Monday, August 10, 2009

Teaching thinking knitters...

I'm having such fun right now! A new LYS has opened up right down the road from my home, and I'm happily teaching my first knitting class in almost a year. Socks are fun to teach, fun to learn, and such a wonderful summer project! I have five wonderful students, all at different stages of their knitting life, and they're providing both a challenge and a camaraderie that I've been missing recently. Work has just been interfering too much with my fiber life!

I'm a bit of a shock to these lovely knitters in several ways - hopefully a pleasant shock, but nonetheless a shock. I announced first that we wouldn't be using a pattern for their socks - they would have to create their own pattern. At least two of the students had taken the class specifically because it would include design elements, and the newest knitter is wonderfully courageous, so that's settled. Next was the announcement that I didn't care what knitting method they used; any system that gets a knitted fabric is fine with me.

We talked about fiber. My Fiber 101 lecture has been given here before, so I won't repeat. Some of these students have been knitting for decades, but strictly by pattern, and know surprisingly little about the raw stuff of yarn itself. One of my goals for this class is to teach them how to intelligently choose a fiber. Yes, this is a sock class - but this is basic information that all knitters should learn, and too many of them don't! Superwash has different characteristics than untreated wool, nylon and acrylic blends have yet other characteristics, and a good gauge swatch will tell you so much more than you think at first glance!

The next shock? Measuring their foot as an aid to assist in creating the sock design. The difference in six (with my own) individual feet was a surprise to everyone in this time of standardized sizes. Almost everyone will have a different cast-on number, some will need to decrease down the leg, others will need additional gusset decreases to fit properly...light bulbs started to pop, and I became almost giddy!

The final shock for this class? To look at their gauge swatch as a method of playing with different design elements. Swatching as play? Absolutely! It's the best place to try out the different ribbings you might want to use, see how those flow into the leg patterning you want, see how things change between the patterning and the stockinette you'll use on the bottom of the foot, check out if your stitch pattern will show up in the yarn...of course you're playing!

Many thanks to Sandy and Robin for opening Clinch River Yarn Company - a lovely haven for knitters in the East Tennessee area. Please visit their website at for directions, hours, class schedules, newsletters and updates. New yarns are arriving for fall, new classes are being formed, and a welcoming, peaceful fiber oasis is in the process of creation. Please stop by - they would love to meet you! My thanks to them for giving me an opportunity to do what I love most - teaching!


Rosemary said...

This sounds like an excellent class! It's what I try to do, but I've discovered that the 5 people in the world who want to know it are signed up for your class!

Teach them to "read their knitting" and to know the back of the stitch from the front, no matter how the stitch is mounted on the needle and then tell me about it, so that I can die happy.

Keep up the great work! What fun your class must be!

PJ Kite said...

Rosemary, I have no desire to attend a memorial service, so I didn't tell you that we covered this - OK? Not surprisingly, it was another "ah-ha" moment...

Anna from Holland said...

my stage of knitting life would be that of 'toddler' I guess, but this is exactly how I tought myself knitting sock. Wish I could have taken your class.

Now I'm learing myself spinning in much the same way. Have just spun great dk weight for a vest which turns out to be lace. Learned this after swatching all weekend. :s
babysteps babysteps. And thicker singles.

great meeting your blog :)
Anna/snorrepot on rav

Patty Hite Nabinger said...

Hello --
I just "found" your site and I can appreciate your approach to teaching someone to knit. A few people (adults) have come asked me to do a beginning knitting class, but I have never done a class, just taught on a one on one basis. So I was thrilled to find your site and read about how to go about teaching a knitting class. I myself am an advanced intermediate knitter and knit the continental or European style.

We live in a remote part of Alaska, so depend on mail/internet to get us supplies and information. I am interested in you Fiber 101 lecture and to possibly share it with those here interested in learning. Would you be willing to share it with me for this purpose? Our community is small, about 120 people. Knitting is a wonderful winter activity to do around the wood stove! I am just finishing up a knitted grocery tote made from recycled cotton for my daughter for Christmas.

Patty N.

PJ Kite said...

Patty, I don't have a problem with sharing the class content as long as you give me credit. Shoot me an email at and I'll send it back to you as a PDF.

Patty Hite Nabinger said...

Oh thank you! And I most assuredly will give you the credit. This will help me get the class off the ground sooner.

Patty N.
Cozy in Alaska!