One of the most common skills that seems to be lost amongst (mostly) women I work with, as their dementia progresses is knitting. This can be because of physical difficulties like arthritis but most often due to a lack of confidence of ability in this complex task. The actual knitting; putting the needle in, taking the wool around, pulling the needle through and pushing the stitch off are second nature, like a riding a bike. However following a pattern or even remembering which stitch you are knitting can be daunting and a game changer.
Bearing this in mind I was excited to come across a different way to work with wool / yarn that is straightforward. More importantly this technique can easily be shared between two people, allowing a partner to assist if it is too complex for an individual on their own; something you just can't do with traditional knitting.
Knitting looms aren't new, I can remember using a knitting doll when I was a child. This version is bigger and so easier to use for someone who finds fine motor control difficult, and the loom can be made from items that you will have in the house, or can get easily and at low cost. Once I started researching home-made looms I found lots of versions online, many made from cardboard tubes, or even a tissue box. My first trial run was with a cardboard tube and, unless you have a very thick postal tube to work with they just aren't up to the physical handling that a loom has to withstand whilst knitting. So this is my own version using a tin can.
Making a knitting loom
You will need: an empty tin can, scissors, 2 elastic bands, Duct tape (or similar heavy duty tape), 8 large (15cm) lollipop sticks.
(Follow the link above, or here to find lollipop sticks)
What to do:
1. Open tin using a tin opener at both ends (even if the tin has a ring pull) so that you don't’ get sharp edges. Empty contents and carefully and thoroughly clean and dry the tin.
2. Use the Duct tape around the top and bottom edges of the tin to cover any remaining sharp edges. Only go to the next step if you are happy that the edges are not sharp and the tin is safe to use.
3. Put the two elastic bands around the tin. One by one place the lollipop sticks around the tin under the elastic bands. Space them out evenly and so that about 3cm of the stick stands above the top edge of the tin (some of the stick will also hang over the bottom edge).
4. Once you are happy that the lollipop sticks are in the right place wrap Duct tape around the tin making sure it has stuck well to both the sticks and also the tin between the sticks. Now your loom is ready!
It really is that straightforward and it should withstand a fair bit of use.
This could easily be made as an activity itself. The lollipop sticks often seem to have small nicks and splinters along their sides so a bit of sanding paper does the trick. Some of the gentlemen I work with like doing this job as it is a familiar task and is clearly helping to work towards a specific outcome.
So now you want to know how to use it?! I have detailed instructions below and I have also added a PDF at the bottom of the page so you can print out instructions to keep with the loom. If it still isn't clear then a quick 'Google' of "knitting loom videos" will provide you with some help.
How to use the knitting loom
1. Drop the free end of the wool through the centre of the loom so that it hangs about 10cm below the bottom edge. Then wrap the wool clockwise round one of the sticks and take it around the back of that stick and the back of the stick to its right.
2. Then loop the wool clockwise around this stick; around its back, and then the back of the stick to its right.
3. Continue this around the whole loom; "behind two sticks and then loop it around, behind two sticks and then loop it around" and so on. It should then look like this:
4. Repeat for a second time around the loom.
5. If you look at the outside of the loom you will see two loops around each stick. Start 'knitting' at the first stick to the right of where you last looped over your wool. Take the bottom loop of the two and take it over the top of the loop above it and drop it over the back of the stick. Repeat this all the way around the loom moving right each time. Once you have finished that round of knitting give the yarn hanging out the bottom of the loom a little tug to pull it down a little.
6. When you have worked your way all round the loom and you are left with only single loops on each stick you need to wind the wool around again, just like you did at the beginning. i.e. "behind two sticks and then loop it around, behind two stick and then loop it around".... You might want to push the two loops down on each stick before proceeding.
7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 and you will start to see your 'knitting' coming through the bottom of the loom. Keep going until you have knitted enough.
8. To finish off stop 'knitting when you have one loop on each stick. The take one loop and move it onto the stick to its right. Loop the bottom loop over the top one. Repeat; each time you are freeing up one more stick. Continue until you have only one loop on one stick. Cut the yarn, take the loop off the final stick and pass the end of the wool through it. Pull tight to make a knot.
If this activity needs to be simplified further the care partner can do the winding preparation for each round of the loom and then assist the person with dementia to loop the wool over. My photos show me doing the 'looping' with my fingers. It can also be done with a crochet hook. In fact I found that the easiest way to do it is to hold the loom so that the person is pulling the loop towards them, like this:
I have added a free PDF file of the instructions for using the loom so please do print them off and keep them with your loom.
How to use your knitting loom - PDF
The only thing that remains is to decide how to use your wonderful knitting. A scarf is the obvious idea but I've also seen it used for a bobble hat ... get creative!!