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How to Teach Fiberarts Online

Thanks for joining me for How to Teach Knitting & Crochet/Fiberarts Online!

Here are some of the things we talked about (or may have talked about depending on which class you attended). If you have products or links you find helpful, please let me know so I can share them here.

Studio Set-Up

Here’s a simple desktop setup. It shows a basic ring light, an iPhone on an Arkon Mounts stand, a piece of dark foam core as a backdrop for my hands, and a microphone/headphone headset.

2023 image of a laughably cleared-off desk, which in no way resembles my 2023 set-up

Some of the following are affiliate links, which may provide me a small income if you buy something, but don’t cost you anything extra.

My current set-up includes a Logitech webcam, HUE HD document camera, additional studio lights (which I don’t always need), a Blue Yeti mic, and multiple options of backgrounds for my hands, depending on the lighting conditions and the yarn I’m using. I may also use the iPhone as a third camera, depending on what I’m demonstrating.

For a more consolidated list of all the equipment I have in my office, check out my Amazon storefront for Professional Tools I Use. For a couple of years, I used a Logitech C920e webcam, which gives a much sharper picture and handles low light better. It goes right on top of my monitor. It does a superb job compared to the built-in computer camera, but I have upgraded further to a Logitech Brio 4K camera (which may be overkill).

I have also been using a Blue Yeti microphone, which clamps onto the side of my desk.

Most of the time I use OBS Studio opensource software to help me manage camera switching, although it’s not that hard to do within Zoom, as well. OBS is free, and while it takes a bit to learn to set up and use, it is an extremely popular tool among video content producers. You can also set it up to allow streaming to multiple platforms.

I adore my Ikea Bekant sit/stand desk, although it doesn’t get great reviews on the Ikea site. I have had mine over nine years with no problem. Your mileage may vary.

I keep a 3-tier rolling cart next to me. It holds all the hooks/needles/yarn/tools I need for class; I make sure to stock it appropriately for each class. Class samples usually go on a small table nearby, or on the floor.

I didn’t label everything in the super-tidy desk photo above. For fun, see if you can find:

LED clip-on ring light
Stylus for Wacom tablet (which is off-camera)
Know Your Cuts of Lamb magnet
“Nose” glasses holder

Cameras and Holders

“Hand” Camera

Hue HD Pro Document camera

The Hue HD Pro document camera shown here is a good option for overhead hand shots. It has a manual focus and built-in microphone. It also comes with a built-in light.It’s a quick plug-and-go setup.

Another option is a weighted base phone holder and a phone camera for overhead shots. The stand adjusts to a variety of heights and angles. I like a tabletop version because I don’t have to find a tabletop the right depth to clamp it onto.

I use the Remarkable Creators Phone and Tablet Stand with Weighted Base from Arkon Mounts. I’ve had it for several years and I like its articulating arm and adjustability. There are several bundle options available; click on the link and poke around the website to see them all. You can get 20% off the cost by using coupon code EDIEECKMAN.

INSWAN document camera

The Inswan document camera was suggested by another student. It has auto-focus and a supplemental LED light.

Whatever camera you use, be sure you get one that offers high resolution and a sufficient refresh rate, since you’ll want to be able to show detail and don’t want it to lag. Also, beware of auto-focusing that can’t be locked. Otherwise the camera will keep trying to focus on your moving hands.

You may be able to get by using a wire shelf like the one shown. Make sure the shelf is tall enough for you to get your hands under it comfortably. Place your camera/phone on the shelf, facing down. This may be a good option for your students to use when they are trying to show their hands.

Face Camera

For the camera on my face, I started by using use the built-in camera on my iMac. It allows me to face the camera straight-on and still reach the keyboard. I end up moving the wireless keyboard to the side when I’m demonstrating.

Depending on the quality of your cameras on your computer/tablet/phone, you may find it necessary to get a dedicated webcam. In late July 2020, I upgraded to a Logitech C920 Pro HD Webcam in place of my computer camera. It does much better in low light and includes a built-in microphone. It gives a super-sharp picture.

In mid-2022 I upgraded even further to the 4K Logitech BRIO. It is wonderful, but is probably more than you need for most virtual teaching.

Lighting

10" LED Ring Light with tripod

Good lighting is an ongoing challenge. I use this budget-friendly UBeesize 10″ LED ring light with tripod.

I also used a rechargeable clip-on LED ring light at one point.

Do some research on 3-point lighting. When I started out, depending on the time of day and amount of light coming in through a side window, I often used some simple back lighting bouncing off my ceiling from clamp lamps or a shop light.

Two softbox lights on adjustable tripods, carrying case

After a couple of years of virtual teaching, I upgraded to (optional) softbox lighting. I now use softbox lighting in addition to the ring light, depending on time of day and lighting conditions. These lights offer me additional flexibility, but they do take up a lot of floor space.

Headphones/Microphone

If you share your space with noisy others, a comfortable headphone/mic combination is important. They can be more comfortable than earbuds if you are going to be spending a lot of time online. The ones I use are from Logitech and I’ve had them forever.

Throughout the various sessions of this class that I have taught, we have discovered that wireless (Bluetooth) mics and headphones are not as reliable. Several people have had trouble with staying connected via Bluetooth. I’m now recommending that you use a wired headset if possible.

An Amazon search for “wired headset with microphone” results in a lot of choices, with a huge range of features and price points. The headset pictured here looks similar to the one I use, but click around and see what works for you.

You could also consider a lavalier mic or desktop mic, if you aren’t using a headset or your computer. Be sure that the ones you get are compatible with your devices; some are specific to Windows or Mac only.

Blue Yeti black desktop microphone

In December 2020, I upgraded to a Blue Yeti microphone with a boom arm, which I have clamped to my desk. You absolutely don’t need to go to this expense, but I decided to splurge because I realized that I would be teaching virtually for quite some time. The Blue Yeti has a cardiod setting so that only noise from one direction enters the mic; you can’t hear the mowers or weed whackers 6 feet away, right outside my window, during class!

Adapters

USB multiple port charger

Don’t forget that you’ll need to keep things charged while you are teaching. Video uses a lot of power! A multiple port USB charger is nice to have. The one pictured is not exactly what I use; availability changes all the time! Whatever you order, be sure that it is “powered” and compatible with your devices.

APC surge protector

I’m also a big believer in good surge suppression, especially with a lot of stuff plugged in!

Why? At one time I worked in an office on top of a mountain, and it was subject to lightening strikes. I had an APC protector that gave its life by jumping between the outlet and my computer, twice. APC replaced the unit for free both times.

Backgrounds

Elmer's black foam core

For the dark grey and light grey backgrounds, I use a 15″ x 20″ foam core board that I cut down from a 30″ x 20″ sheet. The black/black version is more readily available, such as this 3-pack of 16″ x 20″ foam core sheets.

For the white background I use either a white foam core or a remnant of fleecy white fabric I picked up somewhere. I like the texture it adds to the images, and the fact that it muffles noise when I hit it with the end of my knitting needles.

Other Tips

For showing garments and how they fit, consider using mannequins. Barry Klein recommends these mannequins in both a black version and a white version; pick the one that shows off the sweater best. They are quite reasonably priced. He also suggests buying a cheap tank dress so the mannequin isn’t “naked” when you are changing it!

To hold my old-fashioned paper notes and class outline, I set up a document holder similar to this one. It frees up a bit of desk space and puts my notes at a good viewing angle.

Zoom Tutorials

Getting Started
Zoom Video Tutorials

Hosts & Co-Hosts in Meetings


Synchronous (Live, Real Time) Teaching Platforms

Helpful Links about Teaching

Tips & Tricks: Teachers Educating on Zoom

How to Be a Better Online Teacher

Universal Design for Learning

Notes Taken During Post-Class Discussion Groups

Here’s a low-tech hack for showing your hands that Lorilee Beltman shared with me

Do you know other resources you think other teachers would find helpful? Let me know and I’ll add them to this page.

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