The Reluctant Teacher and the birth of Mrs V’s Crochet Society

I have never really taught. I have too much respect for great teachers. I don’t dare step on that hallowed ground. I had some incredible teachers when I was at school. Inspirational, funny, fiercely clever. I have good friends who are stunning teachers and when I have had the privilege of watching them – it is like art. They impart information, adapt the subject matter to make it relevant to a child who is struggling and then manage to control a huge room full of very different individuals…in a finite time…how do they do that?

I have been asked a few times to deliver crochet workshops and managed to deflect the question. But I have taught a few people individually to crochet; a one-on-one session. They have tended to be good friends who I know have ‘needed’ to learn. Famously I have one good friend who I have always refused to teach. It has become a thing. I always said… ‘you don’t want it enough, there is nothing that you actually want to make…therefore I won’t teach you.’ Isn’t that dreadful. Out of frustration she has scoured department stores and in fact door-stepped a rather famous yarn producer and persuaded her to teach her the basics… The Granny Square she produced following that encounter is one of my most treasured gifts.

I still won’t teach her.

When the second lock-down came I felt a huge ache of friends saying …’Oh no… we are going into the darkest days of a British Winter…I cannot cope!’ It occurred to me that for those of us in the yarny community the announcement was softened. Many of us thought, ‘well it’s not good, but I do have a lot of projects to finish before Christmas… I will hunker down’. It seemed selfish not to share the consoling balm of our hobby. I put out a quiet call to my friends on Facebook asking if anyone wanted to learn the basics. I thought I might get perhaps one or two flickers of interest.

In fact I was overwhelmed. The only answer was to set up a Zoom tutorial. Mrs V’s Crochet Society was born. In the end we had about 9 willing students. I set a time and date for a little introduction meeting and then the realisation hit…how on earth was I going to do this?

In the introduction session I showed everyone the sort of things they could make and pointed out some good books and websites that are worth visiting. I also wanted to glean what their ambitions were. Was there something that they wanted to make? How keen were they…etc.

We set a date and time for our first actual on-line tutorial. In that intervening week I ordered yarn in their favourite colour, some hooks in the correct size and obtained enough copies of my book, ‘How to Crochet’ so each participant had their own to refer to. It took me a while to settle on our first project but in the end I devised a simple cowl pattern – something you could proudly wear once you had finished. Later that week I drove round our city dropping of this yarny starter kit, thinking all the while, ‘What am I doing! I can’t teach and certainly not remotely!!!’

Experience told me that for both the teacher and the students it was a good idea to set a session limit. I committed to 4 sessions, weekly on a late Sunday afternoon. Technically it wasn’t a total breeze. I am fortunate that my husband is a whizz with video and computers. So I was able to swap between a camera looking at the my face and then an camera positioned over my hands.

On the first session we covered making a slip-knot, completing and foundation chain and successfully learning the double crochet stitch. It is hard not being able to actually stand over the shoulder of someone as they crochet. All the students showed incredible patience both with me and with each other. At the end of the first hour and a half, everyone was off and running with a simple double crochet cowl.

For some the stitching came easily. For others the mid-air manipulation of the yarn and the hook was frustrating. What totally surprised me was that by the following week virtually everyone had made their cowl!!! That blew me away. Some people were on to their third!

I was so amazed after the first week to be able to get a cowl underway (albeit a bit wonky!) I loved that despite my imperfections it looked great! The second one I embarked on was a lot neater and I was so pleased to find it looked more like the photo in the book! – Helen

In the second week we picked up some problems, perfected techniques and began looking at treble crochet and the granny square.

At week three some students had begun a chunky Granny Square blanket, others had begun a Christmas production line of cosy cowls. The progress and passion was inspiring. I introduced everyone to amigurumi in week three and the magic ring. This is complex stuff, but if you get it – you never go back.

On each session there were good friends of mine, their daughters, teenagers and even an awesomely talented 9 year old. Everyone had a mixture of crafty experience and competency. I taught Kate to knit a few years ago for her Duke of Edinburgh award and I knew instinctively she would love crochet – I loved learning to crochet!! I’ve tried knitting before but just as Emma said, once you crochet you never go back to knitting, and I don’t think I will! The technique is so fun and really simple once you’ve got it so it’s really easy to continue developing more styles and patterns! – Kate

In the final week I invited some expert crocheters to join us on our last zoom tutorial to share their top-tips and favourite makes. They joy of hearing these new crocheters and established experts conversing was thrilling.

My little star Hadiah has such passion for the craft and as a close neighbour I would often see her on my doorstep. She kept asking me to teach her amigurumi. She wants to make the little rabbit in ‘How to Crochet’. I think perhaps this was the second and most compelling reason for working out how to teach on-line. Her Mum, Mars was delighted;

Mrs.V’s crotchet club is an inspired thing. My 9 year old has absolutely adored having sessions on-line learning to crochet. She’s now developed a creative hobby that will keep her busy for the rest of her life. Since the classes, she’s been busy making crochet presents from star Christmas tree ornaments to cowls for friends and family. It was lovely to see her engage with Emma on-line and get excited every Sunday when she knew she was going to have another lesson. She even told her classmates about her lessons with a celebrity in the crochet world, and took in a signed copy of her crochet book as evidence of her crochet superhero Mrs. V!

I think that for some of my friends, that little autumn workshop will be a one off adventure. Others I know have become gloriously addicted and like Alice have fallen down the rabbit hole of crochet adventures. Bella said: I never imagined I could actually master crochet as it looked so complicated. I was surprised how quickly I picked it up’ I loved it

It is also a weird thing that often I seem to lead a double or triple life. Some friends and work colleagues never really know that I crochet or even write books about it. The thought of teaching my oldest friends felt awkward and certainly I didn’t think I could do it successfully (see my previous reticence). Setting up the online tutorial made it far easier. I am sharing with you this experience to encourage you to take a step either to share your skills with a friend (they will appreciate it) or discover a new craft in this difficult year… it will be enormous fun! – my friend Charlotte pretty much sums it up.

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible. -Francis of Assisi

I was probably the most reluctant beginner and realised that my hesitancy to learn crochet came, not from a lack of interest, but a lack of confidence. I would look at Emma’s crocheted masterpieces with admiration and decided that I wouldn’t even bother learning because I’d never reach those heady heights. Once I had put my pride to one side, accepted that learning is a journey where you are ALLOWED to make mistakes ( and indeed should make mistakes), I did what was necessary, picked up the hooks and yarn, leaned into the advise and was soon doing the ‘impossible’…I am the proud creator of two crocheted scarves. They might not be perfect but I am ok with that ❤️

If you would like to make your own beginners cowl here is the Yarn Recipe:

You will need: 1 x ball of Stylecraft Special Super Chunky XL, 1 x 10mm crochet hook, 1 large eyed tapestry needle

The Cowl Pattern –

Using a 10 mm hook and super chunky yarn, you are going to make a slip knot and then chain 21 stitches.

You will double crochet into the second chain from the hook. (20 stitches) Work a double crochet into each chain to the end.Turn the work. Work 1 chain. 1 double crochet in each stitch to end. 20 stitches. This is your pattern. Work straight until your crochet measures, 50 cm/20 inches.

Row 1: Using 10mm hook and yarn A ch66 sts.Do not fasten off.

Finishing Create the circular cowl by twisting the yarn once, so that point A meets point A, and point B matches point B. Then slip stitch the side edges together. Wear with pride.

My little Crochet Society was created by my super talented friend Eve

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