Wednesday, March 2, 2011


I had decided to teach crochet in the spring to our co-op knitting and crochet class because I like crochet better than knitting when the weather warms up.

By random chance it happened that some of the kids were ready to start learning right before Christmas break. So I got them started. This worked well from the standpoint of working one-on-one with them. I just whipped out crochet hooks and yarn, did a brief demo of finger crochet, showed them how to use a hook to accomplish the same thing, then worked on single crochet into that foundation chain. Much discussion ensued about WHERE TO PUT THE HOOK -- under both loops? Does it matter? Interesting to discover that one of the girls who already crochets was under the impression that it really doesn't matter.

Also, much discussion about HOW TO HOLD THE YARN. I was pretty low key about how they held their yarn for knitting, but for crochet it's nearly impossible if it isn't in the left hand (if you're crocheting with your right hand) and it REALLY REALLY NEEDS TO come around the index finger or some other designated spot ("But, see, my index finger is crooked, so I can't do it that way." "First of all, it's gliding around the finger, so whether or not your finger is crooked doesn't make a difference. Second of all, if you don't want to use your index finger you can use your middle finger, but you're going to have it coming around SOMETHING."). I'd say those 2 things are a MUST (left hand, coming around a finger) but someone somewhere probably does an awesome job crocheting one handed or somesuch -- never say never -- but for these kids in this situation, left hand and yarn around a finger is their best bet.

After Christmas I made little foundation chains for everyone to practice on so they didn't have to mess with that first row, which is the toughest row (just like knitting).

The last time I taught someone to crochet was a couple of years ago when Thalia was working on a Scout project. I showed her how its done, she did it ... the whole lesson took less than 5 minutes. This time, though, I discovered a whole slew of things people could get wrong or be confused about. I've now analyzed every single movement I make with the hook in an effort to explain it to others. Gah. I can see why crochet is taught after knitting in Waldorf schools -- the thought process is different, and some people don't make the leap.

I've told them several times that I want them to learn the basics of crochet, then they can go back to knitting, if desired. Or they can decide to never knit again in their lives, and just crochet. (Or they can ditch both, but only after the class is done for the year.)

Anyway, after our rocky start, observing that people needed a sense of direction like the dishcloths we did in our knitting segment, I decided to show them how to make granny squares. This was taught to those who were interested -- those who'd already selected a project and wanted to work on that were welcome to (one girl who already knows how to crochet extremely well is working on knitting a hat, although she sometimes pauses to help other students with the crochet). I used written directions with a photo (link is pdf). One girl instantly zipped one out, just looking at the photo. Others ... struggled. It was really a range of abilities. So the next week I took ina chart. This really helped a couple of people. Plus it's a good idea to teach how to crochet from a chart, and I wish I'd thought of it before.

Annabeth really took off with the granny squares after this, making up an idea for mitts

and a matching headband.

Next up I plan to teach how to crochet amigurumi. I've had Annabeth giving it a try. We started out using patterns from Amigurumi World because I thought it was nice that you could make so many different animals from the same basic shape. Annabeth made a pink cat to try out the directions for me, since she's a beginner.

She did okay with it, but it occurred to me that some people in the class are going to really struggle -- they question each time they have to put the hook in a different stitch, they are somewhat unable to count rows and stitches, they question everything. I'm more the sort to say, "give it a whirl and see what happens, and if it isn't right rip it out and try again," but some people are so intense you'd think we're building nuclear reactors out of crochet; they're so wound up about whether they about doing everything EXACTLY RIGHT whilst concurrently unwilling to take responsibility for putting their crochet hook in the wrong stitch. Ack. It's exhausting to think about.

So I decided to do the Lion Brand egg cozy, which has less shaping and doesn't use safety eyes (a whole 'nuther potential for heartache, since once you put safety eyes in they're STUCK and can't be moved). This guy is festooning a plastic Easter egg, so he's tilty. Plus I sewed his ears on crooked, which I thought was sort of jaunty.

I used part of a cotton ball for the tail.

In the meantime, Annabeth pondered what she now knew about crochet ovoid shapes, and pondered one of her classmate's desire to crochet baby booties, and made up a pattern:

We need to take them next door to see how they work on baby feet.

She also made up a pattern for slippers for herself (another classmate wanted to find a pattern for slippers):

See, this is what is fun about crochet -- early in the game you can just mess around and make up your own stuff, assuming you're willing to accept the risk of make a total mess. I hope others in the class try designing their own stuff, too. I decided to take in some swatches so they could see the difference between, say, single crochet (on top) and double crochet (on bottom) and start to think about how they drape differently, how they curl, how would they work -- all handy things to know when designing, or, for that matter, deciding whether or not to crochet a particular pattern.

In the meantime, Thalia was inspired to use the Amigurumi World pattern for a pear

which she named George. I thought it should be named Malcolm (after Malcolm Reed on Star Trek Enterprise, of course).

And I've been working on more crochet collars for the Choreography Team dresses

which I've also taken in to class to show the kids. Again, perhaps it will inspire someone to try something new. Crochet is such a HUGE subject, and there are so many things to try. Too bad we don't have time to try them all.


Bridgett said...

I taught single crochet to Sophia's class two weeks ago. Three students "got it" and are working on long rectangles of scrap yarn (scarves? who knows?). The other 16 were in the nuclear reactor group. I'd forgotten about waldorf teaching knitting first. I never thought about it as easier but I know for me it is...

We've moved on to soda straw weaving. Since it's a classroom and many of the students grumbled when they heard we were working with fiber this semester, I don't want to push any one thing--just give a smattering of ideas.

I don't even know how to make 3 dimensional objects (that aren't 2 dimensional sewn together like those mitts). I would love to be able to do amigurumi. Probably just need to focus and try.

Freakmom said...

Neat! I showed Violet the pictures and she's excited. She is taking a crochet class at the library Thursday. I also showed her your quote about it not being a nuclear reactor out of crochet and that to remember it is fun, not serious, just do her best. She'll remember that a lot more than if I said it first. ;)

Weaver said...

My girls finally figured out how to crochet. What finally worked for them was me telling them that it didn't matter what they did or where they put the hook cause there was this thing called freeform crocheting and with that, anything is ok. They finally relaxed enough to just work on getting the right motions. A bit more time and I'll try to help them work on "the right way" again but first, I keep them busy weaving dish cloths cause we need them ;)