I’m excited to be joined today by Gwen Blakley Kinsler, founder of the Crochet Guild of America, as part of my ongoing series about teaching needlecrafts. I met Gwen (online, of course) in the Crochet Instructors Lounge group on Ravelry. In addition to being a nationally known crochet teacher, Gwen is a designer, a crochet artist, author of Kids Can Do It! Crocheting, and the editor of DRG’s Talking Crochet newsletter.
Gwen, also known as Crochet Queen, can be found on her website, her blog, her Flickr photostream, her Facebook page, her Twitter page, or on Ravelry (as crochetkween or in her Rav group, Cro-Kween Designs). She is a proud lifetime member of the Crochet Guild of America. (All images in this post are viewable on Gwen’s Flickr photostream and are used with her permission.)
Underground Crafter (UC): What first inspired you to teach crochet?
Gwen: My passion for crochet got me started. In 1982, I had two little children and decided to offer crochet classes at a local park district. It was something I knew a lot about and cared about and it got me out of the house a little bit.
UC: Has teaching crochet impacted your own personal crafting?
Gwen: Oh, most definitely! I learn so much from my students. I keep my ears open and listen to what they share. There is often crossover in their interests in crochet and other crafts. I think mixed-media work is the “hot” new thing right now and it is my new “frontier.” (UC comment: Gwen has some very interesting mixed media work for sale on her website. In particular, I was struck by her pieces incorporating photos of Frida Kahlo and prints of Kahlo’s paintings.)
UC: Do you have plans for expanding your teaching? What goals do you have for the next year?
Gwen: I plan to search out a new venue, such as a fiber fest or sheep and wool fest. I like teaching at venues that are bi-stitchural. The students come with good handwork skills and also a sense of mystique about how to crochet. I like to birth new crocheters into the world! (UC comment: Note to self: Now I will have to find some sentences to use “bi-stitchural” in… here’s my first one: In addition to Gwen’s classes at various regional and national venues, she teaches at her local bi-stitchural yarn shop, Fuzzy Wuzzy Yarns. If you are in the Chicago area, stop by for one of Gwen’s bead crochet, flatwork bead crochet, symbol crochet, or crochet socks classes this fall.)
UC: What are your favorite things to teach?
Gwen: Bead crochet and freeform crochet.
UC: What are you hoping no one will ask to learn?
Gwen: Fridgies!! (UC comment: Gwen and I must be kindred spirits. We both love to crochet, we appreciate the work of Frida Kahlo, and we are both, er, um, disinterested in fridgies.)
UC: You are a CYC certified crochet instructor. What did you find most useful about the program and how did it prepare you to teach?
Gwen: I have been CYCA certified since 1996 and it is kind of hard to remember what was most useful. Back then, the teacher came to us and it was a group class and 2-day session. I think the manual and the practice teaching, plus the use of the certification beside my name, have been the most useful.
There is still work to be done, though. No one ever asked me if I am certified or otherwise qualified in any way in all the places I have taught. I think CYC needs to promote the importance of teachers who are certified and educate the venues to expect this level of quality in the teachers they hire.
UC: You founded the Crochet Guild of America (and, as a member, let me say thanks!). Tell me about that.
Gwen: I was at the right place at the right time with a little entrepreneurial spirit and perseverance thrown in for good measure! I wanted to be able to share and to be part of a group with other crocheters. I wanted to learn from experts. I had a crochet party and 90 crocheters came to the first conference (1994). Those in attendance voted to create a national organization. More details are at www.crochet.org.
UC: What advice do you have for emerging crochet professional designers and teachers?
Gwen: Do your homework and don’t jump in before you are ready. Hone your crochet skills and specialize in one aspect of crochet and strive to make a name for yourself in that arena.
Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Gwen! In addition to the two Market Session classes mentioned above, Gwen will also be teaching Irish Crochet on Steroids and the Posh Post Stitch at STITCHES Midwest in August. If you are in the area, you should check out one of these classes and support crochet at the STITCHES events.