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Thursday, 20 August 2015

Crochet for the lifelong learner

Crochet for the lifelong learner

By Charles Voth


Textile historians tell us that crochet is a relatively young craft. The time to put crochet on the map and develop this craft even further is at hand. As a teacher, and a lifelong learner, I want to encourage the reader to join, or continue (depending where you find yourself) the journey of learning more about crochet. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a flock of crocheters to raise the profile of our craft.

I’ve heard crocheters comment, with slight bemusement, that knitters always seem to need classes to learn anything. New classes are always being procured for knitters, while crochet classes just don’t seem to fill up and are often cancelled. Some crocheters are quick to say that they know everything there is to know about crochet, and what they don’t know they’ll learn from the internet, videos, or books. So it becomes a vicious cycle, and crocheters stay on the fringes of the greater picture of yarn users.

I can’t believe that out of the hundreds of thousands of crocheters out there, a majority have decided they are not life-long learners when it comes to our craft. I’d like to share with you some characteristic behaviors of those individuals who choose to be life-longer learners.

First, a crocheter who is a lifelong learner takes the stance of being a beginner. They don’t consider themselves experts, even if they have several decades of expertise to their name. They know that once they consider themselves experts, they will have closed themselves off to growth and development. Instead they keep an open mind, one which sees and grasps opportunities to learn something new… a new way to turn a row, a new stitch combination or a new place to insert the hook.

Lifelong learners are able to look at crochet from different vantage points, the finished piece, the pattern stitch and gauge used, and the isolated stitches that are the bottom-up bits and pieces. She would see how the stitches are combined at the micro level affect the overall composition, drape and look of the finished piece. They see how new challenges, problems, puzzles, and opportunities in their crochet work connect to prior ones. If a crocheter reshapes a garment to fit her physique, she will take note of the problems and the solutions that she eventually found and draw upon that experience the next time she reshapes a garment. The particular situation, structure, stitch pattern will be different, but the process she went through the first time will be an invaluable resource.

Lifelong learners learn “just because” Learning for learning’s sake might involve trying a granny-square in half-double’s or treble crochets just to see what needs to change when it’s not the usual double-crochet. Or taking a class in garment finishing just because it’s there and available. A life-long learner sees how one crocheter makes a picot stitch with a different technique than their own, and rather than say, “It’s wrong, they try it out themselves, for the heck of it.

“Why?” is the characteristic question of the curious crocheter. Why can’t I get row tension consistently? Why does the alpaca content of the yarn make the garment in the pattern look so much nicer than the yarn I chose to use? Why are there US and UK terms for crochet? And so on. Being curious about the crucial and the more mundane aspects of our craft is what helps this kind of crocheter continue to grow and learn.

A lifelong learner chooses more than one avenue or mode of learning. It may be online videos, it may be a Chain Link conference, or it may be a cosy shared stitching time with a crochet mentor. Books and photos may be one’s preferred way of learning, but a lifelong learner will leave the comfort of her books and venture out to a stitching circle, or someone who has never used the internet will start on the wondrous journey of discovery available through the immense resources online.

A final key behaviour of the life-long learner is one who teaches others. They may not be formally certified and promoted as traveling teachers, because that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. They do, however, love to share and nudge, and steer other crocheters to understanding and grasping a new skill. They may teach a newbie or a veteran, and they do it with infectious joy and empathetic patience.

What kind of crocheter are you? Have you decided you don’t need to learn more? You’ve arrived. You’re done. There is nothing anyone else can show you? Or are you a lifelong learner?

If you’re interested in adopting these behaviours of a lifelong learner in your crocheting, try the following suggestions. Reflect on each behaviour separately and see how you measure up. Perhaps you already do some of them in part. That’s great! But where are the gaps? Once you’ve identified which ones you’d like to get better at, try them out. Share this article with a crocheting friend and talk about it together. Challenge and cheer each other on as you learn. Find other crocheters who already are lifelong learners and model yourself after them. Ask them how they overcame some of the roadblocks that you may be feeling are in your way to becoming a lifelong learner in crochet.

If you’re a blogger, blog about it; if you’re in online forums start discussion threads about it. If you’re in a guild, check to see if any guild members feel in the same rut you feel yourself to be. Now that there is so much ease of access to designers, find them on Ravelry and ask them where they teach or if they teach. Go to your local yarn store (if possible with 3 or 4 others in tow) and ask them to find a teacher for you (tell them about the designers you chatted with on Ravelry, ¦or offer to teach yourself. If big box stores are all you have in your area, why not ask the local community adult education venues if you could teach a class there. Again, look online at the offerings of online classes and see if that’s a learning mode that suits your style, or better yet…adopt a new learning style that’s out of your comfort zone.

If you are near one of the large yarn fairs like Stitches or fiber fairs like Maryland Sheep and Wool festival, attend them, and more importantly bring other crocheters along. What about approaching the organizers en masse with requests for learning opportunities that explore more than the basics? Vogue is running a big education event in NYC this coming January. Crochet is part of it. This is an amazing opportunity to put crochet education on the map alongside knitting. Can you imagine the setback for crochet if it’s poorly attended and the classes are cancelled?

I trust you feel my passion for learning in the above words. Please share your stories of lifelong learning with me at any time. Share how you are joining the movement to build a history of crochet. You can find me as on Ravelry and Crochetville and in other social media online. I hope you have caught a bit of my enthusiasm for learning. So some of you may wonder if I think knitters make better lifelong learners than crocheters. I don’t really think so, but for whatever reason, if there is a collective voice of lifelong learners of crochet, it is too quiet, too muzzled, and it’s time to take our hooks and turn them into new tools for learning.

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