August 10, 2005


The Feral Knitters reminded me when we met this week that it was time that I updated this blog. In these summer days, our group is small, with many of us gone to PU (Parts Unknown) for vacation. But count the inimitable Felina Schwarz in with us. Felina, you'll recall, is a finicky knitter and everyone in our group seeks her knitting advice, but her true forte is to give everyone else a prod whenever she feels they need it. And she felt I needed a prod to get blogging.

(You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to . . . . Felina insists that nagging's her fort (one syllable). I say it's her for-tay. Whatever.)

So, here goes.

The Ferals met last week, on Monday, and here's what we were working on. (Yes, we cannot get enough of that Fair Isle knitting, and are meeting three consecutive Mondays this month.)

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Kit had been to the Stitch'n Pitch Mariners game at the end of July, and longed to have her portable radio with her. So she sat down and designed on her needles this Fair Isle bag, the perfect size for her Walkman. It's darling. It's handles are reinforced, somehow, so they don't stretch. It's purple. She was wearing an olive-green shirt at that Ferals meeting, and this bag against the shirt looked stunning -- but she wouldn't let me photograph her holding the bag. Her olive green shirt made 10 times a better background than this binder. Olive green plus red-purple . . . what a vision.

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June's self-designed Fair Isle vest, inspired by a vest in Folk Vests. She's using Spindrift, and the colors are rich, far richer in real life than my photo under cafeteria lighting would lead you to believe.

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Andrea will be entering this sweater in her county's fair in a few days. It's a Philosopher's Wool kit.

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Susanne has at least one Fair Isle project going, but that evening she chose to work on a sock. This is a Nancy Bush pattern, and Susanne is knitting it in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock.

Diana was working on a Fair Isle bag using Spindrift, but, unfortunately, my photo of it did not turn out. And I knitted a few rounds on the Sandness sweater.

That ended Monday on a high note.

Tuesday morning, I prepped for my beginning knitting for teens class. Allegra, my twelve-year-old daughter, was my assistant. We put together bags for each student, containing bamboo knitting needles, a ball of worsted weight wool, and a handout that I created that showed how to cast-on (both long-tail and backwards loop methods), how to knit, how to purl, and how to bind-off (basic bind-off). Oh, and we also included a little bit of candy, to make the lesson sweet. Allegra took photos of me knitting, and these were my illustrations for my handout. I thought this was a good solution to the problem of not wanting to use illustrations from a published source because of copyright issues, and not wanting to take the time to draw illustrations myself.

My class took place in a conference room at the public library. I had 7 teens, and, surprisingly, 2 adults. (I had said my class limit would be 10 students.) Two of the girls (twins!) came in about 5 minutes late, with little bags of garter-stitch rectangles . . . these were collars for their black Lab. These girls politely knitted away as I talked about yarn choices and needle choices and demo'd to the rest of the group how to cast on and how to knit. The twins really were there because they didn't know how to stop knitting! They didn't know how to bind-off. (Purling was new to them, as well.)

I was very pleased with my prep work; I was very pleased to have 9 students. Overall, I think the 90-minute session went well. There were a couple of things I had wondered about, beforehand, that proved true. One was whether I would get any left-handed knitters in my class. Yes, I had two lefties -- one of the twins who actually was knitting right-handed, and another teen. I was not adequately prepared to teach mirror-image knitting. I'm afraid the class was more frustrating than fun for that student.

Another thing I had wondered about was whether I was trying to cover too much information in one 90-minute session. That, too, proved true -- for those who were beginners, casting on and learning the knit stitch was as much as they could take in, in one day. (I taught purling and binding off only to those in the class who already knew how to knit.) I had forgotten how difficult it can be to pull that yarn through a stitch to make a new stitch. Knitting really is very tricky!

For instance, the complete beginner who caught on the fastest to the idea of pulling the yarn through to make a new stitch, would have her working needle about an inch behind the other. She would put her working needle into her stitch, then spread the two needles about an inch apart, wrap her yarn, then pull the yarn through. She was clearly getting the hang of it, and working well. So I had to think to say, You want to keep your needles snug together.

Perhaps the best thing that came out of the teen knitting class was the inspiration it sparked in my assistant, who came home, rooted through her stash and began knitting this scarf that very night:
And the next day made this fingerless glove, start to finish:
You can see that she won't suffer from second glove syndrome, as she immediately cast on for the mate. These are knitted flat, with some ribbing at top and bottom and stockinette in the main part covering the hand; then seamed up the side, leaving an opening for the thumb. Allegra sewed her own seam, using an overcast stitch. If Felina were here, she might point out other seaming techniques, but I say, Let's never discourage knitting.

Allegra made these projects all on her own initiative, from her own stash. I didn't even know she was making the fingerless glove till suddenly she was at my side, putting her knitting in my hands and asking me to help her to bind off. She got the pattern from a knitting book for kids. I love it that she feels so independent and so confident to take on these projects.

The topic at this month's Guild meeting, coming up August 17, is "Knitting by, for, and about Kids." I hope Allegra will attend, and bring her projects for show-and-tell.

Then, last week on Wednesday, the group of Master Knitter Wannabes met. Laura-Lee is just on the brink of sending in her Level I binder, and brought it to show us. Doesn't she looked relaxed and happy, here?
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And Joy showed Laura-Lee her (Joy's) completed Level I binder. Joy has passed Level I and is working on Level II, like I am.
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We sure enjoyed the weather that day!

Joy passed around an obituary of Susan Gordon Lydon, whose book, The Knitting Sutra, I've read a half a dozen times. This obit was a great springboard for discussion, topics ranging from Susan Gordon Lydon, to similar books that are memoirs centered around needlecrafts, to feminism. I admire the writing style in Knitting Sutra, but had no idea that Susan Gordon Lydon had been such an influence in the women's movement, or what her other history as a writer was.

That night after our Master Knitter Wannabes group met, I dreamed I was knitting on my Level II vest.

Well, this entry is long enough . . . more next time!

Posted by Karen at August 10, 2005 12:25 PM

Am happy to offer any help I can with your lefty student! Mary B

Posted by: Mary B at August 10, 2005 04:36 PM

Mary B -- thanks for the offer! Because you and my Knit-bud Kathy in Santa Barbara are both committed to left-handed knitting, I like to think that you guys have made me sensitive to the issues. But having never done any left-to-right knitting myself, I was building the plane as I was flying it, in the class. Definitely, before I launch into another beginning knitting class, I would practice . . . and perhaps you could help me out with that, sometime.

The class was a one-time session, so I have to make an effort to have any follow-up. (I was hired to teach a one-time session.) So, also in retrospect, this gives me an appreciation for all those yarn stores where the classes for beginners are several sessions long. In those instances, the teacher gets to see the students make progress, and the students get more practice time in to build their new skill.

Posted by: Karen at August 10, 2005 05:42 PM

Not to drive a wedge, dear Karen, but in the fort/fort-ay question--Felina's right. There's no accent over the e, so it's not pronounced. However, the problem is that, since 99.9999999% of the population says "fort-ay," the people who say "fort" look like dorks. Don't ask me how I know.

Boy, when we nag you to update your blog, you come up with a *beaut* of an update. Long, fun, interesting, great pictures--loved it!

Posted by: Ryan at August 11, 2005 08:24 AM

i may yet make it to a feral's mtg. you never know. and i haven't even really looked all the way through my master knitters 1 folder yet, i kind of got sidetracked by the *no pet hair* clause.

Posted by: marti at August 11, 2005 12:15 PM

Hi, Kar,

Just a few comments on several of your last entries from your "dearly departed" sister:

First: Wow, my sock is really coming along! Looks great! And if any of your fellow knitters want my talent as a foot model, I am available by the hour.

Also, Scott's comment about the loom coming complete with a half-finished project got a big chuckle from both Gene and me! He'd make a good knitter--he's so good at needling!

I'm very impressed with Allegra just picking up the needles and yarn and cranking out the cool scarf and mittens!

All for now,

Posted by: Barb at August 11, 2005 01:12 PM

I loved teaching my class - I think it would be hard to get very far in only one session. We started with bookmarks, and I thought we'd get to slip knot, cast on, knit, and bind off on the first day, but nobody got to bind off. Then the next day they added 5 more knitters, so it all got very hectic from then on.

I'd kept checking for updates on your blog, and you really saved it up!

Posted by: Patti at August 11, 2005 06:45 PM

Marti, I know you're a Purly Girl and a Knit-for-Lifer, and so have other standing social obligations on Monday nights. But anytime you can drop by Ferals, you will be warmly welcomed! The no-pet-hair thing I struggle with, too, having three cats and a dog *in* the house, and more critters outside. But, really, don't allow yourself to be intimidated, just read and follow the instructions.

Barb: So glad to hear from you! We miss you around here. And -- there's nothing like having a half-finished project lying around . . . unless it's two or three half-finished projects lying around . . . .

Patti: Wow, I'm glad you had a successful first teaching of knitting experience! Yeah, I tried to cover waaaay too much . . . . Will you do it again, next summer? or next school session?

Posted by: Karen at August 11, 2005 07:22 PM

Allegra did a very nice job. And Felina would NEVER point out another seaming technique to a youthful knitter unless asked. She'd say 'well done.'

Posted by: Kim at August 11, 2005 08:03 PM

I think I might get to do it again next summer. In the meantime, there's a local crafts-for-kids group that wants me to teach a 7 week evening class before Christmas, for making presents. They were thinking of a class for people who already had (very) basic knitting skills. I have some good project ideas - the hard part is, I have to write a bio . . .

Hey, I think I get to come to Ferals on Monday! I hope to see you there. :)

Posted by: Patti at August 13, 2005 06:06 PM