What I learned from teaching

I just returned from teaching my first ever Irish Crochet Lace class.  Well, let me be clear, it wasn’t MY first Irish Crochet class.  My history with crochet goes back my entire life.

It was my first time to teach this skill to someone else.  And boy, did I learn a lot!

The students

If you’re not familiar with the fiber world, there are guilds for knitting, crocheting, spinning, weaving, and probably more.  I’ve belonged to the Crochet Guild of America for a number of years.  The group that invited me to speak and teach is a handweaver’s guild.

And boy do they know their stuff!  They raise llamas.  They shear fleece and spin the yarn.  They dye the yarn.  Then they weave, knit, and crochet the result.  Weavers are incredibly multi-disciplined!

I started with a 45-minute talk for the monthly guild meeting.  Before I was called to the front, the members did a show-and-tell.  When I saw the quality and variety of the beautiful work they displayed, it got me so excited.  These are my people!!

My talk, Irish Crochet Lace, took the subject in reverse order.  I talked about the history of lace and its importance in the economy of the world, then crochet as the new kid on the block, and finally how the Irish refined the skill into their own art form. 

I saw heads nodding all across the audience and many swarmed the table of my samples when the talk was over.  They really got it. 

The class

Five members signed up for my 2-day class and we began that afternoon.  Here’s what I learned from teaching students who are already proficient in a similar art:

  • Language matters.  Because we are all fiber people, we spoke the same language.  If I said to “weave in the ends,” they knew exactly what I meant.  Same with “Well, you’ll just have to frog it.”  (That means: rip it, rip it – take it apart)
  • What I think is simple is not always easy.  We began with a motif that to me is super simple, but because of the way Irish Lace is made, it wasn’t easy for them.  The third motif was actually easier and that’s where I’ll start next time.
  • It’s easy to ask too much.  I gave two 3-hour classes, on two consecutive days.  The amount of material I included, as I reflect, would take three days!  My enthusiasm and deep knowledge of the material bedazzled me.  They do have written instructions in hand and access to me online, so I don’t feel like I’ve left them hanging.
  • Technical writing is really technical.  I had to constantly review my handouts to be sure the handouts were accurate.  This, I think, will be an ongoing refinement.
  • Creativity is contagious.  I would demonstrate how to crochet a piece in the traditional way, and next thing I would hear was, “What if we moved the thread here and put the hook here?” or “Can I try it like this?”   It was so fun to see what they would come up with next!

My experience teaching this class cemented for me that this is an art form that I love.  When I’m around other fiber folks, I’m with my tribe.  (I even managed a quick spinning lesson!)

But this passion does not replace my work helping creative folks ditch the day job. 

When clients work with me, they finally give themselves permission to take their art seriously and they understand that their creations matter.  When you have permission and you know it matters, then you make self-discipline happen. It’s work. That’s why you need a coach.

But mostly, I want you to have the feeling I had.  Whether it’s music or painting or writing or acting or gaming or whatever, I want you to be amongst others who love the same art form you do.  

I want you to feel connected through your creativity.

When we have others to bounce our ideas off of, it makes our ideas stronger.  It makes them plausible.  It makes them happen! 

And that’s what we’re here for.


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