he added.  "I'm going to knit my mom a scarf." 
         "That's great, John. And where are you off to today?" I asked. 
         "Playing hockey in Harvey," he replied.  "Gonna knit on the bus.  See ya Monday!"
         "Yeah, see you Monday," I answered as he boarded the bus, hockey bag in one hand, knitting bag in the other.


        Until Next Time........



  1. Love these stories. I would likely end up in detention for exasperation while knitting!! Yet I do have knitting zen envy.

    1. Thanks Mary. I would make you a cup of tea in detention and you could use your new pistol mug!!

    2. Happy days more opportunities for my mug!!

  2. I keep responding to these on my ipad and for some reason that doesn't work!

    Barry knit years ago whilst unemployed. he almost finished a sweater and had a perfect tension. Knitting is so therapeutic!

    1. Where is that almost finished sweater? It is not too late to finish it!

  3. Hi Barb, I love your stories and I can hardly wait for the next one. I keep posting comments but I do not know where they go. I have seen and read Mary and Wendys comments and your replys. I am unsure what profile toComment as. I can hardly wait for you tocome and look after me when I have my knee surgery.

  4. Well, that one worked, Susan. You must have found the right profile to post under! Thanks. When do you have knee surgery?