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River Colors Journal

Friday, June 10, 2016

Building Confidence One Stitch at a Time
Building Confidence One Stitch at a Time

The most popular classes we offer at River Colors Studio are our Confidence Building sessions.  Currently we run them five times a week and we could probably expand to include a Sunday afternoon session, but we like to reserve that slot for special topic/project classes. You can find the times and sign up here.

What happens in a Confidence Building class? Almost anything can happen, because there is no set curriculum, only the needs of the students present on that day.  So if Kathy is knitting her first sweater, a top-down pullover with raglan increases for the sleeves, today’s skill for her might be different kinds of increases and when to use them. Suzanne wants to make lace cowls as Christmas gifts for the women in her life. First she learns about joining her work in the round, being careful not to twist. Once the garter-stitch edge is finished, she will learn about making yarnovers and that stitch markers are her new best friends, keeping her pattern repeats distinct as she works her way around the cowl.

Each class session becomes a community with the ebb and flow of participants as their projects progress from the tricky bits into stretches of straight stockinette. But there’s something about knowing there’s a specific time and day that they can give themselves the gift of time for their knitting and taking a seat at the table is an affirmation that this craft is important, that the act of creation is a pleasure they can share with strangers who become friends.

The talk around the table is endlessly informative. Overhearing the instructions one student needs at this point helps another envision what the next step will be in her project. Sometimes everyone stops and listens to me give general advice, like how to use Ravelry to preview how a particular yarn will knit up in a small project like a sock, versus a large project like a shawl. We spend a lot of time discussing yarns: why a yarn works in a certain project; what drives us crazy about another yarn; finding the right project for a yarn with which we’ve fallen in love, or has been gifted to us.

Another recurring topic centers on body image and how it affects our knitting. Students see a shop sample and admire it, but then deny themselves the pleasure of making it: “Oh, I could never wear that! That sample is the smallest size, I’ll never fit in it to see whether I actually like it.” I always urge them to try it on. First, because knitted garments are magic in their ability to accommodate a range of body types and sizes; second, because setting limits on what we “can” and “can’t” wear limits our vision of ourselves. It’s a poncho, or a sweater, or a skirt. It’s not a verdict on your human worth. And the wisdom of the group around the table can move a student to see herself in a new way. That V-neck seems too low? Turn the tank around and wear the boatneck in front and the V-neck in the back. It looks fantastic on you. And knit the same size as the sample—it fits you, even if you believe that nothing marked “Small” could ever belong to you.

Confidence Building is exactly what its name declares. Students learn stitches and techniques, they build their knowledge of yarn and fiber and they learn to read their knitting so that they can see where something has gone awry. After they can identify a problem, they learn to fix it themselves, knowing that they won’t have to wait for class and lose that valuable knitting time. They challenge themselves, through both their knitting and their fashion sense, feeling ready to take risks in what they make and who they are. It’s amazing what two sticks and some string can lead us to do.

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