Why I Don't Teach To A Pattern

This may come as a bit of a surprise but when I first started teaching Macrame and Weaving workshops, I really didn’t love teaching. I would worry about ALL of the things. Would anyone sign up for this class? Are my pattern samples okay? What if I forget to pack any scissors?!

 Photo: Juliana Bird Photography

Photo: Juliana Bird Photography

On top of that stress was the reality that I really wasn’t having much fun teaching, and to be honest, I think that some of my students felt the same way. As we would work through the class sample, my students would say the same things, again and again - “Mine doesn’t look like yours, I’m really terrible at this.” Or, “I’m really holding up the class, I just can’t get this.”

They would become frustrated that they couldn’t perfectly tie a knot or remember how to do a certain weave. It wasn’t fun for them and I left the classes feeling completely exhausted when I wanted to feel inspired.

Despite all of this I wanted to continue teaching. I needed to find a solution, and quickly. I tried changing my patterns for the classes. No luck. Maybe I needed to offer different kinds of materials? Nope, that didn’t help either. Was it my workbooks? The venue? The music even? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. 

Then it finally hit me. I was sucking the fun out of my classes, and creating stress for myself and my students, by removing the CREATIVITY from my classes.

I wanted my workshops to be a place where my students could tap into their personal creativity, without constant comparison to me or to the person next to them. I wanted to talk about all of the things that are the most fun about making this kind of art - composition, texture, layering, expression, style.

So, I stopped teaching to a pattern.

 Photo:  Erin Egelston

Yes, I have samples for each class but instead of bringing one pattern, I bring many samples that use the same tools and materials that I provide to my students. Each of these samples is then executed in a different style.

We spend a lot of time in my classes talking about how we can go about creating a look that is personal and unique with the materials. For my larger classes I always bring an assistant teacher so that each student can have individual time to talk about how to bring her piece to life. 

I’m not exaggerating when I say that this COMPLETELY changed everything for me.

I now find that the classes are usually very relaxed and each student is able to work at her own pace. If she is having trouble with one technique, we can focus on getting it right before forcing her to move on to the next part of the project. I love having the time to discuss each individual’s piece and teaching a new technique that would be perfect for her work.

Most of all, I love seeing how each and every piece that comes out of the classes is 100% original. 

Nothing is better then when your feelings are confirmed by your students themselves. Here are just a few things that my students have shared about recent classes - 

I really loved that this class was a chance to work with the artist in the studio and not one of those events where everyone leaves with the exact same piece. It was a real opportunity to begin learning techniques and creating my own piece. I loved the experience and I’m totally hooked on macrame!
— Eileen B.
Couldn’t have imagined a better course — exceeded all of my expectations!
— Tara S.
Today, I had the opportunity to learn macrame taught by the experienced and artistic Sara Banner. I highly recommend taking a macrame workshop with Sara if you have the opportunity. At her workshop, she does not have you follow a pattern. This was an excellent idea because each macrame wall design was different and unique. I plan to continue to learn macrame and grow my skills.
— Aliia W.

I hope that you will consider joining me at my upcoming retreat at Foxfire Mountain House for four magical days where we will immerse ourselves in craft. I'm pulling together all of my favorite tools, materials and resources this year and I absolutely can not wait to teach you - without a pattern of course. You can read all about our all-inclusive retreat here.

If you are a teacher or considering teaching I hope that my honesty here might help you in your journey to becoming the best teacher that you can be. I'd love to hear from you if you have any questions or insights that might benefit our community. 

Until next time Friends.

 Photo: Erin Egleson

Photo: Erin Egleson