A conversation with a CIP master teacher

Ever wondered who’s behind the Craft Yarn Council’s Certified Instructors Program? The program wouldn’t exist without some amazing master teachers who give their time to help people become certified instructors. Read on for an exclusive interview with one of our master teachers, Karen Klemp!

Karen Klemp became a Master Teacher for the Craft Yarn Council in March 2016. A CYC Certified Instructor since 1997, Karen teaches crochet and knitting workshops at national conferences, trade shows, fiber festivals, regional retreats, guilds, and local yarn shops. She also was instrumental in establishing the Council’s Yarn Standards. Her designs have been featured in numerous books and magazines; she also publishes patterns in her own collection -- Almost Amy. Karen is a past president of the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA), a member of The Knitting Guild Association, and a retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer.


Q: Why did you decide to become a master teacher?

A: It seemed like a natural progression for me, after teaching crochet and knitting for 20 years. During Professional Day at the Knit & Crochet Shows, I presented talks several years running on Teaching Challenges. I also developed a teacher training workshop for crochet instructors in a Washington DC area program called “Catch a Class”. It gives me great pleasure to assist skilled knitters and crocheters in becoming professional instructors.


Q: How long have you been knitting/crocheting? Teaching?

A: I began knitting first, taught by my grandmother when I was about 12, but I struggled with it. Knitting fell by the wayside when I entered high school and got busy with after-school activities. In my early 20’s, I taught myself crochet and a few years later picked up knitting again, this time trying continental-style, which worked so much better as I was accustomed to crocheting with the yarn in my left hand. Teaching professionally didn’t start until I took an on-site CIP in Chicago in 1997. From then until my retirement from the U.S. Foreign Service in 1999, I taught free classes through the U.S. Department of State Recreation Association to gain experience. Immediately after retiring, I became president of the Crochet Guild of America and started to teach at a local yarn shop and for a local school system’s adult education program. I’ve been teaching regularly ever since.


Q: Do you have a favorite classroom story you can tell?

A: The first time a student discovered a mistake in a handout I had so carefully written, proofread, and tested, I felt as if someone had kicked me in the stomach. It happens. Best reaction in my opinion is to announce a correction to the entire class and offer to send them a completely corrected version of the handout. Make sure, however, that it really is an error. In one very large class covering an advanced technique, a student declared she had found a mistake and I was busily trying to figure out how to correct it so I could alert everyone, when I suddenly realized it was not wrong at all. That was when I realized the instruction was exceptionally tricky to follow. In teaching that class thereafter my handout spelled out the difficult part step by step and I made sure to walk students through that row in class.


Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest benefit you can get from taking this course?

A: There are actually two that pop into my mind:

(1) proving to yourself that you really are an accomplished crocheter and/or knitter, which boosts your self-confidence; and (2) learning how to organize those skills into a classroom presentation. I believe many of us underestimate our abilities in the fiber arts world, laughing it off when someone tells us we are experts, denying that we are at an advanced level. In going through the CIP, you demonstrate that you are capable of producing beautiful work that is far above the level of a beginner. Once you’ve gained that confidence, it’s time to turn to the teachers’ handbook. It provides valuable information on how to structure classes, attract and keep students, advertise, and deal with teaching challenges. CYC’s website has additional material, and there is endless material on the Internet to further your education. The Crochet Guild of America has a vibrant professional membership track that can benefit you as well.


Q: What advice would you give to someone thinking about taking the course?

A: If you have any inkling that you might want to teach, either right now or in the near future, go ahead and sign up for level 1 in whichever is your stronger skill – knitting or crochet. I would suggest not enrolling immediately in level 2 or registering for both knit and crochet at the same time unless you are confident that your schedule can handle the workload easily. Many people do not do their best work under intense pressure, and you risk burnout by trying to do too much at once. There’s plenty of time to register for the next level or for the other discipline as soon as you have completed your first program. Once enrolled, the most important advice I can give is READ, READ, READ. There is a lot of useful information in the handbook and manual, and the instructions for completing assignments are very specific. Be sure not to miss the instruction to weave in ends and block your pieces. Carefully follow directions on how to do certain stitches or how to form increases and decreases. They might differ from the way you have always done something, and you are expected to meet the CYC standards for this program.


Q: What are you working on now?

A: I always have about four projects underway – two knitting and two crochet. One of each is fairly “mindless”, something I can work on in guild meetings, watching a movie, or riding in a car, train or plane. The others are more difficult, things that I will complete when the house is quiet and I’m not likely to be interrupted. If I am designing, that is especially important, as I must keep close track of everything I’ve done. The reason for one crochet and one knitting project is that I can switch if my hands or brain get tired. So my current four projects are a crocheted circular shawl with a feather and fan border, a knitted shawl in garter stitch with short-row shaping (those are the mindless ones); an extremely complex Aran sweater for my husband, and a crocheted Aran jacket design that I am just finishing but need to retest before releasing the pattern.


Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

A: Yes, a big thank you to all of you who knit and/or crochet and who want to pass your talent along to others. Whether you help friends and relatives on an informal basis, teach small groups at local libraries, craft stores, or local yarn shops, or end up teaching large classrooms full of students at national fiber conferences, you are helping to preserve and advance these wonderful fiber arts.