Friday, May 25, 2018

Where did the Knitting Classes Go?

I don't have any answers to the question "where did the knitting classes go?". It's been coming up a lot lately and I've been asked the question many times in the last few months. My own guild, the Toronto Knitters Guild chose not to have classes at their annual event after close to 20 years of doing so.

They posted this to the website:

There are not going to be any workshops at this year’s Frolic. Many of the workshop proposals we received were similar to what is currently offered at our GTA yarn stores (some of whom are vendors at the Frolic). After careful consideration, the Frolic Committee decided not to offer workshops this year. Instead, and as part of the TKG’s mission to promote fibre-related crafts in the Greater Toronto Area, we are promoting the workshops available at the LYS. We hope you aren’t too disappointed, and look forward to seeing you at the Frolic Marketplace.

At this time they have announced they do plan to consider offering them again next year. There was some activity in our Ravelry group discussing the classes, however considering that the event has well over 1000 attendees, 17 posters and 21 posts isn't very many. A number of the posts were about a class in Toronto being taught on the Sunday as an alternative so there were really only a few posters unhappy about the class cancellations.

I heard from a third hand source that some vendors felt the Frolic was compromised by becoming a market only event. However to my knowledge no one felt strongly enough about this to raise it with the organizers.

Some of my friends didn't attend at all because there were no classes offered. Others still attended but said they were disappointed because the more advanced classes they wanted were only available at the event and LYS classes tend to be for beginners.

On the other hand all the teachers I know have been discussing how hard it is to fill classes anywhere other than very large events. Some have stopped submitting class proposals due to the poor compensation structure. Even at the large events some of my peers have confided their expenses were outpacing their profits due to inflation being paired with stagnant payment rates. Rates for classes and presentations have been the same since I started and in some cases are being reduced as venues also struggle financially.

So here's a few of the theories I've been hearing during these conversations. 

LYS are taking care of the teaching needs of knitters. (I'm not sure this is true, recently two yarn shops have told me they can't fill their classes).

YouTube and Craftsy have become our sources for knitting classes. In other words it's a technological change.

Retreats and large events are the main place knitters now take classes.

Knitting has been popular for the last 20 years and we have less need for classes as the majority of the knitting population has a high level of skill already.  

Many knitters aren't interested in developing higher level skills. They prefer simple soothing projects due to high stress levels in other parts of life.

Knitters are very project focused and many classes are technique based not project based.

I'd love to hear any other ideas you have on this topic. Our industry struggles to survive and I see many of my peers quietly dropping out because for many it's not a sustainable option.

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