My favourite crochet class

During the 6 years or so I’ve been teaching knitting and crochet, I’ve tried various classes. Some, I run quite often because there is a demand for them, others, rarely (only when there are enough people interested), and the odd one or two I have changed or just ditched altogether. I’m pleased there aren’t many of those.

In the spirit of February, love and cuddly things, I would like to share my favourite class with you and why I adore it.

Sensational Crocheted Squares was the first ‘real’ crochet class I developed, back in 2011. I know it’s a bit of a mouthful to say, but I’ve resisted changing the name because

1. they are awesome

2. most of the motifs are squares

3. It’s crochet, and if I say ‘crocheted square’, lots of people know what I mean (it’s a classic)

A granny square has a simple, repetitive rhythm, making them perfect to relax with and infinitely soothing – a real zoning out project.

I added other squares and hexagons to the class so that people could learn other techniques in the same course. All of the motifs are very portable and quick, so they are ideal for busy people or people who like to complete one little thing each night.

On a more personal level, I love the Sensational Crocheted Squares course because at it’s heart, I’m passing on the patterns and skills I learnt as a child. It feels great.

One of the things which drew me to crochet was my Great Nanna, with her basket of colourful squares, quickly joining them together as I picked out the next one. It was a warm, cosy holiday in her little cottage, and I learnt things like how to light a coal fire using newspaper (safety first, kids, I must have been about 5!), and what the names of the wildflowers were which grew down the side of the canal.

This reminds me of family history and the interconnectedness of women through the generations. In a sense, the stitches and textiles made form the fabric of our lives, surrounding us, cocooning us and keeping us safe like a magical spell.

I would love to hear your thoughts about how crafts and textiles fit into your life – find me on Facebook at happymakesart or on Twitter at CarryYarnCaro.

Caroline. x

If you are interested in the Sensational Crocheted Squares course, I will have more details soon. Follow me on Twitter!

UK – US Crochet Stitch Conversion Chart with symbols

Something I hear a lot is how it’s so confusing using UK and US crochet terms and stitch names. Let’s face it, when you are a beginner you don’t need to be learning the lingo too.

No more confusion!

Banish those blues!

Here’s a new stitch conversion chart for you (updated from my popular old one). Just save the image, print it in landscape, then flip the paper over and print the other side.

Bingo! You have 3 charts, 1 for your essentials bag, 2 for your mates (or keep them as bookmarks).

Folded, they are less than credit card sized and perfect for keeping in your purse or wallet so you can check the wraps per inch before you buy that impulse yarn, or double check how to make a UK double crochet stitch.

Making the most of craft classes

Caroline's squares class

A short while ago I read an article about how to make the most of knitting, crochet, or other craft lessons, and it got me thinking and reflecting on my own experiences as a teacher and a student. (I’m sorry, I can’t find the article to link to. When I find it again, I will add it).

I meet a wide range of students during classes – some are ultra-organised, only just short of breaking out highlighters (no doubt some of them do at home). Other people roll up late, can’t find the doorbell, or have young kids and sometimes just getting themselves there is an accomplishment. I’m not mocking anyone, I have a secret stationary thing and keep a bullet journal, which helps with the chaos in my head.

Choose a suitable method

Top of my list for making the most of your craft lessons is to make sure the class suits your needs. Yes, that class 10 miles away might look great, but if you have to drop the kids off, can you get there without being flustered? Flustered is never a good look, and you need to ‘have the right head on’ if anything from the class is going to sink in. Also, people learn in different ways. Some people will applaud your efforts, and tell you to look at this website, or use these videos… great, it worked for them, but people have different learning styles.

I won’t go into too much detail, but I studied this when I was looking at learning styles for my PTLLS – some people learn through being shown something, others need it to be explained, others need to do it for themselves, and most people learn through a combination of these methods. You need to understand that that fantastic book just might not work – don’t be disheartened. You are not your friend. You have a different brain (obvs) (my kids hate me saying that).

Anyway, my message – use the resources there for you, pick what works for you. Nothing works sat in a drawer, and sometimes you can’t beat someone sat next to you, pointing “there!”

Caroline's squares class

Check the class details

Before you book onto the class, read up about it. Yes, getting students on a course is great. It’s even better when the students on the course know what is expected of them. For instance, if a course says “You need to be able to do x and y before you start”, and you can’t, do ask before booking on. There’s a reason the teacher has said that – for example class management or time constraints. Personally, I don’t mind helping someone get up to speed before a class, as long as it’s arranged beforehand.

If the course says it involves homework, make sure you will be able to commit to doing work in between classes.

Arrive on time

If you have chosen to take a class, please get there on time. Not an hour early (that might be prep time, the teacher might not have time to chat), not 20 minutes late. Classes start promptly and you might miss something, especially if you are new to the technique. If missing the start is unavoidable, it’s nice to call ahead before the class.

Be organised

The best system I’ve ever seen in a class belonged to my now-friend Rachel. She broke out the plastic pockets and gave each of her samples a pocket, alongside each handout embellished with notes so she can refer back later… sigh. Beautiful stuff. I love it when my handouts are valued. Please write on them. They are working documents for your benefit, not souvenirs.

A few other people have brought different tote bags dedicated to each class. This is clever because you can put the essentials (hook, markers, scissors, pen, etc) in a small makeup bag which can be moved between totes. When you need to work on a project, grab the appropriate tote and your makeup bag.

During the class

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, get clarification and make notes. You will understand more and the teacher will know what level you are working to. For instance, if someone is making good progress and asking clever questions, I will often give them an extra technique to help them out, or include a bit of maths or extra resources.

Write down what you find out (forget what everyone else is or isn’t doing, who cares?) and keep a note of patterns people mention so you can look at them later. Some people track their progress using a notebook (like an art journal).

Afterwards

Write up anything you need to refer to as soon as possible, while it’s fresh in your mind. If your teacher has given you bonus material or references, make a note and schedule the time to visit the website. Do any homework you need to do, otherwise remember to practise.

Some teachers ask for feedback about classes. Sometimes this is required (with Lancashire Adult Learning there was a questionnaire every class), sometimes the teacher is asking for their own benefit. Your opinions help them to refine the course so that it helps future students.

One last thing – many teachers are self-employed. It’s a great help to them if you tell friends when you’ve had a good experience. They might be looking for a class, or might know someone who is, and word of mouth gets around. It’s a very kind thing to do and results in your friend getting an awesome lesson, and the teacher getting an awesome student, so they can continue doing something they love which helps other people.

Enjoy your crafting!

 

Is it Better to Learn to Knit or Crochet?

Knitting and crochet are both popular hobbies for people wanting to make blankets, toys and household items. There are so many inspiring pictures, sometimes it’s difficult for a newcomer to decide which they want to learn. It becomes even more confusing when department stores label clothing inaccurately (grr).

At first, knitting and crochet can look similar – both use sticks and yarn to make fabric. There are differences and you may find that one suits you more or you prefer the results of one craft. Let’s take a look.

Equipment

A knitted fabric is made using yarn and a pair of knitting needles. You hold one needle in each hand, with the yarn typically over the right index finger. Crochet uses the same type of yarn and a single crochet hook. In this case the hook is typically held in the right hand and yarn over the fingers of the left. None of this is set in stone, and people generally find their own, comfortable style. Other equipment you need include scissors, yarn needle, stitch markers and tape measure.

Which is easiest?

That depends. I’ve been teaching for over 6 years, amd in my experience, people seem to just prefer one over the other. Sometimes it’s the one they remember from being a child, or have seen someone do. Sometimes not. Both are great for developing hand-eye coordination. 

Limitations

You may want to consider limitations, for example a wrist injury. Remember though, that this should not be the deciding factor. Some people with quite servers arthritis are able to knit comfortably by resting their hands on a lap pillow at an appropriate height.


Which results do you you like?

I suggest signing up for a free account on Ravelry. Use the search function to browse the Patterns for things you would like to make, and check whether they are knitted or crocheted. Pinterest can also be good for inspiration, but try not to get stuck in there.


Patience or instant gratification?

Crochet has the reputation of growing more quickly than knitting. It’s generally true, although that depends on the project, your skill level and the size of hook and yarn. One big benefit of crochet is that you have one working loop, which makes it easier to put down (if, for example, you need to rescue a small child).

Social and help!

What do your friends do? Are the exclusively knitters, and if so would it bother you to be the odd one out? How much help is available for you at groups and local yarn stores? Whichever you choose, there’s a great online community.

Up to you…

Whether you decide to try knitting or crochet, you can be sure of joining a warm, friendly, worldwide community. You aren’t stuck with knitting or crochet forever either – why not try both! I am happy to arrange a taster session for you and your friends.

#KnitBod 2016

This piece was commissioned by Dr Liz Granger from The Young Scientist Centre at the University of Central Lancashire, Preston, and funded by The Physiological Society.

Our brief was to respond creatively to the problem of having too few activities for younger children at The Young Scientist Centre. After a few sketches, we decided on how we could make an interactive body full of things to play with, to help engage young people and be a learning aid. It was an ambitious project, which we decided to share with some victims wonderful volunteers.

The most tedious part was probably knitting the small intestine, which was proper ‘plodding’ knitting and seemed to go on for weeks. We tried to share it around and I took my intestine out to several cafes and soft play areas during school holidays. The most exciting part was undoubtedly seeing the bodies completed.

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They even decided to drop into our ‘Woolly Thinking’ exhibition at Oxheys Mill Studios!

I was delighted to be involved in this project. All the volunteers, my family, and I learnt things about how our bodies work. If you want to knit your own body, sign up for the Happy Makes newsletter and you can download the patterns for your school or group – Free! Signup here.

*Caroline Finnigan is an artist with studios at Oxheys Mill Studios, Preston. She teaches knitting, crochet and other crafts, enjoys photographing things from strange angles and lives with dotty 2 cats.