April 28, 2005


Sometimes I think the knit-blogging world is overfilled with all of these tales wherein the authors recount how they were knitting along on the Whatever-It-Was, and made a mistake that they didn't notice until much later, then go to great lengths to fix the mistake. Sometimes, cynical me, I think these stories read like a desperate attempt to have a plot twist on what would otherwise be a very straightforward and ho-hum story about knitting the Whatever-It-Was. I mean, do we need another story of someone not paying attention to her knitting and so creating two left-handed mittens?

That said, I am now about to regale you with some stories of the heroic knitting recently done in these parts.
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The Prince Caspian sweater that I'm knitting for the Dulaan Project, now with the front finished and front attached to back at the shoulders using a 3-needle bind-off. Finished today.

Flashback to Sunday morning. Karen, knitting in bed with her cup of coffee at hand, finishes the shoulder shaping on the front of the sweater. This takes several tries, since she keeps messing up and purling on the ribs that should so clearly and obviously be columns of knit stitches. But, eventually, the shoulder shaping is done. Using a 3-needle bind-off, Karen attaches the front to the back. Holds up the sweater to admire her handiwork, and discovers -- the front is a full inch shorter than the back. She then rips out all of the knitting that she has done that morning.

I ripped clear down to where I'd originally separated for the front neck shaping. I added one whole inch to lengthen the entire body of the sweater. Another knitter might've just knitted in that extra inch on the shoulders, but I'm too much of a perfectionist. Reminder: this sweater is from the book Simply Shetland, and the yarn is Jamieson's DK in the color Clyde Blue.


Anne, modeling her finished Saga Rose cardi. She knitted Saga Rose for herself and the Mossbank sweater for her husband, in honor of their 20th wedding anniversary, which, if my memory serves me, is today! (Congratulations, Anne & Bill!)

This is truly some heroic knitting. She started these sweaters in late January. She knitted Mossbank in one month. She finished Saga Rose a few days ago.

Inspired by Betts Lampers's shaped sleeve cap in the round, Anne shaped the tops of the sleeves, gave this sweater some shoulder shaping, and matched up the peerie and border stripes. (This is as opposed to what the pattern calls for -- the typical dropped shoulder, with stitches picked up around the armhole and the sleeve knitted downward, which results in a boxier sweater.) Anne writes that she had to rip out and re-do the shoulders three times. Truly some heroism in knitting.

By the way, you are looking at a recently-minted Master Knitter, there. Anne found out last week that she passed Level III. More congratulations are in order!

There was an 11th-hour crisis with her submission. If you scroll down through my archives, you'll see a photo I took of Anne with her Level III binder, Aran sweater, and Fair Isle tam. At that time, I wrote that we thought she might have to re-do some swatch or other, purely as a formality, something the Master Knitter Committee would have her do simply as a hoop to jump through. In fact, she had to re-knit all of her swatches, save for the "circularly knitted lace swatch" (a doily, in any other words). The reason? She'd used what the committee deemed to be the wrong yarn.

This was very upsetting news. Some people who are Master Knitters gave Anne some advice and some pep talks. Anne rallied, and re-knit those 17 Level III swatches in one week -- a Herculean effort! She re-submitted them, and passed. On the re-submit, the Committee Chair noted that her knitting was perfect.

Seeing Anne go through all of this has made me search for the "right" yarn, too. I used Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece for my Level I, and that worked well. I like Cotton Fleece. I'd begun my Level II work using it, but Anne's experience gives me pause. The requirement is to use a worsted weight yarn (unless another yarn is specified, such as a lighter weight yarn for lace swatches). I've gotten worried that the Committee is more conservative and interprets the rules more strictly than it has in the past; I've gotten worried that my precious Cotton Fleece, which knits on a size 6 needle, will be deemed too thin. That's why I showed the photo of Patons Classic Wool and Plymouth Galway on this blog a few entries ago. (Plymouth Galway, by the way, is not easy to come by in the greater Seattle area -- most of the stores prefer Cascade 220, which comes from a local distributor.) So I am experimenting with both yarns, and I'm sure that Two Swans will end up carrying one or the other, in the fullness of time.

Ferals tonight! On the subject of heroic knitting, I'm sure you're wondering what I've decided to do about Sandness. Well, the jury is still out....

Posted by Karen at 02:32 PM | Comments (4)

April 26, 2005

The Invisible Woman Knits in Public

Inspired by Ryan's account of her recent trip to take her car to the mechanic's, I'll tell you mine.

On Monday, I had my car serviced: lube, oil, filters, tires rotated. No big deal. Two plus hours in the waiting room. I brought knitting. I was ready.

When I entered the lobby, a woman who obviously worked for the dealership was in there, straightening out the magazines and newspapers. "Would you like a magazine?" she asked.

"No, I brought stuff to do," I said coyly. (I should'a said I'd brought knitting!)

I settled in, pulling out a big ol' ball of Plymouth Galway and a stitch dictionary, and proceeded to experiment with simple cables for possible submission for Level II of the Master Knitter program. (It was the cable swatches, a year ago, that brought me to my knees. The complexity and impressiveness of my lace swatches will more than be compensated for by the simplicity of my cable swatches, if you get my meaning.)

An hour and a half went by, during which time my little experimental swatch grew to an inch-and-a-half, got ripped back, grew again, got ripped again, etc. The receptionist at the front desk paid me no mind as she routed phone calls and tried time and again to get her computer printer to print out a page to her satisfaction.

Eventually, in came another woman who was waiting to pick up her car. She'd brought in her car much earlier, and the service techs were just finishing up with it. She had a few minutes to wait, after she paid her bill, while they brought her car around. She took a seat across the room from me. She whipped out of her bag a novelty yarn scarf, four feet long, and commenced to knitting.

Out of nowhere swooped down the employee of the dealership, the same woman who'd been straightening the magazines when I'd arrived about two hours before. She swooped down on this waiting customer and her four-foot-long novelty-yarn scarf-in-progress. "That's so beautiful! Oh, my! Those colors! You didn't make this yourself! You're so talented! So patient! I could never do that!" Etcetera, sickening etcetera. She even summoned over the receptionist. "Oh, Courtney -- come, look at this!"

And the woman knitting the scarf held up her little balls of novelty yarn and explained, "Oh, yes, I bought these at the yarn store down the street, they have classes, they can teach you to knit. It takes me about two hours to knit one of these scarves. Look, I have them in all these different colors!"

Who am I, chopped liver? I sat there on the opposite side of the room with my little swatch, just waiting for my equal time, trying to hold my knitting needles a little more forward so that they might glint under the lights , trying to click them a little more loudly against each other as I worked my stitches, all in a pathetic attempt to be a little more noticeable. The dealership employee never came over to marvel over my little swatch; Courtney the receptionist never batted an eyelash in my direction. My swatch wasn't glitzy, it wasn't novelty yarn, it wasn't four feet long, in two hours' time it wasn't appreciably longer -- what's to notice? I was invisible. I hate it when this happens. What do I need to do -- dress in more flashy colors? Speak more loudly? How to survive as an introvert in an extraverted world?

Even when my car was ready and I went to pay my bill, Courtney the receptionist never asked me what it was I'd been working on, if I'd been knitting or what....

Scott says that I should have stood up while the dealership employee was ooh-ing and aah-ing over the other customer's knitting, held up my knitting to the light, and exclaimed: What do you think about my stitches? Are they even?

Dear Reader, what would you have done to make yourself more visible while knitting in public?

Marti and Ryan are clamoring for pictures -- tomorrow, guys, tomorrow.

Posted by Karen at 09:51 PM | Comments (14)

April 23, 2005


"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it."

Attributed to Goethe

Today I finished knitting up Swatch #12, a lace swatch, for Level II. Not only did I knit it, I persevered through blocking it, weaving in the ends, making up the tag for it, tying the tag on, writing up the appropriate documentation for the swatch, and putting all of that into the binder. Finishing each item fully, that will be key to getting this level completed.

Swatch #11, my first lace swatch, looks really great. I chose a very geometric lace pattern for that one, and it blocked out very straight and square. For Swatch #12 I chose the Drooping Elm Leaf lace from Barbara Walker I. This lace has more organic lines in it, and I fussed when blocking it trying to square it up as much as possible, given the flowing, serpentine shape of the leaves on their stems. So I'm slightly less happy with this swatch than the other lace one, and fighting the urge to do it over, choose something more geometric, for #12. I remind myself that I am trying to build forward momentum -- not to keep spinning my wheels. Drooping Elm Leaves, for all their organic droopiness, are still a good example of lace knitting.

(And one of the reasons I chose this pattern, by the way, is that the pattern has a little knit-purl action on the wrong side rows -- it isn't just plain stockinette lace with purls only on the wrong side rows. I wanted to ratchet up the challenge, just a bit.)

Posted by Karen at 11:59 PM | Comments (3)

April 21, 2005


I'm abstract-random, no question. (That's a bit of jargon about learning styles carried over from my former life as a high school teacher.) Being abstract-random means that I like to draw a common thread or theme through events, that I like to philosophize and hypothesize. I'm curious about a multitude of things that may seem disparate to other people but are all meaningful to me.

I like to deal with information or tasks in chunks rather than sequentially. It can seem to other people that I'm switching topics, jumping from one thing to the next. It can drive other people a little nuts, sometimes.

Last night I was lying in bed, not fully asleep. About 3:00 in the morning, Scott's cell phone rang. Every night when he goes to bed, he plugs his cell phone into the charger, which is on the tile countertop next to the sink in our bathroom. His cell phone didn't ring, exactly, because he keeps it on manner mode. But it did make that little buzz vibration noise, which echoes and sounds like the cell phone is skittering across the tile counter, especially at 3 AM, when everything else is quiet (even the roosters). He, of course, slept through it, and I wasn't about to get up and answer what I'm sure was only a wrong number.

But soon after that the roosters were crowing and there was no going back to sleep for me. Usually when I have insomnia, I get up, make myself a cup of hot cocoa, and knit. But last night I got up, made myself a cup of hot cocoa, and read some blogs written by my fellow Pretty Posians (Pretty Poseurs?).

Well, one thing led to another, and the next thing I knew, I was at a site called 43things.com. It's a site where people list their goals (the idea being that a good number of goals to have is 43!), make entries about how they're doing on their path to achieving their goals, and where other people can comment on the goals and declare them as "worth doing" or "not worth doing."

43things.com is a little bit of heaven on earth for anyone who's abstract-random.

When I first got to the home page of the site, there's this funky long list of all these different -- seemingly disparate -- goals. Very near the top of the list was one: Decide whether to go to law school. Well, I was immediately drawn in, having been there, done that -- and I also had the sort of disbelief reaction: Law school? Do people still want to go to law school anymore? That is sooo eighties. (Remember that time, the period when all the former hippies turned yuppie?)

I was further drawn in to see that, of the major cities where people are doing their 43 things, Seattle tops the list. A few abstract-random clicks later, I found out that's because the site was started by about six guys from Seattle.

Abstract-randomly, I clicked on goals here, FAQs there. There's even a Zeitgeist button that takes you to the top 10 goals of the day: Fall in love being the number 1 goal. (Been there, done that, too.)

465 people want to be a better blogger.
6 people want to grow old disgracefully.
26 people want to knit a scarf.

Hey, while we're on the knitting topic, methinks, let's see if anyone has the goal of becoming a master knitter. So I searched. 1 person wants to become a better knitter; 1 person wants to become an expert knitter. No master knitter goal was listed.

Point-click. Point-click. Point-click.

525 people want to write a novel. (Something I've tried to do. Thrice.)
1 person wants to read all the Pulitzer-prize winning novels. (Something I fantasize about doing, sometimes.)

Did I mention how addictive 43things.com is for someone who's abstract-random? I just love setting goals; just last week on Friday our local radio talk show host did an hour on setting goals and reaching them and I was totally tempted to call in (something I've never done) and say that my goal is to become a master knitter.

While we're on the goal of what to read, I remembered that I had set the goal for myself in high school of reading all of Mark Twain's works. (No, I haven't even come close. And the Twain estate keeps releasing more work, every few years -- so I don't think it's a goal that could ever be finished.) So I cruised around to see related goals about reading . . . .

And there I found Rebecca wants to read all of Proust's multi-volume work, In Search of Lost Time! This is one-and-the-same Rebecca whom I know from Guild and from her blog. Just in the last couple of weeks, Rebecca and I have been planning to set up a book group to read this work. I've meant to read these books for years. I look at my computer screen and think, Rebecca's doing 43 things! (Actually, she's doing 30 things.) Well, if she can do it, I can, too.

So I signed up on the site. Become a Master Knitter is my number one goal. Read Proust is number two.

And I get to "check off," as it were, other goals that I've already accomplished in my lifetime. Quit smoking (worth doing!). Study philosophy (I have a BA and did all the coursework for a Master's, although I didn't write my thesis, so didn't actually finish that degree -- worth doing!).

And who knows? Maybe I'll join that coterie of 6 people who want to stop making lists of goals and actually do something.

Note that, as of 4:30 AM PST, I was about person number 19,716 to sign up on 43things.com. At the time that I write this, a mere 8 hours later, there are 19,906 people signed up. Is it catching on?

Now, to recap last night's Guild meeting: Betsy McCarthy was warm and funny as she talked about how the vision for her book grew from the initial 98-page, 15-sock-pattern version to its final form of 144 pages and 28 patterns, in a mere one year and nine months' time. Her original plan was to knit just one sock for each pattern, but then, shortly before the photo shoot, the publisher decided that really a pair of each socks was needed. Betsy knitted many of them herself, but it was also great fun to see her hold up socks (all of the socks in the book were on display last night) and say that various Guild members (MaryB! Annelie!) had knitted some of them, too.

The turnout was greater than our usual numbers, including several visitors, one of whom was Patti, who's posted in the comments here on Ideaphoria. She had a handful of little gems:
on their way to becoming glass buttons. Gorgeous, no?

Oh, and my camera that I thought had sprouted legs and run off, yesterday? It was one step ahead of me. It was in my knitting bag in the car, all ready to go to Guild....

Posted by Karen at 12:27 PM | Comments (6)

April 20, 2005


My digital camera seems to have sprouted legs and walked away . . . otherwise I would show you photos, Dear Reader, of the tags I bought today so that I could appropriately label the Dreaded Seed Stitch Seam with all its vital statistics*, and then slap it into my Master Knitter Level II binder. (And I'm sure that would have been a riveting photo, too.) Maybe my camera has run off with Ryan's....

Guild tonight! Betsy McCarthy, long-time friend and Guild member, will be speaking about what she describes as her "odyssey" to get her book, Knit Socks!, published. Can't wait!

*yarn used, needle used, seaming method used, reference source from whence I got the seaming method, etc., etc., etc. Did I mention that becoming a Master Knitter requires an unswerving and meticulous attention to detail?

Posted by Karen at 03:52 PM | Comments (2)

April 19, 2005


Trying to gain some momentum toward completing Level II of the Master Knitter program, I knuckled down and did the Dreaded Seed Stitch Seam yesterday.
This little puppy is something I've procrastinated on for, oh, longer than I care to admit. (Now to get it tagged and stuffed into the binder -- an organizational step that I constantly trip myself over.)

Posted by Karen at 12:25 PM | Comments (5)

April 18, 2005


It was so thrilling for me to pick up on my mail on Saturday and discover a box of Interweave Knits magazines, the Summer '05 issue, hot off the presses! Two Swans will now carry this magazine, and this was my first shipment. What's a yarn store without magazines? Woohoo!

I've been feeling a little ironic about gauge, lately. First, there is this fact:
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This sweater I'm knitting for the Dulaan project -- which I'm donating to charity, which does not have to fit anyone in particular because it will fit some homeless child in Mongolia, so there is no reason to care one whit about gauge on this thing?
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This sweater is coming out spot-on on gauge, measuring exactly 13.5 inches, as the pattern calls for. This never happens for me. I am such a tight knitter, things always turn out smaller than the pattern schematics. Which just goes to show -- there's a first time for everything.

Second, there is this fact:
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The Sandness sweater -- which must fit Scott, if I am going to go to all the trouble of knitting it; the Sandness sweater, about which I care only too much about gauge -- is coming out at only 38 inches around (unblocked). It really needs to be about 44 inches around. (As you can see in the photo, it's coming out smaller than a typical sweater that he wears.) I've been struggling with myself as to whether I want to continue, and then block -- stretch! -- it to add 6 inches. Or do I start over. Let's see . . . I started with a small size, then scrapped that. Now I've been knitting on a medium size; do I scrap this one, too, and start over on a large?

Perhaps this article, "Got Gauge," in this Summer '05 Interweave Knits magazine will help me sort this all out.

Now I'm off to meet Norma for coffee and talk MasterKnitter talk. Norma just passed Level I last week!
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In search of the holy grail -- the perfect yarn for the Master Knitter swatches.

Posted by Karen at 10:10 AM | Comments (8)

April 14, 2005


and you hear this dinnertable conversation, chez Campbell:

Allegra (excitedly): We're doing this project at school on comets. And I get to be in the space station. A comet's going to crash to the earth, and we have to try to stop it. (more thoughtfully) Could that really happen? Could a comet hit the earth?

Me: It happens all the time -- only they burn up in the earth's atmosphere. So all that comes down to the ground is the tiny bits, the dust.

Jennie: That's what happened to the dinosaurs, though, right? A huge comet crashed to earth, and it made all the dinosaurs go extinct.

Scott: I don't know; I wasn't around then. You'll have to ask your mom.

Posted by Karen at 08:33 PM | Comments (2)

April 10, 2005


Yesterday I met up with Terri and some other Seattle-area knitters. Terri was trying on the sock she was knitting when she decided to take a picture of me taking a picture of her trying on her sock.
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I enjoyed meeting Terri and the other knitters and hope to join them again in the future.

I finished the back of the Prince Caspian sweater:
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I varied from the pattern in Simply Shetland by finishing off the back with some short-row shoulder shaping. The most important variation I did was to knit the main part of the body using Broken Rib (RS: K1, p1 across; WS: Purl). The pattern calls for False Rib (RS: K1, p1 across; WS: Knit). As you can tell, the wrong side of False Rib actually produces Broken Rib, and vice versa. And if you were to scroll back through a few blog entries, you'll read that after knitting an inch of False Rib on the right side, I was very unhappy with how it looked -- much too lumpy and bumpy. Broken Rib has a very organized appearance and is also very smooth -- it puts all those lumps and bumps on the wrong side. Now that I have finished Piece #1 of this sweater, I am speculating that the designer chose to use False Rib so that the smooth side (the Broken Rib side) is next to the wearer's body. Well, I'm thinking that any kid who wears this sweater is going to have on a shirt underneath, anyway.

This sweater will be my second donation to the Dulaan Project. Great thing about knitting for kids -- they are small projects so you make progress very quickly.

Today my sister and her husband are taking Allegra and me to see Shakespeare Abridged at Tacoma Actors Guild. Should be fun! We have the videotape of this play, and Allegra knows it by heart.

Posted by Karen at 11:02 AM | Comments (3)

April 08, 2005


Bloggers are always putting up the photos of their recently-acquired goodies, so here are my obligatory trophy shots from the market at the TKGA convention:

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From Galina Khmeleva's booth, a cone of laceweight cashmere, a set of Lantern Moon dpns in size US 3, and her booklet of three Orenburg lace patterns to knit.

In my opinion, Galina's booth had the best stuff in the entire market: loads of luxury fibers in lace weights, stuff that you just don't see every day, and I spent hours agonizing over what to buy. The cashmere that I did purchase is the yarn that was used in the Lily of the Valley shawl in Knitter's magazine from 2004; in fact, that shawl was on display in the booth, looking ready for a very special occasion. (It looked positively bridal, to me.) Lantern Moon needles, likewise, have a luxurious feel; I have two pairs of straights that Anne gave me for my birthday one year and Christmas another. Neither Anne nor I had ever seen Lantern Moon dpns! I borrowed a set of Lantern Moon dpns in size 3 from Galina, in order to knit the little sample shawl during her class -- and, wouldn't you know it, I didn't quite finish that little sample, so had to buy a set of needles to take home with me so that I could finish it. That Galina, she's quite the salesperson, rather like the clerk in the jewelry store who puts the earrings on you knowing that you won't be able to bring yourself to take them off, so of course will buy them -- that's just how Galina was when she saw me reaching into my Worm Binder for my usual Inox metal dpns, and pressed her ebony Lantern Moons into my hands, murmuring "Try these." The booklet has a triangular shawl pattern, a scarf pattern, and a square shawl pattern. I liked all of these patterns, but really bought the booklet for the triangular shawl pattern, which has a lacy "snowflake" design around the border.

Now the question is: Is that cone of cashmere destined to become the "snowflake" shawl, or the Lily of the Valley shawl?

From the booth next to Galina's:
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some hand-crafted glass buttons, and a decorative glass dish.

These items were handmade by glass artist Judith Copeland from New Hampshire. The dish wasn't really for sale. I had engaged her in conversation about how she makes her buttons, and she was showing me the representative styles and talking about the techniques she uses in making the buttons. She had this glass dish holding a stack of her promotional postcards, and in the course of the conversation, lifted up the stack of postcards to show me the dish in order to make a point about the etched leaves you see in that dark strip of dichroic glass. I gasped when I saw the dish: Chartreuse! No question but that I had to have it. I love everything about this piece: the colors, the proportions, the textured effects of air bubbles and etched leaves.

That's it -- all of my purchases, each one special enough to make a worthy souvenir of the '05 convention.

But that's not all that came home with me! At the banquet, I had the good fortune of winning this door prize:


5 skeins of Lambs Pride superwash wool, in a rich blue. A vest pattern came with these, too, but I can't seem to wrest it from the jaws of my suitcase in order to get it into the photo.

Posted by Karen at 09:14 PM | Comments (1)

April 06, 2005


Since Anne is the fastest knitter I know, it was only natural that she would enter the Time Trials at the TKGA convention. The Time Trials are to determine who's the fastest knitter and crocheter. The rules for knitters are: Use size US 8 needles (your own, or you could choose to use the straight metal needles provided). Use the acrylic yarn provided by the company sponsoring the Time Trials. Cast on 60 stitches prior to the clock starting. You must knit in stockinette, for three minutes.

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All 60 stitches cast on. Anne's ready to work up a sweat, knitting.

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The Time Trials booth was staffed by volunteers. The woman "manning" the booth who's standing at the left, wearing a white shirt, is Cheryl Huffman, owner of Molehill Farm in Oregon, a shop where Anne teaches knitting and crochet classes. (We also saw one other woman from Oregon; the four of us were the ones who had traveled the farthest to attend the convention, as far as we know.)

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The clock is running, and a young passer-by checks out those who are being timed. Notice the look of concentration on Anne's face. Her strategy was to make the first row a knit row, rather than a purl row, so as to work as many stitches as possible within the given time.

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91 stitches later. Only one-and-a-half rows???

Anne's new strategy: Get some of that same brand of acrylic yarn, and practice.

I, too, was going to participate in the Time Trials. Not that I'm a fast knitter. But I thought it would be fun. But when the contestants in Anne's group were finished, those volunteers manning the booth went off shift. I swear. There never was another opportunity where I was available (not in a class) and the booth was manned. Gives me something to look forward to, at the next convention. Now, to find some acrylic yarn to practice with....

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Becky, from Vermont, whom we enjoyed spending time with. It was Becky's first knitting convention/retreat/event "away," but I'm sure it won't be her last.

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Lily Chin takes a moment out from bead knitting class to sign books.

Lily is a self-described "fashionista." To Thursday's class on Designing, she wore a beaded shell very similar to the one on the cover of her Knit and Crochet with Beads book, where the beads and the purl stitches on either side of them create a faux cable effect. The shell was in a pale grayish-lavender yarn, with lavender glass beads, and she wore with it a lavender suede pleated mini-skirt and some killer lavender suede shoes. (The actual shell from the cover of the book was on display in the TKGA convention market, as were many of the garments from the book.) She also wore this very fun ring that had a cluster of amethysts that together formed the petals of a rose, and a long, loopy swirl of metal below formed the stem. I admired the ring, and Lily promised to see if she could pick up another one to send to me. (She said, "I'm a shopper!") As you can see in the photo above, to Saturday's bead-knitting class she wore a crocheted top in turquoise and purple stripes; the top had beads on it that formed a pattern of diamonds. In the mood for beads, she even used them as eye shadow. A turquoise leather skirt, purple fishnet stockings, and turquoise high heeled boots completed her ensemble.

In bead-knitting class, Lily had us try every possible way of putting beads onto knitting. There are several projects in her book that I'd love to try, and after the class, I feel very confident that I can complete them -- even the beaded pocket that is solid bead knitting! At the end of the class period, those good students who had brought sample swatches got out their swatches and had the excitement of seeing Lily try this bead here or that bead there, to enhance the knitting. Again, I just loved seeing how she could improvise with what her students provided. Inspirational!

Sunday afternoon I took Melissa Leapman's class on Color Design in Fair Isle Knitting. Melissa's handknitting patterns aren't knit at the fine gauge that we usually think of for Fair Isle work -- her Fair Isle designs in A Close-Knit Family and in Hot Knits are at a much larger gauge. She had brought these sample garments, and we got to wear them. (The classroom was cold!) She'd also brought numerous hand- and machine-knitted swatches that were unsuccessful designs, and we had the fun of critiquing them, thinking about how they could be improved. After the intensity of three days of knitting classes, it was a pleasure to sit with colored pencils and graph paper and just doodle and color.

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Here's Melissa, holding up the bag of Hershey's Kisses she shared with us, and hoping that I wouldn't include the squiggles on the board behind her. The green Fair Isle sweater is my all-time favorite sweater from Hot Knits -- you know that green is my favorite color! -- and I was tickled that she agreed to model it for me.

Something inspiring about Melissa Leapman: She has no formal art training, and claims she can't draw to save her life. She says, "If I can scratch out these simple geometrics [in her Fair Isle designs], you can, too."

And speaking of Fair Isle work, here's Sandness in its current state:


Posted by Karen at 02:20 PM | Comments (2)

April 01, 2005


Wednesday was the day of wrong hotels.

My flight from Seattle to Philadelphia was -- aside from the 10 minutes of turbulence while we went through a lightning storm over Chicago -- uneventful.

Unlike my cab ride from the Philadelphia airport. I white-knuckled through a cab ride to Hotel #1. My instincts told me, the entire ride, that this non-native English-speaking cabbie wasn't understanding which hotel that I wanted to go to; my instinct told me, this is not the right way. At one point I even asked the driver, Do you know where you're going? To which he replied, I take you to the convention. Getting there is half the fun, I repeated to myself over and over, as I watched the cabbie nearly sideswipe a car once while merging left, another time while merging right, while he ran a red light, while he speeded through the streets of downtown Philadelphia, leaving me on the doorstep of a beautiful hotel. I knew full well that this hotel was not hosting a convention of knitters, but I was not about to get back in the cab with that same driver and head for another destination.

The bell captain at Hotel #1 was thoroughly accommodating, and summoned for me a taxi and helped make it very clear that I wanted a hotel at the Valley Forge Convention Center, a good thirty minutes outside of downtown Philaldelphia. This cabbie was a hundred years old if he was a day, but he knew how to get me to Hotel #2, the hotel at which Knit-bud Anne and I had reservations. Both the bell hop at the cabbie were very kind and considerate to a woman traveling alone at night in the big city. Since it was already 11 PM, this cabbie was kind enough to wait at the doors of Hotel #2 while I checked with the front desk, just to make sure that if this wasn't the right hotel, he could take me to the next one down the road. "Just give me the hi sign," he said, "I won't leave until then."

Well, the lady at the front desk was on a phone call at first. I got nervous about making the cabbie wait. When the receptionist finished the phone call, she scrolled through her computer screen, and said, "Oh, your reservation's been cancelled. But, no matter, I can give you a room."

I waved the cabbie on, and proceeded to check in, find my room, and unpack. I kept waiting for Anne to arrive. She'd had a later flight than mine, and I wasn't suprised to arrive first, even with the detour to Hotel #1, although, as the hours passed, I became more and more concerned. Had something happened to her -- or was I not in the right place? Finally, at 1:00 AM Philaldelphia time, I called the front desk and asked if they'd seen Anne, it just seemed so strange that she'd be so late. No, the front desk lady said, she hadn't seen Anne. I hung up. Ten minutes later, the front desk called to say that Anne had checked into Hotel #3, "our sister hotel," and would I like the receptionist to ring her room?

Anne had checked in just a few minutes earlier. We agreed that it was too late, and we didn't know where the other one of us was, to try to change rooms in the middle of the night.

Next morning, I checked out of Hotel #2 and into Hotel #3, to share a room with Anne. Even the right hotel that the second cabbie took me to turned out to be the wrong hotel. (We actually did have reservations at Hotel #2, but the hotel had, for the sake of its bureaucratic convenience, transferred us to Hotel #3.)

Thursday was the Lily Chin Show.

A class with Lily Chin is like having a class taught by a knitting stand-up comedian. Never a dull moment. The topic of this class was Designing. I very much appreciated her teaching style: Education through Entertainment; how quickly and easily she improvised with the various objects that my classmates had brought as "things that inspire us."

Lily talked us through translating our inspiration by way of technique. (Does this work best as a crocheted item? Entrelac? Fair Isle garment?) Lily talked to us about considerations of functionality. She held up a darling little gray cotton cardi that had little pink "band-aid stitch" roses on it. The "band-aid" stitch roses she liked so well, that she'd made a column of them down the buttonband, where they functioned as buttons. Then she seemingly went off on a tangent, telling us about an art group that puts out items that "transcend functionality." She described how beautiful these pieces of art work are -- but, because they "transcend functionality," that means: The pot is pretty but it can't hold water. With Lily, you know to just hold on and see where she's taking you, but like a good cab ride, you arrive at a meaningful destination. While telling this story, she held up a little black cardi, just like the gray one, only the pink roses were, this time, white and made of silk. "The pot is pretty but it can't hold water -- I can't wear this cardigan in public," she said, and one tug on the buttonband showed why: the entire thing fell open. The silk rosette buttons were too slick to stay in the buttonholes.

Thursday evening, after much fuss, and with the help of the hotel's troubleshooter/handyman named Bismarck, my computer got connected to the internet at long last. Funny stuff, this new technology. My laptop does not have a wireless card in it, but there now exists a little wireless translator box that can transmit and receive a wireless signal to a computer such as mine. It can do this, if you have someone as computer-savvy as Bismarck who can help you to hook it up properly.

While I was seeking inspiration and having a laugh-a-minute in Lily Chin's class, Anne was knitting her little heart out in a class on entrelac bags:
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Now it awaits a handle and a run through the washer to felt it, and it'll be darling! Not bad for a day's work, Anne.

For kicks, here are some close-ups of some of Anne's other projects. Mossbank, with grafted sleeves, and short-rowed-shoulders-shaped-in-the-round, following Janine's directions.
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Mossbank's companion piece is Saga Rose:
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Truly a fearless Fair Isle knitter, Anne substituted Black for the Dark Navy, Old Rose instead of Chestnut, Gentian instead of Admiral Navy, and Twilight instead of Old Gold. Only Maroon stayed the same. And it still looks great.

I discovered that I could avoid knitting all of those nasty homework swatches, by transferring out of those classes and instead taking the Triangular Trilogy class with Galina Khmeleva. We learned two different techniques for making traditional, triangular, Orenburg lace shawls. (I think time constraints prevented us from learning the third technique that would have competed the trilogy.) I fell in love with several of Galina's patterns, and a cone of laceweight cashmere will be coming home with me. Here's how far I got on the sample of the first triangle shawl constructon technique that we learned today:
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This involved knitting the first border (you see it at the bottom of the photo), then picking up and knitting the body of the shawl along with the second border. Eventually, the third border is knitted upwards as a strip from the second border, and attached across the top of the shawl via Russian grafting. Anne and I both have done a fair amount of lace knitting, but we both found this a day chock-full of new information. I would take another class from Galina in a heartbeat.

Galina herself was delightful and personable, and could tell a joke. I struggled to remember any of the Russian I learned in two quarters of undergraduate study, and managed a little "please and thank you" by the end of the afternoon.

Other knitting updates: I got quite comfortable and cozy knitting on the plane ride here, and accomplished many rounds on Sandness, putting it aside only when I had to because the next needed color wasn't in my carry-on. (All the colors came with me this trip -- I am not repeating the mistake I made on my vacation to Mexico, where this project got stalled for want of a color.)

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And now that I'm past the charted border on the Prince Caspian sweater, the remainder, that I'm doing all in broken rib, is an easy, mindless, carry-along knitting project:
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That's more like it!

Posted by Karen at 05:43 PM | Comments (3)