did you swatch first?
I taught a knitting class at the community college. I considered myself an experienced knitter even though self-taught. I thought I could convey what I had taught myself to others. It was also a way to introduce people to the culture of knitting. Knitting has been around as long as there has been fiber to spin into yarn and sticks to make that yarn into fabric.
After some initial hiccups, the students had been showing interest and even some proficiency in the lessons. My teaching style seemed to morph into a conversational sort of discourse not lecturing. After all, who wants to be lectured to when you are learning something as hands-on as knitting?
Halfway through the twelve weeks allotted, we started on design. It is easy enough to work on your own patterns once you have the basics.
Judy had twins at home who wanted matching hats. "Do you think they would like these?" She showed me her sketches. Cute with curli-ques coming out of the top. "They just love anything green. So I'm choosing green wool."
"Oh, well, be sure it's washable. You know they'll mess these up. And be sure it's not too expensive. One or both will surely leave a hat somewhere."
She looked at me with new understanding. A lot of work goes into making knitted garments, especially two, as a beginner. "Maybe I'll just do scarves. They're fast and easy. And I'll do them in acrylic." I smiled, nodded and moved on.
Jack was with a young lady named Mary. Mary was having a baby for Jack and his partner Marvin. Mary was to give input on what kind of yarn to use for a baby blanket as well as the pattern stitches Jack might use. They were having quite a discussion as I dropped by to listen. "I think it should be a cashmere blend," said Jack. Mary rubbed her pregnant belly and shook her head. "Jack, get real. This kid will pee and poop and spit up all over it. Use acrylic." Jack looked at me. "What do you think, Georgina?"
I thought for a minute. "You know I don't want to influence you one way or the other. But maybe Mary is right. Plus as a beginner, you don't want to take weeks to make a blanket that might not be useable. My advice is to get the best yarn you can find that is the easiest to care for. Plus you want a yarn that will best show off your stitches. Buy an heirloom shawl or have someone give it to you as a shower gift." Smiles all around let me know this advice would maybe be taken to heart.
Alice wanted advice for a sweater. She was a fast knitter. I could tell she had done this before. Perhaps this course was a refresher for her, but few details had been shared over the past weeks. "I think this pattern would work for me. I thought about nice soft wool in a shade of teal." The pattern was straight forward, no frills, and would work up fast for an experienced knitter. The color she chose would definitely set off her blonde hair and green eyes. "Wonderful, Alice; I couldn't agree more."
Other students shared patterns and fiber ideas from pot holders to dishcloths in cotton, to baby booties in acrylic. They had three weeks to swatch and then three more weeks to finish their projects. The swatch, or a mini version of their pattern, was the mid-term exam. I wanted to see if they could understand the idea of gauge, or how the choice of needles and yarn plus knitting style would affect the outcome of the final garment. Then the finished product would be the final test.
Although I was taking much needed time away from my main responsibility, my shop, it was rewarding to teach others a skill they could use for years to come. Somehow we as a culture are swinging toward the idea that handmade means cheap. But anything handmade is wonderful and worth so much more than what you can buy readymade. Time and talent go into every item one makes for a gift or for sale in a shop. Every knitted stitch takes time and talent. That is something no one can ever price accurately. Ah yes, I could preach all day on the street corners about handcrafting!
Mid-terms were shaky. We discussed what happened when you used the wrong yarn or needles. Suddenly it was like 10 light bulbs lit at once. Then suddenly it was time for the final exams. Let me say first that everyone passed. I was generous to a fault. Not everyone will knit after this class, I'm sure. But everyone will know what knitting is and how to do it.
Jack's blanket was wonderful in a muted shade of blues. He picked washable wool, a good choice. The pattern was a herringbone variation and he executed it well. He got an A.
Alice's sweater in teal with buttons was a classic, just like her. Wool in a classic stockinette stitch. She blocked it well, so it was true to size and fit her like a glove. She got an A+.
Judy's twins will receive new scarves for Christmas presents along with new purses to match. She really surprised me with the purses. Scarves are easy but the purses, well, those were amazing! Judy had made bucket shapes of wool. Then the wool shapes were felted, or shrunk, in the washer. The resulting purses were then adorned with colorful flowers. Those were some lucky little girls! She also got an A+.
Our last day of class everyone oohed and aahed over the projects. I invited everyone to my shop and gave all coupons to use on their yarn purchases.
After Jack and Marvin's baby was born, we all gathered again. We showered the baby with handmade baby items. My gift was a cashmere shawl for their baby stroller.