Thursday 6 February 2014

Spotlight Post ~ Patrice Walker

I Don’t Know How to Crochet But I Want to Make This

As a crochet instructor, I get a lot of requests like this. 
And even if someone says they want to learn how to crochet, 
they usually have something in mind that they want to make. 
So how do you take someone from little or no crochet skill 
to successfully completing a crochet pattern?

A 5-Step Approach

Image via Flickr by Sammy4586

As a former instructional designer and trainer, I like to use a “systems approach” to teaching someone how to crochet a pattern. This approach involves the following five steps:

1) Assess the student’s skill level.
2) Review the pattern.
3) Teach the individual skills needed to execute the pattern. 
4) Crochet a practice piece.
5) Crochet the real thing.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these steps.

Step 1: Assess the Student’s Skill Level

The first thing you need to find out is how much crochet your student knows. 
You can determine this by asking these questions:

Have you ever done any needlecrafts (e.g., knitting, sewing, embroidery)?
 If the answer is yes, then even if your student has never crocheted, 
she probably has the fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination 
needed to manipulate the hook and yarn.
Have you ever crocheted before? 
Often, the answer to this question is yes, but it was a long time ago, 
so the student needs help remembering what to do. 
If the student has never crocheted before, but has done some other needlecraft, 
she is one step ahead of the non-crocheter who has no needlecraft experience. 
With this last group, it may take longer to get to the point where they can execute a pattern, 
but that’s not always the case. 
You’ll know how well your student can handle the hook 
and yarn as you begin teaching her the crochet skills needed to complete the pattern.
Are you right handed or left handed? 
This is an important question, especially if you crochet with the hand opposite the one your student uses.
 But if you have solid crochet skills,
 it shouldn’t be difficult for you to adjust your point of view to that of your left-handed student. 
I wrote a post on teaching left-handed students to crochet 
that will give you some pointers on how to teach them.

Step 2: Review the Pattern

 Image via Flickr by kpwerker

Now that you know what your student can do, 
it’s time to take a look at the pattern she wants to work with 
to determine what you’ll need to teach to help her successfully execute it.

Carefully read through the pattern and list each skill and technique you find. For example, 
I’m currently working with a student who wants to crochet a basket with handles. 
The pattern uses the chain, slip, single crochet, and half double crochet stitches. 
It also involves crocheting in the round.

With this list in hand, ask your student how well she knows how to do each stitch and technique. 
Her answers will tell you what you need to teach her. 

Step 3: Teach Each Skill Needed to Execute the Pattern

Depending on the skill level of your student, you may have to teach each of the pattern stitches 
and techniques individually before she can use them in the pattern. 
Even if she says she knows how to crochet a stitch, 
always have her demonstrate it so you can assess how well she does it. 
If your student has little to no crochet skill, she will need to take some time to practice the stitches 
and techniques in order to become proficient in executing them.

Have your students use a light-colored, worsted weight yarn 
and around an H/5.00 mm crochet hook for these sessions. 
The light-colored yarn ensures the stitches can be seen, 
worsted weight is pretty easy to handle, and the H/5.00 mm hook is a good size for this weight. 
But depending on your student’s tension and what she’s comfortable with, 
she might need to switch to a slightly smaller or larger hook. 
The main thing at this stage is to use a hook size the student feels most comfortable with.

Your student will probably need a number of sessions to get to the point 
where she can crochet the pattern piece. 
It’s a good idea to schedule lessons a week apart to give her time to practice the skills you’ve taught.  
Many students take these homework assignments to heart 
and do the required practice so they’re ready to move forward when they return for the next lesson.

Sometimes, however, life gets in the way, 
and a student may not have had time to practice in between lessons. 
If this is the case, the next lesson is going to be a practice lesson 
because you want to make sure the student is comfortable crocheting the stitches 
and executing the techniques the pattern requires BEFORE she actually starts working on it.

Step 4: Crochet a Practice Piece

Image via Flickr by cluttercup

When you’re satisfied your student has a good handle on crocheting the stitches 
and executing the techniques the pattern calls for, it’s time to do a practice piece.

Why not just go ahead and do the real thing at this point? 
The answer depends on the complexity of the pattern and the materials required. 
If the pattern is fairly simple, the yarn is worsted weight, 
and the hook size is close to what your student has been using, 
you can probably skip this step and have her crochet the real thing.

But if the pattern is complex, the yarn unusual, 
and/or the hook size is either a lot smaller or larger than what she’s been practicing with,
 it’s a good idea to have your student do a practice piece in a yarn
and hook size she’s familiar with.

For example, my student’s basket pattern uses two strands of a bulky weight yarn 
and an L/8.00 mm hook, so I had her crochet the piece in worsted weight yarn 
and an H/5.00 mm hook first. 
Of course, the finished practice piece didn’t have the stiffness 
and other qualities that would have resulted from using the pattern materials, 
but she got a chance to put together all of the skills 
and techniques she learned to create a finished piece.

Step 5: Crochet the Real Thing

Have you noticed I haven’t mentioned a thing about teaching the student how to READ the pattern? 
That’s because pattern reading is a completely separate skill that has to be taught 
in addition to the crochet stitches and techniques. 
Here again, the complexity of the pattern will determine when to do this.

At a minimum, it’s a good idea to familiarize your student with the overall pattern format, 
what each section includes, and what the abbreviations stand for. 
The tough part for your student will be understanding the pattern instructions. 

If the pattern is a simple one, have your student follow along as you read each pattern row or round, making sure she understands what she needs to do. 
If the pattern instructions are more complex, 
you may need to break each row or round into sub-steps for easier execution.
 In other words, read a substep, have the student execute it, then move to the next substep, 
without having her read the pattern instructions with you. 
You don’t want her to become confused or distracted 
by trying to understand complicated instructions while she’s crocheting the stitches. 

After completing the piece, you can review the instructions with your student 
to make sure she understands each row or round. 
Because she’s already completed the piece,
 it should be easier for her to understand what the instructions are saying.
Be sure to explain the meaning and use of pattern conventions such as 
brackets, parentheses, and the asterisk.

Taking a student from no crochet skills to successfully crocheting a pattern 
is time-consuming for both student and teacher, but definitely worth the effort. 
Your student will walk away from these sessions with the confidence 
and skills needed to crochet the next pattern on her own.

Patrice Walker has been crocheting for over 40 years and writing professionally for almost as long. 
She is a Craft Yarn Council Certified Crochet Instructor and teaches crochet online, 
as well as on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. 
You can find out more about her love of crochet at Yarn Over, Pull Through: 
The Heart and Soul of Crochet.

Photos used in post

Links used in post

#how to teach crochet, #crochet instructor, #teaching left-handed students to crochet

Thank you ever so much Patrice!
What a fantastic post, it's given me a lot to think about.
I might be teaching a friends daughter so it's going to come in very handy!


  1. Sue, thanks so much for featuring my post!! Glad you found it helpful :-)

  2. This was great, I tend to encounter this when we get new members to our already established crochet group.


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