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Dropping Stitches: Why We Do Handwork

“The human hand is an amazing tool. Our hands have strength, sensitivity, and memory. Using tools and making items we can use in everyday life defines us as human.” This includes knitting, crocheting, sewing, weaving and spinning.

Handwork is an important element in every Waldorf School. In addition to the reverence and wonder of what the students can create themselves, handwork promotes thinking and judgment, builds confidence, and develops patience as a handwork project can take some time from start to finish and moves the child from playing to working on a meaningful project. It also helps children to solve problems as they must notice mistakes and ways to fix them.

Handwork has a specific task within the curriculum. It awakens the creative powers which will be useful in as many ways as possible in later life and work. It helps the young child to develop a healthy imagination and helps to unfold his/her will and feeling life. What’s almost more important than the child learning to use his/her hands in a practical way is that in adult life, it will help form good judgement and balanced thinking.

In Handwork, we use mainly the right side of the brain (creativity, intuition), which helps the students crossing the “mid-line.” It requires the involvement of many skills including: body awareness, hand-eye coordination and possibly most importantly, brain communication.

At Otto Specht School, all students work with yarn which is plant dyed. It is said that colors from nature can have a positive impact on our wellbeing while working with it. These colors are more appreciated and understood than chemically dyed wool and it gives the students a reverence for the gifts nature provides. They also learn to use color in a more conscious way, working either from light to dark or from dark to light, depending on the project.

At the OSS school, most students follow the Waldorf handwork curriculum. Yet, depending on the child’s needs, the projects are adjusted and changed.

Generally, in 1st grade, the students learn how to knit, followed by crocheting in 2nd grade. Hand sewing, embroidery, weaving, knitting in the round and machine sewing will follow as the students move up the grades.

Handwork should be relaxing while at the same time involving and strengthening will activity. Each student’s completed project is the result of his or her own effort and brings satisfaction and enhanced self-esteem.