20 Tips to Make the Most of Your Next Knitting or Crochet Class, Part 1

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.

Before Class

Tip #1 Read the class description carefully.

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.

Tip #2 Make sure you meet the prerequisites.

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!

Tip #3 Do the homework before 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.

Tip #4 Use the right yarn.

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.

Tip #5 Collect the proper supplies.

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.

Tip #6 Come early.

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.

Tip #7 Don't come too early.

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.

Tip #8 Wear layers

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!

Tip #9 Turn off your phone

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.

Tip #10 Wait for the teacher

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.

About Edie

Edie headshot

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?

Flame Stitch Crochet Stitch Pattern

Show your colors with the Flame Stitch crochet stitch pattern! There are several variations of this stitch, but they are all great ways to use different yarn colors. Try it in vibrant hues, or more subtle gradient shades.

This pattern uses American crochet terminology. You’ll be using single crochet, double crochet, and long double crochet (also know as spike double crochet). Watch the video below for more details.

This post contains affiliate links, which won’t cost you anything extra but may provide a small income to me.

You’ll need at least thee colors of yarn, in any weight, and a hook in an appropriate size for the yarn.  The yarn I’m using is Red Heart Chic Sheep by Marly Bird. I’m using a 5.5 mm Clover Amour crochet hook.

Flame Stitch

Flame Stitch stitch chart

Worked in three colors: A, B and C.

With A, chain a multiple of 4 + 2.

Set-Up Row 1 (WS): Working in back bumps of chains, sc in 2nd ch from hook, *ch 3, skip 3 ch, sc in next ch; rep from * across, changing to B on last st, turn.

Set-Up Row 2: Ch 3 (counts as dc throughout), *dc in next ch-space, skip 1 ch of foundation ch, dc in back bump of next foundation ch; dc in same ch-3 space**, ch 1; rep from * to last st, ending last rep at **, dc in last sc, turn.

Row 1 (WS): Ch 1, sc in first dc, ch 1, skip 1 dc, sc in next dc, *ch 3, skip (dc, ch 1, dc), sc in next dc; rep from * to last 2 sts, ch 1, skip 1 dc, sc in last st changing to C, turn.

Row 2: Ch 3, dc in next ch-1 space, *ch 1, skip 1 sc, dc in next ch-3 space, dc in next sc 2 rows below, enclosing the ch-3 and ch-1 spaces, dc in same ch-3 space; rep from * to last 3 sts, ch 1, skip 1 sc, dc in next ch-1 space, dc in last st, turn.

Row 3: Ch 1, sc in first dc, *ch 3, skip (dc, ch 1, dc), sc in next dc; rep from * across, changing to A on last st, turn.

Row 4: Ch 3, *dc in next ch-3 space, dc in next sc 2 rows below, dc in same ch-3 space; rep from * to last st, dc in last st, turn.

Repeat Rows 1-4, continuing in established A, B, C color sequence, for desired length. End with a RS row.

Last row (WS):  Ch 1, [sc in each dc and long dc, and long dc in sc 1 row below each ch-1 space] across. Fasten off. Cut other two colors.

Love this stitch? Want to see it in action? Want to learn more crochet techniques like this? The Skill-Builder Crochet Blanket pattern offers lots of opportunity to grow your crocheting skills. Written text with helpful notes, video tutorials and charts combine to make it easy to learn more than you ever knew.

Buy the Pattern Button

Easy Lacy Rib Knitting Stitch Pattern

Easy Lacy Rib swatch

This Easy Lacy Rib knitting stitch pattern is perfect for warm-weather knitting. With only a 3-stitch and 4-row repeat, you’ll soon get into the rhythm of the pattern without having to think too much.

Can’t you see this as a cotton summer wrap, or perhaps as a tunic to wear over your tank top or swimsuit? Or use a lightweight yarn to create a simple shawl for cooler weather.

The yarn I’m using is Chic Sheep by Marly Bird from Red Heart. I’m using US 8 [5 mm] Clover Takumi bamboo knitting needles. The grey yarn pictured below is Nifty Cotton from Cascade Yarns.

Easy Lacy Rib

Easy Lacy Rib stitch chart
Easy Lacy Rib stitch chart
Easy Lacy Rib stitch key
Easy Lacy Rib swatch in grey

Cast on a multiple of 3 sts + 1.

Row 1 (WS): K1, *p2, k1; rep from *.
Row 2: P1, *yo, ssk, p1; rep from *.
Row 3: Rep Row 1.
Row 4: P1, *k2tog, yo, p1; rep from *.

Repeat Rows 1-4 for pattern.

That’s it! Watch the video for tips on how to read your knitting so that you can go “off pattern” and pick up wherever you left off.

Abbreviations
k: knit
k2tog: knit 2 sts together
p: purl
rep: repeat
ssk (slip, slip, knit): slip the next 2 sts one at a time knitwise, insert left needle into the fronts of these two sts, then knit them together through the back loops
st(s): stitch(es)
WS: wrong side
yo: yarn over

For more knitting stitch patterns, check out the list of stitch pattern dictionaries


3-D Stripes Crochet Stitch Pattern

Why do plain crocheted stripes when you can do 3-D stripes? Add some texture and dimension to your fabric with this fun and easy crochet stitch pattern.

3-D stripes swatch

This pattern uses American crochet terminology. You’ll be using single crochet, double crochet, and treble crochet. You’ll also be using the front loop only/back loop only technique to create the pattern, with what I call a “folding single crochet”. I demonstrate both methods in the video below.

This post contains affiliate links, which won’t cost you anything extra but may provide a small income to me.

You’ll need at least two colors of yarn, in any weight, and a hook in an appropriate size for the yarn.  The yarn I’m using is Red Heart Chic Sheep by Marly Bird. I’m using a 5.5 mm Clover Amour crochet hook.

3-D Stripes

Worked in two colors, a main color (MC) and a contrasting color (CC).

Special Stitches

3-D Stripes stitch diagram

Folding sc: Insert hook into back loops of next treble (BLtr) and into back loop of corresponding stitch on previous row, yarn over and pull up a loop, yarn over and pull through 2 loops. Alternatively, you can insert the hook into both loops of the treble and into the back loop of the corresponding stitch. Just choose one method and be consistent with it.

With MC, chain any multiple.

Set-up Row (RS): Dc in 4th ch from hook and in each ch across, changing to CC on last st, turn. The skipped chs count as a dc.

Row 1 (WS): With CC, ch 4 (counts as tr), BLtr in each st across, turn.

Row 2: Ch 1, folding sc in each st across, changing to MC on last st, turn.

Row 3: With MC, ch 3 (counts as dc) dc in each st across, turn.

Row 4: Ch 3 (counts as dc), dc in each st across, changing to CC on last st, turn.

Rep Rows 1-4 for pattern.

Stitch Key

Abbreviations
BLtr (back loop treble crochet): treble crochet into the back loop only
CC: contrasting color
ch: chain
dc: double crochet
MC: main color
sc: single crochet
st(s): stitch(es)
tr: treble crochet

https://youtu.be/-KrLJdNrR8o

For more crochet stitch patterns, look at my posts about Linked Trebles and Tower Stitch.


Learning On Site with the Craft Yarn Council

Onsite Certified Instructors Program graphic

You’ve heard about the Craft Yarn Council’s Certified Instructors Program, and you may have even signed up for their correspondence course. But did you know that they have an on-site program, as well?

With the on-site program, you can cover both Knit Levels 1 and 2 or Crochet Levels 1 and 2 in one weekend. There’s homework to do, of course, but there are additional benefits to taking the course in person.

Learn from Others

You get to spend a couple of days with both a Master Teacher and a roomful of other experienced knitters or crocheters. There is plenty of opportunity to learn from each other and ask questions in real time.

Immerse Yourself

Get away from the hustle and bustle of your home life, and concentrate on your craft for two days. What could be better?

Discuss Real-Life Situations

What really happens in a class, in real life? We’ll discuss ways to deal with challenges you’ll face as a teacher. Everyone will have a chance to speak up and offer suggestions of what has worked for them in similar situations.

Learn the Business of Teaching

Teaching is not all about sitting down and sharing your knowledge with someone. You have to consider how to market your classes and how to get paid. Learn how to be a professional from professionals.

Make New Friends

You’ll begin the course with a bunch of strangers, but you’ll leave with a group of new friends. These new friends will become a new virtual support group. With them, you can share your joys and frustrations as you take your new teaching skills out into the world.

Leave Energized

You’ll be tired after spending hours thinking and learning. But you’ll also be energized and excited to use your new knowledge.

Where Do I Sign Up?

UPDATE as of 5/29/19: Unfortunately, we didn’t receive enough sign-ups for the knitting portion of the onsite course, so that portion has had to be cancelled. I’m very disappointed! Continue to watch the Craft Yarn Council website for announcements of upcoming onsite classes.

The next on-site class for crochet is being offered July 14-15, 2019, in Manchester, New Hampshire. It takes place immediately following the Crochet Guild of America’s Chain Link Conference. I’ll be teaching the knitting program. Barbara Van Elsen will be teaching the crochet program, and we’ll probably be teaming up to team teach some sections together.

If you can’t make it to the on-site class in July, but you are interested in learning more about teaching in your community, consider signing up for the Craft Yarn Council’s (CYC) Certified Instructors Program (CIP) correspondence course. I serve as one of the “Master Teachers” for that program, so you might be assigned to me!

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How to Block Knitting and Crochet

Knowing how to block knitting and crochet is a crucial skill. Blocking may be the most important step in getting a professional-looking finish for your project. It sets the stitches and can even out irregularities. It makes it easier to work seams and edgings and it can even make minor size adjustments.

While most projects will benefit from blocking, it’s important to do it right. Some crafters are afraid of blocking because they’ve heard blocking horror stories about someone killing a sweater. Blocking doesn’t have to be scary, but it does help to know what you are doing.  

This a big topic. What follows is an overview of blocking basic two-dimensional knitted and crocheted fabric. Projects worked in three dimensions or those with highly textured surfaces may be blocked a bit differently.

This post contains affiliate links, which may provide a small income to support this website but don’t cost you anything extra.

Blocking Supplies

You’ll need a few simple supplies for successful blocking:

In addition, you need a large, flat surface to work on. The ideal blocking surface has these characteristics:

  • Is large enough to hold the entire piece (or all the pieces) you need to block
  • Can withstand heat, moisture, and being stabbed with pins
  • Is colorfast, to avoid transferring color from the blocking service to your fabric
  • Can be left undisturbed while the fabric dries
  • Has a printed grid to aid in getting lines straight and dimensions correct
  • Is flexible in shape and easy to store

I’ve used many types of blocking surfaces successfully:

  • Ironing board – works well for small pieces like swatches.
  • Quilter’s Cut ‘N Press – also for small pieces. It’s more compact and easier to use than the ironing board.
  • Interlocking floor mats – not pretty, but large and inexpensive. These can be used in many different configurations and sizes. A better option might be a set of grid-printed blocking mats, like the ones from Knitters Pride or KnitIQ.
  • Large blocking board – made of three 24″ x 58″ Styrofoam panels in a cotton canvas casing. The panels unfold and create a surface that’s even larger than my dining room table. It’s great for blocking shawls and other large items. As far as I can tell, it’s no longer sold, but it wouldn’t be difficult to make.
  • Spare bed – covered with beach towels. It works surprisingly well. Just be sure to collect all the pins when you are finished!

The Importance of Pins, The Allure of Wires

At some point in the blocking process, you’ll be pinning your pieces to a flat surface. Depending on your blocking method, this will happen before or after the fabric gets wet. Make sure your pins are rustproof. Nothing is guaranteed to ruin a project faster than pins that will leave a permanent stain on your yarn!

Some people swear by the Knit Blockers from KnitPicks. I haven’t used them yet. Let me know in the comments if they work for you.

Blocking wires are not a necessity, but they make it so much easier and faster to block. You’ll use fewer pins, your edges will be straighter and your pointy bits pointier if you use blocking wires. I have two sets!

Whether you are using pins, or a combination of pins and blocking wires, begin by securing the corners (if any) of your fabric. Use a yardstick or tape measure to ensure that the piece is the desired size from edge to edge and corner to corner. I prefer a yardstick because I can measure one-handed, and use the other hand to make adjustments. Make sure right-angle corners really are 90 degrees.

Blocking can be used to make minor corrections to the finished size of a piece, but it’s not a substitute for making the piece the right size to start with. Don’t use blocking for that purpose!

Choose a Blocking Method

Proceed to add pins along each edge every 1 1/2-2″ [4 5 cm]. If you are using blocking wires, use enough pins to keep the wire straight where it should be straight.

If the fabric rolls, gently unroll it and use pins to keep it in place. If there are points or scallops, pin each one out individually. This is where a blocking wire comes in especially handy, as the wire can go through each point.

The blocking method you use will depend on the content of the yarn. Acrylic, cotton, wool, cotton, and other fibers require different care. If your yarn is a blend of fibers, choose the method that is appropriate for the most delicate of the fibers. Wool and many other animal fibers can be steam blocked, cotton is often wet-blocked. With acrylic and other man-made fibers, cold blocking is often the safest method.

Another consideration is the stitch pattern you used, and how aggressively the fabric needs to be blocked. Fabric with lots of openwork, for example, needs to be stretched to allow the holes to open up. If the fiber allows, wet blocking or steam blocking will be your best options for lace.

Highly textured fabric like cables, ribbing and bobbles may not react well to too much steam. There are nuanced ways to deal with these textured stitches, but that will be the focus of a future blog post.

Always practice your blocking method on a swatch or two before trying it on your finished project!

Wet Blocking

Wet blocking is appropriate for cotton, silk, and wool, as well as for any fiber that can get completely wet.

To wet block, fully immerse your fabric in water, either by washing it or simply by putting it in a sink. Allow the water to fully soak the fabric. Gently squeeze out the water – don’t twist or wring – and pin the pieces to shape on the blocking surface.

Wait until it dries completely before removing the pins. Obviously, this is the most time-consuming blocking method. It’s hard to be patient and wait for that yarn to dry, especially in humid climes.

Steam Blocking

Steam blocking works well for wool and most animal fibers. Be careful, however, of using it on fibers that can be damaged by heat.

Begin by pinning your pieces to the blocking surface. Use a steam iron or steamer that’s shooting out plenty of steam. Hover the surface of the iron or steamer over the fabric, about 1.5 – 2″ [4 – 5 cm] from the surface. Never touch the iron to the fabric! You are using the moisture from the warm steam to do its work, not the heat from the iron.

Get the fabric warm and damp with the steam, then allow it to dry completely. When the fabric is cool and dry to the touch, remove the pins.

Cold Blocking

Cold blocking is the safest method to use with acrylic yarns, which can be damaged beyond repair with too much heat.

Pin your pieces to the blocking surface. Use a plant mister to spray water over the fabric, taking care to dampen the entire fabric thoroughly. Allow it to dry completely before removing the pins.

Killing Acrylic Yarn

Did you know that you can kill yarn? Yes, that’s an official term for an actual thing. It happens when you use too much heat on an acrylic fiber — such as when you press a hot iron onto acrylic yarn. This causes the fibers to melt together and changes the characteristics of the fabric permanently. It can’t be undone.

Despite my warnings to you not to steam block acrylic yarn, I confess that often do. I always always always practice on a swatch first. I’m very careful to use as low a heat as possible and to hover the steamer (or iron) above the fabric. I watch carefully to make sure I’m not killing anything. I understand the consequences of failure. So if you decide you want to steam block your acrylic yarns, that’s up to you. Your mileage may vary. You didn’t hear it here.

More About Blocking

I could write another thousand words on blocking. Or teach an entire three-hour class. In other words, there’s a lot to learn! Just remember: tailor your blocking techniques to the project, the fiber, the stitch pattern and the finished use of the project. Some projects (like amigurumi) don’t need to be blocked at all, while others demand it.

Ask your questions about blocking in the comments.

Now that you know how to block knitting and crochet, go forth and practice what you’ve learned. Your projects will thank you!