What I’ve Learned About Teaching Crochet

What I’ve Learned About Teaching Crochet

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A few months ago I posted about my plans for running my first crochet workshop.  I was full of brilliant ideas: I’d taught another librarian to crochet so that she could help out with teaching newcomers; I’d put together a list of resources my students could refer to after they left; I was bringing along my own crocheting project so that in between helping people I could work on something exciting, to show how cool crocheting can be once you’ve mastered the basic stitches.

That workshop didn’t go exactly as I had envisioned it.  It was still a success, I think; we had something like 10 people show up to learn how to crochet, and all of them had made more than one row of single crochet stitches by the time they’d left.  Here’s what didn’t go to plan:

  1. We’d bought a lot of regular crochet hooks, plus a limited supply of ergonomic crochet hooks that were meant for people with limited dexterity.  It seemed like a brilliant idea, but it turns out that everyone wanted the ergonomic hooks.  In retrospect, of course everyone wants the ergonomic hooks; why wouldn’t you?  Even if you don’t have trouble gripping small crochet hooks, a larger hook is still going to be easier and more comfortable.  The practical questions for the library become: Can we afford ergonomic hooks for everyone?  If not, how can we ensure that ergonomic hooks are available for those who truly need them?  Particularly since you can’t necessarily tell just looking at someone that they need the ergonomic hook.  I don’t actually have answers for those questions yet, but they’re on my mind.
  2. I’d trained another librarian to help out with teaching people crochet basics, yes, but I hadn’t accounted for the fact that she had other responsibilities to deal with while I focused on crocheting.  There were definitely moments during the crochet workshop when I wished that I had another helper devoted solely to crocheting!  Because of the very informal nature of our event, participants were coming and going almost constantly.  That meant that I never managed to have two learners in the same stage of mastering crochet at the same time.  I spent the whole session bouncing around, teaching someone to make a slip knot here, someone else to do double crochet there, then back over to teaching someone to chain.  I definitely did not spend any time working on my own crochet project that night!  Fortunately my students were great about passing on what they had just learned to the people around them, so that many participants ended up learning from their fellow students instead of from me.
  3. Because I spent the whole time running around helping individuals with different skills, I didn’t actually remember to turn on the projector and show anyone the resources I’d put together to help them continue learning after they left the session.  So much for that idea!
  4. Although my new crocheters were wonderful about teaching what they’d just learned to the people around them, I hadn’t anticipated the wide social divide between college faculty/staff and students.  I’d been so excited that both students and faculty/staff had expressed interest, and so sure that we were going to get some intergenerational learning going on!  In practice, though, the students sat at one end of a long table, and the faculty/staff members sat on the other side, and the two groups didn’t mix at all until the very end when most people had left.  The fact that they *did* mix at the end gives me hope that maybe if we keep meeting, that divide will go away with time… and several participants *did* express an interest in having another crochet workshop.  Now I just need to figure out how to schedule that, and hope that as they get familiar with each other, students and faculty/staff will be more willing to interact.
  5. Slip knots.  I had no idea that slip knots were so foreign and challenging to so many people!  I didn’t lose anyone over that skill at my crocheting workshop, but in the weeks since, I’ve taught crocheting at several more general maker events.  My own method of tying a slip knot using my crochet hook induces fear and panic in many beginners, so I’ve moved on to trying to teach them to tie it with their hands–but a lot of people still struggle to the point where I feel like I’m close to losing them.  At that point I usually end up making the slip knot for them so that they’ll stick around, even though I feel pretty strongly that they need to learn to do it themselves.  This video teaches slip knots in a slightly different method than I use myself, so I’m thinking I’ll try that out next… but I’m open to suggestions.  Does anyone have any tips for taking the mystery and fear out of slip knots?
  6. Holding their work.  I am continuously surprised at how many people struggle with how to hold their crocheting.  I thought that holding the yarn would cause problems, but that part seems to be going pretty well; it’s holding what they’ve already completed that my learners seem to be struggling with.  At a mini maker faire recently, I had a young girl who was doing really well with her first couple of rows, after which for some reason she changed how she was holding her work and could no longer figure out where to put her hook to make a stitch.  She was *very* uninterested when I tried to show her how much easier her life would be if she held the crocheting differently, and she ended up deciding that crocheting was too hard and she didn’t want to do it.  It was one of the most discouraging moments I’ve had while teaching crocheting.  I always thought that telling someone to pinch the work with their left thumb and middle finger just below where they want to stitch, and remember that you work from right to left, would be enough–but apparently I’m wrong.  Any crocheters have tips on how to get learners to hold their work in a way that won’t drive them to quitting?  I hate losing a new crocheter to a problem that ought to be so easy to fix!

For all of that, I’m actually very pleased overall with how many crocheters both new and old we’ve been seeing at our library’s maker events.  Possibly my favorite thing was when one of my new crocheters brought along her friend who’d been crocheting for a while already.  I got to help that friend with reading crochet patterns, which got everyone looking through Ravelry at all the cool patterns that are freely available.  You could feel the new crocheters getting even more excited as they realized all the possibilities for things they could make with their new skill.  It was a really great moment.

Have you ever taught someone to crochet?  How do you keep learners going when they get frustrated with the fundamentals?  I’d love to hear your experiences; drop a comment below or tweet us @makerbridge.

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