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

Crafting goals

When I first started secretly blogging in 2007 (yes, I still have a top secret blog hanging out on Blogger), I kept a list of works in progress (WIPs) that I dreamed of converting to FOs (finished objects).  Here I set forth a list of 25 crafting goals (some extremely ambitious, others down right lazy) that I hope to complete by May 1, 2012.  I hope that by presenting the list to the public, I will have a better completion rate :).

The list (in no particular order):

Personal crafting goals

  1. Complete my end of the wedding quilt gift.  (Don’t ask.)
  2. Work my way through Crochet Master Class.  Instead of using the patterns, I’d like to create my own project (for myself and/or for teaching) for each technique/skill in the book.
  3. Make a sweater that a man will actually wear.
  4. Make two projects from (or inspired by) Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks.
  5. Customize an awesome apron.  Or at least use an apron.  (Ideally, I would make a fabulous apron, but at the very least I can dye and/or embroider something onto the canvas apron I purchased at Michaels.)
  6. Make something fitted for my mom and my sister for the holidays (or their birthdays).
  7. Finish reading The Knitter’s Handbook.
  8. Finish reading The Complete Family Sewing Book.
  9. Read Knitting from the Top.
  10. Make myself a sewn skirt.
  11. Create a contemporary interpretation of at least one project from my Spring-Summer 1966 issue of McCall’s Needlework and Crafts.
  12. Continue to destash and keep my newly created crafting space organized.
  13. Really learn to use MacStitch for crochet designs.  (Danged Manga Cross Stitch got me hooked!)
  14. Make at least two custom fit pet gifts (see #6 below).
I've got my eye on you.

Professional crafting goals

  1. Read Producing Video Podcasts.
  2. Create and post at least three videos (tutorials or projects/patterns) on my blog or website.
  3. Publish at least five patterns.
  4. Blog at least twice a week.
  5. Teach in at least two conferences/festivals.
  6. Complete the Pet Product Design and Marketing certificate at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
  7. Read The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design.
  8. Write the book proposal that I’ve been thinking about – and send it out.
  9. Figure out how to do super cool stuff on WordPress.
  10. Take better photographs, along with all that entails.
  11. Become a CYC Certified Knitting Instructor (Level I-Instructor).

Wish me luck!

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.

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.
  • Amazon.com.  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.
Amazon.com’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.

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.

Handouts

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.

Giveaways:

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?

Drumming up business (Part 4: Getting started as a local needlecrafts teacher)

If you’ve decided that you’re ready to teach needlecrafts and have even found a place (or places) to start teaching,  you are probably wondering how you will attract students.

Online

Establishing an online presence can definitely help with advertising.  Even if you don’t have your own website, there are several sites where you can promote your classes for free or at low cost.

Social Networking Sites

On Facebook, you can use your personal profile or set up a page for your teaching business. You can promote your classes as events or via your status updates.  This article by Kandice L. Day talks about how to use Facebook effectively for a small business.

 

LinkedIn is a professional networking site.  You can include your needlecrafts resume in your profile.  This post by Dan Schawbel gives you tips for creating your personal brand on LinkedIn, including integration with your blog.

Hopefully, if you are planning to teach knitting, crocheting, spinning, or weaving, you are already aware of the existence of Ravelry and are a member, too.  You can post about classes in an existing group and/or create your own group so your fans can hear about your latest classes, designs, and creations.

Other social networking and media sharing sites where you might want to establish a free presence to advertise your classes are MySpace, Twitter, Flickr (if you take super awesome photos), or YouTube (if you have wonderful videos).

Classifieds

If your community has Craigslist, that can be a great free resource for advertising group classes or private lessons.

TeachStreet is one of several websites which list classes and allow you to create a teacher profile.  There is a nominal fee for class listings.

 

Other Web Resources

Of course, if you have your own website or blog, you can also advertise your classes and post tutorials or “teaser” lessons.

Sign up for Help a Reporter Out and respond to media requests for expertise.  Think outside the box here and consider all of the “hats” you wear when responding.  You may respond to a request for a mom, a small business owner, someone who can speak about relaxing local activities, etc.  Do not expect that many reporters are writing articles about how great (insert your favorite needlecraft here) is and looking for a list of local classes.  But you may have the opportunity to build a reputation and get the word out about your classes this way.

Good Ole Fashioned P.R.

Let’s not forget about the regular old, pre-internet ways of spreading the word about your classes.

  • Word of mouth.  Satisfied students can spread the word about your classes faster than most other methods.
  • Local press.  Classified advertising or clearly written press releases to your local paper can help.
  • Local guilds.  Your local needlecrafts guilds may allow members to list their classes in their newsletters.  (They may also allow you to teach at their meetings and events.)
  • Fliers.  Remember those paper things?  Yep, a concise and attractive flier can help recruit students.  You might post it in a community center, a large workplace, your local library, a college, or another setting where you think it may reach potential students.
  • Alumni groups and membership organizations.  Don’t forget to talk about your teaching as you interact with other organizations where you already have an established reputation (even if it is not as a needlecrafter).  People may already trust you in these settings so now you just have to convince them they want to learn (insert name of needlecraft here).

The Teaching Venue

If you are partnering with an organization or site to offer classes, they will often be involved with recruitment as well.  The expectations about student recruitment should be discussed when establishing the connection.  For example, are you as the teacher responsible for all advertising, a portion, or none at all (except what you do anyway because you are an awesome professional needlecrafts teacher)?

If the organization is taking responsibility for advertising your classes, look over their materials.  Are you being presented accurately?  Do the classes sound interesting?  Perhaps you can provide pictures or a bio which would be helpful for recruitment, even if you do not have the ultimate responsibility for bringing in students.

Other ideas?

I’d be interested in hearing from other teachers and students about other suggestions for recruiting students and/or getting the word out about classes.

Location, Location, Location (Part 3: Getting started as a local needlecrafts teacher)

You know you’re ready to teach.  You’ve made a decision about whether to pursue needlecrafts teaching or master certification.  But now that you are ready to teach, where (physically) do you get started?

First, consider your space requirements.  If you are teaching knitting, crocheting, hand sewing, hand quilting, rug hooking, or embroidery, you are pretty portable.  That opens up many options.

Some teachers get their start at a local library.
  • The local library.  Remember that classes in the library generally must be open to the public so you can’t “pick and choose” your students.  Oftentimes the library has a budget for classes, but you might also volunteer your time to gain experience or build a reputation.
  • Senior centers.  Needlecrafts keep people active – using their motor skills and minds.  Needlecrafts classes also make great social events.  Many senior centers, naturally occurring retirement communities, and related spots welcome needlecrafts teachers.
  • Yarn/sewing/quilting/craft shops.  Obvious, of course.  Some shops use someone in-house to teach and others bring teachers in so their employees can focus on other things.  Chain stores generally require certification.
  • Community or recreation centers.  Many community centers offer creative classes for children and/or adults.
  • Continuing education programs.  Many colleges have expanded their continuing education offerings to include “wellness” or “personal enrichment” classes.
  • Museums or galleries.  Museums or galleries with a textile focus are an especially strong fit.
  • Your home.  Some people enjoy teaching in their home.  Perhaps they didn’t grow up in New York City in the mid ’70s to early ’90s like me.  I’m just too paranoid to invite someone I don’t know into my home.  But if that doesn’t worry you, remember to consider allergies if you smoke or have pets.
  • The student’s home.  Some people feel comfortable inviting a teacher into their home.  This can be a great option, especially for private lessons or private group lessons.  If you have pet or smoke allergies, you may want to check into the environment before agreeing to teach there.
  • An office, union, or professional organization.  Many companies are open to the idea of employees using their facilities after hours or during lunch for classes.  In my experience, the students paid directly for the classes, but I have heard of instances where the Human Resources department might be willing to pay for classes.  Unions or other professional organizations may be willing to pay for classes for their members, assuming that certain enrollment requirements are met.
  • A coffee shop.  Any conveniently located establishment which allows people to hang around for a few hours at minimal cost can be an ideal location for an individual private lesson.
  • Your local guild.  Many local guilds allow members to teach lessons during meetings or can arrange for lessons with discounts for members.  It helps if you are teaching something unusual or more advanced.
  • Schools, camps, and after-school programs.  If you plan to teach children, you can also explore these options.
  • Public parks and atriums.  When the weather is mild, a public location (outdoors or indoors and unheated) can be a fun spot for a class.
  • Your website: If you are tech saavy, online teaching is also an option.  Some people really need the teacher at their side to help out with the mechanics, but others can learn needlecrafts easily from videos and pictures.

In addition to these locations, there are local events where you might consider teaching.

  • Baby shower.  People often get crafty when babies are about to be born.  How about a workshop on a pieced blanket that everyone can work on together?
  • Bachelorette party.  Maybe you can work your garter belt pattern into the program before the stripper gets there :).
  • College and high school community service events.  Many schools are interested in service learning and community service projects.  For many charity projects, the work can be divided up among many students of varying skills levels.  Similarly, a charity that is the recipient of donated handmade items (like a hospital NICU) might be interested in sponsoring classes off-site to increase their donations.
  • Heath fairs and wellness events.  If you don’t believe it, just check out this CBS News video at Annie’s Attic.

Once you have some more experience under your belt, you may want to consider needlecrafts conferences, festivals, and retreats.  Some events are themed and others are willing to consider many types of class proposals.  This can be a way to reach a wider audience and get to travel.

If you are teaching machine sewing or quilting, spinning, weaving, or dyeing, you may need special equipment or facilities.  This limits your options somewhat.  If you need a sewing machine, you will generally be restricted to a store or specially equipped continuing education program or community center, for example.

Each location has its own advantages and disadvantages.  Existing teachers or students, please chime in about your preferences!

Credentials, or do I really need that certification? (Part 2: Getting started as a local needlecrafts teacher)

Now you’ve asked yourself some basic questions and you’ve decided you want to teach needlecrafts.  You may be wondering if you should get some sort of certification.

FULL DISCLOSURE ALERT!  I am a Craft Yarn Council (CYC) certified crochet instructor (level I) and certified crochet teacher (level II) and I’m in the process of getting my CYC certification for knitting.

There are several reasons you might get a teaching certification.

  • Some employers require certification. This is particularly true of national chain stores (e.g., Michaels, Joanns).
  • Some organizations prefer certification. While your local yarn shop, continuing education program, or regional needlearts conference probably don’t require you to be certified, having a credential may give you a boost over another interested teacher.  This could be particularly true if you don’t have other credentials in needlecrafts.  If you have other experience or education, the credential may not be as valuable.
  • You aren’t confident about your teaching abilities. Teaching certification programs focus on how to teach the craft.  If you don’t know how to explain things, or why something should be done a certain way, the certification program can help you prepare to teach.
  • Some certification programs provide exposure opportunities for their graduates. For example, the Embroiderer’s Guild of America includes the list of Graduate Certified Teachers on its website with contact information.  If you don’t have your own website or storefront, this extra publicity can help you find students.
  • You need a head start on developing your teaching resources. Many certification programs include materials in their training which you can adapt for use with your students.  Others include tips on publicizing your classes.
  • It just sounds cool. When I tell students about what I had to do to complete my certification, it often puts them at ease and makes them feel more comfortable about taking a class with me.

There are also reasons why you might not get certification.

  • It costs money. These programs are not cheap.  Most teacher certification programs cost at least $100 for a correspondence program.  Attending an on-site program can be very costly if you need to travel to the location.
  • It takes time. On-site programs generally have a minimum number of hours to participate.  Correspondence programs often have many tasks you must complete to show your mastery of the craft.  Many certification programs require you to teach a certain number of hours before granting certification.
  • It isn’t necessary because of your existing experience or education in needlecrafts. ‘Nuff said.
  • There isn’t much competition in your local area, so the certification provides no advantage. I live in New York City, and everyone and their mother wants to teach knitting and crocheting.  But perhaps where you live, you are the only game in town :).

If you do decide to seek certification, what are your options in the needlecrafts?  Here is a list I’ve compiled.  This is based only on a preliminary Google search.  I am not affiliated with any of these programs (other than being a CYC graduate and student as already mentioned).  This is not an endorsement of any of these programs, so don’t be mad at me if you don’t like them :).

Crochet:

Embroidery and Needlepoint:

Knitting:

Patchwork and Quilting:

Rug Hooking:

Sewing:

Another alternative to teaching certification is to become a master (insert needlecraft here).  While these programs do not specifically prepare you to teach, they provide advanced technical training and an assessment of your skills.  This can also be helpful from a “look, I have a cool credential” point of view as well as by providing you with additional skill development.

Some examples:

A less expensive and time consuming option is to buy a book on teaching or a teaching resource package from an existing organization.  This won’t provide the same level of preparation, but can be a great option if you are short on time and are confident in your teaching skills.  Here are some examples:

This list is by no means exhaustive.  I’d be interested in hearing from other teachers about their experiences related to certification.

Getting Started (Part 1: Getting started as a local needlecrafts teacher)

If you’re thinking about becoming a needlecrafts teacher in your local area, you should know that I was in your shoes just four years ago.  Now that I’ve taught over 100 beginners to crochet or knit, plus many other students to move beyond the basics, I am happy to share some of the things I wish I knew when I started in this series of posts.

Do I have what it takes to teach?

Teaching something and knowing how to do something are actually not the same thing.  Has an expert ever tried to explain something to you and you just didn’t “get it” but then later, someone else explained it and it was very clear?   When I first began teaching crochet, I thought it was enough to know how to crochet myself.  After about an hour of mutual frustration with my first student (I couldn’t explain and she couldn’t understand), I realized there is much more to it.

To be a great needlecrafts teacher, you will need certain skills.  Let’s start with the essentials.

  • A solid foundation in the basics of the craft you plan to teach.  This means you absolutely know how to do everything basic without referring to a reference guide or another source.  While as a teacher you don’t need to know everything (especially if you teach beginners only), you should have total command of the basics.
I am a self taught pattern reader, so I used to keep a cheat sheet for myself with the names of different basic stitches. Tip: Learn the names before trying to teach them!
  • Some understanding of the next level (beyond the basics) in the craft.  You probably do not need to have the highest level of expertise, but remember that even in a beginner class, you will have some students who come in with basic skills.  You will need to teach them as well :).

In addition to skills in your chosen craft, there are certain personal qualities that help a lot.

  • Patience.  If you don’t  like to repeat the same thing multiple times, teaching may not be for you.  At the very least, you might want to avoid teaching beginners :).  Remember that many of your students have never tried (insert your favorite needlecraft here) before.  Other students may have had some unsuccessful attempts to learn from another teacher, a book, a video, or online before.  Your lack of patience could turn them off entirely to a great craft.
  • Confidence.  A good teacher needs to be able to project her/his voice, to admit when s/he don’t know something, to resolve conflicts between students, to deal with a disruptive or monopolizing student, etc.  All of these social interactions require confidence.  If you feel very shaky about yourself and your skills, it will come through to your students.
  • Organizational skills.  Structuring a class takes organization, whether it is for one student or a group.  You will need to prepare your ideas and materials, meet your student(s) on time, and have the right amount of content to cover.  Depending on the situation, you may also need samples, handouts, or other materials.  Careful pre planning is required, especially in the beginning when you haven’t done it before.
  • Energy.  When you have a class scheduled, you will need to have a reasonably high level of energy.  For needlecrafts, you don’t need the stamina of an aerobics teacher.  On the other hand, you can’t be dozing off in the corner.
Some times I need a boost before a Saturday morning class.

It also helps to have a lot of passion for the craft.  Your enthusiasm and interest will be visible to your students.  And if you are teaching adults, diplomacy is also a must.  You need to be able to gently redirect someone if they are making a mistake.

Who do I want to teach?

Some needlecrafts teachers chose to specialize.

Age

  • Will you teach children or adults or both?  If both, are you teaching them in the same class or do you teach kids separately from adults?  Children often get bored during a class which might seem too short to an adult.  If you are teaching mixed groups, you may want to set guidelines about whether children need to be accompanied by an adult, establish a minimum age, and monitor the discussion topics of the adult students.
  • If you are only teaching adult students, you will also need to think differently than your favorite grade school teacher.  Most adults take a needlecrafts course voluntarily.  If you don’t cater to the learning needs and preferences of adults, they may let their feet do the talking.  You will probably need to keep the course lively, remember not to assign or expect too much “homework” outside of class, and understand if people want to take breaks, arrive late or leave early, and chat with their friends.
  • If you are teaching children, you will want to consider developmental issues like how advanced are their motor skills and what is their reading level if you plan to use handouts.
Some teachers specialize in classes for seniors.

Level

Some teachers love to introduce new students to their crafts.  They love seeing a beginner finally perfect a foundational skill.  Others want to teach more advanced techniques and don’t have the patience for the basics.  Other teachers are comfortable teaching multiple levels.

What do I want to teach?

In every craft, there are cycles of popularity.  If you teach (insert currently popular technique), you may be in greater demand.  On the other hand, maybe you are so passionate about a particular technique or project and have no interest in the latest trends.

I love Tunisian crochet but beaded crochet - not so much.

Miscellaneous stuff

If you plan to charge for your classes, you will definitely want to stand out from other teachers in your local area.  Yes, needlecrafts are also part of the capitalist market economy (the horror!), and people will chose other teachers over you if they are cheaper, more fun/interesting/prepared/skilled, etc.  You may want to think about what other strengths you have that can add something to your lessons for your students.  Maybe you are a great baker and cookies are included in each lesson.  Or you are a graphic arts wiz so your handouts are gorgeous.  Perhaps you are a very good writer and all of your instructions are extremely clear.  Bring those unique things which make you special into your teaching.