Teach and Learn Something New

When you teach any subject, it can open your eyes to new perspectives and experiences. For years I taught knit and crochet classes at my local yarn shop, meeting hundreds of wonderful people of all ages, teaching them the basics and exploring lots of yarn projects. Sadly, the yarn shop closed earlier this summer … things haven’t been the same since then. It’s made me think a lot about the experience of teaching and what I’ve learned along the way.

A Good Teacher is Always Learning

In crafts, there will always be new skills, techniques, methods, etc… but there are people skills, and teaching skills to be cultivated also. There is always something new to learn, no matter how much of an “expert” you are. Sometimes what you learn from students has nothing to do with the topic you’re trying to instruct them in. Things that I’ve learned in classes –

  • patience,
  • to listen,
  • new perspectives,
  • and renewed excitement.

Being patient, not rushing, and knowing that every student has their own way of learning is pretty important, too.


In a knit or crochet setting, I use a lot of  verbal directions – I’ve found that often, if a student sees my hands, they get stuck on wanting to hold things exactly the same way. But in my opinion, how the needles or yarn is held is a personal preference, and honed over time. When a natural inclination lends itself, I do encourage continental knitting with left-hand yarn & holding crochet hooks overhand… but it’s ultimately not up to me.

As a teacher, being calm and reassuring is crucial, as is not being afraid to repeat yourself.

Some knit or crochet teaching methods:

  • verbally explain step-by-step instructions,
  • sing stitching rhymes,
  • use mnemonic strategies,
  • demonstrate the skill,
  • write out and draw instructions,
  • teach in groups, or one-on-one.

If a student doesn’t specifically request a particular learning style, it’s important to try many ways with them until you find what “clicks”. When you think you’re done – ask them to show you what they’ve learned – reinforcing your efforts.

There is something to learn from every person you meet.


For the most part, our daily lives don’t involve our fingers doing precise, coordinated work for extended periods … look at this from the perspective of the newcomer. Learning to knit or crochet involves using their hands in ways they’re probably not used to. Getting comfortable holding a hook or two needles, AND controlling yarn at the same time isn’t that easy, especially when combining it with memorizing the steps necessary to create various stitches.

Both teachers and students need Patience and Practice.

Keep in Mind

“Mistakes” when beginning are simply learning experiences – you don’t have to rip them out. Save your trial pieces as mementos to show how far you’ve come when you look back at them in a few weeks; use them as bookmarks; or toss them in the trash and forget about them – it doesn’t really matter. Don’t take things so seriously.

Earlier, in the springtime I started photographing / documenting the hands of the folks I’d been working with, I wish I had started sooner!

teach and learn something new tamdoll student hands see tamdollsmo on Instagram

Picture collages from tamdollsmo on Instagram.

teach and learn something new tamdoll student hands see tamdollsmo on Instagram

I thought it would be beautiful to see all these hands in different ways learning the same things. Maybe I’ll continue… we’ll see. Locals interested in a class should email [email protected].

At the end of a session, the most important thing I tell everyone is – to Practice. There’s no other way to become proficient at something, or to have your muscles learn a new skill. It works.

What have you taught? What have you learned?















Postcard Swap

Who doesn’t love a colorful snail mail postcard?

Tamdoll's 10 Postcards for iHanna Postcard Swap Spring 2016

For the longest time I’ve followed iHanna’s Blog & always wanted to participate in one of her postcard swaps… so finally, this past month, I signed up at the last-minute, made 10 cards, and sent them out into the world.

Creating a Postcard

I started out by finger painting on top of a set of postcard-sized bike tour maps. I got mine at a yard sale, but you can find them on amazon.com*, too. A base like this creates an instant layer of depth when the lines of the trails and geography can show through layers of paint. I built up the background by adding translucent paint washes, collaged bits of poetry from an old book, and spray stenciling with one of my favorite Finnabair Stencils – Dots and Stripes*.

Next, wanting a focal image, I drew and then painted on my birds. They were definitely inspired by Tamara Laporte’s Quirky Birds – particularly the outline and “scrubbing” style of paint that she teaches, along with the small format of the project. This style of birds are something that I’ve been drawing for a while (and I actually have a small collection of decorative birds that look similar).

Some of the finger painting and paint wash techniques were things I learned from my recent art classes at ArtFest Rising. While I was making these I definitely met my goal of having fun while not being too serious. The good thing about waiting until the last-minute with these was that I couldn’t obsess over them for too long, or worry about making them all perfect.

postage stamp for postcards usps 2016Sending the Postcards Into the World

I thought it was serendipitous when I got to the post office to mail them & found the postage stamps for domestic mail were bird images.

Where Are They Now?

I hope everyone who receives one of my postcards enjoys them – I had fun, and am adding “make more bird pictures” to my to-do list.

I scanned them all in (or so I thought), to have a memory of these… but it turns out that I only scanned 7 out of the 10, and I didn’t realize until they’d already been sent on their way. I decided to make them available at Society6, where anyone can order these images as prints, cards, or iPhone cases.

Have you ever done a mail art swap? If so, what did you think of the experience?



*Disclaimer: Some links provided are affiliate links, I may be compensated if you make any purchase. Thanks for your support.

Art Trades, Giveaways, Swaps

Just one more post about my Artfest Rising experience… this one is about the art trades that many of us brought along. As soon as I heard about the idea of trades, I searched all over the internet for inspiration – here I’ll share some ideas for anyone needing help with what to trade, giveaway, or swap at events.

Tamdoll's Artfest Rising 2016 Art Trades

Ideas for Art Trades, Giveaways, Swaps:

  • Zines
  • Photos, Postcards
  • ATCs
  • Business cards, Business card holders
  • Stickers
  • Mini books – handmade in various sizes & shapes
  • Mini journals
  • Pens, pencils
  • Handmade 3D pieces – mini dolls & carvings
  • Mini 2D art – drawings, paintings, collages
  • Lollipops
  • Coloring pages
  • Supplies like washi tape, beads, yarn, punchinella
  • Handmade Pins, Buttons, Charms
  • Ephemera  – I received many envelopes filled with things like:
    • magazine cutouts
    • wrapping paper
    • ledger book papers
    • library cards
    • labels
    • paint chips
    • scrapbook papers
    • paper die-cuts
    • hand-painted papers
    • stamps
    • fabric
    • playing cards
    • old book pages
    • tissue paper
    • tags
    • maps
    • old photos

Don’t forget to label your item with your name, contact info and/or website.

What I brought along to swap/giveaway – recycled map business card wallets, along with a business card inside of each.

Video that also appeared on my Facebook Page:
Artfest Rising 2016 Trades

It was fun during the event to swap, an experience in itself as we all approached folks we’d never met before, offering our handmade items. At home, as I took the time to look over everything I’d unpacked, I really got to appreciate everyone’s generosity of talent, materials and time – each piece was special and unique.

I hope this gives you some good ideas about what you can put together for art trades.

Have any other ideas to share? Please leave a comment and link to your pictures if they’re online.