April 13, 2006


Catherine Lowe's instructions for preparing our swatches very specifically stated that we were to knit our swatches in DK weight wool to a gauge of 6 stitches and 8 rows per inch. (In all of the knitting classes I've taken, I've never had to knit homework swatches to meet a particular gauge, so this was very unusual.) I'd started out on a size US 6 needle, and when my knitting was coming out at 5 stitches per inch, I actually ripped out the first swatch I knitted, and changed up to a US 7 to get what I thought would be gauge. I always think of myself as a tight knitter.

So in the evening after Day 1 of the workshop, when my swatches finished out to 6-1/2 stitches per inch, I wanted to revisit that assumption I have about myself being a tight knitter. I was a little concerned that Catherine Lowe might come around with a ruler and measure our swatches, but not so concerned that I bothered to re-knit them.

In fact, Catherine did not measure my or anybody else's swatches. Although she is painstakingly precise as a pattern-writer and as a knitter (and one might associate that quality of painstaking precision with a stern personality), she was actually very kind.

We did a lot of picking up of stitches in the workshop. We picked up stitches to work joinery bind-offs. We picked up stitches to work a border with a mitered corner. We picked up stitches for all sorts of techniques. And so the reason to knit the swatches to a particular gauge was that it made it easy to pick up stitches at a particular ratio. If the swatch was 8 rows to the inch, and if we were picking up stitches along the side of that swatch, Catherine could direct us to pick up 3 stitches for every 4. The resulting stitch gauge of the new bit of knitting (coming out of the side of the swatch at 6 stitches per inch) would square with the row gauge of the swatch (at 8 rows per inch). It looked really good, in other words.

I mentioned in my last entry that Catherine's cape pattern in Scarf Style is the longest pattern in that book. This isn't anything she discussed in class; I had sat down with that book when I bought it for Two Swans and I had analyzed the various patterns in it, as I usually do when I bring in a book to sell. Something that she did show us in class is one of patterns that she sells through her mail-order business; I was not at all surprised to see that that pattern, too, was pages and pages long, covering every detail and every permutation of every detail for every size of that garment. She told us an amusing story about how she'd written a pattern for a vest for Interweave Knits, and when she sent in the pattern, it was 34 pages long, "and you could hear the screaming from Loveland, Colorado [Interweave's headquarters] to upstate New York [Catherine's home]."

One of the things that I most enjoy about taking knitting classes is the chance to hang out with other knitters. Catherine Lowe is teaching at a very high level, and in our group were some knitters whom I consider to be some of the most experienced, awesome, and inspiring knitters in Seattle Knitters Guild -- the kinds of knitters I aspire to be, one day. I'll close with a few shots of the workshop; there were more people who attended, but not all of my photos turned out.

CoutureKnittingWorkshop 001.jpg
Catherine Lowe, at left, and Sarah Hauschka, at right. I had never knit a mitered corner, before. The one that I knit in class came out all right at the corner, but the whole thing was a little askew because I managed to get my stitch count wrong. Sarah Hauschka's mitered corner was a thing of beauty. I am super-appreciative of Sarah for taking the time to show me how she'd made her increases to get such a beautifully symmetrical corner.

CoutureKnittingWorkshop 003.jpg
Janet Charbonneau, at left, and Susanna Hansson, at right. Susanna was knitting without looking at her stitches! (Someday I'll learn to do that.)

CoutureKnittingWorkshop 006.jpg
Sundara Murphy, a generous soul who shared her knitting needles with me on Day 4 of the workshop. Although I had brought my case of needles with me the preceding three days, I managed to forget them in the hustle and bustle of leaving home on the morning of Day 4. Sundara is knitting a sock with some yarn that she hand-dyed.

Posted by Karen at April 13, 2006 11:45 AM

Hi Karen. Thank you so much for sharing your class with the rest of us. I've enjoyed it, as has my little surfing partner (see my blog for more info) I hope you have a good weekend (I'm starting mine early)

Posted by: Enjay at April 13, 2006 04:38 PM

Somehow I missed this entry where you met SUNDARA! Crazy! How cool is that though?

Posted by: Rebecca at April 18, 2006 09:15 AM

It was totally awesome.

Posted by: Karen at April 18, 2006 10:14 PM