Episode 20: 12 Tips for teaching new knitters

00:00:00:04 - 00:00:30:19

Michelle

Hello lovelies. Welcome to episode 20 of the Get Knit Done podcast with me, Michelle Gregory. Hello lovelies. I am so pleased to be here with you today. It is a beautiful day here in Long Eaton as I am recording this and I am so excited to get going with this episode. Before I begin though, just to let you know that if you go to learn.knitschool.co.uk and go to the freebies and resources page, you will find a learn to knit checklist that goes with this episode.


00:00:31:02 - 00:00:57:03

Michelle

I'll talk a little bit more about that later on, but don't forget to download it because it'll be super useful for this episode. When I started working on this episode, I thought it would be good to talk about where to start when you're learning to knit and what are those key skills, etc., etc. But as I wrote it, I realized that actually the other side of it is just as important and possibly more important depending on where you are in your knitting journey.


00:00:57:15 - 00:01:16:14

Michelle

And that is where to start When you are going to teach someone to knit because there's actually a huge amount of overlap between the two. So I thought I would talk about both in this episode. Something I am asked more and more often now is How do I teach someone to knit? so I'm really, really thrilled to be talking about this.


00:01:17:01 - 00:01:40:06

Michelle

Now, a lot of people wonder how I can run a Knit School and then want other people to teach people to knit. But actually there's two reasons. One, I can't teach the whole world to knit And two, I'm actually not the most natural teacher of beginners. Given that I have just finished teaching a learn to knit class, you probably you want me to explain that a little bit.


00:01:40:14 - 00:02:08:19

Michelle

And I feel like I should. So if you take teachers, for example, my mom was and is well, she was before she retired, a primary school teacher and went on then to eventually become the school head. But she started teaching in what we would call the junior room and in Ireland in very small rural schools, I'll tell the people who have like 30 or 40 kids in the classroom, for a single class probably amazed, but I had only in my first school there was only three of us in my class.


00:02:08:20 - 00:02:26:05

Michelle

So in small rural schools, you'll find that the teachers will have four classes in a room. So my mom would have had junior infants, senior infants, first and second, and then in the senior room you'd have had third, fourth, fifth and sixth class. Yeah, it's quite a thing to be able to teach in a multiclass setting. I'm sure there are teachers listening to me thinking What really?


00:02:26:24 - 00:02:44:10

Michelle

So, yeah, so my mom would have taught in both rooms, so she would've started in a junior room and then she moved on to the senior room. And if I asked her, I'm pretty confident that she would say that she probably enjoyed teaching the older kids more. And I think that you have people who prefer to teach kids of different ages in schools, and I don't think it's any difference with knitting.


00:02:44:24 - 00:03:01:20

Michelle

So you have people who are really good with beginners who whose lives are dedicated to teaching new knitters. Whereas me, I kind of like to teach people who are a little bit further on. Although I do teach learn to knit because I want to help create more knitters, but I'm very happy for other people to teach beginners as well.


00:03:02:04 - 00:03:20:01

Michelle

Certainly the more people we have out there teaching knitting, the better it is because hey, we want to teach the whole world to knit. And actually, that's something to be really aware of as you start out teaching someone to knit is where are you on that spectrum of people who are good at teaching people who are a new things and people who are better at teaching, people who are a little bit further on?


00:03:20:10 - 00:03:39:09

Michelle

An interesting one, actually, is I did during many of my my what will I call them? My corporate escape plans. And I'm not going to I bet I'm not the only person who used to have these. I remember doing a teaching English as a foreign language course way back when I was, I think, really my first job at a number of attempts to escape that.


00:03:39:18 - 00:04:02:22

Michelle

And I remember doing the in-person practice for teaching English foreign language. And the instructor she asked me to the side and I was like oh. Oh, and she said, you're going to have to use smaller words when you begin your starting out with English classes. And I think at that moment I knew that I might not be the person for that particular job.


00:04:03:02 - 00:04:32:05

Michelle

So I'd be more than happy to do conversational teaching English as a foreign language. But I wouldn't have been suitable for teaching really, really new entry level English speakers. An interesting one didn't continue that on. Obviously I went and did something else, but I definitely made a number of escape attempts from that job. Actually, the funny thing is, is that when I met Simon and I was thinking about this recently, I had a voluntary services overseas application in my wardrobe completed with a reference from my manager at the time.


00:04:32:16 - 00:05:01:23

Michelle

But, you know, life takes funny twists But anyway, that is a totally different story. So back to the knitting. If you are going to teach someone, do you think about yourself as well first and where you are when teaching knitters. It might lead you to less frustration later on? So I have two different sections for this podcast. I have seven items of kind of practicalities and then I have five where I would say or like the human element that you kind of have to be ready for, as well as the practicalities are one thing.


00:05:01:23 - 00:05:21:16

Michelle

And then the human element is another and I have to say, as someone who's been teaching, you know, for quite a while, the human element is definitely the one that'll that'll surprised you the most. So let's start right at the very beginning with something that's very obvious. So you need to have time and space and practice time for people when they're sitting out setting out on their knitting journey.


00:05:22:02 - 00:05:36:15

Michelle

The reason I say that is because you don't want to rush it, you want to give people time and you know, they really need space as well. So if you have if you're in a very busy environment or you have something that's very distracting, that might not be suitable. So do think about where you're actually going to have your lesson.


00:05:36:23 - 00:05:55:10

Michelle

Sometimes it's good in a coffee shop if it's a nice, quiet coffee shop. But on the flip side, it might be better at home or in their house or somewhere. That's kind of got more you know, that isn't noisy and isn't distracting. I think that's probably the same with teaching most things. The second thing then is the right amount of kits and the right type of kits.


00:05:55:19 - 00:06:21:03

Michelle

So I used to fret a lot about people having to buy the wrong that they might buy the wrong things when they start out. And I have it actually delayed me releasing my class because I was kind of obsessed with making sure that the pattern was the right size or the needles were right. And actually all that really matters is that you have a suitable weight wool, and you have either the long straight needles or you have circular needles that have long enough tips on them.


00:06:21:06 - 00:06:49:00

Michelle

And that's really what matters most. So don't get don't blind them with science because it's really easy to get into a whole, there's this type of needle, this, type of wool of this type of yarn and there's this type of needle. Don't worry too much about that. Get people started and then worry later about the kit. Don't buy things that are too expensive, but do buy something that is of sufficient quality that it's not going to be a nightmare to knit with in terms of yarn weights, I recommend something heavier is like a DK at the lightest weight and then maybe up to a chunky.


00:06:49:13 - 00:07:07:17

Michelle

The one thing I would say as well as there are a lot of chunky kits out there at the moment for beginners, and many of them are lovely, but some of them are made in that what we would call a roving wool that's quite fluffy hasn't got any twist in it. And I wouldn't recommend that myself for beginners because for two reasons.


00:07:08:02 - 00:07:29:19

Michelle

One, it can be very splitty and you know, it's not a very defined shape. And the second reason, which I think is the most important, is it doesn't take to being ripped out and reknit very well. It depends on the brand I don't want to put a blanket ban on chunky yarns, but if you are going to use a chunky yarn from what I call the kind of chunky kit providers, make sure that the yarn has some kind of twist in it.


00:07:29:19 - 00:07:53:04

Michelle

That is a little bit plyed because that will give people a better finish. And honestly, when you're learning to knit it's something that rips out and can be reknit and ripped out and reknit, it is probably your best bet. Moving on from Kit, the third thing then is to go back to basics. This is where I find it particularly difficult, and again, it delayed me it actually delayed me starting knit school, let alone anything else.


00:07:53:15 - 00:08:13:16

Michelle

Before I started knit school, I was thinking about a series of courses in knitting, but I couldn't in my mind break it down to something small enough that will be worthwhile but covered enough. It wasn't too much. And my problem is it's always a little bit too much. So when you are starting out with somebody who's very new, there's no need to embellish.


00:08:14:01 - 00:08:38:07

Michelle

You know, there might be 652 cast ons. Pick one. You're never going to pick the perfect one. People will always be like, Why didn't you start with the other cast-on? I get that question a lot, but the truth is, is that get people cast on, get them stitches onto their needles, get them knitting, get them purling. And then when you move on from that into, say, shaping, don't worry about the fact that there are five or six different left leaning and right leaning increases and decreases.


00:08:38:15 - 00:08:57:21

Michelle

Teach them one. Tell them there are more. Teach one. That's what I would recommend a lot. And if you're going to spend a lot of time with somebody, then you can come back and teach more of them. But start simply and move up. Don't be throwing terms at people and confusing them a lot. And I'm not saying that as a criticism of someone else.


00:08:57:24 - 00:09:20:19

Michelle

I'm saying that because that is me. That is what I'm guilty of. The fourth point here, and it moves on a little bit from that idea of starting at the basics and moving on is have a direction of travel. So I've put together a learn to knit checklist which is actually aimed at new knitters. But actually if you're teaching someone that is just as valid and that kind of goes in what I see is a logical order.


00:09:20:19 - 00:09:39:09

Michelle

So it starts with the very basics and then it moves on to some of the key skills. Then it moves on to a little bit of color and a little bit of working in the round. That's what it is. And that's quite a nice, you know, that's a nice journey to go on as a new knitter. It allows you to check it off and it kind of lets you mark your progress as well.


00:09:39:16 - 00:09:51:14

Michelle

And if you are anything like me, I think a lot of people are like this. I love to have somewhere to go. That's something I'm working on a lot for Knit School at the moment, as well as just kind of making sure that I know where people want to go next or the people know where they can go.


00:09:52:08 - 00:10:09:09

Michelle

Actually slightly separate to learning to knit. That's one of the most interesting things is that actually when you're teaching, you're teaching things that people don't even know they don't know particularly experienced knitters. And I think that's actually something I've really learned through Knit School. But that's the by the by. So yeah, if you fancy that, do you pop over to the website, you'll find it in the freebies and resources section.


00:10:09:09 - 00:10:35:04

Michelle

So knitschool.co.uk and you'll find that there to download so you can either use it for yourself or you can print it off and give it to the person that you're teaching the fifth item here is what do you practice on? So I recommend starting with swatches before moving on to a pattern and then the pattern that you choose and this is kind of point number six is that it should be something easy and interesting that only uses the skills you've just taught.


00:10:35:10 - 00:10:58:21

Michelle

So if you're going to do a pattern with somebody teach them the skills first on a swatch and then move them onto the pattern. And the seventh point here then kind of crosses over between swatches and patterns and that is to remember that pattern reading and knitting are related, but actually two slightly different things that you have to teach slightly differently I think that's really important.


00:10:59:04 - 00:11:14:03

Michelle

You can teach someone to knit, but if you don't teach them how to pattern read, you're kind of missing out on a little bit of a step. It's an interesting one because it was only when I start to really focus and write Learn to KNit and also in all of the classes in Knit School where I'm like, How does this actually appear in patterns?


00:11:14:10 - 00:11:31:11

Michelle

Is it different to what we would consider standard knitting language? And it was putting it into that. That meant I knew to put it into Learn to Knit and it's just a point that I was that if you are sitting and teaching someone to learn to knit, then do also think about how you're going to teach them how to pattern read or just direct them to somewhere they can learn how to do that, because that's a really key skill.


00:11:32:00 - 00:12:09:11

Michelle

So that takes us through the right kit, the right time and space. Go back to basics, pick your skills in an order, then teach them from swatches and then on to patterns. And then make sure that you teach a little bit of pattern reading. Now, something that kind of bridges the gap here between practicalities and kind of the human factor is practicing yourself before you teach it and learning what your quirks are, because you can pass on your quirks if you wish or you can remove them as you're teaching someone and it's something to just be aware of.


00:12:09:11 - 00:12:28:24

Michelle

So for example, you'll see me in my videos. I always twitch my right finger when I'm tightening up my purl stitches. I'm really conscious of the fact that my purls are loose, so you'll see me do it. And I really didn't know I did this until I was myself. I was like, Oh my goodness, what is that? That must be very confusing for people when they're seeing me.


00:12:28:24 - 00:12:46:04

Michelle

So I try to minimize that. Or when I make a video, I try to explain what I'm doing because it's kind of as long as you know you're doing it it's easier to tell someone that either they should do it or they shouldn't be doing it. So do have a practice yourself as well. So those are seven or eight ish practicalities.


00:12:46:04 - 00:13:08:14

Michelle

to think about when you're teaching somebody to knit, and then that takes me on to the kind of human factor. So there these are a little bit of a mix and kind of things I want to share. Most people know these things, and you're probably going to be like, Don't teach me how to like drink water, but don't worry, I won't I'm doing it because not everybody is kind of aware of it or just to make you kind of more aware of it.


00:13:09:01 - 00:13:32:19

Michelle

The first thing is that I would say is learn what you take for granted. So understand that you are a different point in your journey and you are going to have things that you just take for granted. So in episode 15 where I talk about the K is silence. So the things that we take for granted in knitting might be worth to listen or think about things that you know and that you need to pass on, but that you don't know.


00:13:32:19 - 00:13:49:23

Michelle

You know as well in a way. So it's kind of that whole idea of pattern reading, like, you know, the way that the repeats are structured, that kind of thing that we take for granted or that, you know what needle works with what yarn or you know, what Swatch means or things like that. So it's just to be aware of the things that you take for granted.


00:13:49:23 - 00:14:15:19

Michelle

And that's a human factor because you know, it just it is just how it is. You know, if you've been doing something a long time, there are certain things that you will just they will be by rote in your head as well. The next point is something that I have learned and I keep learning in school. It's that people have different tolerances for what they perceive to be failure and people's tolerance for going back and starting out as a beginner varies widely between people as well.


00:14:16:02 - 00:14:28:24

Michelle

So I'm actually quite I'm not bad at failing. I've done a lot of times. So I'm I'm like I'm pretty happy to fail. I'm like, OK, I'm going to go back. I'm going to do that again. I'm going to give it a try and I'm happy to learn from the start. That is something I learned to be good at.


00:14:29:01 - 00:14:45:21

Michelle

I used to be bad at learning to do new things, but I've come to kind of accept that I need to give myself grace. And you will find that if you're teaching somebody who finds it really hard to be a beginner, you're going to have to give them that kind of motivation and that lift to say it's OK to be a beginner.


00:14:46:02 - 00:15:10:05

Michelle

Remind them of something that they are now good at, that they were a beginner at at one point. Pick your battles here, because if you were to say to me, Michelle, you know, remember when you were learning how to ride a bike and actually here, now I love my dad, but he might not have been the best person to teach me how to ride a bike, this little blue bike back when bikes used to back pedal to break.


00:15:10:08 - 00:15:27:15

Michelle

So I'm giving away my age, at home in the yard. I grew up in a small, small farm in rural Ireland and there;s like old concrete, like I still see it in my mind. And we're at the top of the hill I was about four or five. He put me on to the bike. I think my mom is standing off to the side going, John please don't just let her go.


00:15:28:03 - 00:15:48:18

Michelle

He put me on the bike. He let me go. And I just whished down the yard and right into like a Brier patch at the end. I think it might have been a little while before I got back on a bike. I don't think I learned till I was ten maybe from a lovely girl called Lorraine. And Lorraine if you ever hear this and it's very unlikely, thank you for teaching me how to ride a bike in the end.


00:15:49:09 - 00:16:14:08

Michelle

So, like, that, sometimes you have to pick out the thing that people have learned how to be good at, but also where they haven't had a kind of traumatic start to it. Big shout out to my dad. Very funny. He also taught me how to swim. We won't talk about that. It's not quite as traumatic, although it was the wave pool in again where I finally learned to swim float in the deep end.


00:16:15:08 - 00:16:42:18

Michelle

Yes. That my that might be why I've quite a high tolerance for trying new things but that's that's separate. Yeah, a bit like that. Think about who you're teaching and also how you are as a teacher as well, but bring them back to something that they have done successfully. But were beginners at at the start. And again, actually on that vein, you know, people say a parent or a partner shouldn't teach you to drive or like your child shouldn't teach you how to use technology.


00:16:42:24 - 00:17:04:24

Michelle

So for example, I am way more patient with Simon's Mom with technology. And he is way more patient with my dad with technology than we are with our own parents. Still something to bear in mind. Don't let that put you off, but it is worth considering yourself as a person. So their level of kind of tolerance for failure and your level of tolerance for beginners is definitely something to kind of think about.


00:17:05:16 - 00:17:23:07

Michelle

The next thing, then the last thing I want to talk about is don't be passing on your knitting biases, and that is from a woman who is always passing on her knitting biases. I don't even like I don't like to teach a Russian join because I don't like them. I teach them, but I don't like it. But do try not to.


00:17:23:09 - 00:17:42:15

Michelle

So, for example, don't tell people that grafting is a nightmare or brioche is impossible or you can say these are a level of skill you might need to get before you try this, but don't put people off so don't teach your own biases. And next time you hear me teaching a bias, feel free to absolutely scold me because I am so guilty.


00:17:42:16 - 00:18:01:01

Michelle

This which is something to kind of temper, temper your kind of biases when you're teaching people, says I like and I need that lecture more than anyone else. The other thing then is creating a way forward for people, but also swamp them sort of back to that whole idea of a set of skills that people can get and then where to go next.


00:18:01:08 - 00:18:22:12

Michelle

And knitting is huge. You know, so help people pick out a direction and go in that if they want or just let people go free, give them back to the fact that people learn in different ways and they like different things. But there is one small serious point then that's kind of my fifth point is that people have different levels of attention, dexterity, comprehension, and none of that is bad.


00:18:22:12 - 00:18:42:05

Michelle

It's just that you need to be very tolerant of people who are at a different level to you. None of those are flaws. They are just facts about people, you know, and knowing that about the person you're teaching to knit and be patient with them is really important. So do not take people's understanding or dexterity or attention or any of those things.


00:18:42:05 - 00:18:59:02

Michelle

For granted. You know, we all learn in different ways. We all have different quirks and stuff like that. So just be careful with people as well. You know, you don't want to put people off by you know, using maybe intimidating language or things like that. So just be aware of who you're teaching. And I don't think anybody really needs me to teach that.


00:18:59:02 - 00:19:15:15

Michelle

Like, I've never met better people, more enthusiastic and more interesting people that I have in the knitting community, and people are just so excited to teach it. It's more just as a kind of a general point to say, you know, some people need a little bit of extra care in certain areas and kind of just watch out for that.


00:19:16:04 - 00:19:32:06

Michelle

And so that's it's those are my seven practical and my five human factors when you are teaching people how to knit. And if you are coming to this and you are learning to knit and looking for people to teach you how to learn tennis, you can direct them to this episode. And you're most welcome to download the checklist yourself.


00:19:32:15 - 00:19:51:18

Michelle

I have been asked as well as one of my teaching, my next round of learn to knit. And the truth is, I don't know right now I am working on making my learned to knit class that people can take on their own and that will be available shortly. But I don't know when I'm going to do the next live round of teaching of learnto knit probably towards the back end of the year.


00:19:51:18 - 00:20:09:12

Michelle

So if people want to buy it for people or if they want people to take part the best thing to do is to sign up to the mailing list, you sign up when you get the check list as well. And then I'll be telling people what I'm running it for people who are on their knitting journey. You can join knit school and the class is in there and we will be taking you on a number of journeys over the next wee while.


00:20:09:12 - 00:20:25:00

Michelle

While working on those the moments that will take you all the way from beginner knitter right up to advanced. But I'm still working on that. And again, join the mailing list to see what's going on. And you know, I'm really delighted to be on knitting journeys with people at different stages as well. And so that is almost it.


00:20:25:11 - 00:20:42:24

Michelle

But I wanted to say something else to everybody as well because that's a lot you know what I'm saying? Consider this and do this and have a checklist and do this. Don't be put off by any of this. If all you have is enthusiasm and the knowledge of knitting and purling casting on and casting off, you can teach somebody those skills as well.


00:20:43:11 - 00:21:07:07

Michelle

You are not required to be a perfect teacher. You are not required to have a certificate. You are not required to have nice printables or the best needles or anything. Get in there and teach people to knit. That is how we have all learned for decades. Centuries, I even want to say millennium, millennia, millennia, and just do not be put off.


00:21:07:08 - 00:21:24:24

Michelle

You don't need to be perfect at this to pass the skill on. Just get in there, get on it. Don't worry, there'll be plenty of people who will correct your knitter later on because no matter how often we say Don't be a knitting police, they'll find them, people will find their own way. Just get them onto the journey and then, you know, help them learn how to knit.


00:21:25:05 - 00:21:42:14

Michelle

And a huge thank you to everybody who is out there teaching people to knit. honestly. This is so important. It's such a great skill. It's oh, I guess very kind of. Oh, I'm very emotional about teaching people to knit. So yeah, you do not have to get this right. You do not have to be perfect. You do not have to be the best.


00:21:42:14 - 00:22:02:07

Michelle

knitter, pass it on. And then there will be low people who welcome to the knitting community and there'll be loads of other people to hold their hand and your hand as you keep going. So just do not be put off by anything. Just get in there and teach it. These are just a few little guidelines to maybe help make your journey and your new knitters journey a little bit easier next week.


00:22:02:07 - 00:22:21:03

Michelle

It's going to be a little bit less intense. You'll be glad to hear. I'm going to be talking about sort of my next my next knits as soon as my shoulder is back in action and I can actually get knitting. So I'm going to be talking a little bit about kind of what I see as the sort of top ten knits I would make if I could be knitting right now.


00:22:21:10 - 00:22:43:07

Michelle

I've definitely had a lot more time to look through my pattern books, and I've had a lot more time to look around and find projects to knit now that I can't knitting. So I'm going to talk about that. And then in a couple of episodes time, I'm going to talk about writing your first knitting pattern because I think that is something a lot of people ask me about this and I no expert, but I've written over 50 patterns now.


00:22:43:20 - 00:23:13:02

Michelle

Surprise, surprise. I was shocked so I'm going to talk a little bit about how to kind of start on that journey and whether, you know, some of the ins and outs of that as well. But that's in a couple of episodes. Time for now. My dear is going get your checklist and go and get Knit done. Oh, and just a little extra that I am adding to the podcasts is that when the episodes go out on Monday, the following Thursday, I'm going to have a little bit of a live Q&A in my Facebook group.


00:23:13:11 - 00:23:30:11

Michelle

If you have any questions about the episode or if you have any questions in general. So you can kind of pop over and get and have a chance to ask those questions as well live because I kind of feel like podcast is great, but sometimes it's nice to have a chance to ask questions as well. So if you pop over to the show notes for this episode, you will find them


00:23:30:11 - 00:23:45:08

Michelle

on knitschool.co.uk on the podcast page, you'll find a link to the Facebook group there as well. And hopefully I will see you inside. Like it's going to be at about seven, 730 British Summer time, so it'd be super to see you guys there and now really go and get Knit done.