Teaching and Still Learning

Why do I still take crochet classes? That was a question I was asked recently, and apparently many people do not easily understand the reason.

I must first admit, that I took my first crochet class in 2011, thirty years after I taught myself to crochet. I took the class because I happened to be invited to attend a Crochet Guild of America conference, and figured I would try everything it had to offer. I actually took a few classes at that conference, and realized that even though I knew quite a bit about crochet there was so much more to learn.

Crochet does not just have to be the working of a couple of stitches to create an afghan, which was my long standing practice with the craft, it can be an experience of bonding, an experience of growth, an experience of connecting. Taking my first class opened this world to me.

In each and every class I take I learn something new, even if it is a topic I thought that I knew really well. Every teacher has a different way to bring the material and information alive, in this process I see crochet from a different angle, and different history, and different life.

Yes, I might be going a bit deep, but crochet is so unique to each individual. Not only is all crochet handmade, as there is no machine crochet, but it is often learned from one generation to another. I often find students are unsure of their abilities in crochet, and I think this is due to the nature of learning in a personal setting from an older relative or neighbor. This might intimidate students from taking classes, it did for me for too many years, but overcoming the awkward discomfort I thought I would have has shown me more than I could have imagined.

Even as I teach more, I continue to take classes to retain and re-imagine what crochet can be. If you haven’t adventured into a crochet class, I really recommend you do. You will meet interesting people, learn stories and connect….everything that I realize I need.

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.

 

Crochet is Everywhere

I have been traveling quite a bit as of late, and have had the welcoming surprise of seeing crochet so well accepted.

The first weekend in April I was invited to offer instruction for the Crochet Guild of America at the DFW Fiber Fest, and teach the CGOA Master’s Day course. DFW Fiber Fest is in its 13th year, and includes all fiber skills; knitting, crochet, weaving, spinning, etc. It feels very much like a family, and there is so much diversity of skills and craft that it really engages the imaginations.

After teaching my course I had a table in the vendor hall to inform people of the opportunities of CGOA, and found my table inundated with people so astonished to find an organization solely focused on crochet, and loved the fact that crochet was at this show.

There were crochet samples in the vendor booths, and the lobby of the convention center was even yarn bombed with crochet. It is always nice to see.

The following week I was in attendance at a blogging conference, SNAP, in Salt Lake City. A crochet class was even offered here, teaching bloggers and crafters the basics to amigurumi (crochet toys). Of the 350 in attendance, 13 specifically focused their writing on crochet. This is among food bloggers, craft bloggers, family bloggers, travel bloggers, makeup bloggers, and such, and there were 13 bloggers that loved crochet. I must admit that I was even surprised by the substantial number of crocheters represented.

During these travel events, I was reminded what an ice breaker crochet is. On my flights I met other crocheters, everyone was happy to talk about their latest projects and the direction this craft was taking them on; making gifts for loved ones, charity projects, projects for sale, the first time attempts, the multiple successes. Crochet brings out the stories that we can all relate to.

I often find that crocheters feel alone in their craft, they might believe that they love a small craft hobby, but the numbers don’t support that. We may crochet alone, but there are many of us, and more places are recognizing this and inviting crochet. Check out your nearest fiber related event, if they are not specifically highlighting crochet, attend anyway and bring your hook, you might be surprised to find how many people open up and relate their crochet stories just by your asking.

 

Crochet in the Groove

To find something in crochet that I have never seen before takes some doing, but I was fortunate enough to have one such product find me.

The Groove by Chetnanigans is a hand crafted tool designed to make the creation of broomstick lace quicker and easier. My understanding of its origins involves a woodworking husband fulfilling the dreams of his crocheting wife. This couple has created many creative products to fulfill the needs of crocheters including, but not limited to; hook and notion organizers, blocking boards, and hair pin lace looms. But the groove is something unlike anything else I have seen.

Sean and Holly of Chetnanigans reached out to me earlier this summer, after noticing that I was teaching a Broomstick Lace Technique class at the CGOA national Chainlink conference. They asked if I would give the Groove a try and give them some feedback. Well I found it unique enough to even share it with my students, many of which ordered their own.

Traditional broomstick lace has been done with a knitting needles. By working loops over a knitting needle and then working the loops back off to create a stitch that sometimes is noted as resembling the eye of a peacock tail. One of the biggest drawbacks to this techniques is that it is a bit awkward…it feels like you need a third hand to hold everything.

The Groove addresses this issue by putting a base on the “needle” so that it can actually stand upright on a table, so simple it becomes a “why didn’t I think of that?” kind of thing. However the Groove doesn’t just stop there, it then has…well…a groove at its tip. It is this groove that sets the Groove apart.

A crochet hook slips into this slit and under the loops that have been added to ease the removal and really make the process faster. When using a traditional knitting needle you move these loops to the tip and work your crochet hook between the loops and needle, it is not particularly difficult, but it is a slow process when compared to using the Groove.

The Groove is equivalent of a 25mm knitting needle, or in other terms has a 1” diameter shaft, so it is a perfect size for light to medium weight yarns. It has a nice weight, not feeling to light or flimsy or to heavy and clumsy. The only drawback I have found is that my kids think it would be a great spike to kill vampires or even club someone, so I have to keep an eye on its location to ensure that it is only used for its intended purpose. But if I find some vampires I guess I am prepared, and in the mean time I will have a great time crocheting up some broomstick lace.

Worth a Routine Change

Settling back into a routine can be a bit of a challenge, but teaching at the Crochet Guild of America annual Chainlink conference is really worth the change of schedule.

This is my second year teaching at CGOA, and this year went by faster than I thought possible. I blinked and it was over.

I spent the last week of July just outside of Chicago sharing my love of crochet with other like-minded individuals. I taught 4 classes, and as there are so many great crochet instructors I vary my topics to help set me apart. This event I taught Needle Felting Applique, Converting Knitting to Crochet, Variations of Broomstick Lace and Things that the Pattern Assumes you Know. I feel like every class I teach is a test; Can I share everything in a manner that everyone will understand? Am I giving the students what they need/want/deserve/expect?

In a respect I think I gain just as much as my students from a good class, which I think each of these were. I get inspired by the work they do and the questions they ask. It helps me explore things in a different way, and I hope that helps me grow as a teacher.

This was the first conference since 2004 that the CGOA did a conference alone. In the recent past CGOA partnered with The Knitting Guild Association for the Knit & Crochet Show, this year the knitting association decided to try something different and CGOA decided to proceed on its own. As a result the show was a bit smaller but this allowed it to have everything much more inclusive, with all the class rooms in the hotel. So no trekking to a large convention center. I could leave my class room and join groups of crocheters working on their latest projects in the lobby. It was really nice.

I also had the opportunity to catch up with old friends and make a couple of new ones. It is like a battery being recharged, but recharged while it is being completely run to empty. I enjoy this show and look forward to next year in Portland, OR.