time to boogie down and freak out

A week from today, I will be packing to drive to Syracuse, New York, where I will be teaching 3 classes over the weekend of March 25-27 at the Yarn Cupboard’s Winter Retreat. (There are still some spots left in some of the classes, so check it out! There will be other folks teaching workshops in various yarn crafts plus a market. Fun!)

I’ll be teaching two half-day sessions of “Knitting A Sweater That Fits You” and one half-day session of “Sweater Triage,” where folks bring in their Problem Sweaters and try them on and I show them (and the class) how to diagnose and rehabilitate things-that-don’t-fit-or-look-right. (I love Sweater Triage. LOVE.)

Thus, it is time for my traditional week-before-teaching Freakout. I really ought to just go ahead and block this out on the calendar for every single event at which I teach or speak, because it happens like clockwork, and yet, every single time, the worst part of the Freakout is wondering how on earth I will manage to get through it. The fact that I always get through it, and enjoy myself immensely in the process, PLUS the fact that I always, always, ALWAYS meet at least two cool new people every single time and usually more than two…those facts always seem to escape me during the actual Freakout Event.

But here’s the thing: I have taught these particular classes before. In fact, they are my specialty. I’ve not only taught them, but spoken on the topics in formats ranging from a fifteen-minute quick overview to a full-on all-day let’s-get-our-hands-dirty marathon. I’ve written about these topics; I knit my own sweaters based on these topics.

Do I really need to spend an entire week fussing with my presentation? AGAIN? Do I really need to worry about what I am going to say, and how I am going to say it?

That’s crazy. At some point, one has to learn to trust one’s experience, one’s knowledge, and one’s SELF, methinks. I’m not the world’s most experienced teacher; but on this particular set of topics, I think I’m good to go.

As a matter of fact, I ought to know better. I KNOW that I’m good to go. A year ago, I had the ultimate test of any teacher’s knowledge: A 20-minute speaking engagement turned into an impromptu three-hour master class, because everyone was simply too interested in what I was saying to stop and do other things. They asked for more info, and right then and there, with no preparation, no materials, no notes, no slides, no anything, I gave them the entire spiel without blinking.

Tell me: Does a woman who can give an impromptu 3-hour class with no notes and no slides and no prep need to continue the traditional Freakout Week prior to teaching engagements?

Or can she simply trust herself?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Teacher, Know Thyself

Whew. I feel better, more solid, just writing the above. I think part of me is thinking I “should” freakout, because Good Teachers Are Super Prepared. Good Teachers have Handouts and Slides and Lists and Every Single Minute Planned.

Except…I’m not that kind of teacher. (Shocking, I know.) Each group of students is different; each group needs different time spent on various things. I can’t know that until I’m there in the middle of it. I like to stay flexible so that when I teach, I’m not just running through a robotic presentation, I’m listening to the students and seeing what they get and what they don’t get, what they are interested in and what they are bored with. Teaching is about the STUDENTS not about the teacher.

And I LOVE LOVE LOVE being there when someone lights up with the “I got it!” look on their face. Wooooot for students!!

Actual fibre content

I finished the Endless Cormo!

That’s about 450 yds of 2-ply fingering-to-sport weight yarn, spun and plied on my Schacht Matchless wheel. I love it. It’s smooshy, and soft, and springy. The colour isn’t my favourite ever, and the yarn is rather very inconsistent, but I love it anyway. It’s sitting on my top shelf, while I contemplate its future. Knitting? Weaving? Skein object d’art?

Spinning that was a wonderful project. The cormo was beautifully prepared by Alice Field, and every second of handling it was a joy. And like any good project, it taught me something. This project taught me that even the best prep is no substitute for solid spinning technique and enough discipline as a spinner to spin a consistent singles.

I’ve signed up for Abby Franquemont’s two-day intermediate/advanced spinning class at Stringtopia at the end of April; between now and then I am going to focus on spinning more consistently from the beginning to end of a project. I bought a spinner’s gauge last time I ordered from Morgaine, because sometimes it’s helpful to have something to refer to that isn’t just my own handspun.

Actually, I’m finding that spinning the yarns for the prayer flags is helping me practice this; small batches with all different sorts of fibre mixes in different preps; all of which have to be spun to approximately the same grist. Good, challenging practice.


I’m working on a teaching dress!

Well, actually, the teal fabric is the super-inexpensive broadcloth I bought to make a muslin before cutting into the more pricey fancy stuff, but time-wise, I will be lucky to get this one dress made before next Wednesday. I’ve spent a little time on it each morning, and that’s been a great way to start the day.

I had to alter the pattern pieces, of course. That’s part of the joy of making clothes in the first place, isn’t it? Making things that fit? So I spent a happy few mornings taping on extra tissue to the edges of things and measuring and extending curves and making room for my curvy little self.

Nicholas wandered over, and after observing what I was doing for a few minutes, pointed to a marking on the bodice pattern piece said, “Hey, is that, like…a bust dart?” He was delighted to find out that he was correct, and that led to him happily examining the pattern pieces for waist shaping, armhole shaping, and all the other things he has become used to seeing in knitting patterns. It was a lightbulb moment for him, to see that garment shaping happens in similar ways whether you are working with the actual fabric or shaping stitch-by-stitch.

Random Chispas

Chispas means “sparks” in Spanish; so here, I am throwing out random sparks to set your imagination alight!

A vintage lace tablecloth reclaimed…into a graceful blouse.

A girl, a skein of Wollmeise, and an electron scanning microscope. Sock yarn, up REALLY close and personal. Fascinating.

Well. You see…um. There is…wellllll…OK, I really am not quite sure what this is, beyond the fact that it involves riding a hairless cat wearing a cowboy hat, and it’s in Austin, TX, somewhere.

The companion animals of Japan need your help too. If the devastation is just too much to contemplate, and you want to help but don’t know where to start, perhaps start with some of the small and furry victims of the earthquake and tsunami. (No upsetting photos or details, just links and info on how to help.)

If you really like to fall asleep with a good bookthis here is right up your alley.

About sandi

Knitter. Spinner. Quilter. UFO Wrangler. Sometime bead artist and weaver. Two toddler-age kittens, 1 permakitten, 2 grownup cats, 1 beloved dog angel, 1 spouse, 1 crazy life. I suppose that the 5 cats make me 1 crazy cat lady; OTOH, apparently, yes, I do need that much feline supervision.
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19 Responses to time to boogie down and freak out

  1. Seanna Lea says:

    I should be making muslins when I want to sew garments. Instead I freak out and then cut something weird. It’s just a good thing that I don’t buy expensive fabric!


  2. Karin says:

    Thank goodness not every teacher plans every single second and every single word of a presentation. Students respond to real (not overly scripted) communication. We all love spontaneity. It’s refreshing and fun, especially when it comes from someone who really knows her stuff and can answer questions or share amusing personal examples on the fly. And like SNL’s Stuart Smalley, gosh darn it, people like you. Revel in it!


  3. alane says:

    i haven’t ever met you, but i know you will do a wonderful job teaching cause you got it going on girl!!


  4. InJuneau says:

    You will be just fine. No…you will be wonderful, because that’s who and what you are and you know your stuff and people will want to listen and learn.

    I need to go back and figure out what size we’re supposed to spin that yarn to so I can make some for you. I think I have the perfect fiber, from another FOAY…!


  5. I taught childbirth classes for a little while and always had stage fright. I admire anyone who choses to teach.


  6. AnneS says:

    Teaching is about knowing what it is that you are to teach, and then letting the students shape the dialogue that gets the information across. Listen to your students and go with the flow. You’ll do fine. I’d love to be there in your class.


  7. Karalee says:

    I used to teach (ancient Greek and Latin to college students) and every semester before classes started I would feel anxious too. It’s not exactly stage fright, and definitely not about insufficient preparation or subject knowledge: you put your finger on it when you said teaching isn’t about the material so much as about the students. You know the material, but the students you don’t know yet; so even though most of them will turn out to be wonderful once you get to know them, it’s only natural to be nervous at this point because you haven’t met them yet.


  8. Mardi says:

    Butbutbutbutbut – I thought you loved pink!


  9. Pat says:

    Hi Sandi,
    Would give my eye teeth to be able to take your class. Alas, it’s not to be this time around. What would it take for you to teach the same class in the Greenville, NC area? Anyone who can do a 3 hour presentation – without any backup visuals – does not need to worry. You are a pro!!!
    Good luck with your class! Enjoy!
    Pat aka westies


  10. molly says:

    thank you for sharing the image of the ‘good book’ to fall asleep with!
    and you will do fine! enjoy yourself! and the students!


  11. cocokat says:

    I use to teach how to use computer programs. Total freak out at first, but finally got my confidence and did it without fear. One of the hard parts is learning how to teach to different types of people. Some need visuals, some are fine just listening, some can run with a concept. That’s the art of teaching.

    HSUS (http://www.hsi.org/news/news/2011/03/japan_aid_plan_031411.html) is always helping rescue animals in disaster areas around the world. They are already on the ground in Japan.


  12. Susanne says:

    I always, always freak out before teaching a new class, or even a new music student, though teaching one student at a time is way easier, and I’ve been doing that for so long now that I feel fairly confident.

    The one week freaking out before teaching a class, though, I can totally relate to, that happens to me every time.

    When you were talking about preparation I had to grin because I tend to rely heavily on improvisation in all my teaching. That’s my patented “get a crazy idea and run with it”-approach to teaching almost everything. I just figure out where to start, and then I see what comes.

    I never make muslins because when it comes to sewing I’m really impatient. And I don’t like alterations but by now I have figured out that that’s why the things I sew don’t fit me. So I will learn patience with sewing – eventually.

    It’s great that you figured out that you have the traditional “freak-out week”. Now you can remember that you tend to get through them and will enjoy teaching in the end.

    Stringtopia sounds really great, I know you’ll enjoy it and learn a ton.


  13. Jennigma says:

    Sandi, you clearly are a wonderful and skilled teacher. You seem to have also internalized some definition of “Good Teacher” that requires all kinds of Stuff. Tell me, have the best teachers in your past come with hand-outs and slides and gizmos? Mine haven’t.

    Also, when I’m creating or customizing a pattern, I loathe and detest the tissue paper. I purchase posterboard and copy the pattern to that, with drafting notes for big pieces if (say) there’s a big skirt flare. That way I can write notes to myself on the poster board for the next time I make the pattern, like a list of my measurements at the time, notes on construction, whatever. 🙂


  14. Laura says:

    Have you read Parker Palmer’s “Courage to Teach”? I found it helpful, insightful, and reassuring. Granted, it’s about teaching in “classic” education settings (K-12 and higher ed) but I think it applies to any kind of teaching. Not to paraphrase too much, but the main principle I took away from him was just “be yourself.” (Novel, I know.) But I know I have a tendency to try to hide behind the information I’m teaching. That’s not what most students want … they want to know me (which makes me blush). They want to know how I read it/do it/think about it. They want to know it’s a real person standing up there, and not just a talking head. And they want that person to take them seriously.

    That said, I freak out about teaching on a regular basis, and it’s my job (the teaching, not the freaking out). And I think freelancing teaching–coming in to teach classes, like you do–would worsen my freak outs. I freak out most at the beginning of the quarter, and then once I know my students, I calm down. I think your job is much more challenging. On the other hand, I have much greater confidence in you than I do in myself. 🙂 Hope the new dress gives you even more confidence as you approach these events.


  15. Sylvia Dresser says:

    Sandi, what if you changed your language … what if “Freakout” became something like “gathering my energy to be able to connect with my students” – because that is probably what’s going on. Teaching – being with a group – takes a lot of energy, takes an “Edge” if you will – teachers who do not go through that phase probably always sound stilted and don’t really connect with their students – Not You. And, as others have said, the best teachers just know their stuff and don’t have everything scripted.
    I recently did a workshop for which I HAD to script it out. It took me the first five minutes (LOOONNNNGGG ones) to get the script out of my head and get back into my usual stride, and actually connect with my students.
    I hope I get the opportunity to take a class from you one day – topic would be totally unimportant!
    Enjoy your trip.


  16. Barbara G. says:

    Remember who your audience is….knitters!! People who are usually wonderful giving human beings, and you are teaching a class probably every knitter would love to take (I know at least I would). So, I am sure you will be much loved and appreciated for who you are and what you have to share!
    Good luck,


  17. sarah says:

    Thanks for the link to the Japanese Animal Rescue sites; it’s good to be able to help.


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