A few years ago, I sat down with some friends and learned how to knit. At that same time, many people (including my friends) were knitting with looms...AND LOVING IT. I decided that I need to have the basics of knitting under my belt before I explored knitting looms, but it wasn't too long before I knew how to knit and purl. My mom gave me my first set of looms for Christmas two years ago and I began looming with a fury!
Provo Craft makes the Knifty Knitter which is perhaps the most popular loom. With their circular looms, you can create a myriad of knitted things from hats to scarves to legwarmers. They're easy to use, durable and incredibly fun. There are limitations as to what type of yarn is best suited for the loom (a thicker yarn, or two yarns together), but otherwise the possibilities are endless. Provo Craft/Knifty Knitter has expanded their collection to include old-fashioned "mini" looms, elongated rectangular looms (for scarves, shawls and blankets) and even specialty looms to create flowers or mittens.
With the popularity of knitting, it's really difficult to not expose your favorite kid to the possibility of learning a new craft. And in many ways I feel that spending time to teach a kid a new craft is more valuable than a video game or television. My favorite kid Ruby is all abuzz about knitting these days, as a friend of the family has opened a fantastic new yarn shop in the heart of the Lauraville neighborhood in Baltimore, MD (cute shop plug: Spinster Yarns & Fibers [site forthcoming] on Harford Rd, y'all. It's AMAZING!). And while teaching her the basics of knitting might be easy enough, I suspect that most kids with thin patience and attention spans of flies would have trouble sitting down and grasping the entire process.
So, I think the loom is a quick fix.
They can choose yarn that is substantial (I prefer WoolEase's Thick & Quick for most projects, usually less than $5/skein), decide on a item to make (a hat would be easiest) and then get the process going. It's repetitive, like knitting with sticks, but it's less cumbersome. The "needle" is easier for smaller hands to manage, more so than two at a time, and the finish product appears much more quickly than with standard knitting. Additionally, it's very difficult to make a mistake using a loom and there is little to no counting involved. It's a perfect entryway into the world of fiberarts.
Knifty Knitter, my loom of choice, is available at most crafts stores and ranges in price from $5/loom to $25-30/set. The instructions that accompany the looms are in full color, and pamphlets created specifically for Knifty Knitters are very inexpensive accompaniments, too. There are also quite a few books now available on the subject, as well as a bevy of e-tutorials (including this one which shows us how to make a cable knit blanket!).
And I have to say, my reluctant partner E took to knitting on the loom like you wouldn't believe!