28 June 2005

On teaching others to knit

Jenifer commented last week that most of the people she taught to knit have not stuck with it. Among the 45 or so "students" I've had over the past few years, I've had my share of dropouts, too. The first few times I taught an adult how to knit, I was so happy to be sharing something that excites me that I think I overwhelmed them. I also tended to be very rigid. I would insist that the student make a long swatch with garter, stockinette, seed stitch, etc. Then I would teach them about reading patterns, buying yarn, checking gauge -- all before they actually started a project. No wonder I turned them off!

These days, if someone wants me to teach them how to knit I find out why they want to knit and use that to teach them the basic skills. For instance, my current student wanted to learn to knit so that she could make baby gifts for a few of her friends. I started her on a basic diagonal garter stitch baby blanket. She learned the basic knit stitch while still feeling like she was meeting her goal. Also, the boucle yarn she chose was great for hiding her mistakes :-). I've found that the people I teach using a project seem to stick with knitting longer.

This brings me to a question for my fellow knitters. If you are helping a newbie with a pattern that you have never done, do you knit it along with them? The aforementioned student wants to knit the Cleo halter from Knitty. Frankly, I am not always good at visualizing what needs to be done in a pattern without needles and yarn in my hands. This means that I will probably end up knitting a sample Cleo so that I can help her through any problems she has. Of course, I don't think I have any yarn appropriate for the pattern and I am on a yarn diet so this will either be a woolen Cleo or an ugly scrap Cleo. Stay tuned!
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