Monthly Archives: April 2011

Crafting space

Like many urban crafters, I have limited space.  Since moving in with MC about 2-1/2 years ago, I have been trying to figure out the perfect crafting space.  Last week, with a few days off, we reorganized into something workable.

We started by clearing out this cool and weird bookcase.  It was custom made for someone, but the measurements were incorrect so they ended up throwing it away.  MC was able to save it for us.  It does have extremely odd corners (it isn’t rectangular on the edges like most bookcases but actually curves outwards).  It also has very deep but relatively short shelves, so many of my books don’t fit straight up and had to be turned on their sides.

Anyway, in this section you can see:

My famous button box inherited from my grandmother, along with my extensive lotion collection ;),

My CYC certified instructors program binders for knit and crochet,

Bubble wrap protected art, some packing materials, and crafts magazines,

My quilting, sewing, embroidery, and “random” craft books,

and my absolutely favorite crafting gizmos: my Boye electric yarn winder and my ChiaoGoo table top yarn swift (both purchased this year with major support from awesome holiday and birthday gift cards!).

In this section, you can see:

My computer books, drawing supplies, and my notebooks and reference materials from (and for) the Pet Product Design and Marketing program,

My knitting and crochet books,

and a mysteriously placed drawer which is actually to prevent my cat from hanging out with the power strips.  I also have embroidery supplies and a massive collection of personalized crochet hooks and knitting needles for my classes in the drawer.

As we get closer to my computer desk, you can see the bins where my FOs for sale are stored as well as craft show vending supplies.  There is also a file box with a Star Wars pillowcase (thanks DG!), which is one of my cat’s perches.  He likes to hang out there and watch me work (or complain about wanting more food).



Behind my desk you can see much of my yarn collection.  Now that I teach and design more than I have in the past, the computer is a big part of my craft area.  I write up my handouts and patterns here (as well as most of my blog posts).





On top of my desk, I have office supplies.  I also have a rolling plastic set of drawers under my desk where I store all of my crochet hooks and other craft and office supplies.  My desk is up against an armoire, where I keep my crafts business records, my knitting needles, and my shipping center.



Slow day in the mailroom

Knitting Teacher Interview: Angela Davis (alittlebird from Ravelry)

As an add-on to my series of posts about getting started as a local needlecrafts teacher, I’m virtually interviewing some teachers I’ve met online.

Today’s interview is with Angela Davis, also know as alittlebird on Ravelry.  Angela is based in Portland, Oregon, and we are in several groups together on Ravelry.

Who wouldn’t want to take a knitting lesson with Angela and her warm smile???

Angela’s bio is pretty interesting (and impressive).  She has a background in the music business and has taught rock stars to knit.  (Here is where my imagination runs wild, thinking of all the rock stars whose bad boy/bad girl images could be damaged by Angela’s pictures of them knitting booties in the back of a tour bus.)  She also established a knitting for charity club at a Los Angeles high school and has knitted props for AMC’s Mad Men.  It doesn’t hurt that she shares a name with one of America’s most awesome feminist activists.

This summer Angela will be keeping busy teaching three classes at Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene and four classes at the Sock Summit in Portland.  If you are in Oregon in June or July, you owe it to yourself to check out one of her classes!

UC: What first inspired you to teach knitting?

Angela: I suppose that my inspiration to teach knitting comes from being the oldest child in my family and having always loved bossing people around! Seriously, I have always loved teaching my friends and family any new craft that I have learned. I have worked in the music business for many years, so that has meant a lot of national and international travel — being in very close quarters with people for long, long periods of time. Eventually the most desperately bored ask me to teach them how to knit! So initially I taught a lot of people one-on-one. Right about the time that my travel schedule slowed down, my friend Samantha asked me to teach classes at her shop, Abuelita’s Knitting and Needlepoint in South Pasadena (Los Angeles), CA. I immediately panicked and decided that I needed some sort of teacher training and credential, so I signed up for the CYCA Certified Hand Knitting Instructor course.

UC: Has teaching knitting impacted your own personal crafting? If so, how?

Angela: Teaching knitting has definitely impacted my personal crafting, and in a good way. Rather than it taking up all of my precious crafting time, it has helped expand it! I really do make time to craft every day. In addition to knitting I like to crochet, spin, weave, sew, embroider, and hook rugs, and I am an aspiring quilter. I am going to need to live for a long, long time to master all these other things, but I think that teaching knitting has enabled me to meet and make friends with crafters who are very talented in all of these areas and more. They are all inspiring and great resources. An extra hour or two in each day would be helpful…

(UC comment: I could use about an extra five hours a day, but will happily share the two extra with Angela.)

Angela’s Scrap Yarn Felted Baguette design is one of her favorite things to make and to teach.

UC: Do you have plans for expanding your teaching? What goals do you have for the next year (if any)?

Angela: I do have plans to expand my teaching. My goal for the next year is to get my website finished and to figure out a way to reach and teach teens and young adults. I love teaching that demographic how to knit-to-fit and how to enjoy some freedom with their own fashion sense through knitting. Plus, I see them having such a great interest in the whole DIY movement. While I can’t quite imagine the Jersey Shore girls participating in a Sheep-To-Sweater contest, I do think that many of the new generation of knitters are very adventurous and will not be content to only knit cookie cutter projects from commercial yarn. I am also interested in teaching in more non-traditional settings. There are so many possibilities.

Angela’s class at a Sock Knitting Mini Retreat in Los Angeles.

UC: You are CYC certified. What would you say about CYC certification (pro or con) to someone deciding if they should get certified?

Angela: I found the CYCA certification very helpful for several reasons. The instruction is geared toward helping us understand different teaching and learning styles, how to adapt our teaching in a variety of settings, and to the nuts and bolts of lesson planning and professionalism. The notebook and samples required in the course are a handy reference tool for teaching. The completion of the course and having the credential gave me the confidence to move from teaching private lessons and yarn shop classes to teaching at fiber festivals and conferences. There are so many resources to help us become more skilled knitters, but this is the one resource that I have found that is specifically designed to help us become good knitting teachers.

(UC comment: Angela did a great job of summing up the advantages of the CYC knit or crochet teacher certification program.  If you are considering certification, check out my post about needlecraft teaching credentials.)

UC: What is your favorite thing to teach?

Angela: I love teaching beginners! There is just something so exciting about helping someone learn to knit and then watching them take the ball and run with it. My First Sock is a great class too because knitting a sock is kind of a rite of passage for beginning knitters.

UC: What are you hoping no one will ask to learn? :)

Angela: Hmmm. I can’t think of anything that I hope that no one will ask me to teach them. If we have the time, comfortable chairs, good lighting, and the right materials, I will give just about anything a go. Oh, except for nupps! I knit continental (German) style, and trying to teach nupps to throwers (English) style knitters will be the death of me. I just can’t get my own head and hands around how to do that without “picking.”

UC: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Angela: I love being with or being in touch with other knitting teachers. It is kind of like being in a great international sorority. Anyone who teaches someone else to knit is already a teacher. And there is so much room for all of us to be as ambitious – or not – as we like.

(UC comment: So true!  I love meeting up with other teachers on Ravelry.  Some great groups for this are CYC Certified Instructors Program, Crochet Instructors Lounge, and Knitting Teachers.)

Angela was also kind enough to share a picture of her knitting journal.

Pretty fancy.  It definitely puts my scrap paper notes to shame.  But it also inspires me to write a post about project journals – coming soon!

New Needlecrafts Teacher Interview: Vanessa from Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts

As an add-on to my series of posts about getting started as a local needlecrafts teacher, I’m virtually interviewing some teachers I’ve met online.

My first victim, er, I mean interviewee is Vanessa from Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts.  We are in a group together on Ravelry and that is how I learned about her blog.  If you haven’t already checked out Vanessa’s blog, do it now! – it’s downright awesome.  Plus, she takes really good pictures (something I aspire to do one day also).  Thanks to Vanessa for being brave enough to be my first interviewee, even though she is relatively new to teaching crochet.

UC: What inspired you to teach crochet?

Vanessa: Lack of funds! There was a knitting cafe near me that needed a new crochet teacher since the last one quit so I agreed to do it since I was the only person the owner knew that could crochet. I thought it would be fun so I agreed.

(UC comment: Wow, that’s awesome.  You were recruited!)

UC: Has teaching crochet had an impact on your own personal crafting?  If so, how?

Vanessa: Teaching has made me really think about what a pattern says to do and why you need to do it that way.

(UC comment: I am a self-taught pattern reader, and teaching was what inspired me to become a designer.  After helping students through some really badly written patterns, I was determined to write instructions as clearly as possible.)

UC: Do you have plans to expand your crochet teaching?  What do you want to work on in the next year?

Vanessa: I’ve only taught two classes but the cafe I was working through closed. So I suppose that I’m looking forward to having more students and those who really want to learn! The students I had didn’t return and didn’t want to practice.

UC: What are you hoping no one will ask to learn :)?

Vanessa: I’m hoping that no one asks how to do filet crochet, because honestly, I have no idea how to do it. I’ve never tried. I would like to try my hand at teaching a beginner knitting class since I really prefer knitting over crochet.

(UC comment: This a perfect segue to tomorrow’s post, an interview with West Coast knitting teacher, Angela Davis.)

Staying creative and current (Part 6: Getting started as a local needlecrafts teacher)

In my last post of this series on getting started as a local needlecrafts teacher, I’m focusing on how to stay creative and current.

Getting Started as a Local Needlecrafts Teacher, Part 6 on Underground Crafter

Current needlecraft trends

There are many reasons to stay abreast of the latest trends in the needlecrafts you teach.

  • Student interest.  Students are often interested in whatever technique, styles/patterns, or celebrities are “hot” within the craft industry.  This may create an opportunity for a new class.  Even if you have no interest in doing or teaching what is on trend, it helps to have an awareness of the trend’s existence.  This also makes you seem more connected to the industry as a teacher.
  • Your own interest.  Especially if you teach only beginners, you may start to stagnate.  How many variations of straight rows of single crochet can you come up with, after all?  Trying new techniques, designs, or yarns will help keep you “fresh” so you can continue to display that passion for the craft to your students.
  • Venue interest.  Many yarn shops, events, and organizations where you might want to teach will be interested in offering new and interesting classes.
  • Keeping your materials updated.  If you teach an ongoing class over a long period of time, you will need new material (content, projects, handouts) to inject into the classes, or you may lose some of your long standing students who are bored with the same old stuff.

But how do you figure out what the trends are?

  • General fashion or home decoration trends.  There are general trends in fashion, home decor, and lifestyles which translate easily into handmade needlecrafts.  From a quick glance at the fashion, home decor, lifestyle, or women’s interest magazine sections in a bookstore, you will have a general idea of the colors, weights of fabric, styles, and issues that are currently on trend.  If you are lucky enough to live in a place like New York City as I do, you can also take a gander at what people are wearing in the streets and on subways.  If bulky scarves are in, for example, perhaps you want to familiarize your students with knitting with two strands of yarn.  If you see that there is a growing interest in eco-friendly products, for example, you can introduce your students to natural fiber yarns and how to care for them.  If this is too abstract for you, checking out the latest issues of the needlecrafts magazines will also give you an idea of what is current in the craft you are teaching.
  • Tools and techniques.  What are local stores and online vendors selling now in terms of tools?  It wasn’t too long ago that hooks and needles were only available in metal or plastic.  Now you see wood everywhere.  Maybe your sock knitting class could include a section about the types of needles now available and which might be best for a particular project or technique.  If you start seeing more hairpin lace looms or afghan crochet hooks, it is a good sign that these techniques are on the rise.  Perhaps you might offer a beginner class or develop a project for your students.
  • Keep current in your needlecraft industry.  This can include joining professional organizations, guilds, and social networking sites as well as reading the blogs or websites of classic and emerging designers in your field.  The Craft Yarn Council recently published their survey of over 5,000 knitters and crocheters, which includes information about favorite projects.
  •  If you Google “Amazon bestsellers (insert name of needlecraft here),” you can get a list of ranked books currently selling in that category.  Some of these books will be classics and others will be newer.’s current knitting bestseller list.

Let’s take a quick look at the titles on Amazon’s current list of knitting bestsellers.

  1. Knit Your Own Royal Wedding
  2. 100 Flowers to Knit and Crochet
  3. 60 Quick Baby Knits
  4. Knit Your Own Dog
  5. Spud and Chloe at the Farm
  6. 75 Birds, Butterflies, & Little Beasts to Knit and Crochet
  7. Entrelac
  8. Sock Yarn One-Skein Wonders
  9. The Principles of Knitting (UC note: This is not yet released new edition of an out-of-print classic.)
  10. Stitch ‘N Bitch: The Knitter’s Handbook
  11. Knitting Block by Block
  12. The Knitting Answer Book
  13. Mastering Color Knitting
  14. Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks
  15. Astounding Knits!
  16. A Knitter’s Home Companion
  17. Knit Kimono Too
  18. Socks from the Toe Up
  19. Modern Top-Down Knitting
  20. Teach Yourself VISUALLY Knitting

In looking over the list, you can see that there are six books about quick or small projects (#1, #2, #3, #4, #6, #8), two books about socks (what a surprise!) (#14 & #18),  two books about contemporary clothing patterns (#17 and #19), and two books about amigurumi/dolls (#1 & #4).  There is a mix between project books and technique books (#7, #11, #13).

Just a quick look at this list can give you some great ideas for classes.  For example, you can see that small projects are what people are currently interested in.  This can be due to speed, the lower cost of materials, or the portability.  Also, both sock books are about toe-up socks rather than other types of construction.  If you check the list again in 3 months, some of the classics and basics will remain, but many of the others will have changed.

Staying creative

I make an effort to take at least one class with another needlecrafts teacher each year.  Why?  For one, I can learn a lot about my own teaching strengths and weaknesses by observing another teacher as well as by observing myself as a student.  When do I get bored?  How long is too long to focus on one activity?  How does the teacher allow more advanced students to move on?  How does the teacher deal with struggling students?

I also try to learn new skills – whether this is a new technique in a familiar craft or an entirely new craft.  For example, when I started quilting, I developed a much better understanding of the design elements of a blanket, sizing, and color theory.  I could use these skills in my personal crocheting, for example, as well as in my classes.

It also helps to complete some projects!  While I try not to overwhelm beginner students by showing them everything I’ve made, more advanced students may become interested in a certain technique, pattern, or project after seeing you complete it.

Do you have other suggestions for keeping the creative spirit alive?

Preparing for class (Part 5: Getting started as a local needlecrafts teacher)

If you are following this series of posts, you did a self-check to see if you are ready to teach, thought about whether to get a needlecrafts credential, scouted out some possible teaching spots, and considered various ways of marketing your classes.

Getting Started as a Local Needlecrafts Teacher, Part 5 on Underground Crafter

Now you need to get yourself ready for that very first class.  Preparing for class seems to fall along a continuum.  There are some people on one extreme, completely winging it.  On the other side, you have the teachers who have planned out every second of the class time.  I fall somewhere in the middle, but in my early days as a teacher, I was more inclined to over-prepare.  (By the way, I think”winging it” generally leads to sub par teaching, which leads to unhappy students, which leads to bad word-of-mouth…)

I’ve mentioned that I am a CYC certified crochet instructor and teacher.  As part of the certification process, you must complete 30 hours of teaching.  One way I completed this requirement was to develop a five week beginners class which I offered for free to several friends, classmates, and co-workers.  It was held in my home (in spite of my general fears of teaching from home).

I started by developing an overall outline for the course.  Then for each lesson I created a list of goals (skills or techniques I wanted students to learn),

This is from my first crochet class lesson plan.

an outline agenda,

My agenda for the first beginner crochet class

and a list of supplies.

My materials list for the first beginner class I taught.

I even went as far as to write out step-by-step instructions for each thing I taught.  This wasn’t so that I would read off the paper like a really bad college professor, but so that I could remind myself before the class of the small steps which make up each part of each bit of crochet mechanics.

These days, I don’t need quite as much prep for the beginner classes I teach.  I do still follow the same preparation process whenever I develop a new class or a new lesson.


I like to prepare handouts for students that they can refer to at home.  I start with a swatch of the stitch I’m teaching that day, which I usually scan.

Sometimes my scanner does weird stuff to the colors of the yarn, but it is much more accurate than my blurry stitch photos in bad lighting!

Then I write out some directions.  As a CYC certified instructor and teacher, I can also use the illustrations in the manual for my handouts.

Never forget to give proper credit!

Your handouts should also include your contact information so that your students can find you again later for support, future classes, or to refer to a friend.

Give yourself credit too.


Once you are more established, you may want to consider an inexpensive giveaway for your students.  This is especially helpful if you are teaching private lessons and you aren’t affiliated with a yarn shop or other corporate entity.  If you customize the giveaway, it can require significant advanced planning.

These are the bamboo hooks I give to my crochet students.

Other preparation ideas?