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Teaching Fiber Arts

Teaching Fiber Arts

In teaching knitting, crochet and tatting, I always tell my students that there’s really no wrong way to do things as long as it comes out looking like it should. While I still hold this to be a true statement, when on the teaching end of the needle/hook/tatting shuttle or needle, it is important to teach the correct way to do a stitch, the right place to insert the hook or needle, the proper way to do the most basic join, etc. I would feel that I were cheating my students if I didn’t teach them the proper way to do these things.

To better understand this reasoning, think of a school teacher who tells a student that it’s okay to not memorize multiplication tables (as most of us learned when we were in school). “After all”, she says, “you can always count on your fingers and you still come up with the same total.” While this is all true, what good does this do to a student when, at the adult age of thirty, they are still counting on their fingers and working at a position which requires a lot of math? Hasn’t the teacher cheated the student by not teaching them a better or correct way of doing math?

If I tell a student that it’s okay to place their knitting needle anywhere they want, within their work, to draw up the next stitch, it’ll work and a new stitch will be developed but what good does it do if the work is sloppy or it puckers their knitted project? One of my knitting students always seemed to do things differently, no matter how much I’d try to encourage her to do them the way that I was teaching her. She was right handed and always inserted her working needle into the back side of the working stitch. Finally, I told her that if she felt more comfortable doing things that way, it was ok, as long as she was consistent with all of her stitches and inserting the needle in the same manner. She still knits that way and all of her stitches remain even and no matter what she does, it won’t affect other stitches. But, I did tell her that eventually she’d have to go into the front of that stitch when she has to do an increase that didn’t involve a yarn over.

New students may find it difficult to follow pattern instructions if they are doing a stitch different than what is considered to be proper. For example: For a chainless foundation row, inserting your crochet hook in a different area than is designated may still allow you to draw up a loop and create a chain to do your chain less foundation row single crochet in but, when the work is complete, that first row will not look at all as it should and will distract from the beauty of the rest of your object.

When teaching a knit cast on, although there are several ways to draw up new stitches to add to your needle, it’s important to teach the proper way so that when the student is taught to knit, it’s a simple change from what they’ve already been doing. Later, they can change their knit cast on method if they choose to do so.

What’s a negative of teaching incorrectly? Suppose it’s the first lesson for a student and you’re trying to teach them your unusual way of doing things? What will happen when they get home and can’t remember the way you try to teach them? So, they look it up on the internet and can’t find a single site that teaches your unusual method. This is not a good position to put new students into. It can leave them feeling incompetent and they may put down their work and not accomplish anything until their next lesson with you. This discourages a student and can put a roadblock in their fiber arts learning process.

So, when teaching a person a new skill, please teach the conventional method. After your student feels more comfortable with this new craft you can feel free to introduce new ideas/ways of doing things. You may say, “Hey! I see that you have the knitting down pat but, now I’d like to teach you a new way of holding your yarn and I think it’ll help you to knit faster. I know that it helps me. I haven’t seen anybody else do this but, you might like it. You can give it a try and if you don’t like it you can go back to what you’re comfortable with.”

Before you take on your first student, it might be prudent to do some research and see that you’re teaching in a way that’s conducive to the rest of the world and not a way that is done only by yourself. This is especially true if your student has never done this craft before.

As I’ve said in various articles, I’ve been doing fiber arts since the early age of eight. I’ve had an absolute obsession for fiber arts throughout all my years of various careers and numerous dwelling places across the country. For the twenty years that I spent as an over the road semi truck driver (mostly as a solo driver) I carried a large stash of yarn and thread with me. I rarely had a partner as I had to have all extra available space to store my craft supplies.

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