Teaching a stroke victim

I just got home from my Yarn Lover’s Group that I head up at my local craft store. When I arrived the owner store said, “You have a student, she had a stroke and wants to learn how to use her hands better.” I said, “No problem.” …Problem, I don’t know what to do…I tried to teach her the cable cast on, cause it’s the one I learned 1st. I did most of the casting on. I stood behind her and put my hands on hers and we worked together. After getting about 15 sts CO, I tried to teach the knit st (English). Well, she just wasn’t getting it. She can’t remember the steps and she has a hard time holding both of the needles and the yarn. Any suggestions? I was thinking maybe she could hold 1 needle between her legs or something like that. She said she won’t be trying again, until we meet again. That is not until Oct.1. So it will be like starting over. I am going try also teaching her the thumb CO. Let me say that I have only been knitting myself for a little over a year, and I’ve taught most of my friends how to knitover the last 6 months.

Thanks for your advice.

Two pieces of advice:

  1. Just do 1 step and repeat it over and over. If you’re doing the longtail cast-on, just practice with her, over and over, pulling the yarn down between your thumb and pointer finger with the needle. Then the next time you see her, try to get her to put the needle under the first piece of yarn. Then the next time, over the other piece, etc. That way, maybe she WILL practice at home.

  2. Your patience limit is not her patience limit. If she is willing to take 10 months to learn to cast on, then so be it. Just trying is great therapy. Not to mention, the interaction with someone who is trying to help her in a positive way. So if she doesn’t practice at home and only does it every couple of weeks with you, that’s okay. The goals are different from teaching someone who is fully abled. The only time I would stop is if it becomes unpleasant for either one of you.

You don’t say how long it’s been since she had a stroke, but they now say that the potential for recovery has no time limit. It used to be that they thought whatever you achieved in 6 months was as good as it would get. They now know that the brain will continue to improve over years. There is a woman who comes to my LYS classes who was in an accident and had severe brain damage. She has never been able to learn to do everything in knitting, but she can knit and purl. So someone casts on for her and casts off, and she just makes rectangles of various sizes and then people sew the pieces together for her-- square shaped hats, ponchos, scarves, that’s her speed. But it means a lot to her and the people in the shop.

I would teach her like I have my children.

Do you have a child’s knitting verse? Like the traditional:

In through the front door,

'Round to the back

Pick up your sack!

Peep through the window

And off jumps Jack!

And, when I teach my children, they do NOT hold the yarn and needles all at once. Initially, I cast on for them. Then, the yarn just hangs in the back, no holding it, no tension at all. I say the verse, going very slowly, so they see each step w/each line of the verse. They use which ever hand they want to get the yarn to “pick up your sack” around the needle.

I would say that learning the knit stitch first, before learning to cast on, works great for my kids. My son now can to a knitted cast on just fine.

If you think about it, a cabled cast on is a lot like the knit stitch too, so I think you need to work one thing at a time - you cast on for her, teach her to make a knit stitch. You can show her how to cast on later.

With no experience in teaching stroke victims I’m not sure how qualified my response is. Never the less what size needles are you using. I would consider different size needles, a larger needle could be easier to handle and the larger stitches may make it easier to see and work with.

I would also think that the simpler the better, built confidence as much as knitting skill. You cast on and teach the knit stitch, with the knit stitch a simple garter stitch scarf could be made. One stitch repeated again and again and again.

After completing a couple of garter scarfs, holiday season is coming and what better confidence builder than to be able to give hand made gifts.

After the garter scarf, you cast on and teach the purl stitch, knit a scarf in reverse garter stitch, purl only. Then knit one row, purl one row etc.

Thanks Melinda, Sandy and Chris.

I will try casting on for her and using the little rhyme to help her remember. Just to clarify, she had her stroke 5 years ago. So she seems pretty good to me. (My dad had 1 2 yrs ago.) She has size 10 alumimiun needles , but I am going to take my needles with me next time. Maybe larger will be better. I have plastic, acrylic, bamboo and alum that I no longer use. Maybe it will be better if she uses the acrylic since it is grippier, then she won’t have to hold onto the yarn.

I really enjoyed helping her and love a challenge, but I felt like she was getting frustrated. When I really senced the frustration in her, I suggested a break. I did notice she kept looking at the clock (like “is this over, yet?”)

Great idea about bringing your own needles! I’m sure you read her right, that she was frustrated-- but she also agreed to meet you for a second time! So it sounds like she’s willing to try again.

I think that’s a great idea, to cast on for her (and knit a few rows so she’s got something to hold on to), and try the rhyme. If she can’t manage to get the entire stitch done, then just one step at a time:

  1. Have her insert the needle into the stitch 10 times.
  2. Have her insert the needle and then wrap the yarn around it 10 times.
  3. Have her insert the needle, wrap the yarn, and then pull it through the old stitch 10 times.
  4. Have her insert the needle, wrap the yarn, pull it through, and then take the old stitch off of the needle 10 times.

It will help build her confidence, which has probably taken a beating since the stroke.

I’m sure you were doing this anyway, but I would keep the praise going all the time. People who are frustrated imagin other people are with them, too, even when they’re not, so if someone in that position senses the littlest bit of frustration in the other person, they’re going to absorb that times 10.

As in all situations such as these, the helper gets as much out of it as the helpee! Keep us posted, this is a great thing you are doing!

I will be reteaching a stroke victim to knit. Does the repetativeness frustrate the person?

Good question. This thread is 3½ years old though, and I don’t think many of the people replying in this thread are still active.

Based on my limited experience years ago working with stroke victims in nursing homes, everything is frustrating. I can only try to imagine learning how to do something I’d done for all my life all over again. Anyone who can help a person through this very difficult time deserves special blessings. Good luck to you and your student. As suzeeq points out, this is a very old thread. I’m not sure how much help is available here as you’re actually getting into rehabilitative therapy but I’m sure there should be somewhere you can get advice.

I have an autistic daughter, who I taught how to knit, use a mantra, like for long tail cast on I told her the squirrel goes around the limb, up the tree around this limb, then down the tree. For knitting I said left to right needle in back yarn in back, for purling I told her right to left needle in front yarn in front. After many days of practice and hearing her repeat the mantras I taught her, she is successfully knitting.:woohoo: :yay: :knitting:

I don’t have much experience teaching stroke survivors, but I have worked with teaching children and adults with physical and intellectual disabilities for a couple of years now. It’s all about the repetition, and small steps. Make sure you’re providing positive feedback for every small victory. What about lever knitting? It props the needle under the arm and does the remainder of the steps with the opposite hand. It could allow easier “juggling” of the needles and yarn. I know I had trouble learning since I’m extremely left-hand dominant, but was taught right-handed with ease!

I have never tried the level knitting method. There are many sites on line, and will teach myself.
Thank you for responding and will remember that the repetitiveness is necessary.


With the long needle held under an arm, you don’t have to be able to use that arm at all. I’ve also heard it called “shepherdess” knitting, because it allows for carrying stuff in the non-knitting hand. There are pins made for people using that style that add tension to the yarn for you. I’ve had some success with it myself when I was starting out (but settled on a Continental variant.)