YarnCraft Episode 70 Transcript :: Tips Tricks on Teaching Beginner Advanced Knitting Crochet Skills

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You’re listening to YarnCraft. [music]

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Zontee:  Welcome to YarnCraft. It’s Episode 70 on July 6, 2010. Thanks for joining us today. This is Zontee.

Liz:  And I’m Liz. We are the hosts of Yarncraft.

Zontee:  Stop by our website, YarnCraft.LionBrand.com, for more information on the patterns and products we talk about on today’s episode. You can also leave your comments there or give us a call and leave a voicemail at (774) 452‑YARN. That’s 9276. We always love sharing your stories, questions, and comments on the show.

Liz:  As usual, we’re here at the Lion Brand Design Center in New York City, and today’s episode is going to cover teaching techniques. Whether you’re teaching a new skill to a group of veteran yarncrafters or whether you’re helping someone getting started knitting and crocheting, we’ve got some useful advice.

Zontee:  And on today’s “Stash This: Ideas for Your Crafting Life, ” we’re going to be talking about beginner projects that are beyond the scarf, whether that’s a change purse or a washcloth or something else. We’ve got a lot of ideas that will make it more exciting for those people who want to get started, but don’t necessarily wear a lot of scarves.

Liz:  Stay tuned for all that and more, next on YarnCraft. [music]

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Zontee:  Before we jump into the main body of our episode, we want to share with you a little bit about what we’ve been working on, what’s on our hooks and needles.

Liz:  Unlike me, Zontee has been pretty productive lately. Don’t you have a new finished object to show off?

Zontee:  I do. If you’ve been reading the Lion Brand Notebook, which is our official blog over at Blog.LionBrand.com, you’ll see that I just finished my adult version of the Bebop Cardi. It’s a pattern that was originally written for Vanna’s Choice, but I show you how I was able to resize it using Baby’s First so that it would fit me. That’s a thicker yarn. It’s a chunky weight yarn.

Liz:  Number five on the CYCA scale.

Zontee:  That’s right. I show you how to do the math so that you can figure out just how big your finished project will be whenever you switch out the size. While I showed you with a thicker yarn, you could also do this same process with a thinner yarn to get a smaller project.

So that was pretty exciting, and that, honestly, only took me two nights to crochet. It was a really, really fast project, which is great. Now that I’m done with that project, I have moved on to a boyfriend‑style, classic cardigan, and I think that that’s really nice for the summer as a layering piece. You know how I feel about layering pieces.

Liz:  So crucial. So what yarn are you using for that?

Zontee:  I picked the Vanna’s Glamour. I’m making it in the sapphire colorway, but I’m thinking that once I’m done with that, if I really like it I might make it again with the platinum or the topaz, because those are both really beautiful.

Here’s the really fun part is that I’ve taken a regular hand‑knit pattern, and what I’m doing is the trim hand‑knit, and then all that stockinette for the vast majority of the body I’m going to do on the machine because I was really inspired by Patty’s blog post about how she did a whole machine‑knit/hand‑knit hybrid. I think that that’s a great technique.

Liz:  So now how does that work exactly?

Zontee:  The idea is you do the parts that are not able to be done on the machine, for instance, the rib trim on my sweater, by hand. By matching your gauge swatch of your hand‑knitting to the gauge on the machine, you can have a hybrid that fits exactly together.

That does require a lot more swatching than normal because you will want to make sure that it’s exactly the same on both the machine and your hand‑knitting, but it does mean a whole lot of time saved because all those stockinette, which we’ve all done that one project where you’re like, “Why did I pick something that’s like six miles of stockinette?” Well, guess what. I get to skip that part, so I’m very excited.

Liz:  That is exciting.

Zontee:  But of course, working on a machine does still require a lot of handwork. It just takes a lot less time, because you’re doing 100 stitches in two seconds.

Liz:  One pass of the carriage.

Zontee:  Exactly, which is an awful lot faster than we can do by hand.

Liz:  Definitely. Well, we’ll all be looking forward to seeing some photos of those.

Zontee:  I’m really excited for it. Now, Liz, you were talking a little bit about Nature’s Choice earlier and its new colors.

Liz:  Yes. I have been just running around the country, and probably I’m going to spend the rest of the summer running around, traveling a lot, all sorts of places. Right now, none of my projects are really in a very portable phase, so I need to scare up some travel projects, like we talked about a couple episodes ago.

I was thinking I need some more reusable grocery bags. I thought I had lots of tote bags, but somehow they’ve all disappeared. I was thinking we have all these really new, fun print colors in the Nature’s Choice, and I thought that would be a very easy to way to make a very colorful set of market tote bags.

Zontee:  Define. Plus, it’s such a soft yarn. It’s a pleasure to work with, so that will be very nice.

Liz:  We’d love to hear more about what projects you’re working on now that it’s getting to be summer pretty much everywhere, so definitely leave us a comment on the blog or a phone call or on our Ravelry page. [music]

***

Liz:  This week we got lots of great questions and comments from you, our listeners. DCAlane had a question about rewinding her yarn into balls, and does that matter?

The answer is no. The only time you absolutely have to wind yarn is when it comes in a big, loose loop, what’s called a hank but is also sometimes referred to as a skein. If it comes in something that looks like a long, compact cylinder like our Homespun or a kind of doughnut shape or a normal kind of football-esque shape like Vanna’s Choice, those you can all either just find the yarn from the center and use that or use the outside.

It’s not going to make any impact on your final project. The yarn will just bounce around a little more if you’re pulling from the outside. There are tons of great tips on our website for ways you can control your yarn from bouncing around if you’re pulling from the outside.

DCAlane had a second part to her question, which was when she does the long‑tail cast‑on in knitting, the yarn often starts untwisting, and she wants to know is she doing something wrong or is she knitting from the wrong end?

No, you’re not doing anything wrong. There really is no wrong end to the yarn. Because of the way you are moving your hands in doing the long‑tail cast‑on, you will always be taking the twist out of one end of yarn. That’s just natural. It will happen. You won’t notice it in the finished cast‑on, so just don’t even worry about it.

Zontee:  We also got a comment from Carrie, who just wanted to share with us the new Kirby’s Epic Yarn game, which of course features the classic Nintendo character, Kirby. But the whole game is animated with yarn characters, so that’s pretty fun. We’re definitely excited to see that that’s coming out, and we hope that you guys will share more of these fun discoveries.

Liz:  I will definitely be encouraging my husband to get the Kirby yarn game because at least when I’m watching him play video games while sitting on the couch and knitting, I’ll be watching some yarn.

Bet is a new listener who has gotten started making a ton of washcloths and spa sets so she can have them ready for the holidays or any last‑minute birthday gifts or housewarming gifts or anything, thank you gifts. Bet, thank you for your comment. I am so excited that someone has taken us up on our perpetual tip of washcloths and dishcloths. They are the best have‑on‑hand gift option available. Everyone should have them.

Zontee:  I’m equally excited, and I’m glad to know that you’re keeping a lot of washcloths and things on hand, because it really is a great last‑minute thing. Honestly, I go to a lot of parties where I go, “Ooh, should I bring something?” I don’t necessarily want to bring your run‑of‑the‑mill things, so sometimes being able to give that handmade gift gives just a little extra pizazz.

Liz:  Exactly. CoolCrochet60097 left us a Ravelry message saying that she is, as her name might imply, a crocheter, but she just inherited a bunch of her mother’s needles from the 1970s and is interested in taking up knitting. She says, “Is Continental the most common technique used in patterns, and is there a difference between English knitting?”

I think you’ll be encouraged to know that the answer is while there are differences, it doesn’t affect how you use a pattern. Continental, which is also called “picking,” is just the method of making stitches where you hold the yarn in your left hand, and in English knitting you hold the yarn in your right hand.

So while you’re making slightly different motions because the yarn is in a different hand, you’re still wrapping the yarn around the needles in the same way and forming stitches.

Zontee:  Exactly. And, as we’ll discuss later on this episode, the truth is that whichever one feels more comfortable to you, you should do. I know a lot of people who find that switching from one to the other really affects their speed one way or the other. And so sometimes it’s just about experimentation, finding what’s comfortable for you. I’ve been knitting for many years in the English method, and I just find that I’m faster that way. I can knit Continental, but I like to throw. So that’s the way I do it.

Liz:  Whereas I started off as an English knitter, with the yarn in my right hand, because that was how it was always presented in books. And then, once I started to crochet as well as knit, it just felt much more natural for me to always have the yarn in my left hand. So you may find, since you’re already a crocheter, it’s probably going to be easier for you to start off knitting with the yarn in your left hand, Continental style. And so I would say start with that. If it doesn’t feel right, switch the yarn over to your right hand. Good luck!

Zontee:  Next we got a comment from Lynelle who was sharing some of her experiences when it comes to teaching. She taught a crochet class in her office, which sounds like a lot of fun and definitely a good idea. We’ve definitely done that in our offices because, contrary to popular belief, not everyone at Lion Brand necessarily knows how to knit or crochet. Sometimes they pick it up once they get here.

Liz:  Exactly.

Zontee:  So she mentioned that one of the problems she had was with the foundation chain when she was teaching. And while it may feel appealing to skip that step or to do it for someone, the important thing to keep in mind is that a foundation chain is really central for a lot of different kinds of projects. So while it may feel difficult, you’ve got to kind of power through that.

You may want to work with a bigger hook for that first row or you may want to just have them work with a bigger hook throughout the entire learning process because that will make for bigger holes to work into.

Liz:  I try and emphasize with students right from the beginning how you have to be very loose when you’re making your chain because they don’t know that they’re going to have to put the hook back into the chain later if you don’t tell them that upfront. So I try to make it very clear to them that we’re doing this chain, you’re going to go back into it, make it loose.

Other tips are to remind them to let it slide all the way from the neck of the hook all the way onto the full shaft so the stitch is the proper diameter, and not to tug the working yarn when they’re done. Everyone wants to tug, and knitters do this too after every stitch. There’s no need to tug. Don’t tug.

Zontee:  And we will be sharing more tips on teaching beginners later in this episode, so stay tuned for that.

Finally, we got a comment from Sarah D. who is a teacher who has been joined by two other elementary school teachers at her school to start a crochet club. And they’ve been teaching fifth graders, and then they’ve opened it up to fourth graders as well, and that’s both boys and girls. They’ve had 26 students join. And her current students are third graders who can’t wait until they’re old enough so that they can join as well. So that’s pretty exciting.

Liz:  My favorite part of her message was that, apparently, the thing, as she puts, this year with the students was to work with multiple strands of yarn at once, two, three, or even as many as eight. And I love that the kids were into this because we love doing that in the design department as well. We find that’s a really fun way to play around shape and texture. So I’m glad we’re on the same level with the kids. [music]

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Zontee:  Today on YarnCraft, we’re joined by Patty Lyons, studio director of the Lion Brand Yarn Studio. It’s our retail store here in New York City. And, if you haven’t already visited, we’d definitely encourage you to do that the next time you’re in the city because it really is a very incredible experience.

Liz:  And one of the best things about the studio is our fantastic staff of very experienced teachers. So we thought who better to get advice on teaching than the head of all our teacher extraordinaires, Patty?

Zontee:  So, Patty, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your basic tips for when you want to teach a friend. Because we know we’ve all run into that situation where one of your friends is like, “Wow, I really wish that I could knit. You make such beautiful things.” Or, “Wow, that’s a great crochet project. Can you show me?” So what is your advice for someone who says, “I feel like I’m ready to help my friend do this”?

Patty:  Well, the first thing is proper materials. And we get a lot of people that come in the studio with their friend saying, “I want to teach my friend how to knit or crochet. Can you help me choose the right materials?” So that is absolutely the right thing to do.

Beginners always love going right for the really fun things, homespun and Quick & Cozy and fun fur. But it’s important you choose a smooth fiber, not a variegated yarn, not self‑striping, so that they can see their stitch definition and see where the needle’s going in. So no textured yarn, no dark yarn.

The next tip is proper choice of hook and needle size. It is not something to be skipped over even if you already own a needle. If it’s the wrong size for the yarn, it’s going to make learning really difficult.

For the teacher, I would say the longer you’ve been knitting and crocheting, the more your body just knows what to do without thinking. So we always say, “We’ve got to turn off your muscle memory, and turn on your cognitive thinking,” meaning you have to break down every step you do into words, which is hard when you’ve been doing it for so many years you just do it without thinking.

Like all the words it takes to make that first step: Take the tip of your right needle, insert it front to back, left to right through the front loop, making an X–all those words for something we do in a half a second without thinking.

Repetition is great, and it’s very important. Have your friends make that chain, rip out the chain. Teach them how to cast on, rip it out. Cast on again, rip it out. And, as excited as we are, don’t teach too many things at once. Get them to master the knit stitch. Get them to master single crochet. When they really master that, you can move on to half double, double, and triple.

In knitting, don’t move on to the purl stitch until they’ve really mastered the knit stitch. It takes longer to learn than you guys probably remember because we’ve all been doing it for so long. Repetition’s great.

Also, keep the first lesson kind of short with your friends. They can get frustrated if you move too quickly. So just have them do with you for an hour and a half, two hours, and then say, “OK, go practice at home, and we’ll pick this up next week.” Just sort of sum up everything you’ve learned. And it can be a lot of fun for both teacher and student if you just go slow.

Zontee:  Definitely. I also think it’s important to keep in mind that what works for you doesn’t necessarily work for everybody else. So we’ve talked about how some people want to hold their yarn in their left hand versus their right hand.

Patty:  Absolutely.

Zontee:  See what works for them because sometimes you just find a position that’s more comfortable. And the other thing that I always show people, especially when I’m teaching crochet, is I show them where I put my fingers. But I say, “If you find that that’s not the way that you get the best tension, and it’s not the way that you’re finding that the yarn is best guided, move it around. See what works for you. Keep playing with it.”

And I always tell people you’re allowed to rip out. That’s the magic of knitting and crocheting, right?

Patty:  Yeah.

Zontee:  That you can just pull the yarn back…

Patty:  Absolutely.

Zontee:  …and then start over. So I think always encourage your friends to not get discouraged if they make a mistake, not get discouraged if their first chain is too tight or their first row is knit so tight that they can’t get their needle back in. Just say, “Oh, it’s OK. We’ll just do it over. Consider that practice. We’re going to start all over again.”

Patty:  Absolutely. In our knitting class, we generally teach throwing, but we all know Continental or picking as well. I also recently learned Portuguese, which is a whole other fantastic way to knit. But we watch people and, if they’re having trouble throwing, we’ll often ask, “Are you left‑handed? Oh, let me show you another method you might be more comfortable with” or “Have you crocheted before?” Because often crocheters find Continental much more comfortable.

And we always tease Tracy, our crochet teacher, because she has this standard line where she’ll say, “I’ll show you how I hold the yarn, how I tension the yarn. But, ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you want to wrap it around your big toe and around the back of your head. If that’s what gets you the right tension, go for it.”

Zontee:  [laughs]

Liz:  People always get so fixated. They seem to get very frustrated. They’re like, “Wait, how do I make myself hold the yarn exactly like you’re holding it to tension it?” I say, “I don’t even hold it the same way all the time.”

Patty:  Right.

Zontee:  I change it three times a session. [laughs]

Liz:  It depends on what yarn I’m using, where I’m sitting, what needles I’m using. Don’t focus on how you’re holding in the yarn. Just focus on moving it through the set of motions to make the stitch and, eventually, you’re going to find your way.

Zontee:  I agree.

Patty:  And tension and getting even tension, that’s kind of an advanced skill that comes with time. Technically, a lot of people would say I hold my yarn wrong because I don’t wrap it around any finger to tension it when I’m throwing. I do when I’m picking, when I’m continental. But I hold it between my index finger and thumb.

Many people will say, “Oh, that’s wrong.” But there is no wrong, there is no wrong in knitting. There’s no wrong in crochet. There’s a million different ways to get to the same place. If it works for you, it works.

Liz:  Thank you for all those great tips. If people are going to be in the New York City area, where can I find out about the classes going on in the Studio?

Patty:  All of our information is on our website, LionBrandYarnStudio.com, just the-name-of-our-store-dot-com. New class schedule comes out the first of every month. We always show two months at a time, and we offer currently over 78 different specialty workshops. So there’s something for everything from machine knitters, weavers, crocheters, knitters, dyers, we’ve got it all. Come on down to see us. [music]

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Zontee:  Now that Patty’s shared some of her tips about teaching a beginner how to knit and crochet, we’re going to return to last week’s subject, which was about groups. Once you’ve formed your own group, one of the big benefits is, of course, being able to share your skills with other people and vice versa so that we can all grow as yarncrafters.

Liz:  And while it’s great to take a really informal approach to this and just do a few…If one person mentions they’d like to learn about skill X, you can just show them one‑on‑one. But it can also be really fun to have a more formalized thing where maybe one meeting a month is dedicated to someone showcasing a skill and everyone takes turns rotating through demoing.

Zontee:  Yeah, that’s definitely a great idea. If you’re wondering, oh what are some examples of these sorts of skills? Well, we came up with a quick list of things I think would be really great to demonstrate. For instance, Tunisian crochet.

Liz:  There is the new double‑ended Tunisian crochet hook that Clover is making that you can do Tunisian crochet in the round in that we’ve had a lot of fun experimenting with in the design department. Since that’s pretty new, chances are good other people in your group probably aren’t familiar with it.

Zontee:  Yeah, I just saw that, and someone gave Hilary, who works here, a little bottle cozy that was done in the round with the double‑ended crochet hook, and I thought that was very cool. So it’s definitely a technique I’m going to have to check out.

Other things that I’ve found over the years that are really fun and people always want to know about are entrelac, which Liz and I experimented with last year, as some of you may remember.

Liz:  And then color–all sorts of color techniques are really popular. I’ve been knitting a long time and Amy, who works with me up in the design department, we’ve both been knitting a long time, but we still, just the other day, had a talk for like an hour about different ways we approach color work, and she really likes the intarsia and I can’t stand intarsia. I really like doing stranded color work, and she finds it really awkward.

So we were kind of giving each other tips on the technique the other liked, and I think you could really get a lot out of a group environment of sharing different approaches to things like intarsia, fair isle, stranded knitting.

Zontee:  I’ve been a big fan of slip‑stitch knitting for color work recently because that’s a nice, easy technique. So that’s another thing that you could share with your group as well.

Other things that are kind of experiencing a resurgence are techniques that are related to knitting, crocheting, or yarn crafting such as the machine knitting that we mentioned earlier this episode, as well as weaving, which I’m a big fan of. I think that while weaving, you think to yourself over, under, over, under, right? There are a lot of color techniques and text…

Liz:  I’m going to stop you there because I don’t want our weavers to think that you’re implying that weaving is simplistic.

Zontee:  Oh no, I was just going to expand to say that there are some many other skills outside of those that people might be aware of.

Liz:  Because it’s such a totally approach to making textiles from knitting and crochet and they… It’s so much fun to be able to make all these different patterns and color effects with a totally different craft.

Zontee:  Exactly, and color work and weaving is so interesting, as well. So I think, again, a weaving demo, very cool, probably very interesting to a lot of people.

And finally spinning, something that you’re in to Liz.

Liz:  Oh yeah. Spinning is super fun and a really great activity for groups to do. For those of you who listened to our episode two session ago where we had interviews from Maker Faire, you can teach people to spin with just a basic spindle made out of an old CD and a dowel and a hook. So very simple materials that could be gotten very inexpensively, and you can have a lot of fun.

Zontee:  Yeah, I think that would be really fun to do, and as a group activity, make your own spindles and then go at it with some fiber.

Liz:  Who doesn’t love fiber? Come on!

Zontee:  It’s true. Now that we’ve talked about a little bit about some skills, just a couple, I’m sure you listeners have many more that you may want to demonstrate. But now that we’ve talked about a couple of those skills, let’s talk a little bit about how you want to go about teaching that skill.

Liz:  I think just as Patty said as you’re teaching a beginner, when you’re demoing something for a group of any sort, you’ve got to start with the right materials. So make sure you have something available so the audience can practice the skill you’ve just demoed.

Zontee:  Agreed. Or ask people to bring things in that are within specific parameters. I actually find that just like with beginning knitting and crocheting, smooth yarns are probably going to be your best bet for any kind of textured technique because you really want to concentrate on the underlying skill and not be blocked out and have trouble seeing because of all the textures.

Whether that’s for entrelac or Tunisian or intarsia, you’re going to want to be able to see each individual stitch and how they fit together. So smooth yarn is probably your best bet.

Liz:  And if it’s something that requires a special tool, like Tunisian crochet or broomstick lace, find a way you could either borrow enough of the items or ask people to bring them or if your group has dues, you could make a purchase, so there are at least enough so that even if everyone can’t have their own, there’s stuff that people could share and everyone could take a turn.

Zontee:  Exactly. Next, you want to think about a little bit about the size of the group. This will help you figure out how to arrange the space so that everyone can see and interact in the most convenient way. Liz, you had a good suggestion for if the group is on the larger side how people could see.

Liz:  Because generally when you are demonstrating, you’re going to either be sitting at the loom or the wheel or standing up in front of the group, but if there are too many people, if there is as many as just like 20, that’s… it’s kind of hard for people to really get a good look at what you’re doing.

So what I found is really effective is having people come up a third of the group at a time. You make the left‑hand group, the middle group and the right‑hand group. Call them up one at a time to learn the first step. Then, they go back to their seats and practice.

Then you keep rotating when people come up until they’re learning the second step and the third step. People know when they’re going to get their turn. It’s very organized. People seem to respond well to it.

Zontee:  Agreed. And if you have a larger group and you have the luxury of finding other people who already know the skill, it can also be helpful to have helpers who walk around with you so that after you demonstrate the skill to the entire group, for you and your helpers to walk around and help individuals so they can ask any specific questions or double‑check anything they want to double‑check.

Liz:  In any group, people are going to grasp a new skill at very different rates. So you want to do your best to encourage the people who are having trouble. You don’t want them to get frustrated. And while you want to also encourage the people who are getting it right away, you don’t want them to lead the class off in a really advanced direction, so that other people kind of get left behind.

So you may want to ask them to keep those questions for the one‑on‑one moments or just tell them there will be time at the end where you’ll be moving on to more advanced topics.

Zontee:  I definitely agree. Finally, I think it’s really wonderful to bring samples of what that skill can create so that people can see and be inspired by all of the different things you can make with their new-found skill.

Liz:  And I think don’t just bring the really beautiful end pieces–of course, bring those; you want that for the inspiration–but also if you still have it, bring the very first length of yarn you spun or the very first piece of cloth you tried to weave that ended up a tangled mess of who knows what. Or, if you’re like me, bring your first swatch of lace knitting that had way more holes than it was actually supposed to, because I think it could be really helpful for people to see that, “This is where I started the first time I tried this, but I kept practicing, and this is what I can do now.” They can see that message. Because so often people get frustrated when something doesn’t come right away, and they say, “That’s fine. I’ll just go back to this more basic set of skills that I know I can do well and I’ll just stay within that.” We want to encourage people to get outside the box.

Our final tips are for those of you who find that as you’re doing demos with a club, or teaching friends or coworkers one on one. If you find that you really are liking teaching, it might be something you want to explore in a more professional capacity.

A great place to start with that is the Craft Yarn Council of America. They have training programs all over that you can participate in.

Zontee:  Exactly, and they also have certification programs which you can then basically have on your resume saying you are certified as a teacher by the CYCA. It’s a great tool when you go into your local yarn stores or craft stores to say, “Hey, do you happen to be looking for a teacher? I am trained; I have learned these skills. I’ve put in those hours.”

It’s great to start with your local community, and also see if people would be interested in private lessons and go from there. As you build up your reputation from those, maybe you’ll even end up on the national circuit.

Liz:  We hope you found these tips really useful and if you have questions on anything, always let us know. [music]

***

Liz:  On today’s “Stash This: Ideas for Your Crafting Life,” we are going to talk about ways to jazz up projects for beginners. Maybe, hopefully, you’ve taken our tips from the last segment. You’ve gone out there, you’ve gotten your coworkers, your friends, your family all into knitting and crochet.

The first thing they’re going to ask, probably before they’ve even finished mastering the foundation chain or the cast on is, “What can I make? Many of us learned how to knit or crochet by making a scarf. That’s the prototypical first project.

A lot of people, men especially, don’t really where scarves. Right now, it is hot as blazes and the last thing you want to think about is a scarf. Or, maybe you live somewhere where it’s always this hot, and you’re never going to need a scarf.

So, what are other types of projects that are just formed by basic rectangles, but that will get people really excited?

Zontee:  Well, one thing that I think is great is to have your first project be something really small so that right away you have something, and then you can move onto something a little bit bigger that’s a little bit more thought out.

The reason that I think of this is that often the first thing that you make is a rectangle. If you happen to bind off that rectangle so that you learn your bind off, you might say, “Well, now I’ve got a tiny little rectangle. What will I do with it?”

Two things: one, going back to what we always talk about, washcloths. Washcloths are great for a first project. Yes, it’s a rectangle, but it’s a useful rectangle. Right away, you can put it to good use.

Liz:  Most of the time, washcloths and dishcloths are usually 100 percent cotton. That can be a little tough to learn with, because it doesn’t have the elasticity. This is where Cotton-Ease comes in as a really excellent yarn choice.

We have a great Cumulus Washcloth that a very simple garter stitch done in a couple of Cotton-Ease held together, so it’s going to be really fast, it’s really pretty, and it’s really soft and useful when you’re done.

Zontee:  Exactly. A secondary thing that you can do with your little rectangular swatch is a change purse. That’s what I did with my first swatch, because I thought to myself, “Well, I don’t want to throw this away. It’s the first knitted thing I’ve ever made.”

So, I sewed up the sides, left a little flap for a top, and I added a little button snap, and guess what? Change purse.

Liz:  And if you are teaching a perfectionist who is really obsessing about their tension and how everything doesn’t look pretty, have them use 100 percent or mostly wool yarn that will felt, so you can make your little rectangle, sew it up, and then felt it, tah dah! Felted change purse. Look how pretty it looks now; No one can see any of those imperfections anymore.

Zontee:  That’s very true. It’s a good tip for your perfectionist learner.

Liz:  Also a relatively small project, and I find people get really impressed when they figure out that they have made this, is a hat. You can make an extremely cute hat out of a garter stitch or a single crochet rectangle.

You just make it the circumference of your head and then just seam it up. It’s particularly cute if you embellish the corners with pom poms or tassels.

Zontee:  That’s exactly right. So, the idea would be that you seam up that one edge you made the circumference of your head. Seam up the one edge and either gather the top by running a line all the way around and pulling taught so that it bunches, or ‑ and this works great for kids hats ‑ is to actually take a length of ribbon and actually tie it off so you get kind of a floppy top at the top and then it’s gathered there.

Or, again, you can just sew up that top edge, pom poms or tassels on either one of those corners, and put it on. It’s actually kind of a cute hat that has almost little horns.

Liz:  They’re very cute. If you’re feeling a little more ambitious and you want to make two rectangles of roughly the same size and then a longer, skinny rectangle, you can sew the larger ones together on three sides, and then add the strap, and you have a market bag.

Zontee:  Oh, very good.

Liz:  We have some great patterns on our website for some even fancier market bags all done with squares and rectangles, but where you make smaller squares of various colors and sew them together for a patchwork look. That can also be really fun, too.

Zontee:  Exactly. One great tip that I got at a consumer show some time ago ‑ I’ve always loved to meet people when I go out to shows like Stitches and the Knit and Crochet Show. This one I got from Annie Adams, who is a jewelry designer who makes beautiful shawl pins for knitwear.

She had a great big rectangle that was just a big garter stitch rectangle. She folded down the top three or four inches of it to create a flap and then wrapped it around so that the flap was on the top half on the outside. She wrapped the piece of fabric around her shoulders and then pinned it on one side just above her left shoulder or right shoulder.

It looked really elegant and really glamorous, and it looked like a wrap that had its own kind of collar. But, the truth is it was just one big garter stitch rectangle. So, that’s pretty fabulous and that would work really beautifully with crochet as well. You make one big single crochet rectangle, fold it down, wrap it around, pin it, gorgeous.

Liz:  Another really fun idea is to make some relatively large squares or rectangles and then seam them together, fill them with fiberfill, and you’ve got your own personalized pillow.

Zontee:  I really love that idea, because pillows, you can make a whole bunch of them and if you’re the kind of person who really enjoys lounging, you’ll find that really satisfying.

Liz:  And it’s so easy to play around with the sizes, because no one can tell you that your pillow is too big or too small.

Zontee:  That’s true.

Liz:  It’s just pillow-size–it’s great.

Zontee:  Another great thing, and we’ve talked about this before–but I think this is especially good with teenagers or kids who are looking for something maybe a little bit more fun and funky–is to take your rectangles and make a rectangle-based amigurumi.

We’ve got a really cute cat pattern on our website where the body and the ears are just two rectangles sewn together. The ears are delineated by sewing a little bit right there to make them stand out, and then you make some arms and legs and stitch on a little face, and you’ve got an adorable kitty right away.

Liz:  And I think we’ve demonstrated the versatility of the Pirate Pal, which is another rectangle based amigurumi pattern that can be personalized easily. Then a final suggestion, and this is especially true if you have someone who really wants to practice their cast on and bind off or their foundation chain, and that’s a patchwork blanket.

You can make lots of different squares as long as they’re the relatively same size, you’ll be able to seam them together into a beautiful blanket.

Zontee:  So, we hope that we’ve inspired you to take the beginner pattern and go beyond just the scarf. And, of course, if you do opt for the scarf, don’t forget that there’s some great sampler scarves on our website, so that is always an option.

Liz:  Yes. It will be cold again soon, at least most places. I’ve heard rumors. [music]

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Zontee:  We want to thank all of you for joining us today and we want to thank those who shared their tips, questions, and comments on our blog by emailing us in on our Raverly group.

Liz:  Join us again in two weeks when we talk about eco-chic projects that are summer friendly and earth friendly. What are some eco-friendly yarn crafting projects you’ve made? Tell us about them and you may be included in our next episode.

Just leave a comment on our website YarnCraft.LionBrand.com, on Raverly, or by voicemail at 774‑452‑YARN. That’s 774‑452‑9276.

As usual, our music was “Boy With The Coin” by Iron and Wine from the Podsafe Music Network. [music]

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For more information about the patterns, links, and products discussed on this episode, please see the episode guide.