Even though it is still warm this time of year where I live, I am drawn to all the fall crafts, projects, and pictures I see on other blogs, in magazines, and on pinterest. I love the idea of cooler weather coming, backyard fires in our fire pit, with my family sitting in chairs around it, all cozy under blankets and afghans.
I would still consider myself a beginner crocheter. I started in 2011 and learned from watching Craftsy videos, specifically, their beginner Crochet Lab Class. I spent last year crocheting dishcloths and scarves and learning new stitches and this year I am excited to start on my first afghan. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t already started teaching my girls! My eldest girls are 10 and almost 8. They have learned to finger knit (so far) and they are also beginning crocheters. I have been teaching them and now this fall, we have taken their knowledge of different stitches and helped them create actual beginner projects. Our goal is that they will be doing their own dishcloths and scarves by Christmas.
Like many homeschool mamas, I’ve always had a good intention to craft more with my kids and somehow between academics and real life chores it seemed we never had as much time for it as I would have liked. This year, I think I have remedied that by making handcrafts–crafting in general– an actual “subject” for our homeschool. We have found a nice place for it within our weekly rhythm and it is my hope that by the end of this year, the girls will be well on their way to adding crochet to their list of life skills.
Here are some tips I have found that have helped me with teaching my own kids to crochet:
1. Block out a good amount of time. I find if I’m watching the clock or feeling hurried, the “lesson” does not go well. I try to block out a minimum of 30 minutes for each girl per lesson, usually more, depending on age.
2. When teaching a child who is brand new to crochet, make it a 1 on 1 lesson. This allows you to focus just on that child and no one feels bad if someone else (or older) is picking it up faster. Once kids are going and have some stitches, then you can do crochet in a group (that is how we do it now) but in the beginning, 1 on 1 allows for great individual time with your children and allows for more success.
3. Pick the right yarn for beginners. I try to only use organic yarn with projects and want one that is a good weight (at least worsted weight–if checking labels, one that is labeled 4 or higher) where the stitches will hold their shape. Also, choose a light yarn as opposed to a dark yarn so the stitches are easy to see. Avoid textured yarns as they can be frustrating for beginners. My favorite online resources for yarn are Craftsy, Amazon , and Herschners, while my favorite etsy shop for yarn is Wool Finch Studio.
4. If you value natural fibers, your child will also. Most people learn to crochet using acrylic yarn. It’s cheap and easy to learn with. Cotton yarns are also considered good for beginners, but in the fall and winter months, I love crocheting with a good natural fiber, preferably organic wool. Organic yarns feel better on my hands and I want my kids to not just embrace my love of natural living but enjoy it. I want them to feel that I value their work as much as my own, so we use natural fibers in our lessons and handcrafts. If you are using the good organic stuff for yourself and the cheaper acrylic for theirs, they will know. This is not the message I want to give my girls. I want to show them I value their efforts and that their stitches, even the beginning or erroneous ones, are worthy of natural fibers. 🙂
5. Teach stitches in a hierarchy. We teach a slip knot first and then a single chain. We single chain a long time, making necklaces and garlands and the like before we move on to single crochet. Dishcloths are a great project for single crochet (pick a cotton yarn for dishcloths since they will get wet often), so are scarves. Once single crochet is mastered, we go to double crochet, and so on. I spend some time with pattern reading once we get to the first actual project. Even a non-reader can follow a simple crochet pattern with assistance so don’t let a reading level deter you from beginning a child on crochet. I make sure a stitch is mastered before moving on to a new one.
6. Seek out resources. Pinterest and Ravelry are my favorite online resources. Locally, I have found in person classes at our local Jo-Anns Craft store (I’ve take a few there and found them helpful, albeit they were very fast paced). I have had the most success (and the most positive experiences) with regard to in person classes at our local yarn store. The store offers both crochet and knitting to adults and this year started offering children’s knitting classes. I find the yarn store environment to be a more relaxed atmosphere than the large craft store class environment. I also have loved getting to sit and visit with master knitters and crocheters who were happy to help, share tips, and also a little life wisdom as we stitched.
7. Praise the effort and be kind in your corrections. Unlike when your child hands you a drawing and we say “this is BEAUTIFUL!”, we must do some correcting when teaching our little ones handwork. It does not benefit them for us to overlook mistakes for the sake of their ego, if we want them to truly be proficient as they progress. I always start with a compliment (“I love how uniform your stitches are!”, “You picked a beautiful color for this project”, or “You have been really concentrating!” etc) and then point out the mistake as gently as possible. After she can see the mistake (this is important so they will be able to self correct their own projects later), I then offer the “fix”. As time goes, my eldest daughter is able to notice and even correct her own errors. I remind both girls (and myself) that practice makes progress, not practice makes perfect.
Do you have other tips that would be helpful for teaching kids to crochet? I would love to read them.
**A note about crochet hooks: All crochet hooks are not created equal. I learned and my girls learned on regular crochet hooks from the craft store. After I took a class at the yarn store near my house I was introduced to the Knitter’s Pride Waves crochet hooks with soft gel handles. Wow. So comfortable, ergonomic, so much easier for little (and big) hands to hold. I won’t crochet with anything else now. I have found my set to be worth every penny, and didn’t cost much more than buying good regular hooks individually. I especially love that since I started using them, when I am sitting and crocheting a long time; I no longer get hand cramps!
**A note about teaching lefties: I am a right handed, teaching right handed children…for now. My youngest daughter, age 4, is a lefty, so when that time comes I will share what we find that works. If you already have found things that work to teach a lefty when you are a righty, please share them with me!
We are currently using:
My 10 year old is using the book, I Can Crochet, as her “crochet text” and we are just working through the projects one at a time. I’ve bought a lot of craft books in my life and probably as many for the kids but I’m kind of excited that this one we are actually using every week, and it is helping her progress her skills. I love seeing the sense of accomplishment on her face when she completes one of the projects and we seem to be much more organized with teaching her in a hierarchy now that we found a kids project book to follow. I’m sure there are lots of others, but I only feel comfortable sharing the ones we have actually used. If you have used others, please tell me about them in the comments!
On Sundays, we do a Sunday Stitch Along. What are you working on right now? Whatever it is…quilting, knitting, painting, felting, sewing, crochet, whatever crafty, please share it with our community by posting a photo of it on our facebook page today!
My favorite crochet books I’m using currently (and the Lion Brand project book is free at the time of this posting) :
Happy Stitching, (This post is linked up to The Homeschool Post)