How do you learn?

drawing class 1992
drawing class 1992

 As I’ve mentioned I’m trying to learn about tapestry weaving because it seems to “light me up” more than knitting clothes.

While I was unweaving half a training piece – because I’d learned what I wanted from it and because I’m cheap and wanted to salvage even my yarn scraps and warp – I was thinking that if somebody saw me they’d probably recommend doing some of the samplers from the weaving books to learn the various techniques for making stripes, curves etc.

The thing is, I just don’t roll that way. I don’t mind my samplers being useless when I’m done, but just doing colour blocks bores me so much I want to scream. And then I don’t pay attention and make mistakes. I also don’t learn when following a recipe, I have to look it up and read the instructions every. single. time.

tapestry001
My first tapestry sampler with sketches.

And that’s how I learn best: figuring things out by myself, see what happens when I make mistakes. I remember, I make conclusions leading to theories that, when tested, work better and better based on my previous actions etc. And I remember it for next time. Then if I get stuck, I consult books and tutorials. I may browse various weaving books and work on my initial impressions and little hints that stick in my brain at random. I don’t read them from cover to cover and just absorb it all in one sitting.

I can learn from books, but only if the subject is one that comes more natural to me or really interests me. But it still comes second to doing. Another thing which can make a huge difference is intention. I hated physics and chemistry in school, only subject that was worse was PE. I skipped all the chapters with drawings of molecules in some of the old dye books I got from the library because my eyes just started to cross. But here I am happily playing with pH values, mordants etc. and having a blast – because it has a desired outcome.

How do you like to get your material presented, so that you may learn best/easiest/most fun? Books, workshops, lectures, schematics, recipes, or the more chatty form? Do you want to see someone else do before you put your hands to it? Or are you a listener?

The funny thing is, I always thought I could learn just by observing and thinking. And yes, it works for theory – but not skill. And I think it’s rather amazing (as well as frustrating) that the mind-body connection never occurred to me sooner. And nobody told me.

Cotton yarn with 10 surface treatments ready to dye
Cotton yarn with 10 surface treatments ready to dye

12 thoughts on “How do you learn?

  1. I am a visual learner – I guess. reading instructions in a book can put me to sleep. the words swim around the page and don’t click in my brain. but if I can read and do it at the same time I can understand the written instructions better.
    even my knitting is like this the instructions may not mean much to me. and if it is too complicated I end up looking at the pictures to determine how it should be put together and let my needles decide how to work the pattern.
    I even find when I am reading fiction I stay awake and understand what I am reading better if my fingers are knitting while I read.
    sometimes I wonder if this is is connected to being left handed. which hand are you?

    1. Well, I’m righthanded mostly. But I suspect I’m actually ambidextrous because I paint, hammer and things like that with both hands, I very easily adapt to switching my hands when spinning and I remember my grandmother being very picky about correcting my hold on knife and fork etc. because I’d do it “wrong”. But not true lefthanded, because writing with my right has never been a struggle.

  2. Such good questions! Like you, I learn by doing. I’m basically lazy so I always find the most efficient way to do things, but by trial and error. I consult books or other sources when I get stuck, but only if I can’t find my own way. I taught myself to knit by fearlessly ripping back and starting over.

    Love the first tapestry sampler!

    1. Thanks for replying – I hear you on the lazy part, but I’m not sure if it always makes me more efficient or not. I strive to find the best way and then at other times I take short cuts knowing that it’s probably a bad idea.

  3. Det lyder som mig. Lær det selv, eller “Det er snyd at bruge håndbogen-metoden” er også den, der virker bedst for mig Hvis jeg skal følge en opskrift, går det bedst hvis den er på et andet sprog, så anstrengelsen ved at læse den virker som en slags klister mellem mig og opskriften. Strikkeopskrifter på engelsk, madlavning på fransk osv. bare kom med det 😉

    1. Så hvordan kan du bedst lide instruktionerne hvis det er – punktformet eller sniksnak? Skriftligt foretrækker jeg det første, men jeg sad lige og så/ lyttede til en spindevideo mens jeg strikkede, og det var egentlig fint nok med en mere fortællende stil.

  4. I also learn best by figuring things out for myself and by just doing them. But what helps me most is then being able to teach someone else. Then I really have to think it through so that I can figure out how to best communicate that information in a meaningful way to someone else. That’s when it really clicks for me.

    1. Good point – you learn as long as you teach! And it’s so much fun to share things too, perhaps that’s why it works well.

  5. I can learn from instructions, but it’s much more useful to have a teacher around so I can ask ‘I don’t know what is meant by this’, or ‘I did what I thought it meant and that didn’t work, now what’. My favorite was making hand made paper. Step 1. was to tear the newspaper or whatever into small pieces. HOW SMALL? Are we talking 2″ square, 1/4″ square? There was no clue, no picture. Just that. I googled, I asked people, I failed to find the answer. I have never made the paper. Which is a shame as I would like to have used that book as fodder….

    1. Having a teacher can be faster I suppose – not having to search all your books when you have a question. I like to just listen to teaching and then doing my practising when I’m alone. For some reason if I’m watched I’m sure to mess up.

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