Two students walked in through the side door, and the room erupted in applause. The two students responded with the perfect curtsy-bow pair, like dance partners. Josh Bennett asks that students who are on time applaud students who are late. In an amusing twist, however, the two students soon realized they were in the wrong class. "Well, at least you got a round of applause," said Bennett. The laugh was the perfect icebreaker for a Saturday morning at Vogue Knitting LIVE, held at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago.
Admittedly teaching the fairly heavy topic of Custom Knitting, so-designated because of its math concentration, Bennett is a natural at keeping students interested from the moment they sit in their chairs. Between the laughter and the unpredictable temperature of the room, the members of the class were successfully able to balance their deep concentration and slight confusion regarding pattern math with the lighthearted climate of the class. Bennett himself has a degree in menswear from the Fashion Institute of Technology, and is currently the North American designer for Rowan Yarns, but does not let his strong background get in the way of sharing with his students that his favorite television show is The Price Is Right.
Students all had different reasons for wanting to take the class; many noted that they just wanted to make garments that fit properly. A student from Detroit noted, "I'm a person who has to take things apart and see how they work." Bennett did just that, suggesting ways to both take a finished product and measure for pattern-making, and how to start from scratch with just a few simple measurements and a yarn gauge to construct a garment custom-fit for anyone, including each individual student.
Bennett, who is left-handed, first encouraged his students to determine what would look good on their individual body type before worrying about tailoring any sweater. "Go to the store. Try everything on. It can be in even the ugliest color; we don't care about color for this. We care about fit." His enthusiasm combined with his extreme patience put the students in a comfortable enough environment where they felt they could ask absolutely anything without being criticized. Many questions regarding fit, and how to figure ease for garments which go over a tee shirt, were addressed with Bennett ensuring the entire class understood the answer before moving on.
A volunteer was chosen to get measured in front of the class, so everyone in the class could use her measurements for their sweater design. Bennett took her chest measurement and turned the volunteer so her back was facing the class. "See how this [measuring tape] goes straight across her back? If it hangs down, then we could be adding inches of unwanted ease. Does that make sense?" Everyone in the class nodded or vocally concurred. Bennett then proceeded to draw a schematic and encouraged all students to do the same, so they could see what was being created and how the measurements communicate with each other.
At the break, Bennett surveyed the room as students were trickling back in. "It looks like we may be finished a bit early, because you guys are so fast" he said. "So we can talk about v-necks, other concepts, and we can answer some of the 'What if's'...there are so many 'What if's.'" Fast students can thank their instructor.
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