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    Entries in teaching (2)


    Learning crochet

    Crochet took me forever to get the hang of. Seriously, it took me about a year. I just couldn't 'see' it. I was a good knitter when I tried to learn and was used to being able to see the patterns in knitting. I was knitting a lot of fairly complex lace, and could see where I made a mistake and could generally work out a way to fix it without having to rip out hundreds of stitches to do it. So crochet should have been a doddle, right? Wrong! I couldn't see where the stiches should go, couldn't work out how many stitches I'd even done.

    I went on a workshop, and kind of managed it while the teacher was there. She was charming, a very skilled crocheter and did a good job of showing the different basic stitches and what they could be used for. But it didn't really stick. I could form the stitches but couldn't see where I should put them. It also taught me about the importance of having handouts that people can refer to after the class, and also about having a project to make so that you can continue after the class & not forget what you've learned. So I always try to design a project that will teach the key skills involved, at the skill level that the workshop is targeted for. 

    But even if it's basic, it doesn't need to be boring! So given the challenge of a beginner crochet evening class of only 2 hours, I knew that I wanted to teach chains, double crochet & treble crochet as they are the most commonly used stitches, the building blocks of all the other stitch patterns. And that whatever I made should be consistent so that as long as the students could get the first few rows done in class, they'd be able to continue at home. And so that it doesn't get too repetitive, we can take a break and make a contrast colour flower. 

    There's plenty of opportunity to customise and try things out. I'm hoping this will be a really good class project  - fingers crossed that the students like it as much as I do!


    The Creative Blog Hop

    Last week, Sarah from Crafts from the Cwtch tagged me in the Creative Blog Hop. This is the first time I've done a blog hop, and I'd like to welcome any new readers. It's an interesting idea & I've enjoyed reading other blogs involved. The questions I've been asked are:

    1. What am I working on?
    2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
    3. Why do I write/create what I do?
    4. How does my writing/creating process work?

    I've dithered about how to answer these. I have a post planned about the life cycle of a pattern from submission to magazine publication which kind of covers these, but not quite. So I decided to do that post separately & just answer the questions!

    What am I working on?

    For those of you who don't know anything about me, I knit, crochet, spin & sew. I dabble in other crafts too, but these are the main ones. You can find me on Ravelry as Curvyjax and my designer page is here. I have had knitting & crochet patterns published in various UK magazines for the past 2-3 years. I also teach workshops in knitting, crochet & sewing - in fact that's been the biggest part of my job over the last couple of months.

    I have 3 teen boys (the twins turned 13 yesterday). I'm acutely aware that there are only so many summers left that they will want to spend any time with us, so we've planned a family focussed summer & I'm really looking forward to it! I have workshop planning to do, but that's about it for the summer. I have a 10-week sewing workshop due to start in September at Kingshill House, Dursley, as well as a bag-making workshop to plan. I'm looking forward to both, but feel I should do lots of dressmaking this summer so I'm in the zone for the weekly workshops!

    How does my work differ from others of its genre?

    Wow, that's a tricky one! I'm not sure that it is THAT different. Different people often come up with a remarkably similar design at the same time. Where the differences might come in (apart from photography & yarn choice) are in the writing style & pattern details. Writing easily understood patterns is a craft in itself, and there is a steep learning curve involved.

    Teaching has a lot to do with personality, and how you bring a group together for the duration of the class. When I teach, I always put a LOT of work into the teaching materials & where appropriate I will design a pattern specifically for the class. Designing a pattern that is achieveable but will teach the elements I want to focus on often takes trial & error, so I always make the sample before writing up materials. That way I know which parts benefit from photos, and what tips to give. It's also interesting from a design perspective - to blend the teaching points for a class with a design I will like enough to make again!

    Why do I write/create what I do?

    I've always had a compulsion to create. It has taken many different forms over the years, and I've always had some sort of crafty outlet. At school, I was rubbish at Art - can't draw at all - and dropped it as soon as I could. I was put firmly into the academic category - I was even told I was 'too academic' to do drama at GCSE! In a way, focussing on science at school was good as it meant that my crafty stuff was for me, no deadlines or demands & I could drop it if I was bored! Taking up knitting again about 9 years ago started this path that has lead to me carving out a little designer/teacher niche for myself in the crafty world. In this world, I'm one of the cool kids!! :)

    How does my writing/creating process work?

    Again, this varies depending on the work. When submitting to a magazine, it's a good idea to read the brief & consider how well your idea fits. I tend to make most of my samples myself. So often I'll change things as I go, decide that this decrease works better, or a different technique is more appropriate. I tend to work out a rough draft of a pattern, and amend as I work. The most painful part of the design process is sketching, but I'll often take photos of textures/details of buildings, plants, colours - things that appeal. They tend to swirl together in a kind of mental soup & add different elements into a design. Often, inspiration is distractingly prolific and there are so many ideas that editing them down is the biggest challenge! Other times there's a creativity block & I really need to look through the photos/notes/ attempts at sketches that I've collected. I like Evernote for saving random ideas that might come in handy later, and I tend to use it for writing rough drafts of patterns too. Pattern & workshop writing is done in a considered way & I'll come back to it and edit/re-arrange for clarity. Blog posts are almost the opposite - they tend to be a bit more loose & chatty. I rarely edit my blogs, other than a quick spelling check.

    I love being involved in this creative world. We are becoming so removed from the process of making in so many ways - from buying pre-packaged food to cheap mass produced clothes & homewares. The internet is a wonderful thing, but it makes us less patient, more demanding. Making things by hand connects us with our individuality, forces us to wait and to appreciate.  

    As part of the blog hop, I get to tag a couple of bloggers to take part. I've chosen two favourites, Rachel at PorposeKnits and Jen at Tea & Knitting.

    Rachel is a scientist, designer,spinner, knitter & dyer (I love her dyed fibres) and her blog is intelligent & accessible. She's an American living in London & is a regular contributor to Knit Now too :)

    Jen has just graduated from Uni, and is slightly obsessed with knitting socks. Her blog is very like her - enthusiastic, friendly & very keen on Harry Potter! She's looking for a job now she's no longer a student, and I only wish I could employ her! I hope you enjoy their blogs if you haven't come across them before. Look out for their blog posts next week, and I'm sure they'd love you to say hi xx