Yesterday I was teaching two long time knitters some new techniques and I was struck by how patient they were, both with me and with themselves. Usually when I teach new knitters, I have to remind the learner to be patient and keep practicing, even when you have to tear out and start again. These women, however, had already learned that lesson and were therefore much more open to new techniques. In no time at all my mother had embarked on her first pair of socks (after some 14 years of exclusive baby hat knitting) and our friend had remastered knits and purls after her long knitting hiatus.
As a knitter, one of the most valuable qualities you possess is the ability to teach others. There are just some important things to keep in mind:
1. Make sure the knitter has bought their own yarn and needles. These steps require a level of commitment that makes the person more likely to continue. Also you can't go around handing our your hard earned needle and yarn stash!
2. Remind your new knitter that it takes patience and practice. Stick with them until they have the basics down but then allow the knitter to make their own mistakes.
3. If the knitter has already learned a technique that perhaps you don't use (continental knitting versus English for example), let them continue that technique. Just because you don't understand how someone is making the stitches doesn't mean the method is wrong, provided you are both ending up with the same knits and purls in the end.
4. Don't feel like you've failed if the new knitter decides to give up on their knitting. You are there as a supportive resource but in order to knit, the student must have the drive to continue even when the stitches get tangled. Whatever you do, DO NOT finish the project for them. The new knitter won't learn and you'll feel used.
With these in mind, go out and spread the joy! One of my favorite moments was when Hannah finished her first scarf that I had taught her to knit. Very rewarding.