The afterschool program at Lone Rock School this year really was the whole ball of yarn.

In addition to the games, the outdoor adventures, the cooking and the homework, some of the students even learned to knit - make that learned to love to knit.

Thirty kids involved with Lone Rock's inaugural year of the federally funded afterschool program participated in learning to knit with Emma Lou Elliott, according to program director and Lone Rock School librarian Jan Burgess.

"It was so great," Burgess said. "They were just really excited about it. A lot of them even took their knitting home with them."

They took to it so whole-heartedly, Burgess said, that they agreed to knit for a service project - a three-pronged effort to put hats on the heads of folks at Stevensville's Bitterroot Living Center, young students with Lone Rock Head Start, even some tiny ones belonging to newborn babes at Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital.

Elliott said she was impressed, but not surprised that they did so well at it.

The color choices were, at times, a bit unconventional, but the end products looked great, she said.

They did their work with the aid of a knitter's loom, making it possible for even the younger students to be involved.

Turns out the youngest, kindergartner Caitlin Johnson, was among the most dedicated, Elliott said.

"She just sat there like a little trooper and knit," Elliott said.

Both Burgess and Elliott said they were happy to see how many boys got involved.

But, as with anything that comes up in a school setting, there are bound to be some detractors, and it seems knitting is no exception.

Some of the boys' fathers were not so keen on the knitting, Elliott said.

Elliott said that she told her students that it's OK to knit and OK to be an individual that makes choices about what they like and don't like.

She also pointed out that former NFL start Rosie Greer was a knitter.

"He's a great big old black guy and I saw him on television doing an interview and he was just knitting away while he was sitting there," Elliott said. "It would have been great if I could have had him come and talk to the kids about knitting."

Regardless of the politics surrounding gender identity and choice in hobby, at the end of a four-month afterschool course in knitting, these 30 kids had knit 40 hats, all of which will be given away for the service project.

What was so cool about it, Elliott said, was that the students got more into the service aspect of the knitting activity as it went along.

Next year, the plan is to knit hats for military men and women serving in Afghanistan, Elliott said.

Despite the pull of altruism, Elliott said she also gave them an incentive to finish their hats, telling them that she would knit a hat for each kid that completed a hat for the service project.

"Every week, I'd bring those hats in and put them on the table and they'd just ‘oohh' and ‘aahh,'" Elliott said. "I made them to give them encouragement to finish theirs, but I also made them to show them what they could do with knitting. It was just good fun."

Reporter Sepp Jannotta can be reached at 363-3300 or


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