When I was young we would all go to my grandmother’s house on Saturday afternoons. She held a ceramics class for us. She and my mother would go to ceramics every week and paint and decorate ceramic items. They would also buy unfired greenware for us to paint. we learned how to get rid of the seams and paint and finish the items and then they would take the items back to the ceramics studio to have them fired for us.
When I was around 8 I learned how to sew. My grandmother was a pattern maker in a dress factory until I was in my teens. My mother was a dressmaker in our home who designed wedding gowns as well as taking in smaller jobs until I left home. I watched my mother a lot a lot. I watched her take measurements and have consultations and have fittings.
My mother also took a lot of other classes when I was young. She took stained glass classes and jewelry making classes. I remember her taking many different painting classes including using oil and acrylic paints. There was a time when we used to joke that if you sat still too long she would paint on you. Eventually she opened a little shop where she sold stuff on which she had done tole painting.
My point is, I grew up around people who took a lot of classes. My Grandmother used to say that when you die, you can’t take your stuff with you but you always have your knowledge.
In the beginning of my spinning pursuit I did not take a class for a long time…maybe 6 months. I was not successful quickly. Then I found a teacher and though I had been making yarn before, the quality improved pretty fast after just a few lessons. I knew how important learning from a knowledgeable teacher was but this experience drove it home for me.
Then after a year of spinning processed fibers I had my first carding lesson. I was not good at it and I didn’t love it. After that I took more carding classes with different instructors. I got better and better at it. Each instructor had a different technique and I took a small thing from each of them to find a technique that was comfortable and worked for me.
Five times I took the Russian Spindle Spinning Class that Galina Khmeleva offers. The first time I was horrible. Couldn’t manage it. I also asked my friend Faina Letoutchia to help me over and over. Today, 7 years after that first class I feel like I can handle a Russian spindle pretty well. I struggled and practiced and worked at it.
I took a knitted pile weaving class with Sara Lamb. I want to do more with it but haven’t found the time. The thing I did learn in that class was to not be afraid to use my handspun. I spun a lot of silk in that class and then made little knots with it and cut it into tiny pieces. The result was a beautiful little bit of knotted pile and a big bunch of confidence in using my yarn however I wanted.
I’ve had classes in textured yarns from Amy King, Jacey Boggs, Abby Franquemont (that one was about boucle only). Several times with each of them.
This brings me to my next point. Anyone who knows my spinning and the classes I teach knows that the yarns I spin are mostly smooth and consistent. I can do them on the wheel or the spindle but the cocoons and the boucles and the thick and thins and the wrapped yarns are not my style. I take the classes anyway. Every time I’ve been in a class learning a yarn that I never thought I would spin on a regular basis it has helped me to improve the yarns I do spin and use on a regular basis. I’ve better understood twist and different drafting methods and rhythm to help with consistency.
I’m a wool girl. You all know that. I’ve had a 3 day class on spinning cotton with Stephenie Gaustad. I haven’t spun much cotton spinning since then but my long draw with wool was HUGELY improved through the 3 days with Stephenie. I am also much more comfortable with my great wheel and spinning off the point, not to mention the further improvement to my Russian Support Spindle technique.
This coming weekend Kathryn Alexander will be here. I have been wanting to take a class with her for years! I’ve had an opportunity to spend some time with her a few years ago when we were both teaching at Rhinebeck. Just from that experience I know she is a great teacher. Do i think I will be knitting the projects that Kathryn loves to knit after this class? Nope. Not at all. But I am excited to have a new understanding of twist energy and how it works in the fiber and how it can affect the yarns we make and the fabrics we knit. I am having her here for entirely selfish reasons. I want this knowledge. I can see how this will help me to be an even better spinner. It will help me to look at things in a different way and add even more skills to my toolbox. Check out the class description here but read between the lines.
After Kathryn, in June, Stephenie Gaustad will be here to teach us about Bast Fibers. Hemp, Flax and Ramie. Do I think I will change from my love of wool to these fibers? Nope (but you never know). I do know that what she has to say and teach me will translate to other things. The things she has to teach will help me again improve in my spinning.
There is space in both of these classes as well as classes coming up the rest of the year. When you read the class descriptions i would urge you to think of things in a different way and even if the topic isn’t something you are dying to learn perhaps there is something in there to help you improve what you are already doing. And, who knows, maybe you will have a new love.
2 thoughts on “The Importance of Taking Classes”
Beth-I see you are giving some wonderful classes at Rhinebeck this year. I am a new spinner (wheel) and want to know how advanced I need to be for Breed Study, Spinning Lace, Drafting, Plying classes you are giving.
Hi Gail. You need to be able to spin a fairly consistent thread and have it hold together. The plying class requires 3 partially full bobbins which will give you some practice. Plus you have months to work on it. These aren’t classes for extreme beginners but beginners who have been spinning for a bit should be ok.