Friday, March 7, 2008

ARNie’s Theory of Teaching Crochet for a Modern Stitcher

So many factors affect a modern person’s ability to learn to crochet, and most of them are not conducive for learning this or any other needlework.

  • Time Shortage- they simply don’t have a lot of time to sit and practice at home.
  • No one to help- if they are paying to take a class, that means they have no one to help them at home.
  • Rewired Eye/Hand Coordination- it has been my experience that working with computers: typing, video games, spread sheets, graphics programs... all of this is a completely different type of Eye-Hand Coordination. Spending a lot of time in front of the computer will ‘rewire’ the brain’s Eye-Hand Coordination, so that these folks will truly struggle with manipulating tools.
  • Instant Gratification- with today’s fast paced lives, they are trained to expect results quickly, and if they don’t get those results quickly, they believe they have failed or this is too difficult for them to continue wasting time on.

Consequentially, I don’t teach crochet classes in a traditional progression of skills. I want my students to feel a sense of accomplishment after every class session; which encourages and empowers them to practice more at home.

I explain the Eye-Hand coordination theory to them, and continuously tell them to be patient with themselves: they are training their brain to do something completely alien. Give it time to learn.

To accomplish these goals, I have designed a curriculum that allows the students to focus on only one thing during a session.

Traditionally, we were taught to crochet into a chain the very first thing. This forces the student to learn the mechanics of the stitching, as well as, stitch placement all at the same time.

Or, we were taught a granny square, which seemed to be one of the most simplest things to learn... unless you have never seen one before, and then it becomes a maze of where to put the hook-when do I chain-which stitches do I skip-where is that stupid corner....

I believe this is too much to learn all at once, especially since folks who take classes usually don’t have anyone at home to help them with finer details, such as recognizing the various parts of the stitch to identify where the hook must go.

Consequentially, my first lessons are all worked in rounds and I don’t focus too much on ‘connecting to the beginning stitch of each round.’ The first stitches they learn are Chains and Single Crochets, and slip stitches.

The mechanics of these are fairly intuitive: the hook grabs the yarn and pulls it through the loop on the hook. The hook goes into a stitch, grab the yarn, pull it through the loop on the hook. Then the next natural progression: the hook goes into a stitch, grab the yarn, pull it through, then grab the yarn again & pull in through to connect it all.

By allowing the student to work with Chains and Single Crochets in rounds, it allows them to focus more on their mechanics and they don’t stress out over finding where the hook goes next.

It's been my experience that this breaks down the various elements of crochet into separate lessons:

  • First, conquer the Physical aspect of how to manipulate hook and yarn, plus how to get both hands working together in concert
  • Then, learning the Visual aspect- how to identify the various parts of a stitch and where to place the hook within those parts- is much easier

Separating these skills, and allowing the student to learn one first, allows the Modern Stitcher more success early on. At the end of a two hour session, they can take home a lacy coaster (that won’t look half bad) to show their families. And I can’t tell you how many of these students bring back numerous ‘lacy coasters’ that they worked on over the week.

The next lesson I teach the Double Crochet stitch, since that is the one stitch used most often. I continue to work in rounds, but not working into stitches. I designed a few flower motifs that still work into chain spaces, that will allow students to focus on the mechanics of forming the Double Crochet stitch.

In this lesson, I also teach how to attach new colors, so that they will have colorful Flower coasters to take home. Again, that sense of accomplishment- really caters to a goal oriented person, and if they are paying for a class, they are goal oriented. They won’t have to hide their first crochet projects in a drawer because they look so awful; they can proudly display them to say look what I accomplished in only my second lesson!

This sense of pride and accomplishment does more towards the success of students than anything a teacher can do. No amount of patience, persistence, or tenacity on the teacher's part can compare to the encouragement of the student’s own success; so I give them that success from day one, and every day they leave my class.

After they have learned the Double Crochet stitch, the students are familiar enough with the mechanics that they can focus on the visual aspect of crochet: recognizing the various parts of a stitch to learn where to put the hook in forming new stitches.

The next two classes they learn: Half Double and Treble Crochet stitches, plus picots, how to crochet into a chain- individual stitches, how to crochet two blocks together & how to crochet around a block.

Each lesson has a specific project to further the sense of accomplishment and success. I use Star motifs to teach Trebles, and Plain Ol' Crochet row by row to make a simple washcloth to teach them the Half Double crochet. In these lessons, I also give them some of the snowflake patterns at my site. These are super quick and give my students an enourmous sense of pride in such a short time.

Finally, I spend the last two lessons working on the Diagonal Stitch or Corner to Corner stitch. Yes, this seems like a very complicated technique to teach beginners, however, I had such horrible results with granny squares and mile a minute strips that I will NEVER teach them to a beginner’s class ever again.

The Diagonal Stitch offer students a method of building blankets that will always have a nice straight edge, lots of texture, endless potential for color variation, and allows them to work into a Chain Space, instead of individual stitches.

Even with folks who have been crocheting only 1 month, they learn this method in 2 classes or 4 hours. I encourage them with the words: once you learn this method, you will never want to make blankets row by row. Be patient with yourselves, this is a little complicated, but I would not teach it, if I didn’t believe you could learn it. And for beginners, it offers the best method for creating perfect blankets every time.

All of my tips and tricks for teaching & learning the Diagonal Stitch are in my booklet
Diagonal Magic Primer.

Finally, if I have a student who continues to struggle after the second week, I put a long hook in their hands and teach them Tunisian Crochet. In my years of teaching, Tunisian Crochet (aka Afghan Stitch) is much easier to teach and to learn. I tell these students that my goal is to teach them a stitching hobby that they can love and have fun with. That does not necessarily mean classic crochet- for them. After they have mastered Tunisian Crochet and trained the mind and hands to work together, then come back to Classic Crochet... if they want to.

© Angela ‘ARNie’ Grabowski 2008. All rights reserved. For more crochet fun, visit
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Rebecca said...

I'm surprised no one has commented yet, because this is the best teaching method I have found explained online. I'm preparing to teach my first "real" crochet class, and having taught a couple of people individually, I have found that yarn management (both stitch tension and how to deal with working end, tail end/work so far, and hook with only two hands) is a big hurdle to get over at the same time as figuring out where to put the hook, count stitches, etc. Thank you for taking the time to write this up. I will certainly be using this approach!

coffeedog said...

Wow, this is a very different progression of how to teach crochet, and one I'm looking forward to trying out. Another way I want to investigate is finger crochet.

Debjani Ghosh said...

Thank you and bless you!
wonderful teaching technique.