Teaching a Left-Handed Student How to Crochet

I had the distinct pleasure of teaching a woman who is left handed how to crochet so she could complete an afghan her grandmother, who had recently passed away, had started.

I was extremely nervous going in to this project because I had not had a lot of experience working with left-handed crocheters. In fact, this woman was my first honest-to-goodness, left-handed crochet student, so you can well imagine that I was a bit apprehensive about it. But it would be a learning opportunity for me, so I looked forward to it as well.

Left-Handed Strategy #1: Create a Mirror Image

Facing my left-handed student, as if I’m looking at a mirror image, allowed her to see me work from a left-handed perspective.

“Woman Looking in Mirror (1910)”  CC BY 2.0 by Cea. 

The only thing I knew about teaching a left-handed student was that I could sit in front of her as I taught, creating a mirror image so that the student saw what I was doing from a left-handed perspective. The only problem with this method is that the student views what I’m doing from the back instead of the front of the work. But it was the only strategy I knew, and it seemed to work well enough for her.

Fortunately for me, my student already knew how to hold the hook and yarn and how to do the chain stitch which she was using to crochet Hawaiian leis. This made my task a lot easier since I didn’t have to teach these preliminary steps.  All I needed to do was teach her the single and double crochet stitches and then the stitch pattern. But before I could teach her the afghan’s stitch pattern, I had to figure out what it was since my student’s grandmother didn’t work from a pattern.

Reverse Engineering the Stitch Pattern

“Frogging” the stitch pattern helped me figure out how it was done.

In order to do this, I slowly “frogged” several rows of the afghan to determine each step used to create the stitch pattern. And as I unraveled each stitch, I wrote instructions in reverse since that was the direction I was going in as I ripped out the stitches.

After I was pretty sure of the pattern repeat, I rewrote the instructions in the correct order. All that remained was to figure out how each row began and ended which I finally did after several false starts.

I also found a YouTube video for a “Star stitch” pattern that was a very close approximation of the stitch used in the afghan. That helped me understand the basics of the stitch pattern and realize that it consisted of a simple one-row repeat.

With all of this information in hand, I was able to create instructions that my student could follow so she could practice the stitch on her own before using it to finish the afghan.  It also helped to have samples available of all the stitches I was teaching so that my student could see exactly what each stitch should look like.

Left-Handed Strategy #2: Stand Behind the Student As She Crochets

The second strategy I used to teach my left-handed crochet student individual stitches, as well as the stitch pattern, was to stand behind her and give her instructions as she crocheted. Before I did this, I can’t tell you how many times I had to stop what I was saying in order to reverse my instructions so they would be relevant to her. Standing behind her made it a lot easier to watch her crochet in the right (for her) direction and provide guidance and instruction as needed.

In fact, my student told me that she has to regularly convert the right-handed world she lives in into a left-handed one. She explained how she mentally reverses or flips the right-handed view into a left-handed one as needed, or how, for example, at a group dinner, she prefers sitting at the left end of the table so she doesn’t knock elbows with the right-handed person sitting next to her. This gave me a whole new appreciation of what it means to be left-handed in a world that’s designed for and by right-handed people.

You can also sit on your student’s left side which lets you easily watch her crochet from left to right.

A Two-Step Strategy for Teaching Left-Handed Crochet Students

So my two-step strategy for teaching left-handed students is to:

  1. Have the student sit in front of me so that we’re face-to-face as I demonstrate how the stitch is made.
  2. Stand behind the student or sit on her left side as she crochets and provide guidance as needed.

The real challenge will be to use this strategy to teach a left-handed student who has never crocheted before. Then I’ll know if it really works and what adjustments I need to make to it.

I’d love to hear about your experience teaching left-handed students how to crochet. If you have additional tips or strategies, please feel free to describe them in the comments section below.

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