Monday, August 17, 2009

The value of crocheting

Every so often, one of my crochet students will realize that it is easier and faster and sometimes even cheaper to go to the store and buy an item instead of making it.

When I was much younger, of course, making a garment was usually cheaper than buying it. But now, the majority of clothing stores try to offer goods at as low a price as they can.

I usually tell these students that I make my own things for a few reasons:
  • I can modify the fit as I am making the garment, so that it fits my specially-shaped body
  • I can use the garment as an expression of my own creativity.
  • It helps to convert potentially time-wasting activities (such as watching tv, waiting for an appointment, being the passenger in a car) into productive activities.
  • I get a sense of accomplishment when I have completed something.

How do you respond to this comment?



Judy Obee
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Monday, August 10, 2009

Class length

I have been seeing several posts at on the subject of class length.

My beginner class is 2 hours, but kind of full: I teach SC, DC, HDC, and Chain in these two hours. In a subsequent 2-hour class, I teach inc/dec/seaming/pattern reading.

Some people offer classes as short as one hour. I figure that some people will take over an hour driving to/from my home.

Although I haven't tried it, I'm thinking that a 3-hour class is too long - the student's attention may start to disappear.

What do you do? Please comment.


Judy Obee
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Handouts and Visual Aids

I do a lot of talking and demonstrating when I'm teaching people to crochet, but the visual learners really need something to take home with them. Here is what I give them.

  1. A handout of the instruction sheets that the Michael's stores use in their classes. I received a whole packet of these sheets from their instructor after I had spent several hours volunteer teaching as part of the Craft Yarn Council of America certification program.
  2. Copies of the Bernat pattern sheets that I use for teaching pattern reading. See the blog entry at
Occasionally, I hand out a schematic of a sweater, to demonstrate where shaping with increases and decreases may be required.

I'm thinking of converting my pattern reading workshop to PowerPoint format. The challenge with this plan is that the typical handout for a PowerPoint slide show is huge, and I'd prefer to only hand out key items. I'm going to have to think about this.

What do you use for handouts and visual aids? Please comment.


Judy Obee
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Monday, July 6, 2009

Pattern Reading resources

When I teach crochet students how to read patterns, I go in detail through 3 different patterns from the Bernat website, I touch on another one, and I also discuss a British pattern. I hand out to the students each of these patterns. When we are talking about the patterns, they can make notes on their paper copy. The Bernat patterns are available for free on the Bernat website.

The first one I teach is the Preemie hat, at This is a simple tube with the top crocheted together and folded in a creative manner. This pattern also has a knitted preemie hat, which I use for teaching knitters how to read patterns as well.

I start with this pattern because it is very simple - no shaping at all. I discuss all of the key points in the header of the pattern (the photo, the skill level, the materials, and the gauge). At this point, I usually show that other patterns have similar information. I discuss gauge relative to garments vs. non-garments. Then I walk through the instructions line by line, and explain what it is saying. This could be the first time that the student has been introduced to circular crochet, so that's a great topic.

The second pattern I discuss is a woman's Deep V Top, at This one uses simple stitches (sc in bk lp, and hdc), but it has some increases and decreases, for the neckline and sleeves. But otherwise it is very simple. I like to talk about this pattern because it introduces multi-sizes and shaping. By the time we have reached the end of the analysis of this pattern, the students really believe that they can make it!

The third pattern I discuss is a baby afghan, at For this project, we are back to a simple shape, but a fancy stitch, the shell. This is the first time that we talk about interpreting a line of instructions with many different kinds of stitches. I usually haul out a pencil and paper and actually draw a basic chart, to show the student what it will resemble. I don't use a standard chart - this pattern just has chs and dcs, so I use a circle for the chains and a straight line for the dcs. Again, by the time we have reached the end of the analysis of the pattern, the students are chomping at the bit to head out to get the materials for it.

I touch on a fourth pattern, baby bib and booties, from I just point out that both the bib and the booties have some simple stitches and shaping. I have already made the booties, so I show them to the students - the booties also feature the ribbing formed by sc in bk lps, as discussed in the Deep V Top above, and the students are excited to see it.

I hand out a photocopy of a British pattern for a simple sweater with some interesting features on it. The basic pattern in British-eze is a repeat of 3 trebles and a chain. The paper that I give the student has a bunch of red felt marker markings on it showing how the tc has to be interpreted as a dc. I have actually made this garment, in a pretty sunny yellow, and that seems to be an inspiration to the students.

Anything to give them the confidence that they will succeed!

What do you do to help students with pattern reading? Please comment!


Judy Obee
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Sunday, June 28, 2009

What kind of yarn?

As I have already noted, I present the brand new crochet student with an already-started piece of crocheted fabric, so that they can bypass the foundation chain and the first few rows.

My understanding is that a beginner should start with a plain worsted type of yarn. Skinnier yarns are too hard to see. Fatter yarns can be difficult to work with, even for an experienced crocheter.

So, I am using up my stash of worsted partial-skeins for new crochet students.

But I am finding that there is some variation even within the plain worsted family.

Some yarns are slippery, some have a lot of friction, and some are just right!

I've been experimenting with giving beginners yarn that has some friction. This yarn doesn't pull through the previous row stitch easily. And it even takes some effort to make a chain stitch, or to do the "yarn-over through 2 loops" that is so common in crochet. The students have to be conscious of the stitch formation, and I think that it will make subsequent projects have the right tension, instead of being too tight.

The downside of using frictitious (ok, I invented that word) yarn is that it is really really easy to crochet too tightly in the class.

I'll keep monitoring the results with various kinds of worsted yarns.

What have been your experiences? Thanks in advance for your comments.

Judy Obee
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How to hold the yarn

When I am teaching someone to crochet, one of the challenges is how to hold the yarn that is about to become a stitch.

The key thing about that yarn is that you want the yarn to be able to move somewhat freely around the left index finger, but not too freely. You must be able to have some tension between the previous stitch on the hook. But if the yarn doesn't move freely on that finger, then the finger just keeps getting closer and closer to the hook, and soon you have to take some time to give yourself more yarn.

I am one who wraps the yarn twice around my left index finger, so that the yarn comes off the side of the finger closest to me. I know that others wind the yarn over the left index finger, under the next two fingers, and over the pinky. I have tried both, and I know that either method provides an appropriate amount of friction (not too much, not too little). But I still prefer my way.

And that is what I teach - unless the person is coming for a refresher course, in which case I let them do whatever they want with the yarn - as long as it moves appropriately.

The one thing that I really watch for in my students is whether they let the yarn get too loose - usually because they are using that index finger to hold onto the crochet fabric. I do make a point of emphathizing with them, joking about how many things you have to think about when you are starting to learn to crochet.

How do you teach your students to hold the yarn?



Monday, June 22, 2009

Where should the student start to crochet?

When someone wants to learn how to crochet, they have a bunch of options, with a wide variation in costs.

There is, of course, the free how-to-crochet websites (including YouTube and its cousins). And the student doesn't have to leave their house to take a lesson.

A student can pick up a book at any good book store. And again, the student can work on learning in the privacy of their own home.

Or the student can sign up for lessons from a real live-and-in-person instructor. The student has to travel, and will probably spend quite a bit more.

So, what value can we instructors provide, to justify the extra effort and cost?

Well, one of the biggest benefits that I provide is that when the student is learning from me, they do not have to start with the foundation chain.

Instead, when they are about to learn their very first stitch, I give them a hook, yarn, and a partially completed piece of crochet. Here is the "pattern" that I use:
  • Ch 11
  • Row 1: Sc across (there will be 10 sc's)
  • Row 2: Sc across
  • Row 3: Sc 3, and leave the rest of the row unworked

By doing the first 3 sc's in Row 3, I avoid any issues associated with where to insert the hook for the first stitch - I talk about that later in the lesson.

So, it is really easy to figure out where to insert the hook for the next sc.

The student gets the feel of how easy it is to insert the hook, because the stitches that I made in the previous row are of the appropriate size and tension. And when the student works Row 4, they may notice the difference between working on my stitches versus working on their stitches.

My curriculum for the first class is as follows:

  • 1/2 hour single crochet
  • 1/2 hour double crochet
  • 1/2 hour half double crochet
  • 1/2 hour foundation chain and single crochet into the chain

I find that there is just so much challenge in working the foundation chain and the first row. I get a lot of feedback from my students expressing appreciation for saving the hardest for the last. So I believe that not only am I on the right track, but I am definitely providing something that cannot be offered by any of the learn-to-do-it-yourself media.