24 August 2011

life lessons with mimi

The Boss is baffled. Occasionally, as I run my finger along underneath a word, I encourage her to "just join the letter sounds together". She looks at me like I'm a mad woman. Although she knows her alphabet inside out, and has an astonishing grasp of basic Mandarin, the brain switch that turns on "reading" hasn't yet flipped. That's fine, she's only four. One day someone more imaginative than me will explain it in a way that makes sense to her. Anyway, there's more to learning than reading, writing and 'rithmetic. There's knitting.

She got her first needles a few weeks ago (after some unsatisfying sessions improvising with pencils), and we cast on 10 stitches in blue aran.

We only manage a row (at most two) at a time. I hold her hands and guide her through the stitch, but I don't know any knitting rhymes/memory aids to help her remember the movements; I'd love to hear if anybody knows one that's worked for them.

Today she wanted to try doing some stitches without help. I could just look at those Mr Men plastered hands all day. As an American friend of mine would say, they're just too stinkin' cute.

To join in with the lovely people at Small Things' Yarn Along, I need to post a photo of knitting and a book. So here's a picture of her precious scarf and something I'm about to start reading: Mimi and Toutou go forth: the bizarre battle for Lake Tanganyika, by Giles Foden. This book was lent to me by my Dad, who said it was one of the strangest true stories he's ever read. I'm intrigued.

The blurb reads: "At the start of WW1, German warships controlled Lake Tanganyika in Central Africa. The British had no naval craft at all upon Tanganjikasee, as the Germans called it. This mattered: it was the longest lake in the world and of great strategic advantage. In June 1915, a force of 28 men was dispatched from Britain on a vast journey... ...to haul 2 motorboats with the unlikely names of Mimi and Toutou through the wilds of the Congo. The 28 were a strange bunch - one was addicted to Worcester sauce, another was a former racing driver - but the strangest of all was their skirt-wearing, tattoo-covered commander, Geoffrey Spicer-Simson..."

I'm totally sold. And if the cover design is characteristic of the book, it reassures me that this should be a humourous and eccentric read (rather than a weighty war memoir... although I'm partial to those too).

Some friends have commented that my Dad probably only bought the book because my family nickname is Mimi. (Only about half a dozen people use my nickname, but those few never call me anything else.) Hopefully that tenuous link isn't needed to enjoy the book. On the other hand, nobody needs any justification to croon lustily along to Maurice Chevalier's classic Mimi, but I'm very glad I have an excuse.

My baby brother and I indulge in the Mimi croon as frequently as possible. Our French isn't up to much, but like I said, there's more to learning than reading, writing and 'rithmetic. There's crooning badly in faux French.


  1. Those are sweet little hands working with those sweet needles! My 6 year old is excited to knit - and I'm thrilled that she's interested. Looks like fun!

  2. thanks for stopping by our blog. i love that your little one is knitting! unfortunately i don't know any knitting rhymes... although i'd love to learn some!

  3. I can't wait until the wee one here is old enough to knit. I love seeing the little hands holding the pink needles.
    I will have to pick up the book for my son. He is quite the history buff and this looks like something he would really enjoy. xx

  4. Look at how nice and even those stitches are! Lovely :)

  5. Very sweet pictures.....


    A Knitters Notebook

  6. Seeing the Boss with those needles in her hands makes me think I should get my own four-year-old going with some knitting. Lovely post, thanks x

  7. I tried teaching my niece to knit but she was too impatient. Maybe I'll give it another go. :-)

  8. I successfully taught my students to knit with the rhyme, "Under the bridge, catch the sheep, back we go, off we leap."

  9. Nothing like teaching your child to knit. :)

  10. Wow - thanks for all your sweet comments and HURRAH Willfulmina - a knitting rhyme! THANK YOU so much, that's exactly the kind of thing I needed. Yarn Along: totally fabulous.

  11. I'm so happy to have found your blog on the Yarn Along list. It is very sweet.

    I tried teaching my oldest daughter crocheting last year and she had such a hard time understanding tension. She wants so badly to learn how to knit as she sees me do it often. These pictures encourage me. She's now 7 and I'm sure if I can muster up the patience, she'll get it.

  12. Just to have said it: we have a traditionally Dutch rhyme to learn to knit and I think most Dutch women know it.

    insteken, omslaan, doorhalen, af laten gaan


  13. such a sweet time learning to read! and knitting too!

    like willfullmina I've taught with the similar rhyme:

    under the fence (needle goes under the stitch, front to back)
    catch the sheep (wrap the yarn)
    back we come (bring loop to front of work)
    and off we leap (new stitch slipped off left needle and on to the right).

    or for the older child/new knitter:

    and off!

    good luck with your little knitter!

  14. I forgot to say thank you for the book recommendation, I love books about African adventures and i've not heard of this one!

  15. Thanks all for taking the time to leave comments. Gretchen I think you're right, longterm patience is probably the key, but at the moment I'm finding that the little and often approach is working best. 1 row at a time means only a few moments patience, but takes her a lot of concentration, so by the end of the row we hip hip hooray and move onto something else.

    Lori ann, that sheep rhyme is clearly a winner - I'm so pleased I learnt something new from you girls. And Anneke, your Dutch version is perhaps the most pertinent as we're expecting to move to Holland next year, maybe this rhyme can be our first shared words in both knitting and in Dutch!


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