The Red Thread Project

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Knitting Across the Curriculum – Article
© 2009 Lindsay Obermeyer

This basic guide is provided to assist you in developing lesson plans for your classroom. It isn't written with any one age or grade in mind. Adjust the ideas to meet the level and needs of your students. If you have a question pertaining to this curriculum guide, do not hesitate to contact me through my website –

Visual Arts
Elements of Art

  • Line: Yarn is a pliable line available in a variety of thicknesses.
    Explore pliable line through knitting.
    Explore pliable line through crocheting.
    Explore pliable line through weaving.
    Explore pliable line through yarn painting - see work of the Huichols , an indigenous ethnic group of Mexico.
  • Shape: The pliable line is used to create shape.
    Through the increasing and decreasing the number of stitches on the needles, hook or frame, one forms shapes.
  • Form: A hat is an example of a 3d object containing volume.
    Two rectangles sewn on 3 of the 4 sides forms a hat.
    Knitting a cylinder with one end stitched will also create form.
  • Space: The size of a hat determines the actual space.
  • Texture: Yarn comes in many textures. Focus is on actual or tactile texture.
  • Color: Yarns are available in every color of the rainbow, as well as the colors of their natural state (not dyed or bleached)
    • Dyes – Students create a range of colors through the mixing of dyestuffs.
      Students experiment with color blends through the overlay of one color on top of another.
    • Yarns – Explore how texture of yarn interacts with the visual "read" of a color.

Principles of Design

  • Pattern and Repetition
    Explore possibilities for pattern through the repetition of color and texture while applying knowledge of symmetry.

Functional vs. Intrinsic Applications of Knitting

  • Knit fabrics are used in the fashion, interior design, automotive, industrial and medical fields.
  • Many basic garments are knit, such as t-shirts, sweatshirts, socks, and stockings.
  • Knitting is a medium frequently employed in the making of contemporary art.
    Artists include, but are not limited to - Lindsay Obermeyer, Mark Newport, Karen Searle, Lisa Whiting, Françoise Duprè, Celia Pym, Freddie Robbins, and Adrienne Sloane.

Science History

  • The Industrial Revolution started with the mechanization of the textile industry.
  • The punch card operation of the Jacquard loom was an important precursor to the development of computer programming.
  • The history of color and dye includes the study of physics and chemistry.
  • William Henry Perkin developed the first synthetic color, mauve.
    Contemporary textile research is rich with developments for skin grafting, water repellency, etc.

Dyeing: Color Chemistry
Natural Dyeing

  • Which plants may be used to create color?
  • How are these colors obtained?
  • What mordant do you need to have the color "stick" to the fiber?
  • What happens if you don't use a mordant?
  • Will you achieve the same color if you immerse your yarn for ten minutes as you did for five?
  • Will you obtain a different color if you use a different mordant? Why?
  • Do you use all of the plant or just one part, such as the root?

Acid Dyeing - Kool Aid

  • What colors are made from which Kool Aids?
  • Do you need a mordant? - Vinegar!
  • Do acid dyes work on all fibers? (No. They only work on protein fibers.)


  • Addition: Knitted fabric is created through the addition of many loops.
  • Subtraction: Knitted fabric is shaped through decreasing.
  • Multiplication: If you have 4 stitches to the inch and you want to make a scarf 8 inches wide, how many stitches do you need to cast on?
  • Division: If you cast on 32 stitches for an 8" wide scarf, how many stitches are there to the inch?
  • Estimation: Students estimate number of yards used to make an entire hat.
  • Hyperbolic Geometry and Crochet – see

Language Arts

  • Fairy Tales and Myths: The Three Fates, Arachne and Athena, Rumpelstiltskin, The Seven Swans are just a few examples.
  • Novels:
    • Lyddie by Katherine Paterson is set in Lowell, MA during the 19th century. The young protagonist is a factory worker in an industrial weaving mill.
    • Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan is set in India. The young protagonist utilizes her embroidery skill to escape a dismal fate.
    • See the Bibliography for more suggestions.
  • Journaling: Students summarize chapters, write reflections based on problems posed from the text, and recording daily knitting progress.
  • Writing: Students write their own fairy tale based on knitting, spinning, weaving, dyeing, or embroidery.
  • Vocabulary: Students study textile terminology. Create a Word Wall of adjectives describing yarn textures or knitting terms.

Social Studies

  • Students study and compare knitting patterns from around the world - Peruvian, Irish, Scottish, Lithuanian, and Chinese. How do these patterns reflect the cultures in which they were made?
  • Students study the American Colonial period and the textiles produced in the home for domestic use.
  • Native American cultures – Students study natural dyeing (plant stuffs used to dye), spinning variations (different animal and plant fibers), and patterns indigenous to specific cultures.
  • European Medieval period – Students study natural dyeing, learn which colors and materials were reserved for royalty and the invention of the knitted sock.
  • Students study trade along the Silk Road and the value placed on textiles.
  • Students study child labor and the textile industry, both contemporary and historical perspectives.

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