My four year old nephew Hank is four and a half, and he’s starting to show an interest in knitting. Not just having knitted stuff, but actual knitting. Hank has realized that knitting is transformative. You take yarn, wave sticks about, make motions with your hands and presto-chango (ok. That makes it sound fast. Sorry) you have something else. To his four-year old mind that makes knitting pretty interesting. Naturally, some of the details of this transformative process are lost on him. A perfect example is the following:


Hank: Auntie Steppie (I love that he says Steppie. I really, really hate when people call me Stephie, but Steppie get’s me.) before I come back to your house, could you take this Knittening and make me a pink hat?

The knittening in question, (Gotta say….the use of “knittening” for yarn? Darned cute. I understand that little children are constructed by mother nature for maximum cuteness, and that it is a manipulative thing, designed to keep us feeding them and sheltering them instead of leaving the sleep-depriving sticky little parasites in the forest somewhere, but “knittening”? Even the most cynical of mothers has to fall for that. It’s like the smell of a new babies head. I know it’s pheromones designed to entice me to hold a baby close for warmth….but it’s all I can do not to sniff other peoples infants.)

the knittening for the pink hat, is this.


Get it? Transformative indeed. Not only will the magic act of knittening turn the yarn into a hat, but it can change it into a PINK hat. Clearly the more subtle nuances of knittening are lost on my little dude. Nevertheless, he is enchanted, and he is almost ready to knit.

My paternal grandmother was not what would traditionally be considered “kind”. Fine. She wasn’t what would really be untraditionally considered “kind” either. It’s not that she was mean or a bad person or anything like that, it’s just that she was very, very joyless and conservative and….pretty much the opposite of everything that I have ever been for even one moment of my life. She and I wouldn’t agree on vegetables or little kids or what grass was for or anything. Not one single atom of family similarity between us. I don’t look like her, I don’t think like her and I still believe that she held it against me that I wasn’t one of those nifty “grandsons” that you hear so much about. The fact that we shared some sort of DNA was boggling to both of us. Neither she nor I would have been shocked if a mobile genetics testing lab had swooped down into her Willowdale backyard, separated us with electric cattle prods and explained that they couldn’t let the charade go on for one second longer.

Except for one thing. She was a professional knitter. Nana taught me to knit when I was four, right after I learned to read. It was her belief that (and I quote) “If you can do something as hard as read, you can do something as simple as knit.”

(Just so you know? The irony that 30 years later virtually every moment of my life is focussed on the one thing this most unlike-able of women actually loved doing is not lost on me. )

She was right. I mean, think about it. Being able to code and encode 26 letters into a myriad of ever-developing complex word structures that have a variety of pronunciations and meanings ..VS.. learning two stitches, knit and purl. C’mon. The old bat My grandmother was right.

My girls leaned to knit when they could read and now that Hank is thinking about reading, I’m coming up with a plan. The key is going to be keeping his interest high. I must keep him thinking that knitting is so cool that I’m virtually certain that Spiderman knits. (Hello…where do you think the webs come from?) So far, my approach has been to knit him really, really cool things therefore leaving him with the desire to produce said cool objects himself. It’s not a bad plan, though the four-year old threshold for coolness is elusive and mysterious. Four year olds are fickle, conniving, vacillating and as mercurial as the wind. Emotional investments in knitted objects for the very young is an enormous mistake (I once had a pair of Mouse mittens briefly rejected because one of the mice – not both, ONE of the mice looked angry) and one must only take the sure things, and take them lightly. One false move with a Blues Clues sweater and the whole thing could be in the crapper.

Therefore, in the interest of creating a knitter…I ask you to help me find the “sure thing”, the wave of certainty, the vagrant, elusive, never-say-die, cool factor for a four year old boy and tell me…..


How would you make this Knittening into Spiderman mittens?

54 thoughts on “Hanky-panky

  1. Interestingly Waldorf schools do not teach children to read until after they have learned to knit and play a bit of music on the recorder. It is a left brain right brain thing, where knitting and reading take both sides. The first project is a knit bag for the recorder.
    As for your spidey mittens, blue cuffs, and webs on the back of the hands could work. perhaps a little spider on one palm.
    Or you could make the hands the head with the huge eyes that the spidey mask has.
    Good luck

  2. “Knittening”! I love it! I concur with the blue cuffs – but it depends on whether he would like a “licensed” type work (do the Spidey mask pattern) or just the idea of spider-man-ish (do the web).
    I have finished the lovely poncho, and I also finished a scarf. Mono makes lots of time for knitting!

  3. There must have been some North American conference of four year olds preparing them to suddenly express interest in knitting (“mitting” at our house). My four year old suddenly wanted me to knit for him yesterday.

  4. What if you put a little bobble on the underside of the wrists of the Spiderman mittens- then Hank can have a webslinger (I was just informed that this is the proper word for The Part The Web Comes Out Of). Or you could make a teeny little pocket and put a coil of gray yarn inside so he could have a web to sling!

  5. Funny, my guy (four today) wanted me to knit something for him. I made him red fuzzy feet which are now dubbed spiderman booties (you’re right, he does knit).
    My daughter can’t sit still long enough to knit (we tried), I think I’ll use your tactics and teach my son instead.
    Red mitts, blue cuffs, webs on the back, red spiders on the cuffs. Tres cool.

  6. Oh my ears and whiskers!
    I have given myself the illusion that just by BEING someone’s Nana (I have two grandsons), made one automatically loveable – in fact adorable.
    Now I will spend the weekend going over every single word I have ever spoken to these guys and attempt to revise the unworthy, before it’s too late! Perhaps I should have not insisted that they eat their veggies before we watch the Harry Potter movie, for the umpteenth time.
    Thanks for the heads-up.
    Spiderman mitts sound perfect.

  7. Spiderman is good but is he into Builder Bob?
    My 5 yr. old godchild is berserker for BB.
    If so, there’s a kit available for $20 yarn and pattern included. I have the info on my home computer so let me know if you want it…
    all the best,

  8. I remember when I was 5-ish I made, MADE my grandma’s teach me to knit. They had no choice in the matter. I got fed up with receiving nice hand-knit gifts and the gift when get more oo-ing and ah-ing then I did. So in order to regain the firm attention of my family I determined that I needed to be the one making the lovely gifts. And thus a knitter was born! 🙂
    And drove my grandma’s crazy raiding their stashes because my mom refused to buy me yarn… :p

  9. My almost 4 year old told me he wants to knit ME a sweater for Chrismas but get this…when I asked him if he knew how to knit he says,”First you get the fuzz, then you spin it, then you knit it.” So apparently I’m not only getting a handknit sweater but it will be handspun too. How exciting is that?

  10. Hmmmm…how about incorporating those “transformable” gloves, the kind where the top flips off to expose fingers? Possibly hide a webslinger under there? Or (knit) webbed fingers under there?

  11. ok, I would say, blue and black vertical stripes for the wrist ribbing, and red and black in a webby-style pattern on the back. I like the idea of a spider on the palm of one. I think the idea of convertibles would be good too, cause then he could “sling” his fingers out (for example, when he needed to scale a building all spiderman-style).
    If anyone can make Spidey mittens, you can, Steph! Good luck.

  12. Oooh, I like the gloves in that photo. As mittens, with a web-slinger pocket, that would be soooo cool, he wouldn’t be able to stand it, IMO. Or maybe fingerless mittens with a convertible top.
    I love how they think – he wants you to make him a pink hat? Maybe he means “Only make it out of this blue”. You are lucky, you get to talk to him about knitting and colours and dying things to get new colours. I have some beautiful heathered purple yarn, which is actually red and bright blue when you pull apart the fibres, it’s endlessly fascinating to kids. And me.

  13. Oh, you have to teach him to knit,I wrote about boys knitting this week, but how to make the yarn change to pink, is a different thing.
    Can’t wait to see the spiderman gloves.

  14. Hi,
    I like the Idea of blue /black cuffs ad red palm with black spiderweb. But i would ad some sucker (my dictionary says its the right word) on the inside of the finger tipps, even I read you dont like crocheting i would crochet little round ones and sew on there. Understandable?
    I wount do the yarn in the pocket thing because it would be lost very soon, its a four year old. (Do they strangle themselves? my little 15 month old puts everything around her neck)
    Happy weekend

  15. No clue on the mittens….I’m just not that clever or something. I just had to comment that your connection (or lack thereof) with your Nana is startlingly similar to that of me and my mom. I was convinced I was adopted until I was in my early 20s…and I still daydream about that sometimes…. unfortunately, I know it isn’t true.

  16. speaking as an amateur comic book geek, if you want to make him spider man mittens, you’re going to have to do some research …
    which spider man does he like more? the old comic book spider man had bright, royal blue colours in his costume (if i remember correctly – remember, i’m an amateur). the new one, especially in the movie, is a bit darker, more like a navy blue (i think so, anyway). so if you’re going to put blue in them, make sure to find out which blue it is … four year olds are very specific about such things.
    as for the actual design, a blue cuff with the spider web pattern on a red field for the hand part would look cool (though not as cool as the pink dragon mittens you did … those were so awesome). (and here i’m hoping you actually did do pink dragon mittens and i didn’t get that thought from somewhere else, because i’m too tired to think straight)

  17. I heard the other day that Mrs. Santa is sending some “kids” needles (short, plastic, 5mm) to my 7 year old son. He raided my stash for fuzzy yarn and mismatched needles and insisted that I teach him to knit NOW. At the end of every row he asks, did I do any stitches Mommy? Too cute!

  18. spider man mittens are the IT in mitt… whatever that means
    Levi’s right, though, the mittens *must* be researched. what about greay/white webbing on the palm? after all, the webs do come out of the underside of Spidey’s wrist.

  19. It *is* in the air! My 5 y.o. son wants to knit now, too. We just got over learning to tie shoes–I’m not ready to go there yet.
    Spiderman mittens? How cool. Somebody else mentioned the Barbara Walker pattern–it’s in her 3rd book of charted knitting patterns. I’ve been storing it in the back of my mind for a cool project for my son (see above!) And it’s true about investing yourself in knitting for children. Don’t spend too much time on it. Their enthusiasm is like waiting for Christmas (they pester you endlessly before it comes) and the “lasting enjoyment” (sarcastic quotation marks) of the toy that comes in a Happy Meal–about one day max.
    Stephanie, don’t forget to show us a picture when the mitts are done and when do we get to see the Rhinebeck?!

  20. I think what Patricia said about make him a pink hat, “Only make it out of this blue,” is spot on the money. I’m reminded of an outlandish story (or so we thought) that one of my nephews told us when he was four-ish. We had a rusty small old white pickup truck, and he was telling us that his dad had one JUST LIKE THIS, only it’s pink. We thought he was slightly touched. It wasn’t until years later that I put two and two together: His dad had a maroon van that was old and rusty, and of course with the oxidation, the maroon was a little on the cloudy (pink?) side. What he was REALLY saying was “My dad has a rusty vehicle.” Not “one JUST LIKE THIS.” So, does somebody in his life have a pink knitted hat? He wants a blue one. I’m sort of clueless on the Spiderman mittens, except that I can see them in my mind as clear as day, and they are an OUTSTANDING idea.

  21. Knittening- yes! My 2 year old son calls it yarning. Go do yarning, mommy. Cool mittens- I cede to all the suggestions above, but suggest that you eyeball some commercial spiderman stuff so that you can get the essence of it. Little kids are conservative. Or ask him what kind of mittens spiderman would wear. Take notes. The coolest think to make is an Icord snake, with bead eyes- never had one turned down. Make the head a little fatter, if you wish, and the kid can do some of the icord knittening.

  22. Oh- forgot baby sniffing. Today someone brought their new baby to work to show us- I work in a pediatric unit, and so we see lots of babies- almost every nurse there leaned it to get a sniff of baby head. Cradle cap and all. Apsolutely makes you swoon, even if you’re a profesional baby sniffer.

  23. If I ever have children, I want mine to be a clone of Hank. He’s so cute!!!
    Just so you don
    t think I’m some strange out of nowhere person, I can’t remember how I found your journal, but I love it. You brighten my day everytime you post!

  24. As the mother of a two year old who says cute things like “jajamas” instead of “pajamas,” I am totally with you on the maniptulative cuteness of children. If he didn’t occasionally give me the world’s sweetest hugs and say adorable things I don’t think I would have put up with the nightly screaming as well as I have. (If you can say I have put up with well, which I’m not sure you can.)
    Good luck with the Spidey mittens! I can’t wait to see how they turn out. 😉

  25. Also the looking-like-angels-while-they-sleep thing, all designed to prevent us from smothering them or abandoning them on frosty mountainsides.
    My oldest called everything I do with fibres and needles “needling” when he was that age. Knittening, needling, such cuteness.

  26. Love the idea ! I would do his face on the front and webs on the back . It is not that hard – made a spidy costume from scratch and painted everything on . It was fun ! Hank could be the next Kaffe F. right ???
    Happy designing ,
    Kim O

  27. My large one was saying “hospibble” and “ambleeyance” until close to ten years old, because I refused to correct her and lose the joy of hearing those words. (Homeschooling helped, too.) The little one had a way of saying “balloon” that involved a lot of tongue. Impossible to spell. Now, age 19, she wants a purple and black vest.

  28. I think you’ve got the one cool thing there. Add some black webs and you’re set. Funny, I was also taught to knit at a young age by a hateful grandmother. Unfortunately, I do look like her. More and more every day. Especially when I’ve just woken up and don’t have any caffeine in my system…

  29. Wow – reality check! I’m putting down the practical (but handsome) brown and black sweater I was making for my 4-yr-old son for Christmas. What kind of mom am I??? He loves Spiderman, and Spiderman mittens are the ticket!! LOVE the ideas everyone came up with! The crocheted suckers killed me!

  30. {subliminal message: BookBookBookBook}
    What *is* it with the cuteness factor lately? I’m trying to keep from sending the child of mine off to a Dickensian-style workhouse for the indigent and then the cute stuff reminds she was once like that… *sigh* but being almost 17, she deems it rather uncool to knit herself. And has stuffed the scarf and hot pink mitts I made for her into the BH (black hole = her bedroom).
    Spidey mitts? A comment from a friend who has a 4-yr old boy child, “bloody awesome idea!” I think so too…

  31. Ooh, a brainwave I just had…when I was a little kid of 4, of course my mittens were attached to each other by the string that went up the jacket sleeves…would they be a little bit cool if they (the strings) were obviously *webbing*, at least for a few inches until they disappeared up the sleeve? Like, a little bit of really simple fishnet stuff a couple inches wide, or should I say webbing stuff. For heavens sake, don’t call it lace! Hee hee.

  32. “Knittening” seems like a perfectly good Anglo-Saxon way to coin a word, rather like ‘sweetening.’ (I just showed up; I’m an old Sheep Thriller with a weakness for fibers and good writing. Thanks for the double fix. )

  33. I’m still cracking up over the “hats make me look phallic” remark. Having met you, and seen that you’re a smart, witty-as-hell DOLL, I just don’t see the phallic thang.

  34. Oh – if someone could bottle that baby head smell they could make a fortune… I just love it!
    And as for kids words one can’t bear to correct, we still say mazagine, hostible and mirrik in our house!

  35. Steppie: Your latest blog entry is devastatingly charming. Perhaps the old bat was a good influence — not only teaching you to knit, but providing a model of what you did not want to be? Just a thought, Jo

  36. You could also make him a spider web blanket. I made a poncho that looks exactly like a web. 3 strands of Cascade 220 (black) held together with one strand of black eyelash yarn. YO and k2tog on 35s and you’ve got yourself a web!

  37. My 4yo daughter loves to “knit”. She has a pair of plastic US#9 or 10 kids’ needles from Lion (I think). They are 2 different colors and the tops are cat heads. My husband, daughter, or I cast on and knit a few rows for her and then she knits and sings “in thru the front door, once around the back, back thru the front door, off jumps Jack”. So far, she sings better than she knits! When she isn’t knitting, she carries her needles in her purse and no one else is allowed to use them (“borrow from Mommy ’cause she has lots more needles and these are just for little kids”). Maybe you should ask Hank if he could draw you a picture of what Spidey’s mittens look like (tell him you need it to decorate your fridge). My daughter has very definite ideas about how things should look and they don’t always match up with reality.

  38. Too cute! I can’t wait until my son wants to learn to knit… but I have a few years to go, I think.
    BTW, I was in Toronto this past weekend– thanks for the recommendation on Romni Wools- crazy store, very fun. I sent my MIL in with your Very Harlot Poncho pattern to make for her granddaughter. She was SO impressed when I told her (and the employee confirmed) that YOU, the pattern DESIGNER, actually shopped there! I think she actually bought yarn because they told her that you had used it for one of your ponchos.

  39. I agree with Laura, get him to tell you what Spiderman’s mittens look like. I once had orders from a 4 year old…to make a rag doll “just like I made” for his sister. BUT after questioning I discovered that his had to have brown hair, and pants and a hockey sweater.
    Re: Nana. Mine a. did not like kids and said so. b. did not beleive I was afraid of the dark (not surprising since at that time I was legally blind, tho I could see some shapes and fuzzy thingys) c. did not like the mess kids made and said so. I think you did the same as me, decided not to grow up to be that person. My Mom made the same decision, thank the Lord.
    Barb B.

  40. i’m back for like, 5 minutes, and you’ve already made me smile more than i have all day.
    and want kids.
    darn you to heck, knittening harlot. 😉

  41. i had a very similar nephew experience this past week. and while i didn’t involve a request for a knitted garment, i did get asked, “auntie jenn, can i knit?”
    bestill my heart! i didn’t think i could love that kid any more, but it turns out i can!

  42. Hi. To get a pink hat out of blue “knittening” might require a bit of photoshopping.
    Or you might need to ask him how he wants you to “make it pink”.
    I love reading your blog, I found it a few days ago from a link in the Knitter’s Review forum.

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