In this two-part series, you’ll find 20 tips to set yourself up for success in any knitting or crochet class you take. Wouldn’t it be awesome to make the most out of class? To squeeze every bit of knowledge you can from it? To nail that new skill? To be full of new knowledge and excitement for where your skills will take you?
These tips are aimed at in-person fiber arts classes, but they can apply to online learning as well. Learn what to do before class, when you get to class, during class, and after class to make the most of your experience. Find out how to learn in the most relaxed and enjoyable way possible.
Every class should have a description that specifies what is being taught. The teacher puts a lot of effort into making sure the class description tells you what you need to know.
If the class description says, “set-in sleeve shaping will not be covered”, don’t come to class expecting the teacher to slip in a lesson about set-in sleeve shaping.
Contact the event organizer or email the teacher if you have questions about what is going to be taught or if the class is right for you at this time.
This would be Tips #2-6 if I were giving you ten tips instead of five. Skill prerequisites are there for a reason. Master the skills you need before coming to class because the class is going to proceed from that point.
If you are told you “must know how to knit on double-pointed needles”, that doesn’t mean you own a set of double-pointed needles. It doesn’t mean that you knit with them once upon a time five years ago. It means that you are comfortable casting on and knitting and purling in the round on double-pointed needles.
“Must be familiar with single crochet and double crochet” means you should know how to do these stitches without thought. Practice before class to make sure you know what you are doing. Don’t rely on looking up techniques on YouTube during class!
Teachers assign homework for two main reasons.
The first reason is that you will be using the homework in class. If your homework isn’t complete, you’ll be scrambling to finish it while the rest of the class moves on. You’ll miss half of what the teacher says, and you’ll be feeling left behind. That’s never a good feeling.
The second reason is to make sure you are up-to-speed on the techniques used in class. Those prerequisites? The homework gives you the chance to brush up on them. If it’s been a while since you knitted on double-pointed needles or did anything beyond single crochet, now’s your chance. Use all your resources—books, videos, friends, yarn shop employees—to refresh your memory before having to use those skills in class.
If you struggle with the homework, reconsider taking the class. Instead, study more until you have mastered the technique. Or take an easier class.
The right yarn makes learning so much easier, both in preparing your homework and while in class. Your best bet is a smooth, light-colored worsted weight yarn (CYC #4-medium) in a color or colors you like.
Navy blue, dark grey or black may be your favorite colors, and you may be able to see the stitches perfectly at home. However, you don’t know what the classroom lighting conditions will be. Your teacher may not be able to see those dark colors well enough to help you. Stay away from variegated yarn for the same reason.
If the class materials list specifies a particular yarn weight or a specific yarn, take care to follow those instructions. If the yarn is supposed to be 100% wool, use 100% wool. The teacher had a reason for assigning it.
Some of you have dark, splitty, scratchy, fuzzy yarn in a color you hate. You’d never use it in a project, but you’ve been saving it for a special occasion. This class is not that occasion. You’ll still hate the yarn. You’ll be unhappy with yourself, your yarn, and everyone around you as you struggle to learn a new skill. You have my permission to throw away that yarn.
Bring the supplies specified in the class materials: yarn, needles/hooks in a certain size, and other materials specific to that class.
Assume you’ll need scissors, a pencil, paper for taking notes, a tape measure, yarn needle, stitch markers, a calculator, and so on. These basic tool kit items should travel with you at all times.
Bring a variety of needles and hook sizes. Students sometimes use a crochet hook or knitting needle that is not the ideal size for the yarn. Having a selection of sizes to choose from allows you to change to a more appropriate size.
If you need reading glasses, magnifying glasses, extra lighting or other aids, bring them with you.
When You Get To Class
You’ve done all the things you could think of to prepare for a successful class experience. Now the big day is here, and it’s time for class.
Leave yourself enough time for traffic and parking. If you are at a large venue, allow time to register and to find your classroom; sometimes it can be a 10-minute walk.
Get to class early enough to find a seat, get unpacked and settled in. You’ll probably want to get a drink of water and use the restroom so you’ll be comfortable and ready to learn.
If you have special needs such as extra lighting or special seating, coming early allows you time to get the space you need and the time to set up appropriately. Be sure to let the teacher know before class starts if you have vision or hearing disabilities. Offer suggestions of how they can adapt their teaching style to help you.
It’s better to be a bit early than to get stuck in traffic and blow into class after it has started. Coming late to class means you miss important information. It can be difficult to catch up with the rest of the class, and you’ll feel stressed, which makes it harder to pay attention.
Or if you do come very early, don’t chat with the teacher. Before class, the teacher is unpacking class materials, making sure they have everything they need, passing out handouts, and getting any audiovisual equipment set up. After all that, they need a quiet space to think about details they may have missed, and to take a breath before starting class.
A quick “hello” or “good morning” is fine, and if the teacher starts a conversation, they may be ready and willing to talk. Don’t be hurt if the teacher doesn’t appear super-friendly in that 30-minute period before class.
Classrooms can be hot or cold, especially in hotel conference rooms, so dress in layers. You’ll be sitting still so you’ll feel the cold more than if you were moving around. Plus, you can show off your beautiful hand-made creations to others who will appreciate them!
Do I need to explain this one? Get your last-minute social media fix and texting done, then put the phone in your bag and ignore it. You are here to play with yarn. Everything else can wait.
If you have to be available because of work or family situations, turn the phone to vibrate. Put it in your pocket. If it rings, you’ll feel it and can run out to answer. Leaving it on the table is too much of a temptation to get distracted.
Even if you have the handout in front of you, don’t start working before the teacher gives the go-ahead. The handout probably doesn’t tell you everything you need to know, and the teacher will have additional instructions for you.
During and After Class
In Part 2 of the series, you’ll learn the all-important things to do during class and after class to help you make the most of your class experience.
I’ve been teaching knitting and crochet in person for over 25 years, at all levels and in all sorts of venues. I’ve taught one-on-one, in small groups, and in large classes with 30 students or more. During this time, I’ve observed thousands of students, and I’ve talked with my fiber teacher colleagues about what they have observed. I also take every possibly opportunity to be a student. This article has grown out of my own experience and those of my colleagues.
Let me know your thoughts. Have I missed your favorite tip? What do you do to get ready for a fiber arts class?
Thank you for the tips. As a former quilting instructor, I wish that I had had something like this to in include in the class supply list
You can always link to this blog post, and Part 2, which will be out tomorrow!
Edie, I really appreciate seeing these tips actually expressed in a meaningful way because socializing has changed somewhat in recent years. Ir was interesting for me, while reading your teaching bio, to relate so closely with you–we share almost the same kinds of experiences since I began teaching knitting and crochet in 1995 as a second occupation after taking an early retirement. Something I would like to add to your list (and I’ve only seen Part One at this time, so you might have covered it in a later section) is the problem of students teaching fellow students. So often someone is too impatient to wait their turn when needing the instructor’s help and just turns to the person to whom they happen to be the closest for advice. This usually results in problems for lots of reasons for which the teacher receives the blame. I find it necessary to let everyone know that, if they have a question about any of the class content, they are to consult the instructor, and not intrude on the class time of a fellow student. Let me know what you think (or maybe we can chat more the next time we meet). Thanks for your helpful information.
Thanks, B.J. You read my mind! Check out Part 2, which does indeed mention asking for help in the right way. Thanks for chiming in. It’s always good to hear the experience of other teachers and students.
Edie, now that I have read Part II, I really appreciate your explanations of good class behavior in a way that anyone can understand without being offended. In particular, your comments about copyright are so timely because this is an area that is too often misunderstood and not complied with, particularly with the ease that anything can be quickly copied with the click of a phone button. I also am amazed at how many students in the last few years routinely take phone calls and carry on loud conversations while a class is in session, and become upset when asked to move to a more private area. I really appreciate your efforts to help all of us function more effectively as both teachers and students–thank you so much!
This is wonderful, helpful