Make the Best Better

words and photos by: Amber King

A green, four-leaf clover on a pure white background. Green for growth, white for purity. With over 6.5 million members nationally, many are familiar with the 4-H flag. 4-H is, rightfully, associated with agriculture and, thus, animals. Many people enjoy visiting their local county or state fairs and seeing the animals, but with over 600 projects for youth to choose from, youth are exposed to more than just animal husbandry. This is exactly what one tiny 4-H club in Benewah County, Idaho is doing.  

4-H started over 100 years ago in Ohio when some members noticed that while the older members of the community were not very willing to change their methods, the youth were willing to learn better ways to farm. In Idaho, 4-H started as an after-school club. The motto is “To Make the Best Better,” and the slogan is “Learn by Doing.” This is exactly what youth do with their projects. Starting in 2016, Lakeside Leaders 4-H club had one youth knitter. Flora (16) for the longest time was the only knitting 4-Her in the whole county. Steadily the club has been growing, and this last year was the club’s best yet. There were three knitters and a weaver.  

The year looks something like this: Sign-ups are due by March 1st and meetings begin. For competing the projects, youth set goals for themselves for the year. Using the S.M.A.R.T goal setting method, the youth set goals that are Sustainable, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Bound. The youngest members set one goal, the oldest set three. Throughout the year, the youth keep records of expenses and any income earned. They track the work put into their project by entering meetings and work done at home on an activity log. Once a month the whole club gathers for a meeting, run using parliamentary procedure by an elected president, to discuss events and dates and to play a game. Community service is highly encouraged, and opportunities for club service are provided.  

Knitting and weaving meetings see youth gathered around a table, learning a skill with their hands and the tools necessary to accomplish their goals. One student is disabled, with the use of only one hand.

Colbey (9) deeply desired to learn to knit. With immense joy and dedication on her end, she entered the most adorable headband into the fair, earning herself a blue ribbon. Her smile is contagious, and she makes everyone happy when around her.

Flora (16) is the group cheerleader. She’s never met a challenge she couldn’t solve and is encouraging to everyone. In the process, she finished her first, 100 percent wool, colorwork sweater and earned a reserve championship placing.

Austyn Jane (12) is a knitting natural; her mom learned to knit and make socks over the winter, and she, by watching, had the knit and purl stitch figured out in no time. Her smile on seeing her grand champion ribbon for her hat was huge.

Andrew (14) is the only weaver but came to each meeting and even made cardboard looms to show the Clover Bud kids how to weave. He finished a wrap and a plaid table topper for his fair entry. He also brought his loom to the fair and did demonstrations.  

4-H is not only about learning to make something with our hands but about helping kids be the best they can be. This includes learning leadership skills and public speaking skills. Each kid gives a presentation for each project they take. One project, one presentation. Five projects, five presentations. At the beginning of the year, kids dread this task, but as the year goes on and they get more confident in their skills learned, their confidence in being able to talk about it is evident. This year we had a presentation on the different yarn weights and what they are used for, and the recommended needles or hooks that go with them. We went over the parts of a loom and the tools needed to dress it for weaving. We were shown how to use a knitting loom, and the oldest student talked about gauge swatches, how to read a gauge swatch, and why it is important to do one. 

When the club started, there were eight youths active in the club. This year, there were twenty-six youths participating at the fair. These coming years will be fun as the growth continues, kids are exposed to more fiber arts, and they fill the barn with handknit and handwoven items. Next year there are already plans in the making for more weaving and knitting and for angora rabbits as fiber animals. These youth are educating themselves and the public about these crafts. Another generation is keeping the fiber arts alive. 

4-H really does embody the slogan of learn by doing . . . and because of this, the best truly are better. 

Amber King, Lakeside Leaders 4-H Club/Project Leader, is a long time 4-H leader and alumni. She is passionate about teaching anyone who wants to learn how to knit, enjoys spinning and diving into weaving and angora rabbits due to 4-H. Follow her on Instagram: @MrsAmberK3. For more information on supporting 4-H or volunteering please contact your local extension office.

1 reply
  1. Kim
    Kim says:

    Hello from 4-H Alberta! It is so much fun watching young people grow in their skill and confidence. Thanks so much for sharing the images of your members.

    4H has programs all across North America and I encourage anyone who’s interested to google 4-H and the name of your province or state. One of the best youth programs out there in my opinion


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