Who says the WI is out of the loop? Today's youth answers its call to knit

5th February 2010 at 00:00
It's a good yarn: a group from the Women's Institute goes into a primary school, revives a lost craft and leaves pupils in stitches

Teams of knitters from the Women's Institute are being drafted in to schools under a scheme designed to spark pupils' enthusiasm for old-fashioned crafts.

And a trial run at a Midlands school has been so successful that an entire year group, their teachers and their head are now confident with a pair of needles.

Members of the WI - an organisation rapidly undergoing a youth-friendly image change - are being recruited by the Crafts Council to revive skills among young children that are no longer being passed down through the generations.

Under the Craft Club scheme, volunteers are being trained to teach at school level before being assigned to participating schools.

Devised and funded by the Crafts Council with the UK Hand Knitting Association, it will eventually be expanded to include other crafts.

A trial run last term at Wallsall-based Lindens Primary School involved eight members of the WI teaching knitting skills to Year 5 pupils as well as parents and staff, including head Simon Griffiths.

The result is an entire year group able to knit. Some of them even went on to teach visitors to the Design and Technology Show at the National Exhibition Centre, where they were displaying their work.

"It was amazing: the enthusiasm and the engagement of the staff, pupils and parents," said Mr Griffiths. "I had thought there would be certain groups who would not enjoy it or think it wasn't cool, but it was universally enjoyed."

He said boys were particularly receptive to the new skill.

Mr Griffiths said the inclusion of arts and crafts activities in the curriculum was a vital learning tool. "Craft for me is essential. The creative arts are where learning starts from," he said. "There are children who are amazing artists whose confidence grows in their own area and then moves into literacy, numeracy and science."

Pat Lumsdale, head of the WI's Craft Unit, said: "The problem is that children used to learn from their parents but a lot of young parents now have not learnt the skills from their own parents."

The Crafts Council claims that passing down skills such as knitting or crochet is more than merely an exercise in keeping ancient crafts alive.

"One of the things is to teach very basic skills they can carry on with. We want to introduce crafts and working with your hands as a career option," said Katy Bevan, participation and learning manager for the council.

In addition, teaching craft projects embraced other areas of the curriculum, she said. At Lindens the children knitted a recycled rainforest out of wool, rags, wire and old nylon tights.

"It was about knitting, but it was also about recycling, geography and learning about the climate," Ms Bevan said.


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