Wow! I love how many of you are truly interested in this article series! Thank you again for all the positive feedback. I have loved getting to know our little community of crocheters a bit better from your messages, comments and emails!
In this series I am talking about how I crochet to earn extra income without running an actual business. In Part One, I talked about the differences between running your own crochet business vs. working for a paycheck, I shared the story about how I found my teaching job, and I also touched briefly on some crochet certifications you can take if you want to expand your teaching skills.
In Part Two, I talked about how I write course descriptions and plan lessons. I also shared some of my successes and failures in planning classes and provided some FREE .pdf documents that you can print and use if you ever decide to try teaching.
If you are just finding this series now, I highly recommend you start with Part One here and read on through. It will make a lot more sense that way ;)
In this third (and final?) article, I want to share my tips for teaching including: how to start a class, the different types of students I have encountered, and some common challenges that students have and how I handle them. I have also gotten a lot of interest from fellow lefties out there (I am also left handed) about how to handle teaching right handed students. I will have also include information on how I teach the “other-handed” students. Just read on :)
I am a casual crochet teacher. I do not have any actual training or certification, and I have designed and taught my courses based solely on trial and error. I am happy to say that I have had nothing but positive feedback on my courses, but that doesn’t mean that I have done everything perfectly and it certainly doesn’t mean that how I teach is the only way to do it. This information is just provided to get your head thinking about teaching as a possibility for you and to provide you with one crochet teacher’s perspective. I will be completely honest in this post and try to tell you everything I have learned along the way.
Now on to Part Three!
Starting a Class:
So you took my advice and planned your class ahead of time, right?? The more I teach, the more I realize how important it is to go into your class having a good, solid plan. Truthfully, aside from my course description and pattern that I am teaching, I don’t write out any official “lesson plan”. Although you certainly could! I just make sure I go to my class with the project/pattern fresh in my mind, and I also like to review the handout information so I know exactly what I will be handing them.
Walking into the classroom though…UGH! My first several times teaching I got SO NERVOUS! I was an overly conscientious student in school, and this personality trait is no different for me in adulthood. I want to do everything so perfectly that sometimes it is crippling. So the process of walking in to a class to teach 8 strangers how to crochet for the very first time was nauseating at best.
When all you have to say as an introduction is “Hi, I’m Megan, I crochet a lot and own too much yarn. You’re my first class!” it feels a little intimidating. I started teaching before I started designing/blogging, so I know I how scary it can feel when you have no special title or certification. To be honest, I still have no special title. Now in my classes I introduce myself as a SAHM/Crochet Blogger and I get a lot of puzzled looks.
But let me remind you-you know how to do this! You know how to crochet! Teaching is just sharing it with others. Most of the time they are brand new beginners, so you most definitely have some knowledge that you can pass on to them :) Getting over the fear of teaching my first classes was a challenge for me but, like with most things, the more practice I had the easier it got!
Setting the Tone for Your Class and Getting Everyone Started
What kind of class do you want to teach? This is something that is worth giving a little thought before you walk into your first class. Teaching styles for any subject can range from very formal to very casual and teaching crochet is no different.
I am what I consider to be a “casual” crochet teacher. Meaning, I don’t come in with a formalized lesson plan or even with an expectation of how much the students will learn that day. My motto in teaching crochet is “flexibility, flexibility, flexibility”. At first this went against the grain of my “conscientious” nature, and as I am also moderately “Type A” I usually like to have things planned out!
But I found that, at least in my experience, having a written plan and specific schedule doesn’t really work for teaching something that everyone will inevitably learn at a different pace.
When I start a class, this is my general starting format:
- Brief introductions: I like everyone to share their name, whether they have previous experience crocheting or knitting, whether they are right or left handed, and whatever else they want to share.
- I talk briefly about the project we will be making and what kind of stitches/techniques we will cover
- I go over the handouts (see samples in Part Two here). I just briefly talk about each one so that the students know what they have in front of them.
- If the students are interested, I talk a little bit about the yarn/hook I had them bring (fiber, weight, uses, etc) Some groups are more interested in this than others.
- After we are done going over the basics, I start by teaching the whole class how to tie a slip knot and demonstrate how to do chain stitches.
This is where my official “plan” ends. Once the students pick up the hooks and start practicing, my job turns into walking laps around the group and helping them with what they need. People learn and pick up on crochet at such different rates, it is nearly impossible to keep everyone going at the same pace once they start to work.
A few notes on my teaching style:
- I DO NOT teach how to read patterns right away. In my experience it is just too much information overload. I always provide a pattern as well as a handout that talks about how to read one because I really do think pattern reading is an important skill to have, but I don’t cover it right away and with some students I don’t cover it at all. I provide the info, and once the students have some stitches practiced I start showing them the pattern and pointing out how to interpret it. Some students are very interested and want to know more. Some students are just totally overwhelmed with trying to hold their yarn and get their tension down and don’t want to learn about patterns yet. That’s ok too! My job is to provide the information and run an informative and enjoyable class. For some that will include learning to read a pattern and for some it will not.
- I DO like to talk about tension right away, and I encourage my students to practice getting even tension in their chain stitches before progressing on to any other crochet stitch.
- I “go with the flow” on a student by student basis. Some students will go very fast and others will go very slow. No matter how they are doing, I always make sure to offer encouragement and let them set their own pace. If a student wants to progress to their next row even though they haven’t perfected their tension-that’s fine! If a student wants to spend an entire night perfecting chain stitches-that’s ok too!
- After the first class, I encourage students to come back with questions! Whether aboutd pattern they are interested in or just questions about the project we are completing. I never require “homework” but some people like to work on their project over the week until the next class.
Types of Students:
I have experienced several types of crochet students in my classes. I’m sure there are more, but these are some common ones that I have come across in my classes so far. People can certainly fall into more than one of these categories as well! I am writing these to be a bit humorous-so don’t take offense! I appreciate all of my students no matter where they fall in these categories :)
- The Over-Achiever: These students are typically very methodical, wanting to get everything just perfect. They may spend a lot of time on their first few rows getting their tension just right and they usually don’t talk a whole lot during class. They may not even make much progress in the first class because of this. Don’t let this fool you! They will come back to the next class with a perfectly completed project! This is exactly the reason I like to have “optional extras” planned for my classes.
- The “Just Go With It”: These students are just there for the fun of it! They will crochet, chat, and do everything you show them, but things like tension and stitch count aren’t particularly important. They are just happy to be participating and are ok if their project doesn’t turn out perfectly. When my students make a mistake a few stitches or rows back, my response is always “you can pull out your stitches and fix it, or just go with it”. These students will always “just go with it”. If you (the teacher) are very Type A, you may find these students difficult to teach.
- The Anxious Crocheter: These students seem to be perfectionists that are having a very tough time with crochet. They want to get it just right, but they are running into some kind of challenge (see my common challenges below). Sometimes these students don’t even ask for/want help because they feel like they are failing at it. It is sometimes a challenge to get them past their anxiety and to start enjoying it. A casual atmosphere and specific encouragement of their progress throughout the class helps. Even something as simple as pointing out that their tension has improved can make them feel better about their work.
- The Nervous Crocheter: These students are a lot like the Anxious Crocheter but with one big difference. They want a LOT of help. They want you to stand over their shoulder and tell them exactly where their hook should go throughout every step of every stitch. In a class of multiple students this just isn’t possible. This is exactly the reason I started writing out my stitch descriptions as a handout. That way, whenever they get into a cycle of wanting me to walk them through every stitch of an entire row, I can refer them back to that sheet after helping them with a few.
Common Teaching Challenges
The following is a list of common challenges I have faced when teaching students to crochet and how I work around them:
- Holding the yarn and hook: some students come by this pretty naturally, but for some it is really a struggle! For those who are struggling, I like to demonstrate a few different options for holding the yarn and hook. If one position isn’t working for them at all, I ask them to try a different position. And above all, I stress choosing a position that feels comfortable and relaxing to the hands, and that it really just takes practice and “getting used to it”.
- Tension: Nearly all students (except for those sneaky perfectionists!) will start with tension either too loose or too tight. I usually have students practice their tension on chain stitches before moving into any other stitches. If they are really struggling I will give them a larger or smaller hook to see if that helps them get closer.
- Counting stitches: Since I do bring a specific pattern for the students to work on, I do encourage them to learn to count their stitches. This is something they forget to do A LOT. If someone is really struggling with losing/gaining stitches, I will give them stitch markers to use. It really depends on the student and how much they care. The “Just Go With It” students usually do exactly that and don’t care to count their stitches exactly. The Perfectionists will want you to check and double check their work. For the students who want to get their stitch counts perfect, it is important to show them how to count their stitches and also their rows. That way, when you aren’t there to help them, they will know what they are looking for.
- Doing the stitches for them: this is more of a challenge from the perspective being a teacher! About 20 times in every class, I find myself wanting to take the students hook and complete a stitch for them or put it in the loop it is supposed to go. This is not particularly helpful to the student! If I find myself reaching for their project, I stop myself and instead I will demonstrate with my own hook and yarn instead of using theirs. Their hands really have to do their own work if they want to learn!
- Some students just don’t get it and because of that they don’t enjoy it. As a teacher, you can demonstrate and encourage as much as possible, but sometimes you will have a student that doesn’t come back. This has happened to me more than once. The first few times it felt like failure, but really I don’t think it is! Crochet just isn’t for everyone, and I don’t want to force anyone into it. This is why I like to keep my classes short and inexpensive. If someone realizes that crochet just isn’t their forte, at least they aren’t out much!
Teaching “the other hand”
Hey left-y crocheters! Raise your hand it you feel like being left handed as a crocheter is practically a disability. Holy cow, I do! Or at least I did. It was my biggest hesitation in deciding to teach crochet and it was my biggest hesitation in deciding to design crochet patterns. I still find myself feeling apologetic when I film video tutorials!
But the reality is, being left handed is NOT a problem. It really isn’t. If you are a crochet teacher (whether left or right handed) you will inevitably teach someone who is different from you. Here are are my thoughts and advice on the topic:
- Teach sitting across from the other person. That way the hands are somewhat “mirrored”
- Teach sitting next to the other person in front of a mirror. This produces the same “mirrored” effect.
- Demonstrate the stitches with the students preferred hand. This is what I do most often. I am not fast at crocheting right handed, and my tension isn’t as nice, but I can do enough to show the students if they need to see it right handed. Remember, they are brand new beginners and they will not notice the imperfections that you see.
- Above all-remember that you are teaching their hands to do the work. I demonstrate just a little bit but most of my teaching is instructing my students where their hook should go. I probably only crochet about 5% of the total class time.
Like almost everything in life, teaching crochet can be rewarding and challenging all at the same time. Most of the time I love it and sometimes it’s tough! Thank you for sticking around with me through my ramblings-I hope you have found it helpful, inspiring and/or informative.
And THERE. YOU. GO. Phew! You have now officially completed my unofficial “How To Teach Crochet” tutorial :) If you do decide to teach, come back here and share your experiences with me! I am always looking for new methods, advice and tricks!
Don’t forget that my “primary” crochet gig is my blog. You can find all of my free crochet patterns here :) If you like my blog, any social media follow (Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest), newsletter sign-up, affiliate link purchase or Ravelry like is SO appreciated and helps me to continue publishing free crochet patterns.