Why We Teach Handwork


by Louisa Hopewell, Handwork Teacher

Handwork projects are in full swing as we enter into October at the Waldorf School of Cape Cod.  I am pleased to say that the general atmosphere in the handwork room is enthusiastic. After taking some time off from fiber arts, for the most part, this summer (knitting at the beach after applying sunscreen did not give its usual appeal) myself and the students have been eager to get back to our daily dose of knitting.  Students are knitting scarves, crocheting recorder cases, designing cross stitch patterns, knitting socks and mittens with double pointed needles, and studying the ins and outs of sewing machines. I have missed watching students create beautiful work but more than that I have missed seeing what these creations do to their confidence.  

It is no small feat learning how to knit or to follow a pattern.  It takes time to see how a cross stitch needle goes in and out to create a perfect stitch.  Using size 3, double-pointed needles to make not just one mitten, but two, takes a huge amount of determination and focus. It is my job to teach technique, fix dropped stitches, encourage another row when all feels lost.  But what I have realized more than anything about being Ms. Hopewell at the Waldorf School of Cape Cod is that it’s not just about guiding students to create work.

Handwork is about finding a piece of yourself that you might not have seen before. This finding is unique and different for each student. It might be a creative side that they had not plugged into before.  It might ease their anxiety to the point where they ask me if they could bring their knitting home to work on. It might be a way for them to be more in their body at a time when screens are the norm for free time.  More common than not, I see students feel truly surprised that they are able to make something so beautiful. It gives them confidence in themselves that they can translate throughout their lives when things feel difficult.  They become the best versions of themselves when they are creating and it is a gift to be able to guide them through this process.