Writer, illustrator, and knitter Franklin Habit joins us for his monthly column featuring humor and insights into a yarncrafter’s life.
I left you, last month, on the brink of taking your seat in the classroom. If all has gone well, you are equipped with the correct needles, notions, and yarns. If the teacher has asked for homework, your homework is complete.
Let us begin.
Part Two: In the Classroom
Dressing in layers is vital. A student in a shirt, sweater, and small shawl or scarf can adjust to a variable microclimate. A student who wears only a bra under her snuggly hand-knitted merino pullover is going to suffer when the radiator starts to glow.
Do not ever (ever) show up very, very early and attempt to wheedle a free private lesson out of the teacher before class beings. You will not enjoy what happens next.
If you must arrive late, slip in quietly and take the nearest available seat. No explanations necessary.
If you simply can’t wait another minute to catch up with the bosom friend you haven’t seen since the day fifty years ago when you left her for dead on a blood-soaked battlefield, please consider that perhaps my class on the history of lace knitting is not the ideal place to do it.
If you are afraid yours is a stupid question, ask anyway. I promise that three other people in the room are wondering about exactly the same thing at exactly the same moment.
If you pipe up in mid-lesson with, “Hey! Can I show you a better way of doing that?” you are not, in fact, helping either the teacher or your classmates. You are liable to throw more timid students into a panic, and cause a cascade of confusion that may persist through the rest of the session.
Listen to me. There are many different ways of doing everything in needlework. The method taught in a class may not be the “best” method–if indeed there is such a thing. But it will be the method that the teacher knows from experience is most readily learned, by the largest number of students, most of the time. It will be the method she knows well, and is therefore qualified to teach.
If you prefer the method you already know, that’s fine. Continue to use it. If you feel compelled to share it with the teacher, do so quietly either during a pause in the class or outside of the class. I have learned a great deal from students in this way over the years, and I truly appreciate it.
However, if what you would really like is to be a teacher, then get a classroom. Your own classroom.
Let us imagine that the class to be taught is a cake. The teacher has prepared a wonderful cake–deliciously flavored, perfectly baked, and splendidly decorated with the finest sugar flowers.
Every student is entitled to one piece of the cake. Every student’s piece is the same size.
You may, and you should, eat up your piece of the cake.
You absolutely may not eat your neighbor’s cake.
It does not matter if you think your neighbor isn’t as hungry as you are. Keep your fork out of her plate.
When you have questions, ask. When you need help, ask. But remember that the other students also have questions and need help. Keep calm, wait your turn, and allow your classmates to have their fair share of the teacher’s time.
If you want to eat a whole cake by yourself, arrange a private lesson.
My opinion–and it is just my opinion–is that nothing worth doing at all is so simple that you can pick it up in three hours without making a whole bunch of mistakes.
Postgraduate Lesson: After Class
Likely you are leaving with a handout from the teacher. It may have taken the teacher months, at considerable expense, to create it. It is a vital part of the teacher’s ability to make a living–to put food on her table, clothes on her back, and a roof over her head.
That copy is your copy, for your personal use.
Do not share copies of the handout with all your friends. Do not post the handout to Pinterest or Ravelry or any other online site. Do not make copies of the handout for your entire guild back home. Do not copy the handout to teach the teacher’s class in your own yarn shop.
To do so is to steal, plain and simple. To do so is to injure one of our community, and what injures one of us ultimately injures all of us.
Nope. Sorry. Stealing is stealing. I can’t stop you from stealing, but I won’t tell you there are times when it’s okay, because there are not.
Thus Endeth the Lesson
The second part of this guide was tough to write. No matter how I’ve tried to soften it up, I still sound alarmingly like a certain tough-but-caring Franciscan nun who commanded my fifth grade homeroom as though she were steering a battleship. We loved her, and she loved us. But she wasn’t exactly cuddly.
Remember that all of this has one goal in mind: to give you and your classmates the best possible experience in a classroom. And all the many rules boil down to one: remember that everyone is a human being (including you) and act accordingly.
I do hope to see you in class one of these days–either as your teacher or possibly as a fellow student. I’ll try to remember to do my homework. If you ask nicely, I always have extra stitch markers and spare scissors.
Writer, illustrator, and photographer Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008–now in its third printing) and proprietor of The Panopticon (the-panopticon.blogspot.com), one of the most popular knitting blogs on Internet. On an average day, upwards of 2,500 readers worldwide drop in for a mix of essays, cartoons, and the continuing adventures of Dolores the Sheep. Franklin’s other publishing experience in the fiber world includes contributions to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Cast On: A Podcast for Knitters, Twist Collective, and a regular column on historic knitting patterns for Knitty.com.
These days, Franklin knits and spins in Chicago, Illinois, sharing a small city apartment with a Schacht spinning wheel and colony of sock yarn that multiplies alarmingly whenever his back is turned.