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Salem - Library craft programs often feature local adults volunteering to teach children their artistic skills, hoping to light a spark of interest.
Saturday's program at the Salem Free Public Library brought a role reversal, with 11-year-old Ian Aldrich teaching a class of seven adults and fellow middle school students his passion for knitting sashay scarves using brightly colored specialty yarn fitting for the holiday season.
Ian, a sixth-grader at Salem Middle School, is a veteran at this craft, having learned it from the library's knitting club four years ago at age 7 or 8. He hasn't put the needles down since, first knitting several scarves for a basket raffle at the family's church, St. John's in Niantic. He's lost count of the number of scarves and baby hats he has made for gifts and donations.
His mother, Pat Aldrich, is the children's program coordinator and the technical manager at the library. She said many friends and library patrons have seen Ian's items on display and asked if they could learn to do sashay knitting, so he agreed to teach the class.
"I can't knit a stitch," Pat Aldrich admitted. "My daughter (Ian's older sister Megan) took the same class, but she didn't take to it."
His mother said Ian always has been good with his hands. He loved to play with Legos or other connecting toys. He also loves to sing and is a member of the church choir and the school chorus.
This year, Ian has started selling his goods, hoping to raise money to buy a guitar or an iPad, his mother said, as Ian patiently worked his way around the table teaching the starting steps to his students.
Ian said he doesn't wear any of his own creations - the frilly and sparkly fabric is for girls, he said - but he wants to make himself a "regular" knit scarf, perhaps black. Ian has learned to do standard knitting and said it's a bit easier than the sashay craft.
As the lesson started, Ian stood and showed students how to start pulling the sashay yarn from the skein. That wasn't so easy at first.
"I'm in trouble if I can't even find my end," novice knitter Tonya Harris of Salem said.
Harris said she decided to take the class after seeing Ian's display of scarves at the library. She wanted to make one that matched her dark pink coat and found the perfectly colored yarn.
Marion Brochu of Montville is a knitter and brought her bag of supplies. Her husband Maurice, sitting next to her, held his hands frozen in place after Ian taught the first moves, waiting for the next step. The couple came to the class together because they had some free time and hoped to learn a new Christmastime craft.
"He doesn't knit," Marion Brochu said. "I've tried to teach him."
Two schoolmates joined the class, and seventh-grader Emily Rogers, 12, quickly became Ian's assistant teacher. She took the sashay knitting class with him years ago. Rebekah Ortega, 11, Ian's classmate, was a newcomer to knitting, like most of the adults around the table.
Ian slowly made his way around, at times taking the needles from students to show the steps. They started to get the rhythm of movements.
Harris cheered as the first characteristic fluffy twist of a sashay scarf appeared on her needles.
"I did it!" she shouted.