Unwind Brighton

I am thrilled to announce that I will be teaching at the newest yarn festival on the block, Unwind Brighton, this summer.

Learn how to make crochet wearable with beautiful drape like this.
Photo by Lightbook Photography

The class and talks list has just been announced and it is absolutely rammed full of amazing people (I just hope some people choose my classes with all the amazing other choices!) If you love yarn then you are in for a HUGE treat at this event.

I will be teaching two crochet workshops – “Vintage Style Lace Edgings” and “Making Crochet Wearable” the latter being a class specifically developed for Unwind.

Registration for the classes has just started as I type so hurry on over and book your slots!

A New Year, a new challenge

Botanic Garden Project – photo credit Louise Stubbings

Throughout most of 2013 I led a team of wonderful Cam City WI ladies to create a beautiful display in the Cambridge University Botanic Gardens for the Festival of Ideas (blogged here). I enjoyed the project immensely as it was an opportunity for me to play with crochet in a way that wearables don’t allow, to experiment with stitches for effect and purpose. Seeing the team grow in skill (from complete beginners in many cases), grow in confidence, form new and enduring friendships and produce some of the most amazing crochet art I have ever seen was my highlight of 2013.

This work has led to another exciting opportunity. I have been asked to lead a team to create large screens to be displayed in a garden for the Chelsea Flower Show. The garden designer, Paul Herrington, has a wonderful vision for the screens and I am bubbling full of ideas to explore with the team. We are working with the charity Squeaky Gate to create a garden to create awareness of Mental Health issues.

We are looking for more volunteer team members. You’ll need to be able to get yourself to the outskirts of Cambridge (near the Science Park) every Wednesday morning from 9am until noon between January and the start of May. We can take everyone from complete beginners through to experienced crocheters and, whatever level you start at, you can be sure that your skills will improve over the months.

If you can’t commit to the Wednesday mornings but are local and would like to be involved then let me know as I’m hoping to organise some evening crochet bees too (We have a lot of crochet to create! About 20 sq m!)

I am also looking for any yarn companies who might read my blog to get in touch if you would like to sponsor us by donating yarn for the project and for bloggers and press coverage nearer the time to shout from the roof tops about the project.

Please leave a comment with a way to get in touch with you if you’d like more details about the project.

(With many thanks to Willow Wanderer for putting Paul and I in touch.)


TIDKT: Teaching

A little later than normal but here is this week’s Things I didn’t Know post. (For other posts in the series click here)

Teaching a beginners class at The Sheep Shop – image by Sarah Clark

This week I have been thinking a lot about teaching as I plan my teaching schedule for next year. Local peeps will be pleased to know that I have lots of classes booked in at The Sheep Shop in Cambridge with some brand new classes planned for Spring/Summer.

I also hope to teach at some other venues next year a bit further away so I’ve put together a brochure of my workshops and sent it to some other yarn shops in East Anglia. Fingers crossed. (If you are a yarn shop owner or a festival organiser or a craft venue and you’d like to see it then please drop me an email.)

Teaching has been an unexpectedly vital part of designing for me. I find that regularly teaching beginners and intermediate crocheters and knitters reminds me of what problems they face in reading my patterns and helps me to ensure that the patterns I write give the right information for the level they are designed for.

So what have I learnt since I first started teaching crochet back in November 2011?

  1. Have a lesson plan and an objective set for every lesson – actually no, have THREE:
    1. what you want EVERY attendee to leave knowing,
    2. what the average student will leave knowing, and
    3. what the speedy learner will leave knowing.
  2. Plan lots of extension activities for faster learners but do not try to cover too much. I try to have 10 to 20 minutes at the end of each class for working without instruction so the students can make sure they have the hang of the techniques taught and plenty of time to ask questions if they haven’t.
  3. Make sure you know how to teach left handers – you will get way more than the national average in your classes as they are the ones who will struggle most to pick it up from books and videos which are normally aimed at right handers.
  4. Make a good handout for each class that reminds the class what you have covered. This will help people practice their new skill and make sure what they learnt in class is possible at home.
  5. Be kind, patient and encouraging – this is leisure learning, people joined the class to pick up a new hobby and to have fun. Knitting and crochet classes must above all be FUN.
    Students should leave feeling empowered to continue learning at home. Point out the progress they have made if they are feeling bad about being one of the slowest in the class. Picking it up quickest doesn’t necessarily mean being the best in a years time – they need to know this.
  6. BUT be strict enough to ensure that they know the rules to follow for the best outcomes when they do improve even if they can’t follow them just yet. For instance I don’t expect students to be able to work consistently into a chain in the beginners class but they need to know the theory and that its what to aim for otherwise it will slow their progress to beautiful projects.
  7. Know your subject matter really well. Research around the topic deeper than you plan to go in the lesson because you never know what questions will crop up. If you don’t know be honest and offer to get back to them. And be prepared to learn things from your students!
  8. Refine your classes – review after each class which sections worked well, what wasn’t so good and make notes to improve it for next time.
  9. Encourage repeat business and word-of-mouth business – a large part of my success has been in having a lot of students return to learn more and a lot of word-of-mouth referrals.
    Points 4 and 5 especially will go along way towards making a really positive experience and getting them knitting or crocheting at home (people who give it up after the lesson don’t need to come back to learn more)
    Remember they can’t come back and they can’t tell a friend if they don’t know when or where. All my handouts have a list of upcoming classes and a link to my website – you might choose to have them sign up to a newsletter – let them have a way to find you again whatever it is.
    Interacting with students on twitter and facebook is part of the joy of teaching for me – I love when they let me know about the progress they are making and I have made some wonderful new friends this way too.
  10. ALWAYS have cake or biscuits. Always. A very important part of the learning process.
my first class two years ago

PS it was lovely to look back on the blog posts about the early lessons – some of the students are still utterly hooked on crochet and making really amazing stuff now. And that is what it is all about really!

Botanical Crochet

I am really excited to announce that this week marks the opening of my very first crochet art installation!

A work in progress – photos by Louise Stubbings.

About this time last year I was approached by Cambridge University Botanic Garden Community Education team to ask whether I would be willing to lead a group from the newly formed CamCity WI to create a crochet display for the 2013 Festival of Ideas. A group of willing and eager volunteers was formed and we have been meeting at the gardens once a month throughout 2013 to plan and execute the project.

Concentrating hard at one of the early meetings.

When we first met at least 60% of the group had very limited or no crochet skills. Our first task was to teach them the basics and within three months of that first meeting they passed on their new skills to the whole WI group at the March meeting where we made lichen for the display.

Once the lichen was underway the team broke into smaller groups to work on trailing plants (focusing on those found in arid environments)

Part of the lichen mat – photo by Louise Stubbings.

As you can see from the photos, this isn’t a typical yarn bomb, there is no granny square bunting or cutesy flowers. These are well researched crochet, largely botanically correct imaginings of the plants. (Each is being displayed with its own embroidered Latin name plate!) The group researched their plants online and by talking to botanists.

It has been an amazing experience to see the rapid learning take place that has allowed these ladies to design and create these beautiful crochet sculptures. I feel very privileged to have worked alongside them, guiding them to this point and watch them blossom in this craft.
Katie (who didn’t crochet before) proudly holding her work (epiphyllum anguliger don’t you know!)
If you are close enough to Cambridge (UK) I do hope that you will come along and see this amazing display. It opens on Thursday 24th October 2013 and runs through to Sunday 3rd November at the Cambridge University Botanic Gardens in the glass houses (ask at the ticket office for directions) Usual opening times and entry prices apply. (As it is free for children it would make a great half term day trip!)
There is a Meet the Makers event from 2-4pm on Saturday 26th October where you can meet some of the team (including me) who made the display.

As this post replaces my usual Things I Didn’t Know Tuesday post here are three things the project has taught me:

  1. I can do art – I always felt that my crochet (and knitting was more practical than creative) but this has shown me that it is purpose not skill that makes something art rather than craft.
  2. I can teach large groups of beginners – 7 was the largest group I taught before this project but I coped successfully with many more.
  3. Being able to teach someone to do something you love and watch the joy on their face as they begin to love it is such a privilege. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to teach.
If you haven’t already, do hope over and enter my giveaway courtesy of Katya Frankel.

New Class List is Up

Crochet and knitting classes run from my Burwell home from April to June are now available here 

Come along, spend an enjoyable morning and learn a new skill.