At my last job, after 4 years of showing off sweaters, scarves, baby sweaters, socks, and hearing many times over, "I wish I could make that," and "When are you gonna make me one?" I decided to start a weekly knitting group and teach anyone that wanted to learn how to knit.
I had taught 3, maybe 4 people to knit in my life: my sister (a lefty), and 2 eight year olds. Not a lot of experience, but I've been knitting since I was eight and tutored when I was in high school and was doing some training in my job, so I figured I'd give it a shot.
Day one, 6 people, 5 of them new to knitting, including Maria. Thankfully the 6th, Kathryn, knew how to knit and could help out here and there. We started with the cast on where you're essentially doing a knit stitch and then transferring stitches back to the left needle. Took a while to get the hang of it, but the beauty was when they realized they pretty much already knew how to do a knit stitch! Voila, knitting! They started their first project over the next couple of weeks, mostly scarves, and their pride and the way their faces lit up when they showed me their projects in progress was delightful and gratifying. Instead of the "I made that!" jingle that often runs through my head, I thought, "I showed them how to make that!"
Over the next few months, I taught a dozen women of varying experience and ability: all to knit, some to purl, some to cast on long tail, some to fix errors, backtrack, pick up dropped stitches, cable, simple knit-purl patterns, how to read your knitting, and so on. I learned a lot in the process; that's a part of teaching someone else, isn't it? Mostly, I gained confidence in my knitting knowledge and abilities. After spending most of my life knitting alone, I didn't have much to compare to. I knew what I knew, but I didn't know how much it was, and I didn't have much reason to examine my knitting.
My approach was that knitting was not difficult, just took some getting used to and practice. You want to purl? No problem. Fix mistakes? Okey dokey smokey! Backtrack? Simple. Try cabling or basket stitch? Sure, why not? And I brought in lots of projects to inspire and encourage them, mostly scarves: garter stitch knit end to end, simple 2x2 rib, basket stitch, seed stitch - all things most of them could easily tackle.
Teaching affected me in unexpected ways. For example, undoing mistakes used to be painful for me. Sometimes it was the reason I dropped a project. I'd get so disheartened at having to rip back rows and rows to fix a mistake that I'd just drop the project and move on to something else. But with the "sure, no problem" attitude I was preaching, I found I had to live it, too. Fixing mistakes is part of the process. Sometimes, mistakes can be left and no one will know. Sometimes, you need to fix them. I used to consult with Scott on whether or not I should frog on serious mistakes; inevitably, he'd get me to see that I needed to fix it, that I would feel better if it was done right. With my new attitude, I saw it as part of the process. And, I didn't want to scare them off. If I was intimidated by fixing mistakes, wouldn't they be?
You know what happened? I got more adventurous. For example, on my Nothin' But A T, once I had knit the front and back, I tacked the seams and tried it on. Everything below the waist just didn't fit me! I didn't want to frog the whole thing, so I thought about it, and decided to undo a waist row, frog a few inches and reknit it shorter with adjusted shaping, and then graft to the upper stitches. Magic. Challenging, to be sure. Required patience and trust in my skills. But it worked!
Here's a shout out to all of the Knitters Lunch folks, whether or not you're still knitting. Thanks for giving me something to look forward to every week, and inspiring me to become a better knitter!
Maria took to knitting like I took to spinning. Mostly, she just got it. She understood what was supposed to happen, and with some practice and not much time, she figured out how to do it. In no time at all she finished her first scarf, then her second, and it didn't take long before she made her first sweater (with lace) and was figuring out her own patterns:
Scarf for her son Silvestre
and combining yarns for cool effects (with short rows to boot):
Short Row Rib scarf from Magknits.com with a thin brown boucle and black yarn, for her mum; doesn't she look happy wearing it?
And, of course, it didn't take long for her to get hooked on Danette Taylor's yarns, too:
Maria's version of Seaweed Love using 100% silk, for her daughter Natasha
and tackle lace:
Misty Garden from Scarf Style, using Danette's angora in Violets, for her niece
She's a knitting machine!
She kept me on my toes and it didn't take long for me to use jargon with her and discuss projects conceptually, knowing she'd go home and figure out how to do it. I'm still trying to convince her to start her own blog, but seeing as I can't get her to post a comment, it will take a lot more work.
Here's her current work in progress:
Scarf on the diagonal using Danette's super soft cotton ripple in Cascades
Knit on, Maria!