29 September 2009

A Weekend of Insouciant Knitting Nirvana

Cat Bordhi taught two workshops at The Whole Nine Yarns over the weekend. Of course, I and my undivided attention were there. For the non-knitters who read this blog (the knitters already know this) Cat's second book in her current sock series releases this week.This title has been on my wish list for more than a year. You'll recall from the Interlocking Leaves socks last spring that I really enjoyed foxglove architecture from New Pathways for Sock Knitters. I think I might still prefer that architecture over Personal Footprints, but both certainly have their merits.

In the Saturday workshop, we made a personal footprints discovery sock. This is basically what's in the book, but it was so very nice to have Cat on hand. Especially if you do not knit socks very often (raise my hand), it is nice to have someone who has knit many, many socks to help you with fit. I also suspect that only podiatrists have thought about or looked at as many different feet as Cat. As you'll see in the book, you make an accurate (no cheating!) cut-out of your foot. Then you knit a toe-up sock, marking lines on your cardboard cut-out as you work. The cut-out becomes a pattern. Some lines remind you when to increase. One line reminds you where to insert the lifelines for the leg insertion. And a line near the back reminds you where to begin your heel decreases. If you are someone who knits socks obsessively, you can use this method to produce a very easy, compact pattern that you can take with you.

My discovery sock, knit on a size 4mm Addi with Cascade 220 Heathers yarn.

What is really brilliant about these socks is the leg opening. If you read the previous paragraph carefully, you'll have wondered about the "lifelines for leg insertion." Huh? If you read Twist Collective, then you'll recall the Houdini Socks Cat submitted for the premiere issue in Fall 2008. The Houdini socks are a simplified version of the Personal Footprints architecture. Knit a tube with a toe and a heel. Then snip a stitch in the middle of where the leg opening should appear, unravel about half a row, and pick up around the opening to form the leg. This method produces an interesting intersection near the ankle that Cat calls the "star." Furthermore, Cat's method for picking up around the afterthought opening without getting weird holes at the corner works. Really. Try it. And if you decide to knit the jester tentacles bag from the Second Treasury of Magical Knitting, you now will know a better way of making the tentacles.

A few more observations:
It is very easy to carry patterns up the instep and then up the leg with these socks.

It is very easy to fold these socks for storage, as they fold into flat footprint shapes. Cat did warn us that socks of this architecture do not fit sock blockers well. They do fit feet well.

This type of sock architecture works well for ankle socks, those cute little socks that only cover your foot and do not, in fact, cover your ankles. When I was young, they often had a small pom pom on the back and were worn with tennis outfits. Even now, I think they are most often associated with sports wear. If you want to go legless with your socks, you could work just a round or two after the leg opening and bind off.

The toe beginning is interesting as well. In particular, the first round is worked with both the yarn and the tail so that you double your stitches easily. Keep this in mind for other projects, such as circular shawls. I've done increases this way before with two-color double knitting or Fair Isle (just work two stitches in the same stitch, one with each color of yarn), but I had never thought of using the tail yarn on the first round to double stitches. Duh!

And even if you have read this quarter's Knitty, you will want Cat's book so that you can have directions for Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off in your library. During Saturday's workshop I was sitting next to Ginny, who is our resident sock-yarn hoarder and sock knitter. Ginny whispered to me that she doesn't like toe-up socks because she can never find a bind off that is loose and stretchy enough and that looks nice both on and off the foot. I know Ginny is not the only person who has encountered this problem. And an hour or two later, Cat demonstrated this wonderful technique that perfectly meets the requirements. She also tells us that Jeny Staiman has a cast-on to match it. Cat went so far as to say that Jeny is at the same level of brilliance as Debbie New. So now I'm desperately coveting Jeny's first book, and I have no idea what it is and when it will be printed. I just know I want it now!

Oh, and Cat has already seen Lynne Barr's new Reversible Knitting book. Twist the knife, er knitting needle, why don't you? At least it comes out this week. (Pant, hyperventilate, pant.)

Sunday's workshop involved creativity and generating new ideas. In the first exercise, Connie and I worked together to design adorable Indian (as in Wild West) toddler pants that grow as the child grows. I hope Connie will knit them, as it was mostly her design and a very good one at that. Jan Stephens also came up with enough ideas for a book, but then promptly said she wasn't going to write it! In another exercise, Ginny and Heather invented not just people but entire family trees. I am so sorry nobody taped this. Heather, if you need money to put your twins through school, we can lock you and Ginny somewhere so you two can write Edward Gorey-style books. Hilarious!

In yet another exercise, we generated ideas by thinking about what we do every day. Some of mine:
clean cat box => knit a wire scoop
microwave food => knit a food-safe doily splatter cover
make face @ stupid computer "Denethor" => knit a brick

This generated more conversation. Another participant makes coffee every morning. She composts her coffee grounds, but she was thinking it would be nice to have reusable knitted coffee filters. So the next thing you know, we are having a group discussion about which yarns would be food safe and at what temperatures. Dare I contact a yarn company and ask why this important information is not standard on all yarn labels?

I also felt that the knitted brick might not be quite the right item to throw at Denethor the PC. In this group discussion, a knitted grenade was mentioned as a possibility. I think that would certainly be a fun knit, as it would give you a chance to play with strong texture contrasts of knits and purls. I'm just hoping Homeland Security wouldn't come knocking after viewing your Ravelry project page. I think I then suggested knitting a Mac, but then Jenna came up with the perfect solution: Intimidate a PC by knitting a Mac doll based on the "I'm a Mac and I'm a PC" commercials. Jenna, you are a genius!

I've had a class with Cat before, so I already knew she was a wonderful teacher. But let me just remind everybody again -- this is someone who used to teach elementary and middle school children and it shows in that she is a very good teacher. Do not fail to treat yourself to at least one workshop with her even if, like me, you are not a sock knitter.

1 comment:

SonDoras Miles said...

I can not wait to try this method. I recently purchased the book, but haven't had a chance to try it out. Readng your post on your blog realy helps me to put a rush on. Thanks for sharing your experience. I wish Cat would come to DC.