February 17, 2005


Yesterday I met for coffee with a very delightful knitter who was visiting from Canada. She's another Fair Isle fanatic, and wanted to buy Spindrift to make a pair of gloves, specifically, the pair featured on the lower-left of the cover of Knitting Fair Isle Mittens and Gloves. (The pattern is called "Earth-tones Allover Variation," from page 66 of that book.) After one phone call and half-a-dozen e-mails back and forth about potential color choices, we'd settled on a couple of different colorways that would be possible for these gloves, and we agreed to meet up at a nearby coffehouse.

I carried the potential yarn choices in to the coffee shop with me, certain only that I was meeting a Canadian knitter. I had no idea what the woman looked like. We hadn't said anything like I'll wear a red rose, so I wasn't sure how we'd recognize each other. Of course, Bonnie knew instantly when I walked in, carrying a big box of yarn, that I was there to meet her. And I recognized instantly this lady wearing a gorgeous handknitted, cabled sweater.

"I'm not sure about these internet assignations," she said, "but you must be the one!"

Bonnie set down on the table a glove that she'd knitted, one of the Wilma Malcombson designs from Knitting Fair Isle Mittens and Gloves (the "Small Lozenge Star," page 86, if you are keeping track). Even as I was asking her permission, I was already trying it on. This particular pattern was one I myself had admired and meant to knit, about a year ago.

As we were talking, Bonnie explained about how the book doesn't really give a specific pattern, in terms of how many stitches to cast on, or in terms of explaining how to knit a thumb gusset, and the like. It does give color charts, but the book presumes that the knitter already has a good working knowledge of how to knit gloves. Ah yes, I remembered then that I'd only ever gotten as far as casting on for the pair of gloves I'd wanted to make, then faltered over whether to cast on 48 or 60 stitches, and so had stopped dead cold.

Over the course of the conversation, it became clear to me that Bonnie had not only knit the one Wilma Malcombson glove (the one that I tried on again and again while we were having coffee), and not only was she going to knit the cover gloves, but she had also experimented with several other pairs of gloves in that book. I think she's set herself on a course of knitting every single pair in that book! That dedication to Fair Isle knitting certainly resonates with me.

I left our meeting feeling very inspired to go back to that pair that I'd wanted to make, and to try them again.

This inspiration was only further fueled by Carol Rhoades's presentation at Seattle Knitters Guild yesterday evening. Carol showed slides of her recent trip to Scandinavia, including many, many photos of two-color gloves and mittens. Clearly, other people can knit gloves, so why not me? And a glove is a small canvas, so it should be something I can experiment with (in terms of color choices) and still finish.

Today I've been at the retreat put on by Madrona Fiber Arts. I've been in a Fair Isle tams class taught by Beth Brown-Reinsel. Using worsted weight wool, we've knitted a whole tam in this one-day class. Once the knitting began and I spilled out of my bag the yarns I had brought, I had to laugh at my color choices: black (main color) with purple, red, and chartreuse. There's not enough contrast for black, purple, and red to really show up well against each other. I knew that, not only intellectually, but also from hard-earned experience, from a certain purple and red Fair Isle sweater I knitted years ago.

And yet, there I was, making this same color choice again. It reminded me that at last year's retreat, when I took shadow knitting with Vivan Hoxbro, I chose black as my background color with a pink-and-red variegated yarn... and then there was that class I took in entrelac knitting a few years ago at the TKGA convention, where we made entrelac hats, and I chose to knit mine with black and red yarns -- and everyone in the class teased me about knitting a checkerboard....

While I was laughing at myself about this, Beth Brown-Reinsel commented about how we are drawn to the same colors, over and over, and gently pointed out that the woman sitting across from me was wearing a purple-and-green shirt, and the yarns she was knitting her tam with were, of course!, dark purple, light purple, dark green, and light green. (That woman's tam turned out very subtle, and very interesting to look at, by the way.)

While black with red will work well for shadow knitting and for entrelac, and might be traditional for the two-colors-only of stranded Scandinavian knitting, I'm making the effort now to remember to try other choices for knitting samples in the future. And also to remember that purple and red have disappointed me, twice now, for their lack of value contrast in Fair Isle knitting.

In parting, just wanted to share with you this photo of Roi, another Washingtonian and Two Swans customer, and her recently-completed Sophia cardigan:


Don't they both look great?!!! The sweater has a lacy yoke, lace panels down the fronts, and a ribbed body. Roi says it is the first adult-sized sweater she's made (she's been knitting lots of grandbaby clothes), and I am proud of her! The yarn is Jamieson's DK, and the pattern is from the book Simply Shetland.

Posted by Karen at February 17, 2005 09:23 PM

What a fun entry! I can just see you walking in with a big box of yarn for Bonnie to play with. That is so typical of your great service. I'll bet she had a great time. It sounds like you had fun, too, and got some inspiration, yourself. I made a glove once. One glove. Somehow the mate never got cast on! Maybe you and Bonnie will inspire me to try again. The Sophia cardigan is lovely, and Roi looks terrific in it. That's a mighty impressive sweater!

Posted by: Anne at February 18, 2005 04:44 PM