Thanks to the Craft Yarn Council for reaching out to us to expose their graduates using these interviews. They want to help us expand in what we want to do or continue to do. It got me thinking of getting back involved in any way I could. I would make the excuse that I was too tired to do more computer work after I am on the computer all day for my day job. I said leave it for the younger crowd to do all of this social media stuff. But after this interview I really talked to myself and came to the conclusion that I’m going to always be tired and why can’t I share this platform with the younger crafters. No, I don’t particularly like all of the social media and that’s why you won’t see me on Facebook or Twitter because it becomes too much when you are working full-time. I still want to have time to enjoy my crafts. I did start an Instagram account under Shadowmccray. I want to change the name but I'm having a problem with that. I miss what I use to do and that is why I need to return in whatever part I can do. So move over I’m coming in with my blog, Instagram and I want to start a podcast. What’s one more in the mix out there. You can read below my spotlight intervieew through the Craft Yarn Council.
Welcome to the July CIP Instructor Spotlight! Each month, we interview a different CIP student or graduate to learn about their experience in the Certified Instructors Program and how they've taken what they learned to help them in their teaching career.
We hope this interview gives you helpful insight into how other instructors run their businesses and inspires you to continue teaching others the craft you love!
This month, we are talking with Knit and Crochet CIP Instructor Cheryl McCray!
CYC: Thank you for taking part in our Instructor Spotlight series! We are so excited to learn more about you as a Certified Instructor in Knit and Crochet. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you've been knitting and crocheting?
Cheryl: It is my pleasure and thank you for the opportunity to share my journey. My name is Cheryl McCray and I’m a Jersey girl. I was taught to knit by my aunt at age 10. She was the only one in the family that picked up knitting. And I thank her so much for opening my world to what became up to this day years of enjoyment. For crochet, I went to the local library for sessions. I look at my journey as full circle since I have taught at several libraries; it took me back to my childhood. It is quite funny to me how life goes. I have been able to share my passion for both knitting and crochet from the very young, in between, seniors and even those that are legally blind. So, I have been able to teach across the board.
CYC: Why did you decide you wanted to start teaching knit and crochet?
Cheryl: Where do I begin the story of my journey? I was always into some form of creativity. I’ve always been that person that led the life of ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ because I wanted to try so many things. I was into sewing, rug hooking, knitting, crocheting and a little bit of other crafts. But I wanted to work with animals, which I did in later years volunteering at a zoo for six years. And I volunteered with the deaf and blind. But I struggled because I had a lot of interests but not enough time. I sure had so much fun learning new things, so life was in no way boring.
But it was 2008 and for a lot of people, they can relate to being a part of the displace war between 2008 – 2010 and I was one of them. Where was I going to go from there? Well, at my place of employment they had a Career Center, and their focus became on the displaced employees. They tried to help you with your resume, and they had a company come in and have sessions to give help on what you might want to do next. They went around the room and asked what your interests are. I chose two areas of strong interest and love for which were animals and my crafts. I was so excited about the idea, as they put it; ‘Do what you love, and it is not a job’. And since there was always someone that would ask if I was a teacher, I thought this would be the way to go.
So, I started right away on that journey. For me, they suggested to look outside the box and try to start a business doing my crafts. They talked about using the internet and suggested starting a blog for exposure. I took college courses prior on creating websites, so I started my blog called ‘My Journey with Yarn and Beyond’ and had that for several years. I sent for business cards and came up with the name – Miss Craft Diva. Frankly, I don’t remember how I heard about the Craft Yarn Council’s program for knitting and crochet but when I did, I wanted to do that. I told a few people what I was going to do, and they told me that I didn’t need any piece of paper to teach. Well, I am glad I did not listen to them.
I signed up for the knitting program and got excited to learn and grow into what I thought could be my business path. After attending FIT in New York for a long weekend of wonderful learning and excitement for the knitting instructors’ program, I went ahead and did the crochet instructors program at home. It was a lot of work but tapped into areas that I had not concentrated on before. Between the initial certification program from the Craft Yarn Council and the critique I received after I sent in my completed work would set the stage for my classes.
CYC: Why did you decide to become a certified instructor and what did you enjoy most about the CIP program?
Cheryl: As I stated, I was told that you don’t need a certification to teach. But it is not just for teaching, it is a program that has been put together to build knowledge. I would start my sessions with my students telling them that there are standards that have been set up by the Craft Yarn Council and to know those would help in understanding how to become better at the craft. The difference with learning through the Craft Yarn Council and searching the web is that a structured program is put together for you in a way that you can learn and grow faster. So, when those that told me I did not need to be certified, I did because it gave me that structure of learning and I didn’t have to search all over the place on what I needed to learn but it was prepared for me. It gave me what I needed to give that structured foundation to my students.
Just the exposure of a well put-together program that is prepared for you is worth the time and effort to explore taking the courses. I wanted to use this certification to pass on a hobby for those that need a stress reliever – which was my pitch. Everyone needs a hobby to destress to relax more and have a break from all that the mind gets entangled with, especially now with going through the pandemic, it puts that stress on such a higher level.
CYC: Tell us about some ways that you promote yourself as a Certified Instructor in the yarn community.
Cheryl: When I heard that Michael’s was looking for teachers, but they had to be certified, I knew I made the right choice to go through the certification program. Even though I could not build a business to do as a full-time job, which was my hope, I pressed on to do it on a part-time basis.
The way I promoted my business at the start was by putting together a professional email that I sent to all the surrounding libraries. I have been able to use my Craft Yarn Council certifications as a stepping stone into the libraries, a yarn shop and craft stores because I was creditable. Also, by word of mouth. That is how I heard about the local yarn shop looking for workers and instructors. I also did research on events and enjoyed teaching for a yearly craft event twice. I had to come up with the session I was going to teach and my own pattern for the project. I also volunteered at knitting and crochet events which I enjoyed and that also built my reputation. I would wear my certified button given by the Craft Yarn Council and it became a talking point. Also, with the areas that opened for me because I was certified, I was able to build a resume.
CYC: How have you been staying connected to your students?
Cheryl: My connection was easy because my students enjoyed the sessions so much, they would get in touch with me. But I would call, email and text them with any answers to questions they had in the middle from one session to the next.
CYC: What are some creative ways you are teaching students at this time?
Cheryl: At this moment I am not teaching since the sessions at Michael’s have ended and the yarn shop I was working at moved farther than I wanted to go. I help friends and a couple of seniors I visit with their projects. And in general, when I come across those that need help, I am more than happy to assist. I am still looking for the next opportunity - I miss teaching on a regular basis. It was harder working full-time, teaching in the evenings and weekends. I used to say at the yarn shop that this is for those that are retired.
CYC: Do you have any yarn crafting blogs you go to for inspiration or community?
Cheryl: I had my own blog called ‘My Journey with Yarn and Beyond’ for several years and enjoyed every bit while I could do it. I don’t do a lot of reading blogs on a regular basis. I will look at some podcasts.
CYC: If you had to use the same color yarn for the rest of your life, what color yarn would you use?
Cheryl: That is very difficult since I love color. Since the pandemic I have not been able to do what I looked forward to in the spring/summer/fall months and that is to visit gardens and bird watching, both of which are packed with color.
But if I had to pick one color it would be lime green. Growing up it was red, but in recent years it is lime green. It is bright, bold and cheery.
But just recently I am now dabbling into yarn dying and to see the colors come alive through yarn has been exciting. I feel like I am a mad scientist mixing the formula to see the surprise results. This has been fun.
CYC: What tips or advice can you offer certified yarn instructors to promote their business during this time?
Cheryl: We live in such an informational world with so many opportunities overflowing to sharpen skills and go beyond our wildest dreams; just take advantage of that. When you are instructing someone, you want it to be fun and enjoyable. You want their learning experience to be memorable in a way that they want to continue and grow further. If you are getting into the business, just do your research first and put some ducks in a row before just plunging in. But all else said, just have fun with your love of the craft.
CYC: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Cheryl: I would say to keep stomping out the stigma that knitting/crochet is for old people only. That is still out there, and I think that is one reason people do not want to join in. I have heard people say that they were teased because they want to knit/crochet. Let’s continue to encourage those to try it and ignore comments from others. And also that it is not only for women, because there is such a large population of men that are enjoying the relaxation of the craft and creating some amazing things. And lastly, black people do many crafts such as me and want to be more recognized as great crafters and instructors and want to also be used at festivals and craft events for our talents.
CYC: Cheryl, thank you so much for taking the time to share your knowledge and love of Knit and Crochet with our CIP students and graduates! We wish you all the best in your yarn business!
We hope you enjoyed this month's CIP Spotlight Interview! Stay safe and healthy and we can't wait to share next month's interview with you!
Craft Yarn Council