Testing Myself- Teaching Crochet

I am getting ready for my latest test…oh, I mean teaching opportunity! I am teaching this July in Portland, Oregon, at the Crochet Guild of America’s annual crochet conference (also known as Chainlink).

I say I am getting ready for my latest test, because ready that is how I feel, and the way I treat it. I put a lot of work in behind the scenes for my classes, to ensure that I cover the topic in the most approachable way, and then have a couple of back up approaches in case the explanation doesn’t resonate with the audience.

So, I am brushing up on a couple of different topics for Portland, like Drop Spindle. I will be teaching a 6 hour class on creating your own yarn using a drop spindle. I am doing extra research on various drop spindles, various fibers, the history, and different approaches to spinning, to make sure I am not missing any information.

I am acquiring all of the materials a student needs to learn with and then some. I have a material fee for the class, because I want to make sure that my students get the best materials to learn with. I personally hate taking a course and attempt to get the items needed, get to the class and find that I found products that were not necessarily best for understanding the concept. Fortunately, when I procure materials for my class I can often get a discount for bulk purchase and pass that saving on to my students.

I am also testing and investigate more ways to dye yarn for my course Home Dyeing –Safe & Simple. There are always so many ideas that come when diving down a rabbit hole of content, and this class offers that as well. I find myself adding more approaches and techniques every time I teach this course, as so many new ideas have been generated and various artists are cultivating new techniques. Often times questions that student generate in class can add to the material of future classes, giving me new areas to research.

Beads are another skill that can be ever evolving, my course Beading Three Ways, really should be renamed at this point, as I have added a few other ways over the years. From student questions, to new books on the market, to revisiting older techniques, this class probably covers at least 5 ways to work with beads now.

Probably my historically best attended class is What the Pattern Does Not Say. This class also is constantly revisited by me to add more content and update the terms. I find that the most daunting things for crocheters in understanding patterns, and I offer a fresh approach to understanding how to read a pattern, while pointing out tips and tricks that maybe causing you to fail, even before you start.

So even though this is only 4 classes, I will spend countless hours, days and weeks preparing.  Then during the event of teaching the real test begins, ensuring that my students feel comfortable, that they feel inspired, and that they feel accomplished when they walk out of the door. Then it starts all over for my next teaching engagement.

Consider joining me, you can find the class listings at crochet.org.

 

Learning More- Firelight Knit

Yes, sometimes I bite off more than I can chew. I have done this in many areas of life over the years, including designing, and my latest design is one such item.

The Firelight Knit Shawl was created upon request as a sister to the crochet version. Both utilize a yarn that has little stretch or body and adorned with beads. It seems pretty straight forward, I have translated Tunisian crochet to knit before fairly successfully, but I did not account for the beads.

Firelight Knit Shawl www.lindadeancrochet.com

Firelight Knit Shawl

I learned a lot, such as how much differently beads work in knitting. I thought it would be similar to crochet, in that you work a bead in a stitch and there it will stay. Crochet has a bit more securing properties in this manner, since it twists and turns in a stitch, whereas knitting is simply a loop. This loop can allow the beads to shift a bit more when being worked, or even when it is finished…so I had to learn some improvising skills and learn more about knitting then I had originally set out to do. However I am pleasantly surprised at how happy I am with the end result.

I had to change the stitch pattern a couple of times and adjust the needle size, but in the end I created a shawl with a spider webbing effect. The edges are not completely straight, as the beads near the edge tend to drag it down a bit, but I think that adds a bit of charm to it. I worked up the sample with 6/0 size beads, and this causes a bit more of the pulling out of shape. Worked with 8/0 beads the movement would be less.

Firelight Knit Shawl www.lindadeancrochet.com

Firelight Knit Shawl

What probably attracts me most is that it has a complete shimmer and a great drape. The flowing shape really highlights the wearer. It is subtle, not attention grabbing, but once it has your attention it keeps it.

Teaching in a Larger Setting, My Experience at the CGOA Annual Conference

ScannedImageIt is hard to believe that I have been home from my adventure of teaching at a national venue for a month now. It has taken me a little while to decompress from the annual Crochet Guild of America conference this year in Charleston, SC. Then arriving home and getting the kids ready to head back to school has delayed my opportunity to really absorb the event. Last week I explained how there was so much going on at the conference that I needed to break it into smaller bites, so today I want to tackle my four classes; Re-Invented Broomstick Lace, Yarn Overload, What the Pattern Doesn’t Say, and Beading Three Ways.

I have taught for a few years in smaller settings, I taught drop in lessons at a coffee shop for 4 fours, more recently I have been teaching weekly at my local yarn store, but teaching at a national conference is a bit different. For one the class size is larger I averaged 16 students per class, with my largest being 20, but they are usually much more focused students that are well prepared and have in depth questions, so it is not a class that you can bluff your way through, you really need to know your material.

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Class materials for Yarn Overload Photo courtesy of the CGOA Facebook page

I also never know what my class room will really look like and I need to bring all my supplies with me. In the local yarn store if a question comes up that I wasn’t prepared for I can find a prop to explain things from items in the store, I always feel that visuals help so much more than just words. At a large conference you are arranged in a hotel meeting or ballroom, so you need to be prepared for random questions and ways of explaining them. Also students expect good handouts, so that they can go home and almost relive the class, local students know that they can access you again in the future if need be.

So after getting all my ducks in a row, and feeling like I have everything together for each class, I walked into my first class, Re-Invented Broomstick Lace, with a few butterflies. The butterflies were primarily from the concern of my relationship with my students. I saw many faces for friends that wanted to support me in my first event, but I always find it a little more difficult to teach friends. It could be the times I have spent as a heckler of my friends teaching, in a good natured way of course, but I know myself well enough to know that to relax in a different setting I might slip into a relaxed situation with my friends and thus not create an inclusive atmosphere for the rest of the class. Fortunately I do not think this occurred, I made a special point to stay professional as much as possible, while still giving personality to the class. It is not an easy undertaking, so I hope I accomplished this! I haven’t received the results of the class evaluations yet, but students did give me positive feedback after the class.

The next class I taught was a complete mental download. Yarn Overload consisted of talking about various aspect of fiber and yarn construction and how it can affect your fabric. Fortunately it was the only class I taught that day, because the material was vast, and the students had some really great questions pressing my knowledge on a variety of fiber crafts, including weaving. I cannot believe that people could listen to me talk that long, but once again I had students expressing how much they really enjoyed the class, I even heard from others at the conference, as word spread about how much was covered in the topic. That makes me feel pretty good. One of the best compliments I received was that one of the students now feels like she can walk into a small yarn store and be empowered instead of intimidated about the yarns in front of her.

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Teaching Re-Invented Broomstick Lace Photo courtesy of CGOA Facebook page

My final day of teaching covered two topics, the first What the Pattern Doesn’t Say followed by Beading Three Ways. There were many ‘Ah ha’ moments for the students during the pattern class, and several people wanted information about my book on the topic, which is not written by the way. I explained many things that you are assumed to know in working patterns, and short cuts, and various ways to create and improve your work. I felt this class was a success as well.

My learning moment came in my last class, which I had to remind myself, it is not the way everything starts it is the way everything ends that is important. Beginning the class I realize that I am missing some important items…needle and thread. The first 2 techniques are taught with them and my sewing tomato pin cushion was nowhere to be found. After a bit of searching and a little regrouping, I had a very generous student offer to run down to the hotel front desk and pick up a stack of emergency sewing packs. I began the class working on the final beading method that did not involve a needle, while the student ran down and picked up supplies. She was a life saver, and fortunately the hotel was gracious enough to accommodate our needs. I managed to keep my composure and I think the class ended much better than it began, at least I hope the students feel it was successful.

I am not sure when I get to see the class evaluations, but I want to learn and grow as a teacher, so this is one of the only tools available for me to enhance the experience in my classroom. You always learn more by teaching, whether it be the skill itself or the art of instruction. This was definitely a learning opportunity for me, which I hope to repeat.

Now I Need My Top- Let the Lace Go

ScannedImageDesigns come to me in many different ways. Let the Lace Go Top, actually came into being because I wanted to wear it!

The summer of 2015, my good friend Vashti Braha was debuting her yarn, Designing Vashti Lotus to the world in her first show floor booth. I wanted to support her, and since I really like her cotton/rayon yarn, I wanted to make something for myself to wear.

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Let the Lace Go Top Autumn 2016 Crochet! Magazine Photo courtesy of Annie’s

I began working the vertical body, and almost had it together, when I received a call for submissions for Crochet! Magazine. Even though I liked the top for myself, I decided to submit the idea to the magazine. Ultimately it would benefit my friend more to have my design shared with the world, so others can see what a great yarn she has.

Ellen Gormley loved the top, and so I set my personal top aside to complete the project for the magazine. It 8is now available to you in the Autumn 2016 issue of Crochet! Magazine.

I think it came out great! I like working the fabric vertically as I feel it lends itself to a more slimming line, and the lace on top gives it a lighter feel. There is some interesting construction in this design, as you work the solid body first, then begin the lace in to round. After the lace is a couple of inches long, you attach it to the solid body and continue toward the neck, working in decreases to come over the shoulders to the neck.

CoverI added beads to the lace edging, as a little extra highlight, but also for the practice purpose of helping to keep the lace draping in a manner I like.

Personally I love the color, but it can easily shine in any color. I still haven’t actually finished one for myself…but hopefully soon…it just happens to be another project that is resting on my hook.

Ready for National Teaching- Chainlink 2016

ScannedImageI am not sure where the month has gone. I have been working on making sure I have everything in place for my first opportunity to teach at a national conference.

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Samples for Re-Invented Broomstick Lace July 14, 2016 Charelston, SC

In just 2 short weeks I will be teaching at the Knit & Crochet Show as part of the Crochet Guild of America’s annual Chainlink Conference, in Charleston, SC (July 13-16, 2016). I have 4 classes, and will be teaching a variety of topics, some techniques like beads and broomstick lace, as well subject knowledge like understanding patterns & yarn.

It is a little amazing how different teaching at these events are then the weekly teaching I have been doing for years. To begin with the class size is at least double, if not triple what I usually have. I hope that I can still bring a personal feel that my local students have come to expect, as well as having that class feel like they are learning together. It is a unique balance.

Another of the many differences is ensuring that I have all the materials I need. In smaller settings, I can usually step out and pick up anything in my local yarn store to illustrate my point, if a question is asked. At this conference I will be in a hotel conference room, I will not have an opportunity to improvise. So the last couple of weeks have been focused on writing and re-writing handouts, creating stacks of materials, and attempting to foresee questions.

I think I may have it dialed in, or at least I am close. I have yarn samples, stitch samples, beads, handouts, and tools all set in stacks, as I ensure that the checklists I have created cover every aspect of the class. It is a new adventure and I hope that I am up for the challenge, I will have to post next month how everything turns out…stay tuned.