For more information on this study you can click on the link to download a pdf file of Linda Williams New Faculty Research Support Award paper titled: Improving Student Achievement through an Afterschool Knitting Program: Cultural Historical Activity Theory in an Urban Setting


Knitting Crocheting Research Announcement to TNNA

I am glad to report to you that Professor Linda Williams has been awarded a New Faculty Research Support Award, effective January 7, 2008. This grant from Eastern Michigan University will help launch this important research on how learning to knit and crochet affects academic skills. 

Professor Linda Williams was my son’s teacher at the Detroit Waldorf School for 5 years prior to her earning her Ph.D in Literacy Education from Michigan State University.  Prof. Williams’ teaching experience inspired the following research questions:

  1. How does knitting and learning to knit help children cognitively, emotionally, and socially? 
  2. How does engaging in craftwork improve student achievement? 

Recent magazine and newspaper articles note that schools are rediscovering the academic benefits of knitting. Teachers report that knitting has helped students increase their math and reading skills, as well as levels of concentration, control, follow-through, and sense of mastery.  Students who knit are also reported to have improved hand/eye coordination, small motor skills, and communication skills Evidence of the benefits of knitting on academic skills, however, remains anecdotal. There have been no research studies to quantify the correlation between the acquisition of knitting skills and an increase in academic achievement.  Through a controlled study, this research project is designed to determine if reading and mathematical skills are improved through learning to knit.

Receiving this grant is significant because the project was judged by colleagues across the research spectrum at this major teacher education institution. Eastern Michigan University is the largest producer of educational personnel in the nation, and thus this research will have far-reaching effects as it is disseminated amongst future teachers, many of whom seek employment in states other than Michigan. In addition,Prof. Williams is now funded to present this research to both the Eastern Educational Research Association and the American Educational Research Association at their respective conferences in 2008 and 2009.  Funds were also approved by EMU for Prof Williams to travel to Columbus for a presentation at the National Needle Arts Association in June 2008.

Karen Kendrick-Hands is currently working with the Education Committee’s Kathy Elkins to develop a format at the June 08 TNNA Meeting for Prof Williams to present her pilot’s preliminary research results and discus next steps fore her research.  Prof Williams and Karen will also teach local shops how to coordinate with local Helping Hands Programs to introduce knitting and crocheting to their local school districts in conformity with the testing protocol so we can replicate the study in their schools.  The more rapidly we develop a sound data base, the sooner Needle arts education will be eligible for Title I funding to address reading and math deficits. Needle arts instruction will prove to be a valuable partner in helping schools meet “No Child Left Behind” benchmarks as humanely as possible. 

We will have access to two third grade classes of 20-25 students each. The school is a charter academy located in one of the poorest economic regions in Detroit. According to the available scores on the annual state assessment in Michigan, 52% of the 3rd graders in this school met or exceeded the benchmarks in mathematics; while 69% met or exceeded the benchmarks in reading. These percentages are significantly below the state averages of 88% (math) and 87% (reading). 

At present, negotiations are underway to work with each class of third-graders during one period of the school day, and to provide a knitting/crocheting drop-in time after school for other interested students. The pilot will help us to hone a curriculum specifically for teaching knitting and crocheting to 8 and 9 years old.  The length of time of the pilot has been extended through the end of May so we may have time to specifically test different curricula. Students will be assessed through multiple measures, including a pre- and post-test procedure. Prof Williams will also identify a comparable control group that will not receive the knitting intervention.

Since receiving the grant, Prof. Williams has  met with the principal and the curriculum director of Detroit Community Schools, as well as an interested occupational therapist who is helping to conceptualize the physical skills that knitters use that have an effect on academic skills. On Monday, January 14, she is  meeting with a research developer at EMU who will help me review the testing procedures, as well as the human subjects research protocol that must be followed.

As the study evolves, we anticipate many opportunities for TNNA support. Early on we have been encouraged by the commitment by Richard Caron of Coats & Clarks to contribute funding and supplies to this research, but as the program grows we may need to look to TNNA for financial and in kind support.  I hope that details of the study and progress updates will find a home on the public access portion of the TNNA web page. We will also be coordination a call for success stories documenting  of the contributions of the needle arts to improving educational achievement. The trends gleaned from this anecdotal evidence will guide Prof Williams’ in the continuing development of her research hypotheses as she creates an academic career quantifying the benefits of the needle arts to education. We will be developing a reporting format to guide anecdote collection in the most uniform and easy to tabulate way, and look forward to your input on that mater.

Prof Williams strongly believes this grant was funded partly because of the direct support offered by your colleagues in the yarn industry in the form of supplies and volunteers. We look forward to developing the data to verify what everyone of us who has ever taught someone to knit or crochet already knows. We thank TNNA and the needle arts  industry in anticipation of its continuing support for this project. 

Karen D. Kendrick-Hands
City Knits, Inc.; & City Knits of Mt. Clemens.

Linda Williams, Assistant Professor, Eastern Michigan University

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