Monday, January 9, 2012

Challenges and Rewards and the 'aha' moment

Saturday was my first pass at teaching students to knit Haruni.  It has taught me some valuable lessons, and if the shop wants to run the class again I've got some ideas. 

The first thing, is class #1 is nothing but making a 4x4 swatch to confirm which students have had their knitting 'aha' moment and learning the provisional garter tab cast on.

(I'll explain the 'aha' moment shortly.)

The second thing is that using a worsted weight and size 9 US needles to demonstrate is not enough.  I should probably move up to bulky.  The swatch class should be able to do the rest without overwhelming students.

Finally, I have to say that the shining star in this class has been the youngest student.  When her parents signed her up for the class, they mentioned that she knew knit and purl but only as the mechanics of doing them.  She is a beginner. 

Knowing going into it that she wouldn't have that foundation of understanding her knitting (her 'aha' moment) to draw on... instead of just knowing the physical motions to make a knit and purl... I was okay with this.  I am not adverse to teaching people who don't understand why knit or why purl, as long as I know going into it that I'm going to need to teach at that level.

This student is 14 years old, and a little bit shy about asking questions in class.  I remember being 14 (it is vague, but I suspect I'm about that age mentally these days anyway) and am also okay with that.  I stayed for an extra 1/2 hour to walk her through a few rows and see if I couldn't help her on her way to her 'aha'.

She was amazing.  When I left, she was putting in her second row with beads.  She could identify which side of the lace should be knit, and which side should be purl between the garter borders.  I don't think she's had her 'aha' yet, but if she can do that much already it won't be too long.

About the 'aha' moment. 
I've come to the conclusion that a lot of people who nominally know how to knit are actually still beginners.  Again, this is not a bad thing, but it does cause some confusion when determining what level of understanding and knowledge people are at.

In my internal lexicon, beginners are the folks who know the physical actions to knit and how to purl.  Maybe they know a couple of cast on methods, maybe they  know a few other stitches, like k2tog or s1k1psso.  But the biggest defining thing here is that they do not understand why they are doing what they are doing. 

Understanding and being able to read knitting seem to go hand and hand together.  On some level to the beginner 'stockinette' means knit one side and purl the other, but it isn't automatically knit one side and purl the other without putting thought into it.  Ditto for garter (although it's knit all sides). 

So when you're doing a project that mixes and matches, these knitters have a stronger liklihood of getting lost simply because they don't understand why they are doing the motions they are doing and what those motions mean.  They do know enough to know when it looks wrong, but not how it got to that point or where the "one of these things is not like the other" part is.  When they look down at what their hands have produced, they can't identify what it is without some serious mental crunching.

Frankly, I love me some beginners.  That 'aha' moment when it clicks and they look at their knitting in their hands and understand the "WHY" is pure magic.  And if you thought your beginner knitter loved knitting before the 'aha' moment.... this is the point where it goes exponential.  The enormous world of knitting opens up to them, because they understand at least some of what they're seeing in a complex project.

Instead of saying 'I'm going to do a super hard lace/cable/colorwork project' they are excited about it because on the subconscious level they now recognize that this is (for instance) essentially stockinette with garter borders.  Anything in between those garter borders will only be a pattern slapped on the knit side with the return row being plain old purls between garter borders.  And that subconscious will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it can do stockinette and garter, so only keeping track of a little extra patterning is not as intimidating.

So, that's all the news that's fit to print on the knitting front.  On the personal front, short stack lost his first baby tooth.  He's both a little proud and a little weirded out by the process. It's been a big weekend, and I need to shake down my camera to do another picture post sometime shortly.

Happy Knitting, and many 'aha' moments for all!


  1. I learnd to crochet when I was about 8 and always loved it. I tried knitting as a teen and didn't like it, too fiddly, not relaxing. I tried again in my 20s and still didn't like, but less so. So I kept crocheting happily along without a thought to knitting.

    Little did I know that my knitting AHA moment was happening behind my back, because when I picked up the sticks again at age 50, I loved it! I took off running... a scarf in the first two days, and a sweater within the first two months... and I have never looked back.

    BTW: Was the tooth fairy kind to Young Sir on this momentous occasion? I think I got a nickel back in 1961. What with inflation, and the change in staff at Tooth Fairy Int'l Inc. Ltd., I think his tooth should be worth a pair of alpaca mittens at least!

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