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Knitting Behind Bars
January 4, 2013 7:37 AM   Subscribe

Two retired women, Lyn Zwerling and Sheila Rovelstad, have initiated and implemented a program called Knitting Behind Bars at a prison in Maryland. They approached every prison in the area with their idea for a knitting class, and all the prisons refused except the last one, where the prison authorities skeptically agreed to let them try it. And the program has been a success. As the Baltimore Sun reported, "Men literally beg to get in. There's a waiting list.... They want it so much, in fact, that they're willing to be good in order to do it. [Prison warden Margaret] Chippendale has noticed lower rates of violence among the men who knit. "It's a privilege to be in that program," Chippendale says. "It's something that matters and they don't want to do anything to be removed from it." One prisoner, who was serving time for stabbing someone and who was busily knitting a hat, told the reporter, "My mind is on something soft and gentle," he said. "My mind is nowhere near inside these walls."

Zwerling talks about why she thinks knitting classes are beneficial in an NPR interview described here. She believes that knitting teaches patience and discipline, anger management, and goal orientation, all important life skills that many criminals may be lacking. And some lessons in basic social skills can be shoehorned in at the same time. Zwerling and Rovelstad insist on good behaviour from the men in their knitting classes: no swearing or rough housing is allowed in the classroom, and given names are to be used rather than prison nicknames.

The men in these knitting classes have made little dolls that first responders in Maryland now carry to give to children at scenes of accidents, fires and other tragedies. They've made hats and scarves for their own children, for their mothers or grandmothers, for themselves. Some of them have said they are continuing to knit upon their release from prison, or intend to.

Knitting Behind Bars has its own blog where you can read about the program, which Zwerling and Rovelstad hope to see implemented in other prisons. And, since Zwerling and Rovelstad supply all the yarn, needles, and other tools and supplies needed for their classes, you can make a monetary donation to their program if you wish.
posted by orange swan (70 comments total) 90 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is good!

I do a teen/tween knitting program at the library where I work and I have a pretty steady base of quiet, bookish twelve-year-old girls, but... just about every time, there's some rowdy, loud, squirmy boy who thinks it's hilarious for boys to knit but is willing to give it a try anyway. It's kind of amazing to see them turn quiet and calm and concentrate on those needles, even just for a couple of minutes.
posted by Jeanne at 7:43 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I love programs like this, but I note that they're apparently a politer bunch than any knitting group I've ever been associated with. No swearing, indeed!
posted by asperity at 7:46 AM on January 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


Am I the only one who remembers "Behavioural Engineering" from Demolition Man?!
posted by Fizz at 7:47 AM on January 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


I needed this little bit of bright sunshine. People can be truly wonderful when given the chance, and I love what these women are doing.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:47 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


"My mind is on something soft and gentle," he said. "My mind is nowhere near inside these walls."

Thank you for sharing this.
posted by infini at 7:48 AM on January 4, 2013 [24 favorites]


This is awesome! I think I can guess at why it works, and I more easily guess at why the prisons don't want it.

Those pictures on their blog are great!

Also, as someone that learned how to knit in elementary school it is pretty surprising to me when someone has never knitted in their life. It is so easy, and takes like an afternoon to learn. Why wouldn't you try out this hobby?
posted by jonbro at 7:51 AM on January 4, 2013


Whenever I see a program like this in prisons, there's always a comment like:

Men literally beg to get in. There's a waiting list. And no one's more surprised about that than the assistant warden who couldn't help but harrumph when Zwerling told her she wanted to teach inmates how to make stuffed dolls and woolly hats.

The last time I remember this (quite recently) was watching the film "The Dhamma Brothers".

Here's an idea: maybe if you give people in prison something contructive to think about, it helps them, the prison, and society! Not sure why this is a surprise every single time.
posted by selfnoise at 7:51 AM on January 4, 2013 [64 favorites]


I needed this little bit of bright sunshine. People can be truly wonderful when given the chance, and I love what these women are doing.

I actually researched and wrote this post on the evening of the day of the mass murders at Sandy Hook. I wanted to read and think and write about how violence could be decreased.
posted by orange swan at 7:53 AM on January 4, 2013 [16 favorites]


There's a thing that people don't realize about prison: Boredom. I've never been in the joint, but I was once trapped in a large tent for three days because of a sandstorm, and let me tell you, when I realized how much like prison that was, I had a radical change in my attitude towards the penal system.

Skull-fucking hours of boredom. Think about the last time you were really bored. Odds are it was while you were doing something, like watching a movie you didn't like, or having a conversation at a party that you couldn't get out of. No. That's not boredom. Boredom is being in a cell when you can't sleep and not only can't you flip idly through the upper cable channels and laugh at infomercials, but you can't even turn on a light, because there's no switch, and you can't pace around, because you've only got ten linear feet.

Been bored on a long drive because your iPod ran out of juice and you can't find a decent radio station? You at least have the scenery, and no matter how boring that is, it is better than six concrete walls and one window.

Boredom will kill you. You're damn right that knitting has a waiting list. Anything would have a waiting list.
posted by Etrigan at 7:55 AM on January 4, 2013 [52 favorites]


I can't help wishing that knitting would teach me some patience, discipline, and anger management. Maybe I'm doing it wrong.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 7:59 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, as someone that learned how to knit in elementary school it is pretty surprising to me when someone has never knitted in their life. It is so easy, and takes like an afternoon to learn. Why wouldn't you try out this hobby?

I'd lose track of stitches, couldn't keep even tension, the materials you needed for something nice and usable were expensive (for me) and my projects always turned out lumpy and uneven. I made a scarf for my partner at the time and it was a monstrous lumpy rectangle that co-workers assumed was made by a kid and worn out of love. I mean, they were right on the latter, but when I made it I was in my 20s.


Looking at the photos on the blog, there is something endearing about a giant muscled tattooed man knitting.
posted by schroedinger at 8:03 AM on January 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Try balaclavas, still_wears_a_hat. It's not how you knit, it's what you knit.
posted by de at 8:07 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Generally, people desire to be good and useful. When place in an extreme such as jail, that yearning is probably double.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:11 AM on January 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


I can't help wishing that knitting would teach me some patience, discipline, and anger management. Maybe I'm doing it wrong.

I thought as much about myself when I was reading about this program, and then I reflected that I work rather than steal for a living, and haven't killed anyone, so maybe those 30 years of knitting have had more of an effect than I realize.
posted by orange swan at 8:11 AM on January 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


There;s an embroidery version of this organisation in the UK, Fine Cell Work.
posted by mippy at 8:17 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


previously.
posted by amber_dale at 8:22 AM on January 4, 2013


Why was the program refused at so many other prisons? Were they worried someone would try to knit a shank?
posted by mecran01 at 8:22 AM on January 4, 2013


What do you suppose that prisoner on the 3rd floor who's knitting himself a 40-ft scarf is up to?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:27 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is super awesome and I want to see them get together with Puppies Behind Bars so that there will be puppies wearing tiny hats.
posted by elizardbits at 8:27 AM on January 4, 2013 [36 favorites]


What do you suppose that prisoner on the 3rd floor who's knitting himself a 40-ft scarf is up to?

*ahem.
posted by Fizz at 8:29 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


What do you suppose that prisoner on the 3rd floor who's knitting himself a 40-ft scarf is up to?

Fourth Doctor, obviously.
posted by bakerina at 8:30 AM on January 4, 2013 [20 favorites]


Why was the program refused at so many other prisons?

Conservative state lawmakers who want prison to be as punitive as possible.
posted by Aizkolari at 8:30 AM on January 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


Fine Cell Work's five needle logo is well thought out.

> Why was the program refused at so many other prisons?
Access to knitting needles probably came up in the discussions.
posted by de at 8:34 AM on January 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


Why was the program refused at so many other prisons?

Conservative state lawmakers who want prison to be as punitive as possible.


Yeah, in the USA, rather a lot of people in charge of the penal system find it shocking and offensive when one suggests that prisoners could perhaps be treated like actual human beings instead of like dumb savage animals that require institutionalized abuse.
posted by elizardbits at 8:38 AM on January 4, 2013 [23 favorites]


Why was the program refused at so many other prisons? Were they worried someone would try to knit a shank?

Knitting needles are a shank.
posted by maryr at 8:43 AM on January 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


Why was the program refused at so many other prisons?

Conservative state lawmakers who want prison to be as punitive as possible.

Yeah, in the USA, rather a lot of people in charge of the penal system find it shocking and offensive when one suggests that prisoners could perhaps be treated like actual human beings instead of like dumb savage animals that require institutionalized abuse.

Access to knitting needles probably came up in the discussions.


In addition to these accurate (and awful) observations, there are also administrative and safety barriers to bringing regular old people into the prison and leaving them alone with (or supervising them while they are with) groups of prisoners, including a real lack of decent facilities in the prisons themselves.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:44 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I can't help wishing that knitting would teach me some patience, discipline, and anger management. Maybe I'm doing it wrong.

I'm guessing your anger management is rather better than that of most people in prison.
posted by atrazine at 8:45 AM on January 4, 2013


That a knitting program would help violent offenders doesn't surprise me at all. Knitting sure keeps me from stabbing people.
posted by cottonswab at 8:50 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


What do you suppose that prisoner on the 3rd floor who's knitting himself a 40-ft scarf is up to?

Doctor Who fan? Recalcitrant hipster.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:51 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Today, 70 percent of that budget [California Dept of Corrections and Rehabilitation] goes to pay salaries and benefits to the union and staff. Just 5 percent of the budget goes to education and vocational programs — the kind of programs that study after study in the past 10 years has found will keep inmates from returning to prison.

...

Poole got very lucky this time, beating out hundreds of others to land a spot among just 27 inmates in the cabinetry program. When he's done, Poole will be an accredited woodworker with his GED.

Most of the men in Folsom won't be so fortunate. Just across from the cabinetry shop, program administrator and school Principal Jean Bracy sits in her makeshift office next to the welding class. She knows the statistics by heart.

"I have 1,797 inmates who read below the 9th grade level; 394 of those read below the 4th grade level," Bracy says. "When we put them back out on the streets, they're not employable."

And back on the streets is where 85 percent of all California's inmates are going one day when their sentences run out, regardless of whether they spent their time in prison dealing drugs and running a gang or learning how to weld.

Bracy only has a handful of vocational programs left, enough to reach less than 10 percent of Folsom's inmates — and the state plans to cut even that in half in the next few weeks.

...

It only costs her about $100,000 to run these programs — not even a blip in a $10 billion-a-year prison budget. But, says Bracy, the programs are always the first to go. Sometimes she almost feels like giving up.

"It's just not cost-effective to throw men and women in prison and then do nothing with them," she said. "And shame on us for thinking that's safety. It's not public safety. You lock them up and do nothing with them. They go out not even equal to what they came in but worse."

The numbers bear that out, with 90,000 inmates returning to California's prisons every year.

But compare that to the Braille program here at Folsom. Inmates are learning to translate books for the blind. In 20 years, not a single inmate who has been part of the program has ever returned to prison. This year, the program has been cut back to 19 inmates."
posted by rtha at 8:52 AM on January 4, 2013 [58 favorites]


This is wonderful.
it is pretty surprising to me when someone has never knitted in their life. It is so easy, and takes like an afternoon to learn. Why wouldn't you try out this hobby?
Well, from the perspective of a male who didn't take up knitting until his mid-30s, it's something that still never even occurs to a lot of men; culturally, I think it still falls under the tired "girls take home ec and boys take shop" dichotomy, and if you look at the "learn to knit" books out there there are precious few written for a male or unisex audience; even the titles containing patterns for mens' hats, sweaters, etc. are mostly along the lines "Patterns to knit for your man," not "Patterns for men to knit." My mom and her mom would knit and/or crochet stuff when I was a kid and I remember being interested in the mechanics of it, but it just never occurred to me that it was something that I, as a boy, could do to, so I never asked. Didn't even occur to me to ask, same with sewing.

As a grown-up I often have to remind myself "Hey! I'm a grown-up. I can do [X] if I want to because dammit, I'm a grown up." That realization still comes as a surprise sometimes; the cultural cues we learn as kids are tenacious.
posted by usonian at 8:54 AM on January 4, 2013 [16 favorites]


Oops. Had a second paragraph there.

Illinois has had a couple of scandals recently about the conditions inside our state prisons, coupled with some well-placed (but widely ignored) outrage about how little access the public (or journalists or watchdogs or humanitarian organizations) have to simply view the conditions in our many many state prisons and jails. (all links to stories by our local NPR affiliate).

Prisons are very expensive to run (and usually very important to the hyperlocal economy), which is whence (well, with a healthy dose of Immigration policy) American private prison industry.

So take all the logical barriers that people have mentioned: community resistance to "doing nice things for prisoners" or "reducing the punitive suffering of prisoners"; knitting needles being a potential weapon; logistics of bringing ordinary folks into supervised contact with groups of prisoners on a regular basis (including screening the volunteers for gang affiliations, screening the equipment for contraband &c); potential for harm to the volunteers.

Add to that your basic reluctance of a low-scrutiny industry (the private prison industry) to allow what are basically unnecessary, unvetted subcontractors in to provide a perk. It's really not surprising that prisons were not more receptive to the program, despite all the benefits it brings.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:59 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


"One prisoner, who was serving time for stabbing someone and who was busily knitting a hat..."

I read that as brutally knitting a hat.
posted by symbioid at 9:04 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


But compare that to the Braille program here at Folsom. Inmates are learning to translate books for the blind. In 20 years, not a single inmate who has been part of the program has ever returned to prison. This year, the program has been cut back to 19 inmates.

Fuck this so much
posted by crayz at 9:05 AM on January 4, 2013 [15 favorites]


Yeah, the Correctional Association has done a lot of research on the recidivism rates of prisoners who participate in programs like these vs the ones who do not; it should come as no surprise that the participants have a remarkably lower rate. This data is unimportant to the prison businessmen in this country because they are not really interested in losing "customers".
posted by elizardbits at 9:11 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


"customers"

Don't you mean "slaves?"
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 9:14 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


This lack of interest on the part of prisons is not surprising. As part of my year-end magazine cleanup, I go through my old issues of The New Yorker and pick out articles that I hadn't gotten to. One of these was a piece on the rate of incarceration in the U.S. It was profoundly depressing.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 9:17 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


In a similar story, former Aryan Brotherhood commissioner, John Greschner, is now into yoga.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:27 AM on January 4, 2013


I usually advocate for crochet whenever someone asks whether they should learn crocheting or knitting, but in this case I am totally happy to have prisoners learn knitting exclusively. Given the American problem of prison labor and increasing demand for sweatshop-produced crocheted goods (unless you see some convincing indication they're not, assume they are -- there is no crochet machine capable of making whole items), I don't think we'd see good results there.
posted by asperity at 9:36 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Try balaclavas, still_wears_a_hat. It's not how you knit, it's what you knit.

Balaclavas? Really?

I know in comparison to the abbatoir of misery and human cost and the flagrantly inhumane disregard for their own soldiers on the part of the British Army's administration that was the Crimean War, the Balaclava cap probably looked like a good idea. I'm aware that the soldiers who were expected to endure temperatures well below freezing in cotton summer uniforms without shelter or even a blanket would have received the issue of these caps with cries of "THANK GOD ALMIGHTY, SOMETHING TO KEEP MY FROZEN, BLACKENED EARS FROM FALLING OFF!!!!"

But it's well over a century and a half later and those of us who have been privileged enough not to experience amputation without anesthesia and who have never discovered a maggot-infested horse carcass in our only water supply, the Balaclava cap has never been an attractive option.
posted by orange swan at 9:44 AM on January 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I remember reading about a trendy new knitting store, where the owner stated that "knitting is the new yoga." I'm like, HAH!, I figured that out way ahead of you, I've been knitting since 1977.
posted by Melismata at 9:52 AM on January 4, 2013


Brief derail: on the subject of prison arts and crafts, I can't recommend enough this This American Life story from 2002 about a group of prisoners rehearsing and performing Act V from Hamlet. Truly one of the best stories of any kind I've ever heard.

And yeah, boredom. I detest capital punishment for any number of reasons, but if you really think about, killing someone is almost merciful compared to making them spend 50 years in a cell with nothing to do. (I'm speaking abstractly here, recognizing that the way Death Row operates in the US is cruel and unusual in its own way)
posted by dry white toast at 9:53 AM on January 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


But it's well over a century and a half later and those of us who have been privileged enough not to experience amputation without anesthesia and who have never discovered a maggot-infested horse carcass in our only water supply, the Balaclava cap has never been an attractive option.

This explains so much about my Christmas presents this year.
posted by Etrigan at 9:54 AM on January 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Just like in schools or any large group, a couple of bad apples can ruin a good thing for everyone, only in prisons that applies to the XX power. True, some prisoners are in there because they've made some bad choices in life, but the majority are not in the joint for free coveralls and some male bonding - they are seriously dangerous people. Give them a knitting needle and they'll shank someone in the blink of an eye. Let them have small radios in their cells and they'll hack them to monitor the guards' walkie-talkies. On and on. Of course prisoners get mind-numbingly bored, but part of the problem is there are very few activities that can't somehow get turned into a weapon or some other device used for nefarious purposes.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:55 AM on January 4, 2013


There is no incentive to reduce recidivism, no matter what their PR department says. Fewer prisoners mean fewer guards (means, I suspect, a less powerful union, but I'm not sure about that.)

Why would they want to cut their own jobs out from under them?
posted by small_ruminant at 9:56 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


they are seriously dangerous people. Give them a knitting needle and they'll shank someone in the blink of an eye

The guards and fellow inmates know who these people are. They don't end up in these classes usually.

Also, I understand that prison can be boring, but the inmates I have worked with are doing SOMEthing from 6 am to 10 pm. Boredom for them comes from the endless lining up for count, lockdowns when there's a fight, or too much fog for the guards to see across the yard. It's not all day every day boredom.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:58 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suspect boredom is a bigger problem in jail than in prison.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:59 AM on January 4, 2013


Of course, the prison I've worked in, San Quentin, has more of these programs (the knitting type program) than all of the rest of the prisons in California combined, so maybe it's not a typical example.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:00 AM on January 4, 2013


but part of the problem is there are very few activities that can't somehow get turned into a weapon or some other device used for nefarious purposes.

But that's not why - or not the sole reason why - many prisons used to have educational and vocational programs and now don't. Prisons have always been dangerous; they have always had violent people in them. But these days, in California at least, thanks to 3 strikes, there are more non-violent criminals locked up than there were in the past, and you get terrible overcrowding (Folsom houses almost four times as many inmates as it was designed for), which only adds to the likelihood of violence.

San Quentin is one of the few prisons in the state that still has some educational and vocational programs.
posted by rtha at 10:17 AM on January 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Any talk of tough guys and needlework is incomplete without mention of Rosey Grier. Oh yeah.
posted by exogenous at 10:33 AM on January 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Give them a knitting needle and they'll shank someone in the blink of an eye.

How do you square that with "[Prison warden Margaret] Chippendale has noticed lower rates of violence among the men who knit." ?
posted by KathrynT at 10:33 AM on January 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


I was tickled when I read the beginning of this post. Then I read all the comments. Ugh. So much suffering. And here's a thing that would help! But some of the worst criminals actually run/own these places, and they prefer more suffering and more profit.

Do I have the time or inclination to, I don't know! Do something? What would it be? Start one of those White House petitions? I bet there's 25,000 knitters who would sign it. But I am not a knitter. One of you knitters, maybe you can do it? Or maybe it would be pointless (no pun intended).

I think I would like to knit, but my time is mostly spent drawing to make up for the lost years.
posted by Glinn at 10:38 AM on January 4, 2013


Any talk of tough guys and needlework is incomplete without mention of Rosey Grier. Oh yeah.

Any discussion of Rosey Grier makes me tear up, but that's OK.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:41 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Good News: This thread made me go out impulsively and buy some yarn and knitting needles to teach myself how to do this. It's been too long since I made something with my hands.

Bad News: If one can truly learn the basics of this in an afternoon, it is not from trying to learn it online, apparently. Anybody have any great sources for this?
posted by Navelgazer at 12:05 PM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, looks like the Knitter now has an origin story.
posted by dephlogisticated at 12:08 PM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Navelgazer, when I first started, I depended a lot on Knitting Help, which has really good in-depth videos.

(otoh, i do tend to pick up crafty things easily -- i learned knitting via youtube one very boring business trip in my hotel room.)
posted by cendawanita at 12:18 PM on January 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


There are a small handful of places in our society where radical re-thinking and truly progressive efforts - along with the requisite spending of some serious cash - could make real difference and really stop a lot of these terrible cycles of poverty, abuse and crime. The foster care system is one of them (juvenile dependency and delinquency) as is early childhood education. The other major one is prison reform. You have this entire population of people who largely fail to have the basic life and emotional skills necessary to function in the rest of society and they're captive! You could teach them ANYTHING and they'd have nothing else to do but learn those things for years at a time. Not everyone would want to, and not everyone is really capable but so so many are and so many would eventually come around to being real productive members of society when they inevitably got out again.

But, eh, fuck 'em, right? They're just animals/inventory afterall.
posted by marylynn at 12:21 PM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


How do you square that with "[Prison warden Margaret] Chippendale has noticed lower rates of violence among the men who knit." ?
She's working in a minimum security prison...she said in her interview that the men incarcerated there have committed check fraud, a couple of child molesters (not the type of prisoner prone to violence) and perhaps a few in for battery. She's not in a prison with serial rapists or murderers. Those who are serving lengthy sentences with no hope of parole and nothing to lose (other than time spent in isolation) if they commit one more crime while behind bars.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:50 PM on January 4, 2013


Those who are serving lengthy sentences with no hope of parole and nothing to lose

But they are not anywhere near the majority of those locked up in prisons and jails. The vast majority of prisoners are going to get out, and with no more useful (or at least legal) skills than they went in with. How's that working for us?
posted by rtha at 2:10 PM on January 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


Navelgazer, I learned from Mrs. usonian's copy of Stitch N' Bitch, which has very good written instructions and illustrations arranged in a logical skill progression. The projects are also arranged in a skill progression - IIRC it starts you off with a dead easy scarf and goes from there. Once you're familiar with terminology and reading patterns, you can supplement with Youtube videos for clarification on specific stitches or maneuvers.
posted by usonian at 3:30 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


She's not in a prison with serial rapists or murderers.

What percentage of those incarcerated are serial rapists or murderers?
posted by KathrynT at 4:45 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


1000%?
posted by The Hamms Bear at 9:12 PM on January 4, 2013


I have spent some time with prisoners at the DC General Health Campus (read: jail) as defense counsel. The primary emotion I would see from these men was frustration. Imagine not just being stuck in a confined space for an ungodly or seemingly indefinite amount of time, but without any real outlet to work your way free of the situation.

The clients I knew would have likely jumped at the chance to be in a calm room, with kind women, teaching them how to make something they couldn't have made before.

Agency is an amazing thing we generally take for granted. If we only had it for two hours a week, we'd all cherish those knitting hours.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:45 PM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, perhaps those convicted of more serious crimes could learn to crochet instead?
posted by iamkimiam at 7:36 AM on January 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's possible to hold a job in prison. Usually not a good job, usually making license plates or whatever, but nonetheless. Given the choice, I figure even the crazy rapists would want to learn more useful skills and apply them to some end. Most of them have families who could use the money anyhow. If your position is that some people need to be locked up all their lives, that still doesn't counter the idea that they should get the training they need to do whatever they can to benefit society.
posted by LogicalDash at 9:16 AM on January 5, 2013


Aw, it's alright to cry.

As a point of comparison, around here we have a prison crochet organization. I met the organizer at a Knitting Guild meeting where she shared some of their work. She said it had to be crochet because it was a single implement with a rather blunt tip -- so I was kind of surprised to see that a prison knitting group was allowed.

But the thing that struck me the most was that they had a hard time working on their stuff in off-hours because they were not allowed to congregate: to talk to each other, share tips or fix mistakes, build community, provide support. Gathering was seen as risking some sort of collaboration that could lead to everything from a small fight to an escape, riot or worse. This is at a minimum security facility.

Sigh.
posted by Madamina at 12:01 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


From an earlier comment of mine: Knitting in Plain English by Maggie Righetti is the best learn-to-knit book I know of. Making the "Dumb Baby Sweater" and the "Stupid Baby Bonnet" (so-named by her students) you'll have the technical skills nailed and will be able to approach just about any pattern you want with confidence.

One of the things I like about Righetti is that she points out that there's really only one actual mistake possible in knitting: sticking the point of a needle through the yarn and thereby splitting the fiber. Everything else — added stitches, decreased stitches, dropped stitches, etc. — isn't a mistake, it's a genuine technique, just used in the wrong place.
posted by Lexica at 1:19 PM on January 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I realised recently that all my double crochet stitches have accidentally been front-loop only. Which is annoying when you've done seven stripes of a blanket. I'm wondering whether to just carry on with regular dc or whether the raised stitches will bug me forevermore once it's done.
posted by mippy at 2:57 PM on January 5, 2013


It is not from trying to learn it online, apparently ... yeah, I imagine that can be done, but it is way easier to learn in person from someone else.
posted by jonbro at 3:32 AM on January 7, 2013


Nightline reporting on the story. I have to wonder if they got the story idea from this post.
posted by orange swan at 6:53 AM on January 22, 2013


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