Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Do You Want to Become a Knitting Star?

I follow a few blogs related to learning and skill acquisition. If you are interested here's one of my favourites: and here's a list of lots of others to check out:

I've also read on this topic extensively. As a teacher and as a committed life long learner it's very important to me to understand the process for learning.  

I recently read Josh Kaufman's The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything... Fast! It's a fun book with some quick summaries of how to improve your learning which Josh demonstrates by taking on the challenges of learning to program a web application, play the ukulele, practice yoga, learn to touch type on an alternative keyboard, windsurf, and study the world's oldest and most complex board game Go. I was most interested by the advice regarding motor skill development and how I could translate this to knitting skills for my students.

Josh has 10 principles for rapid skills acquisition. 

1) Knitting teachers often have stories about novice students who tackle complex projects for their first project because they want the item passionately. Josh calls this choosing a "Lovable project".  

2) "Focus your energy on one skill at a time" Let's call that putting your new knitting skill on project status for a little while.  

3) He suggests that you "Define your target performance level". What exactly is your goal? Do you want to knit a baby blanket as a gift or knit yourself a sweater. Do you want to knit for stress reduction or be a social knitter to join the knit group at your coffee shop? Do you want to learn a new technique such as brioche or Orenburg lace? Be specific. 

4) Next is "Deconstruct the skill into sub-skills", what things do you need to learn to accomplish your goal? Does your chosen goal require a new cast on or perhaps you need to know magic loop?

5) "Obtain critical tools" Yahoo! a trip to your LYS is next. 

6) Eliminate "Barriers to practice" this refers to things like having your resources available, sending the kids out to play, ordering in dinner rather than cooking as well as overcoming the internal fears that turn up when we try new things. 

7) "Make time". If you want to learn new skill you need to carve out the time to do so. Take a class or spend some of your knitting time doing swatches to learn new techniques that are in your reference books or on YouTube videos. Plan out when you will use your 20 hours and make it a regular commitment.

8) "Fast feedback loops". Here I go again, swatch, it takes a long time to get to the last row of a project to test out three different cast offs for your project. By the time you get there you are likely to fall back to your standard version. Try them out first on samples so you can compare and improve your technique.

9) "Short bursts". If you are struggling with a new skill and it feels difficult, set a timer for 20 minutes and keep going until the timer goes off. Maybe you want to switch from English to Continental or Portuguese style knitting. You will need time to establish new muscle memory.

10) "Emphasize quantity and speed". Don't try to be perfect at first, skills build more with the quantity practice at the beginning stages of acquisition. 

I'll be sharing some principles of effective learning to help more with your skill development soon. Part 2 is here.

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