Yes, I can teach ~ really, I can

Do I start with only a sock class? Hell, no. I’ve got to start with 2 classes held on one afternoon: one class is three 1.5-hour sessions (socks); the second is 4 1.5-hour sessions. This means teach a sock class for 1.5 hours, take a half-hour break, follow-up by teaching a class on a complicated shawl for 1.5 hours. What was I thinking? I understood going in that knowing how to knit and having knit a pattern are not the same as having the skills to teach how to do either. What I didn’t understand was all the personalities I would have to deal with as a new teacher at the LYS I dearly love.

Several unexpected things happened to make both the first sock class and the first Catkin (a beautiful shawl by Carina Spencer) class more stressful than they typically would have been. No need to go in to that here: what I learned from those first 2 classes is much more important.

For a newbie teacher, having fun the first few classes is not important: having fun hopefully comes later when students communicate their happiness and the shop owner is happy with the teaching. If fun for the teacher is not to be had, move on and drop the teaching.

What happens first to many new to teaching (please this can’t be just me) are the complaints from students and violating some shop rules. Learn from the complaints; learn the shop rules.

So given hindsight (we all know how that works), here is my list of what I believe will help me & possibly others (I know at least a few people are reading this)  as I move forward in this new venture into the world of teaching knitting classes –

  • give the shop owner a class plan – notes (no matter how good), a highlighted pattern, and a list of what is to be covered are not enough
  • have a syllabus for each class in a series – it may also serve as a good handout for the students
  • include on the syllabus an estimate of the time it may take to cover each item (and remember, it’s only an estimate)
  • ask the owner if it is possible to schedule classes to begin 15-30 minutes after the shop opens and to allow 15-30 minutes between the end of one teacher’s class and the beginning of your class
  • take a look at the classroom – try to get a feeling about how to work within the space especially if it is small and confining (typical for a small shop; space is expensive
  • meet with the shop owner one to two weeks before the first class and after she or he has reviewed your class plan: take notes at that meeting; ask the owner what you may encounter in class that you may not be prepared for (e.g. a quirky student, students missing a class and wanting a make-up class); how does the owner handle a last-minute class cancellation; what advice does the owner have; and, whatever questions I haven’t thought of to date
  • know that the unexpected most likely will happen; we can only do our best
  • screw-ups will most likely happen, too – learn from it, do the best damage control possible and get over it

The most difficult thing for me is developing a tough skin. I had a tough skin when I worked in neuroscience labs for 15 years and then spent 20 years in a business dominated by men. Teaching knitting classes is different: it’s personal. My knitting transitioned from a skill to a passion about five years ago. I can’t seem to complete projects, design knitwear, or learn about fiber and knitting quickly enough; and, it’s dear to my heart.

The real test will come during the next class sessions. Yes, I will give my class plans and syllabi to the shop owner and request a meeting a few days in advance of the classes.

I still think the Catkin is gorgeous.


I’m teaching a knitting class ~ seriously???

Teaching is one of the best ways to learn. So why not teach. I hope I’ve learned something from the 45+ pairs of socks I’ve knitted over the past 7 or so years. I consider myself a recovering sockaholic. Being a sockaholic isn’t such a bad thing, but I need more time to knit garments for parts of my body other than my feet. Having knit over 20 pairs of socks designed by Cookie A alone, it is time to cut back on my sock knitting. Way back. Here is my drawer full of Cookies as of October 2010 –

Cookies in drawer

Of course all the socks I’ve gifted are missing and the photo only shows the Cookie A designs in the drawer. There are other sock designers and I’ve knit many of those socks; there’s just something about Cookie’s designs that I love. Maybe it’s all the math.

So last night I’m knitting away on Cookie A’s Trystero (the sock pattern I chose for the class  I am teaching) and something seems off. I knit socks top-down in tandem with 2 sets of double-pointed needles; i.e. cast on and knit first cuff, cast on and knit second cuff & leg, back to first sock to knit the leg & heel flap, etc. I compare my two Trystero socks (in fabulous Noro Kureyon Sock): the one I’m currently working is about half-way through the gusset; the second is on hold after the heel turn. Here they are –

Trystero 1

Arrrgh! The pattern on the two socks doesn’t match. They are supposed to match. I like a pair of socks to match unless the pattern says otherwise. Not that I have anything against knitters who prefer to knit two socks from the same skein of yarn in two different patterns to produce a pair of socks; I’m just one of those knitters who wants paired socks to match. I once ripped out the entire foot of a sock when I saw that I could make the color transitions on both socks match by ripping back on one sock to the instep, breaking the yarn and knitting the foot beginning with the opposite end of the yarn. (I had given up trying to match the color transitions once I got to the feet.) Matching color transitions is not an easy task with Zauberball yarn; however, when an easy solution presents itself, I say go for it!Sam

Cookie has this fabulous tutorial on sock repair. I have a few pairs of hand-knit socks that need repair. I’m gonna give this a go whenever I can put down the sock needles.

For a smile ~ when one thing leads to another, to another, to…….

A tweet from Hoxton of the Electric Sheep Podcast lead me to peruse the new Twist Collective Fall – fabulous patterns and articles; an issue not to be missed. Twist Collective lead me to Knitting in Wine Country: a blog I had not seen until today. It’s wonderful! (Yes, another blog to follow.) A brief scroll down the blog page lead to a must-watch video.

So here is a smile for today.

Woobie Woes ~ when toys attack….

As soon as I saw this pattern – Woobie Kitty by Kris Carlson – I wanted to drop everything and knit one for my 6-year-old granddaughter. Keira let me know right away that her Woobie should be knit in black and red. She even named it Ruby Kitty before we bought the yarn: Cascade 220 Sport Superwash; a fabulous yarn when washable is a must. Could not talk her out of the kitty (the zebra and the bunny seemed more interesting), nor could I get her to choose colors other than black and red. Red is okay, but I really, really dislike knitting with black.

The knitting looked simple enough. Even a 340-stitch picot hem wasn’t all that intimidating. In my opinion, the picot was a must and added to the nature of the Woobie. The recipient should have the best rendering of the pattern, right?

Picot hem was going great until the second decrease round. Made note to self, “There are critical points in a pattern that require one’s full attention.” I knit the second round of decreases too soon so they didn’t line up correctly. I tried to fix the error by dropping down, but couldn’t see what the heck I was doing. Again, I really, really dislike knitting with black. I ended up with a mess, so I ripped all the way back to approximately the 3rd rnd from the cast on; second go, was a breeze.

Finally got from this

Woobie mess 1

to this –

Woobie 50

After working alternating red and black stripes, all was well……  for a while. Had decreased to 140 stitches: exactly what I was supposed to have before increasing the decrease rate. Decreased to 108 stitches, but oh! wait! I had 107. Searched for a dropped stitch without any luck. It all looked good, but I can be really dense sometimes. I started ripping back. Stupid, stupid. This was for my favorite little girl in the world. It had to be as perfect as I could make it. Never mind that perfection is rarely achieved by humans and never in my hand knits. So I had mess #2 on my hands.  Folded it all up in a pillow case and took off to the gym for a swim. With a clear head it was easy to see I should simply do a single decrease instead of a double on the quarter of the blanket missing a stitch. The pattern does not note that the stitch-count gets thrown off by one stitch: I’m pretty sure that is what happens as noted by another knitter on Ravelry. I hadn’t even made a mistake. I hope I have taken this lesson to heart.

Fortunately I was able to take this mess and without much trouble get from here

Woobie mess

Good kitty

to here

Keira and woobiea

and finally, all ends well….









Ears could easily be made to look more like cat ears by attaching more of the back side of the ears to the head to shorten them and push them forward; however, recipient insisted Ruby Kitty was fine as is and would not release her for cosmetic touch ups or the addition of whiskers.

Technique notes:
Tips (not a how to; you can google that) on working a crochet-chain provisional cast on when there are a lot of stitches (technique allows for interruptions or breaks):

  • for waste yarn, use smooth cotton string (comparable to lace-weight yarn in thickness)

  • using waste yarn and crochet a lose chain of 5 or more stitches than required for the cast on

  • use a crochet hook that is at least 1 gauge higher than project’s knitting needles

  • when ready to remove waste yarn and knit with live stitches, place provisionally cast-on stitches on a dpn (smaller gauge than using for project) 20 or 30 at a time to begin working with stitches.

Using cotton string makes it easy to see the crocheted chain and where to insert the hook or needle for casting on stitches. It’s also easy to unzip the chain and leaves no fuzz behind.

Note on short rows: have never knit short rows w/o either a wrap & turn or a “shadow” stitch. Pattern directions could have been clearer on “knit in the stitch below,” i.e. which stitch below? The right side of Ruby Kitty’s head looks good; the left side is pitiful.