Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Teaching is Learning: Holding the Yarn

Teaching a beginning class is a great way to rediscover the process that you went through when you were first learning a craft yourself. It forces you to analyze steps that have become automatic for you and to think about why you do things the way you do them.

For example, how do you tell a beginning knitter how to hold their yarn? Do you initially teach everyone to hold the yarn the same way that you do? What if a beginner has a different dominant hand than you do?

Originally, I learned to knit from a book that showed only the English method of wrapping stitches. I found it to be so slow-going that I just went back to crochet which I found to be faster. Then one day some years later I found a different book that showed continental knitting in which the yarn is held in the left hand as in crocheting. So I tried knitting again and this time I liked it.

The lesson in this is that sometimes a certain method will just not work for someone. So I try to encourage my students to experiment and to think about whether what they are doing is working or whether they might want to try a different approach.

Even within the categories of "English" and "Continental" knitting there are different ways of holding the yarn. Finding your best way is all about experimenting and the willingness to try different things. This experimenting can be augmented by viewing some of the great videos on YouTube that many knitters have posted. Following are two examples.

This first video from stell66 shows great technique for continental style knitting. Note how she holds the forefinger of her left hand very close to the needle. This allows her to knit smoothly with great speed. Watch and see:

And this second video shows both English and Continental styles:

You can learn new methods from watching You Tube videos or by just watching people who are learning to knit.

In my last knitting class, Jack showed me a way of holding the yarn in the left hand with the yarn coming from under the left index finger instead of over it. The method works well to tighten the tension when needed. Melanie, a left-handed knitter who was also holding her yarn in the left hand, needed to focus the primary movement of needles and the picking of yarn to be centered in her left hand and needle. The right needle needed to remain relatively stationary for her. Cynthia, a left-hander using the English method, developed a good regular rhythm throwing the yarn with her right hand.

There are so many ways of knitting and they are all right.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What Rings the Loudest

Ever since the day my boss was buried, I've had a ringing in my ears.  

The sound is different for various sufferers of tinnitus, as this condition is called.  For me, the sound is like a chorus of cicadas (v. Magicicada septendecim) chirping away on a hot summer night.  It is a continual sound that lays over the top of every other actual sound from the outside world.  

At first I thought this was kind of cute because, you see, I have always been fond of the sound of cicadas.  Especially at night.  A month later, the cuteness is wearing off.

An elementary scholar search on Google yielded some good basic information about the onset of this condition (which runs in my family).  It is often initiated by stress or by grief.  It typically doesn't go away and is unresponsive to known treatments.  The psychological makeup of the hearer is key to the successful "treatment", or shall we say "management", of the condition. 

So I'm looking for a good spin on this and have decided to adopt a metaphor to pay attention to what rings the loudest in all areas of my life.

I have been grieving and worrying about what will happen in the work world of my day job, but what rings the loudest for me really, is moving ahead with my business, writing up patterns for new designs, getting more inventory listed in my Etsy store, getting back to blogging, and bravely going out in search of readers who will leave a comment to let me know they're out there.

So, to get started, here's what I've been up to lately:

  • Searching for the perfect beret shape has yielded a flock of berets. Here's is a triplet laying flat like frisbees.
  • Combing the Internet for a head mannequin that doesn't cost an arm and a leg in order to photograph my hats is a top priority. 
  • Bead knitting bracelets are fast becoming one of my pastimes, and next March I'll be teaching a bead-knitting class at a LBS (local bead store) to help others catch the contagion.  Here are three jazzy bracelets for partygoers, dancers, or members of a wedding.  
  • Finding others uses for my favorite sock yarn, because I don't really wear handknitted socks much, but love sock yarn.  Coming soon will be some fun patterns to accessorize anything but feet out of Socks That Rock.
  • Getting a new business organized is proving to be an super challenge so, in the spirit of discipline, I've mapped out a detailed weekly plan for getting things done.  It's a good thing I have a lot of hats, because as a new business owner, I sure need them.