Today, I had the pleasure of sitting in on Laura Nelkin's Beaded Adornaments class. When I wrote up the description to market the class, I referred to Laura's endless curiosity regarding her craft. She is a knit designer who is constantly pushing her skill level, incorporating new techniques in her designs and always, always, seeking a better way to do things. She treats her craft like a PhD program. You learn a new skill every time you knit one of her patterns.
I am not a timid knitter. I have knit lots of sweaters with challenging construction methods and new skills to learn. In some ways, I'm a fairly confident knitter as there isn't much that stumps me, but taking a class with Laura was a humbling experience.
My initial plan was to watch a talented teacher present a new class. I intended to observe how she introduces a class, how she works with students and helps them with their challenges, how she structures the time and the presentation materials. The actual project was not a concern for me. I can knit fiddly things, I can handle beads. That aspect of the class was secondary to my immediate goal of how to become a better teacher.
After ripping out my lacework for the third time, I finally had to ask for help.
I learned that teaching yourself a skill sometimes means that you didn't teach yourself correctly, and your fix-it method to make it all come out right in the end doesn't work when you introduce a new element, in this case beads. I learned that while I'm fine reading charts in some instances, learning someone else's way of writing a chart can be challenging.
Even the most skilled of us benefit from learning from others. Laura, who can read your knitting and tell you exactly where you went wrong in your lacework, is attending a series of workshops in November. She wants to learn some complicated colorwork patterning for future designs. She could probably figure it out for herself, but being a student makes her a good teacher.
After ripping out my lacework the second time I made some off the cuff comment about returning to my comfort zone of sweater knitting, but really I was determined to not let a 16 row pattern for a lacy ornament beat me. When I was still in error the third time, I finally conceded that I needed help. Then I learned about my wonky yarnovers, which never before affected my finished projects because I had been making adjustments to resolve the wonkiness, and I realized that I should have made connections and why. Suddenly, I was thinking about the knitted fabric and the process and I was learning.
I don't think knitting lace will be so intimidating in the future. And I really love the ornaments we were knitting.
I plan to make a bunch.
And I'll be taking more classes, even the knitting ones.