Mad Granny Skillz

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say that a grandmother taught them to crochet as a kid. And then years later, they got back into it or that they'd like to pick it back up. There is something soothing in the motion. It evokes memories of simpler, slower times. And you end up with some cool stuff.  That's pretty much my story, too.

About five years ago, I took some crochet classes from Cal Patch at the Yarn Cupboard fiber arts retreat in Syracuse. She is a patient teacher who clearly knows and loves her craft.  From her I learned how to crochet around the edges of garments, finish knitting in crochet (a revelation!) and to make her beautiful Wingfeathers Shawl. I have since made eight of these.

Robin encouraged me to offer a crochet class at Craftsitute. I was little nervous about my ability to translate what I knew into clear instruction. I started with deciphering the pattern language but quickly realized how much room there is for free styling it. Crochet can be sculptural and free form. Have you heard of Prudence Mapstone and her scrumbles?  They are a wild improvised mash up of crocheting and knitting. There’s so much you can do with this art form.

big red basket

Robin and I had a powwow yesterday. We were trying to figure out what kinds of classes are working and if any patterns are emerging. What fills up quickly versus classes that get a flurry of last minute signups? Are weekends or weeknights preferable? Do people want skill building sessions or more one-off type classes?

The short answer is that five months into our little adventure, there is no rhyme or reason yet. But we’re going to keep plugging along, talking to people, paying attention to what is happening at places like the Handcraft Studio School, the Rochester Brainery and Drop, Forge and Tool. We know that Ithaca is a unique community – we don’t have the numbers of a larger metro area and activity clearly ebbs and flows with the academic year – but we do think there a niche for Craftstitute.

This past spring at the Syracuse retreat, Cal and Jill Draper, an independent hand-dyer from the Hudson Valley, were talking about classes. They both teach workshops all over the country and have found that a significant component of teaching is simply support. They said that very often people know the basics but just need a little guidance and encouragement.

At Craftstitute, we think it’s also about making the time. If you sign up for a class and commit to the few hours, you will actually follow through. And you will walk away feeling pretty darn good. Could I have figured out how to make a skirt out of a XXL t-shirt?  Probably.  Would I have cleared out the space, taken the time, and actually done it at home? Probably not.

And I would not have gotten to spend four hours with the amazing Maya Donenfeld. She did so much more than show us how to make a skirt. She possesses enormous knowledge of sewing machines, as well as sewing techniques and tips, and how to best reuse materials. And she just has the best energy. We left happy - and with a newfound confidence in our abilities.  I went home and made another skirt the very next day.