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My Mom, who is a professor of physics, has always told me “If you want to test your knowledge of any subject, try teaching it to someone else.  Not only will you quickly uncover your own gaps in knowledge, but very soon you will know it backwards and forwards and upside down.”  How true this is.  The very nature of teaching someone else means that you must not only know it yourself, but you must also be flexible and creative in how you relate that information because no two minds work exactly the same way.

I’ve had a great time teaching my classes at Knit New Haven in recent months.  The students have been great, and many of them have asked some great questions, which have led me off on several tangents!  I see the truth of my Mom’s observations and when I teach, I always learn a little something about myself in the process, and am inspired to learn too.  It’s a circle.  One very literal way in which I pushed my knowledge forward recently was learning to knit “Continental” style.

I learned to knit “English” style from my British-Canadian born Grandmother.  No surprise there.  In all the years I’ve been knitting, carrying the yarn in the right hand, throwing it around that needle tip, the method has served me well.  However, that whole “backwards and forwards and upside down” came in to play when I was helping some of my “Learn to Knit” students.  While I have seen, and even tried, to knit “Continental” before, (carrying the yarn in my left  hand, “picking” the stitches as you go) I never used it to actually make anything.  Well, while awkwardly trying to teach this, I decided I needed to assign myself a little homework.  I want to be more than “able” to teach any style of knitting, I want to hold myself to the high standard of mastering each and every skill.  When the opportunity to work on a beginner project came up for the “My First Hat” class, I decided to become the student for a while and finally master the continental knitting method.  I am proud to say this is my “First Continental Hat“:

I visited You-tube, of course, and found many options.  Vickie Howell for Caron had a good video to get me started.  I then went over to “knittinghelp.com” and was able to even better study the whys and ways of continental knitting.  I cast-on long tail style with my new left handed grip, and it is faster for that aspect of knitting without a doubt.  I then knit several rounds and became familiar with that beginner feeling again: tight grip, slow progress, but determined to keep going.  By the end of a few rows my hands actually hurt.  New muscles, fat yarn, awkward movements –  it was like changing your workout and finding new pains!  After a little break, I reviewed the videos again, adjusted my tension technique a little, and learned to “assist” the movement a bit better with my right index finger as many of the knitters in the videos did.  I became comfortable with it by about the tenth round, and then I brought my sample up to where it needed to be for my class demonstration in no time.  By the end of those 6 inches of hat knitting, I felt completely comfortable with it and my hands relaxed giving me good gauge and nice neat work.  Check out the gorgeous “Malabrigo Rasta” yarn colors swirling around that tidy star top:

This new method will hopefully make me a better teacher, and as a bonus, a two handed fair isle knitter!!!  I still need to master the purl, which seems really slow still, but I think the next basic knit I do, I’m going to get it all pulled together.  Learning and teaching happen all the time, in all kinds of ways.  Lil One shows me this every day with her constant questions and “toddler logic” explanations!

And so the circle goes.  Mother and Daughter, Teacher and Student.

P.S. I’ll be teaching again at Knit New Haven in the coming months, so look for the new class schedule coming soon at www.knitnewhaven.com.