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South Tynedale

In MathsYear2000 we collaborated with the British Hand Knitting Confederation (now known as UK Hand Knitting Association) to introduce knitting into the Maths and/or Technology curriculum in schools. BHKC provided free yarn and needles for any school wanting to participate; we provided Maths and knitting information. Schools were able to request any two colours of yarn. Many asked for the yarn to be in their school colours and they generally received a full pack in each colour. BHKC continued to supply yarn until 2008. The booklet is still available for anyone wanting to use it, either with children or adults.

We originally adapted five designs which could all be used to introduce a wide range of mathematical concepts. Before any of these went out to schools, we realised that one was far more practical than the others, in the classroom. The great advantage of Tilting at Windmills is that, if the required number of pieces do not materialise, it is very easy to switch plans and utilise everything that has been made. The other designs all needed to have the exact number of pieces in the correct colour and one missing, or incorrect piece, would ruin the design.

It is easy to add a channel to an afghan to turn it into a wall-hanging, which what most schools choose to do.

Wall-hangings and afghans have been made in hundreds of schools and we have heard some remarkable stories about the success of the project. For example, someone recently attended a talk we were giving to a craft group. She had come along specially to meet us to tell us about how knitting an afghan, a few years ago, had solved a drugs problem in the school where she worked. She had decided to make an afghan with a group of very disturbed, and disruptive girls. They were thrilled by their achievement. The teacher was more thrilled by the calming effect the knitting had on the girls. They sat and chatted in a relaxed atmosphere, while they were knitting, and they eventually felt comfortable enough to tell the teacher about drug problems within the school and the teacher was able to get to the heart of the matter. They learned some Maths on the way but, more importantly, the teacher was convinced of the benefits to the life of those girls and to the whole school.

We hear stories but receive surprisingly few photographs. This is partly because schools are now very reluctant to allow photographs of pupils to appear on the internet. Another reason seems to be that, although schools are very proud of their own work, they do not think it is good enough for a wider audience. We love to see everyone’s photos!

Mathghans are made from a number of similar squares, all of which are knitted diagonally until they fit a template determined by the teacher. Each square can be made by a different person and the squares are guaranteed to fit together.

We are willing to give mathematical advice to any school wanting to tackle these, or any other, afghans. Your afghan does not have to have a mathematical basis. It could be made purely for its technology or artistic merit.

A completed afghan could be hung on display in the school, or perhaps used as a teaching aid for younger, or subsequent, classes. If you prefer, it could be made with the intention of giving it to a favourite charity. It could also be used for money raising purposes by the school. The decision is entirely yours but we would like to hear news and see photographs of your work.

Pupils from South Tynedale Middle School making an afghan, in May 2000.

Click here for a teacher’s account.

Use drop-down box to see photos and accounts from other schools.


This is just one of the many ways in which 96 similar squares can be arranged. Other numbers of squares could be used instead.


This project has, at times, been referred to as Mathghans.