Here on the Paracord Planet Blog, we talk a lot about techniques and materials needed for paracord crafting, but not as much about the social aspect of the craft. I've had the pleasure of leading a number of paracord workshops over the last few years.
One of the most exciting things about making tutorials for Paracord Planet has been seeing new people discover the hobby and make something they thought was beyond their skill level.
Making new friends can be awkward. Planning (or attending) a paracord workshop can be a fun way to meet new people that you otherwise may have never crossed paths with. In this post we want to give you the tools you need to initiate such an event in your area.
So whether you are putting on a fundraiser/benefit, or you just want to connect with your community, let's dive into what it takes to plan your own paracord event.
Planning Your Event
The first step is deciding what to teach. This can be a difficult decision, as you want the project to be both fun and attainable for the people who attend. To avoid frustration for everyone, it's important to keep your particular audience in mind.
Young kids are still figuring out how to use their hands. Manual dexterity is often not fully developed even in kids as old as 8 (think: babies eating food with their fists). They love actively participating in things and can pick up on new concepts quickly, but their ability to tie complex knots will be limited by their dexterity. Choose simple projects where participants can create their knots at a large scale before tightening them down. At this age, it's also important to have a way to hold the project steady (bracelet jig, or even tape). This frees up both hands for creating the knots.
For more tips check out our post Paracord Crafting with Kids.
If you've been knotting and crafting things out of paracord for many years, you may have forgotten what it's like to be a beginner. Most people don't know many knots beyond tying their own shoes in the morning. I remember one individual from a workshop had an extremely hard time understanding how to make a square knot/cobra bracelet. It's not that he wasn't intelligent—his mind just hadn't been forced to think like that before.
If your audience already participates in activities like macramé, crocheting, or even sewing, they will quickly learn paracord knotting. They will also be more motivated to try new skills. Choose a project that aligns with their interests and go for it!
Niche Interest Groups
Paracord can be used for so many things! Your first workshop doesn't have to be survival bracelets. Here are some popular interest areas that easily intersect with paracord crafting.
- Pets—leash, collar, harness
- Camping—general knots, survival bracelet, water bottle sling, handle wraps
- Jewelry—more elegant bracelet styles
- Photography—camera strap, wrist strap
- Gear junkies—field repair, braided handle
Depending on where you live, finding supplies for your workshop can be tricky and time consuming. Luckily, with the internet, you are never more than a few days away from getting what you need. Our goal at Paracord Planet is to supply the paracord crafting community with everything they need for their hobby. Not just the cord, but the hardware and tools too.
Depending on your project, we may even carry a kit with all the supplies you need. Take a look!
Pro tip: It's always a good idea to have an extra 1000 ft. spool of paracord in a neutral color that you can easily access as backup if more people show up than you have kits for.
Connecting with Your Community
Once you’ve figured out what you're going to teach, you need to find people to teach it to. This is the phase that often cripples me. Creating an event is a vulnerable thing to do. What if nobody comes? What if lots of people come? What if I'm not the expert I think I am and I can't answer somebody's question?
First, know that there are thousands of people that love making things out of paracord. If no one show up, (This has actually happened to me!) don't sweat it. There's no need to doubt the validity of your hobby or feel silly just because you weren't able to connect with the right people.
But where do you FIND the right people?
This is tricky. Since many people have not heard of "paracord" or "paracord crafting", it's sometimes necessary to rephrase what the event is about. Try calling it a "DIY Dog Leash Workshop" instead of "Paracord ____ Workshop". People love their pets and love hanging out with other pet lovers. I've found that outdoor events that people can bring their dogs to get the most interest.
Make posters and ask local bars or mom-and-pop shops if you can put them up in their entryway. You might be surprised at the connections you'll make while doing this. Make sure the poster is colorful enough to catch people's eye as they enter.
Another way to make connections is by teaming up with a local business. Consider holding the event in a bar. That gives people one more incentive to come, and the restaurant gets additional business. This will also initiate a lot of word of mouth advertising for the event. At least in Fargo, people are pretty enthusiastic about their craft beer.
Family friendly options might include a local VFW or even a church. Essentially, it's easier to tap into existing networks that creating a whole new community from scratch.
Teaching the Project
I speak from experience rather than expertise here. I'm no excellent speaker. But there are a couple of things I have found that work or don't work when teaching workshops.
Get Close. Since paracord is so small, knots tied in it are hard to see from a distance. If you are teaching in-person, stroll around to people's workstations and demonstrate each knot up close. It helps to have an assistant who can make sure everyone is caught up before moving on to the next step. If you are teaching online, make sure your camera can focus on things close up. Switch to a macro mode if necessary. Document cameras are an excellent option for in-person and online.
Go Big. Depending on the project, I sometimes bring along a length of large rope or para-max to demonstrate knots at a distance. Since the diameter of the rope is larger, people can better understand what is happening from a distance.
Relax. Before speaking in any context, I get very nervous. As soon as I get some interaction rolling, I loosen up. Encourage people to ask questions and to have fun with it. If they do, you'll have more fun too.
Print instructions. We have a number of free printable tutorials on our website. I like to round out the learning spectrum by printing out photo tutorials and putting one copy on each table. That way, if someone is falling behind they can reference the instructions as you keep the rest of the group moving.
While the copyright to these online resources belongs to us, we encourage you to print as many copies as you need! We love helping new people discover the art of paracord crafting.
Think Small. One workshop I led had 40 people in attendance! This size was not ideal. Since I had limited helpers, progress was pretty slow. I had to demonstrate each step up-close at each table. We got through it in the end, but I would recommend limiting your group size to 10-20 people. If you're expecting a larger group, consider teaching a few friends the project beforehand, so they can help out.
So there's everything I know about hosting a paracord workshop. I hope it was helpful in getting yours off the ground! If you have anything to add from your own experience, I encourage you to tweet at us or tag us in a social media post.
Thanks for reading! I hope you see you around.