22 April 2010

Day 1 of STITCHES South 2010

First, thank you to everyone who makes STITCHES South happen. That includes XRX, who throws the party; but also the sponsors who give us all the fabulous prizes; the vendors who bring lots of gorgeous wares to dispose of our tax refunds and support the economic recovery; and the teachers who leave our minds swimming with new ideas and techniques. Once again, STITCHES was the best weekend of the year. Here's the story of my weekend.

Once again, I started off with the Opening Day presentation. I had to leave early for the teachers' lunch, so I missed Jane Slicer-Smith's part of the presentation. But I did hear Leslye Solomon. Leslye showed scientific evidence of why you have to wash and block your gauge swatch. She knit identical swatches, washed one but not the other, and then compared them. Oh my gosh! A knitter's horror show for sure! No wonder we think our swatches lie.

Because I knew I would be doing the Teacher's à la carte lunch, I made it a point to wear the recently completed Cropped Linen Stitch Jacket. It is very much in style right now, and the origami construction is my own invention, although I'm sure someone out there has done it before. It is also fun asking people which side they like best, as linen stitch is reversible but not identical. I had a blast. I got to meet lots of new people, including Team Ravelry and Clicks and Sticks, a knitting guild over in Gwinnett County.

For the afternoon, I took Jean Frost's "Chasing the Hounds, Tooth that Is" class. I took this mostly because I don't know how soon Jean will be retiring. Her jackets are classic and fabulous. In this class, she showed us thirteen different hounds tooth patterns -- more than we could try out in three hours. My swatch with four different patterns is at left. Some involved stranded knitting, some involved slipped stitch knitting using only one color at a time, and some involved very interesting passing stitches over other stitches maneuvers. I was very lucky in that Betty Salpekar was in my class and sat next to me. Betty and I both like to be exposed to new stitch patterns, but we also enjoy trying them different ways.

I got a quick lesson from Betty. While we were knitting a Fair Isle/stranded hounds tooth pattern, there was some discussion about holding the yarn. I usually hold one strand in each hand, but my tension is not perfectly the same. Depending on the yarn, that might or might not block out. I know Meg Swansen knits stranded with both yarns in her left hand. I asked if anyone had worked out how to hold both strands in the right hand. It turns out that's how Betty does it, and she was kind enough to show me. The trick was in how she tensioned the yarn over her ring finger. I usually tension by wrapping yarn around my pinkie. This led to a discussion with Jean about different methods of holding yarn and the various geographic regions associated with each. It was a fascinating discussion.

Jean also was kind enough to show off three of her own hounds tooth jackets. She even passed them around the room. Marian Rose was seated on the far side of the room from me, and she was ooooing and aaaahing over a red and grey jacket. By the time it got around to me, I could see that every cooing sound had been more than justified. It was wonderful to look carefully at a master knitter's work to see what she did. Jean seams her jackets together using a crochet chain, so she does have a small one-stitch selvage in her seams. She also edges her jackets with a single crochet edge. All three of the jackets she shared with us were worked in a fine gauge yarn, so the crochet edging was not wide. It is just a quiet detail that gives the jacket structure and refinement without the viewer being conscious of why or how.

The evening consisted of shopping in the market. My birthday falls about a month before STITCHES South, so I'd kept the money gifts aside for the occasion. Somehow I missed that the Think Outside the Sox book signing was going on. Duh! I will have to catch locals Charles Gandy and Amy Rutter some other time. I did pick up a copy of the book at Only Ewe and Cotton Too, because it is always nice to support Elyse and Bill. I spent a lot of time searching but still didn't find a red ribbon yarn that suits my needs. But I did find something that might work for the Carolyn Jacket. After much indecisiveness and an inability to recall which booth had lace weight Zauberballs, I bought hand-dyed yarn from Knitting Notions. I'm also a serious knitting book junkie. Big thanks to Yarn Barn of Kansas for bringing Lucy Neatby dvds and a great book selection. I was able to acquire Maria Erlbacher's Twisted-Stitch Knitting, which is a 2009 reprinting and compilation of three smaller booklets. Also many thanks to Handweavers Guild of America who had some rare books, including Daina Taimina's Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes and Bobbie Irwin's The Spinner's Companion. These wish list items are now securely in my library where they belong.

The evening was capped off with a big Ravelry party. A huge thank-you to Team Ravelry for sharing the weekend with us. Also a big thanks to all the sponsors. The mug with yarn samples is from Eat Sleep Knit. I haven't been over there yet, but they are in fact the closest yarn shop to my house. The coupon inside the mug included directions for how to find them, so I will need to check them out. There were goodies from other sponsors, too, including some very nice door prizes. On the downside, some of the goodies were coupons for places where I had just shopped in the market. I guess procrastination does pay off.

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