Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Privilege to Teach New Knitters

The last four weeks I have been teaching a beginning knitting class at the Fiber Factory in Mesa, Arizona.  I teach mostly intermediate to advanced classes, but every now and again, I have the privilege of teaching beginning knitting.  I am always struck by how much I love teaching new knitters.  Teaching is such a passion for me, no matter what the level of knitter.  However, there is something so special about introducing students to our wonderful world.

Beginning classes usually have an assortment of students at various levels of "beginning".  Often I will have one or two students that learned to knit either when they were young, or a few years previous, but either got discouraged, or felt unsuccessful.  Then I will have rank beginners.  Those students who have never even held the needles in their hands before.

The students who have knitted before, always come into the class so convinced they will NEVER learn how to knit.  Either someone tried to teach them or they tried to learn on their own.  Whatever they did something went wrong leaving them frustrated.  I am always so happy to have these students in my class because I know they can knit.  With a little time and patience, they will master the needles and yarn and by the end of the four weeks will be producing knit and purl swatches!  It's so fun to watch the aha moments - this is how you hold the needle and yarn? - oh, you mean you don't put the needle into the back of the stitch? - is this all there is to it?  - I'm actually knitting?!

New students are also so fun to watch.  I always tell my brand new knitters that holding the needles and yarn and trying to manipulate everything is like being a right handed writer your whole life and then suddenly, having to write with your left hand.  Seasoned knitters forget how weird it felt when they started and how inept we all felt.  I want students to know that I know how they feel, and that they will get over it.  By the end of the first two hours they are knitting and usually will have produced several rows of knitting.  They are overjoyed!  They are now knitters.

My goal, by the end of four weeks, is to have everyone in the room work in both the knit and purl stitch confidently.  Generally speaking, we achieve at least this much in the class.  As a teacher that is what I am paid to do.  But, as a knitter, it is so much more than that.  It is imparting this love to someone else.  To watch them come to class with patterns they want to knit - after "they get better".  To see them excited about new yarns and new stitch patterns.  To see them finally being able to master something they really didn't think they could.  The pleasure of watching those same new knitters planning their first project.  The joy in watching women and men share with each other and  becoming friends.

Teaching knitting is not, nor ever should be "a job".  It is a rare privilege. Please tell me your experiences teaching someone how to knit or the experiences you had learning how to knit.

Mary Glendinning

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