Divine Bird

I believe in a high-fiber diet…like wool, alpaca, cashmere…

Tips for New Knitting Teachers

This is based on a reply I made to a new knitting teacher on Ravelry. I may add to it occasionally as I think of new things, but here are a few suggestions:

1. Don’t force your students to hold the yarn or needles a certain way. They’ll figure out what’s best eventually.

2. Don’t be concerned with tension unless they’re REALLY loose or REALLY tight. Even my adult students have to get the motions down before they can work on tension, too.

3. Start everyone with straight needles, sizes US7-10, and a plain, worsted-weight wool or wool blend yarn. I suggest straights because many new knitters prop or support one needle while working with the other. There are some folks who will say this is ‘wrong’, but frankly, I started out doing that and worked up to managing both needles without support eventually. For about two months, though, I would have the right hand needle propped up on my leg while I moved the left needle. You can’t really do that with circs, and people trying this for the first time may be frustrated by the inability to focus on one side or the other. The yarn I suggest makes it easy to see the stitches, is easy to rip back, and tends to be easy to find.

4. Check with designers when you use their patterns. Patterns such as the Knitted Bunny from Heartstrings Designs are FABULOUS first projects, but please check with Jackie E-S (or whoever designed the pattern you want to use) to make sure it’s ok to use in class. They will almost assuredly say yes, but many designers request that you ask before using their patterns in public. This is a good rule to follow in general. If you’re not sure of the pattern’s status, please check with the designer or else choose another pattern. It’s one thing if they offer it for free for personal use, but if you’re going to be sharing or printing multiple copies, the designers often just want to be informed. (Not starting a copyright debate here, just sharing my experience with that specific pattern.)

5. Have fun! Share with your students your reasons for why knitting is so much fun. Talk a little about the history–esp. if there are boys or men present, as knitting guilds were once men-only, for instance. Ask them if they’ve ever looked at their t-shirts or socks to see how the fabric is different on each side. Most people who are new to textile work don’t believe me that their t-shirts are the same kind of fabric they’re making until I point it out to them and compare to a swatch or something I’ve made. It’s great to see that ‘Oh WOW’ moment!

6. Adjust to your students. If they all pick up on the knit stitch right away, maybe cut that portion of the lesson in half and get into purling a bit earlier. Try not to go faster than your slowest student, but keep the others knitting if there’s one who needs a bit of extra help. Even downtime can be used for practice.

7. Make a lesson plan that mentions all the topics you want to cover, then break it down into what you NEED to cover. Often, classes will take a direction you don’t expect. For instance, the students need more or less time than you allotted for a certain technique. You may not be able to get into one of the finer points you planned if they take longer than usual to learn something, so keep in mind what they must know in order to get something out of the class (I have cut out colorwork at times in my basic class, simply because we spent extra time on increases and decreases). On the other hand, perhaps you find yourself with a bunch of overachievers and two more sessions you need to fill. If you’ve reached the limit of what you can teach, then plan a project using the techniques you taught in class. If you think your students are up for learning more (and you’re up to the task), then get into more complicated work. The lesson plan will keep you on track and a list of suggested topics can help fill out any extra available time.

8. Be available. I invite my students to join me at SnB nights, and will often help them with whatever we were working on in class if they need it. You can do this or choose not to, based on how you run your class or get paid. For me, I ask for them to buy me a coffee if they want the extra help. ;)

You’ll do fine. I was horribly nervous my first time teaching, and I was YOUNGER than my students by about 20 years! No matter what you think you might not know, you’ll still know more than they do. And remember–the class doesn’t always go the same way every time you teach it. Just relax and enjoy the experience. :D

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