(Bonny and her knitting group started meeting at the Studio about 8 months ago, and they are now a part of the Lion Brand Yarn Studio family. We asked Bonny to write a blog post for us to share her experiences)
BY BONNY GLISKER
I’ve been meeting with 3 visually impaired knitters at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio since last summer. I had met the ladies while doing volunteer work with the blind and visually impaired. It seemed an ideal way to put a hobby I have enjoyed for many years to good use and it’s more rewarding than stuffing envelopes. The ladies were all experienced knitters who were ready to bring their knitting to a new level. They had been making primarily baby blankets and scarves for charity, using garter, stockinette and ribbing stitches. Two of our knitters are partially sighted, while one is blind. I enlarged the directions for several stitches from a stitch dictionary for the partially sighted knitters, to give more variety and interest to their projects. Stitches with a 2 to 4 row repeat which are easy to memorize work best, such as the rice, double moss, fleck, check and little shell stitches, even simple cables. Mary Conner, who is blind, then asked me to tape record these stitches for her. She sometimes has patterns and stitches transcribed into Braille. LionBrand.com patterns have a setting to print Braille ready patterns, which Mary is eager to try. I also look for patterns for projects that I think they will enjoy making, such as flat knit hats and fingerless gloves so they can avoid using double pointed needles. They like making these small items for gifts and for themselves. We have even progressed to vests and sweaters with simple shaping.
Helping the blind and visually impaired to knit requires thinking differently about demonstrating techniques. You can’t tell someone to watch You Tube videos or look it up in a knitting encyclopedia. We rely heavily on touch. You guide their hands through the movements of a new technique, such as a new cast on, or have them feel where the yarn is in your own hands. Mary can teach a blind beginner knitter who has never picked up a pair of needles before by standing behind them and guiding their hands. It’s amazing to watch. They can feel a mistake, but can’t always tell what is wrong. If I can retrieve a dropped stitch down several rows, I can save them hours of reknitting. I take their hands and try to teach them to feel the difference between the texture of stockinette stitch and reverse stockinette stitch, and to count garter stitch rows by feeling the ridges. We use safety pins to mark the right side of the work. I look for row counters with extra large numbers. There are Braille measuring tapes available.
We are so glad to be able to meet at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio. It’s cozy, welcoming and quiet. We had met at the Citicenter Atrium for a short while. One day a pianist was there while we were trying to tape record a pattern. All you could hear on the tape was the piano! Mary frequently comes to the store for help from the staff between our meetings. We are so grateful!
For the blind and visually impaired, LionBrand.com sells the wonderful learn-to-knit book, “The Touch of Yarn” in both Braille Format (click here to access the listing ) and large print format (click to access the listing ). Access the listings to order them online.
Mary with her finished sweater! Just needs to weave in the ends.