Mentoring beginners: quilting, knitting, crochet

Over the years, more than one of my friends has accused me of being an enabler. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I am an enabler. I encourage friends to buy a fabulous piece of fabric, a new yarn, or a fun new pattern. And it’s not just that I’m hoping they’ll stimulate our economy. I simply love making things by hand and want them to enjoy the same experiences. Besides, if no one ever encouraged me, I might not have a sewing room, a yarn closet, and a storage system for all of my rug-hooking supplies. My closets probably wouldn’t be bursting at the seams, but I’m pretty sure my creative life would be emptier too.

Karen with her knitting group
Here I am (far left) with my knitting group, the KnitWits. We meet to eat dinner, knit, and help out the newer knitters. And laugh, of course.

Beyond enabling people to buy things, I really enjoy helping them learn or expand their skills in crafts they’ve already begun to enjoy. I’m more than happy to show someone who is just beginning to knit how easy it is to make cables so that she can take her knitting to a new level. Or teach someone to paper piece a quilt block for the first time so he or she can dazzle friends with perfect points. What’s the point of keeping all of our accumulated knowledge and skill to ourselves? Don’t you want your friends, children, or grandchildren to enjoy the process and love what they make, too?

Looking around our office, I’m happy to say that in the last few years we’ve added some new faces. And in that time, several of our new employees have tackled beginner quilting, knitting, or crochet projects. They’ve been inspired by all the lovely projects authors send in to us and they’re learning to be quilters, knitters, and crocheters themselves. It’s awesome! I thought you’d like to meet them.

Meet Connor Chin, book designer. He’s pictured below with his first quilt top that his mom helped him to sew. The pattern is from Skip the Borders by Julie Herman. This book has many great quilt designs for beginners. Julie’s original quilt had colorful stars on a white background. So not only did Connor piece his first quilt, he also tackled changing up the color scheme to suit his style.

Connor's first quilt
Connor chose blacks, whites, and grays for his first quilt, from Skip the Borders.

Many of you know Sarah Peterson, our marketing designer, who writes Knit & Crochet Friday posts for our blog. Here she is sporting a cabled wrap that she just finished. The design is from Knitting the Chill Away, and it looks adorable on Sarah. Hard to believe she only started knitting two years ago. She’s even joined our local knitting guild to soak up additional inspiration and knitting camaraderie. If you know someone who is beginning to knit, let them know about Sarah’s success—it can be contagious!

Sarah's cabled wrap
Sarah models her cabled wrap.

Tammy Malloy, our accountant, has been at Martingale a few years but only recently took up quilting. One of our staff row-robin events got her going. She’s since made a couple of quilts, the newest one being this Valentine’s quilt using a pattern from Rachel Griffith’s upcoming book Quilts Made with Love. What a quick and easy way to showcase fun theme-print fabrics.

Tammy's latest quilt
Tammy with her latest quilt.

Our receptionist, Linda Astle, worked at Martingale for 10 years before making a quilt, but we finally wore her down. (Actually, it was her sister who encouraged her to take a quilting class so they could learn together.) You’d never know it from her quilt count that Linda has just started. I think she must be on number 20 by now—in just her first year of quilting. It might have taken her 10 years to get started, but now we can’t stop her! She’s always one of the first employees to stop by the editorial department to see what’s new, always on the lookout for beginner quilts. Pretty soon, she won’t be able to classify herself as a beginner.

Linda's quilt for her daughter
Linda with the quilt she made for her daughter, Christy (right).

One of our newest employees, Tiffany Mottet, is a copy editor. Tiffany has read and edited many quilting, knitting, and crochet patterns in her first year at Martingale. She’s crocheted a few amigurumi and recently sewed her first quilt blocks as part of two retirement quilts, one for our long-time technical editor, Ursula Reikes, and another for customer-service representative Abbi Barden. Now Tiffany is designing her own quilt project, which will be part of an upcoming Christmas book. Wow! Here she is with one of her amigurumi toys and her first quilt.

Tiffany's latest projects
Tiffany’s adorable crocheted pea pod from
Amigurumi Two!, and a baby-sized version of “Blue Skies” from Quilting with Fat Quarters.

Admittedly, our coworkers at Martingale are surrounded by inspiration every day. We have quilts hanging on the walls, knitting and crocheted projects displayed in nooks around the office, and an endless supply of project photos to enjoy. But they’re also surrounded by coworkers who are willing to help them out, get them started, answer questions, and encourage them.

If you’re not already being a mentor/champion/teacher/enabler for your own friends and family, I encourage you to try it. You don’t need to be a professional teacher. You just need to be supportive and offer guidance every now and then when they need a bit of encouragement or an answer to a question. Take them to your local quilt or yarn shop. See what kinds of colors and designs make their eyes light up. I bet you’ll have them hooked in no time!

Whether you’re looking to teach a grandchild, start up a stitching group at your office, or help your best friend successfully complete her first project, here are some great resources and patterns for beginners. (What? You didn’t think I wasn’t going to enable YOU!)

Books for beginning quilters

beginning quilting books
Fast and Fun First Quilts, Quilts from Sweet Jane, Skip the Borders, Your First Quilt Book (or it should be!)

Books for beginning knitters

beginning knitting books
All about Knitting, A to Z of Knitting, The Knitter’s Book of Finishing Techniques, Knitting with Gigi

Books for beginning crocheters

beginning crochet books
A to Z of Crochet, All about Crochet, Cuddly Crochet, Amigurumi World

Beginning quilters can also visit our How to Quilt page and print out information on a variety of techniques.

How did you get started with your favorite craft—did somebody enable you? Tell us your story in the comments!

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