In the past I've blogged STITCHES South as individual posts for each day. But this year, I'm going to do it a little differently. I know a lot of people go for the market. Mostly, I go to STITCHES for the classes and the networking. The convention attracts truly talented knitters -- both teachers and students. It is so much fun just to watch what people are wearing.
This year I took four classes. On Thursday I took "Embed and Embellish: Felt, Stone, and Bead Jewelry" with Sharon Costello. I must admit that by the time the convention came around, I could not recall why I signed up for the class! It must have been the beautiful pictures in the brochure. I had not done wet felting before, so this was new to me. My friends Debra and Linda were also in the class. Most of the students were very familiar with wet felting, and they were eager to move along. We learned how to layer the fibers and how to encase rocks or pieces of smooth glass inside the felt. Most of the other participants made cuff bracelets with three stones. Because I was new at this technique, I made a pendant with just one stone. The white strands meandering across the surface of the felt are flax. Some students used strands of silk to produce that marbled effect. During class we completed the felting; I sewed on the small beads later at home. Sharon teaches a couple other classes including Go Felt a Fish and Farmyard Friends. Later in the weekend, Debra made a cute sheep and Linda made a colorful fish. Unlike knitting, felting has the advantage of being fairly immediate. And I have to admit, when I left class, I was almost tempted to go see if there were still open spaces in the Farmyard Friends class. I just don't know what I'd do with a bunch of felted animals. (Maybe I could learn to make felted monsters for Dungeons and Dragons games?)
Friday morning I took "Fiendishly Difficult Stitches" with Merike Saarniit. Scenter took the class two years ago, and I have to admit I don't know why it took me until the third STITCHES South to take it! It must have conflicted with something else. From the bottom up the patterns are Alsacian Scallop border, Estonian Embrace Cable, Estonian Butterfly on Open Ground, and Berry Kisses. The border is lovely, and it has an interesting Estonian wrapped nupp maneuver. The Embrace Cable involves letting loops hang loose, then manipulating them in a very interesting way many rows later. Similarly, the Butterfly and the Berries also use unusual maneuvers. These are stitches that are definitely easier to learn with someone to explain and demonstrate than to try to decipher from a book.
On Saturday morning I took yet another class with Merike Saarniit, "Spinning for Knitting." Judging by the feedback on Ravelry, there seems to be a lot of interest in this topic! If you are a new or inexperienced spinner, this class is definitely worth considering. Merike showed us how to spin using high-whorl spindles, and she brought spindles we could borrow during class. For the small materials fee, we also received a very wide range of sample fibers to try. For me, the best part was the instruction and practice of how to ply a perfectly balanced yarn. I believe a lot of us left wanting a second class as we continue to develop our spinning skills.
I finished out the weekend all-day Sunday with "Even More Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs." Gayle Roehm had been here two years ago, so this was a chance to follow up on what I learned then. Of all the classes I took during the weekend, this is the only one that wasn't packed full. I was glad to have friends Pam and Debra in the class. I also met Becky earlier in the weekend in Fiendishly Difficult Stitches, and she was here, too. So it was a nice intimate group of confident, skilled knitters. Gayle walked us through eight different stitch patterns. The Japanese use a standardized charting system. Some of the class covered reading the charts, but some of it involved very unusual elements in the charts -- loops pulled up from strange directions, wrapped stitches, patterns with different numbers of stitches on each row, patterning on both right and wrong-side rows, and the like. The beret is a circular motif which is, believe it or not, from a sweater pattern. I can't say a target is a flattering motif, even on a tiny Japanese lady, but I think it is fabulous on a hat. (By the way, this is the French market yarn from Uzes, France, courtesy of the Bard. Thank you, Ephram!) The complexity of Japanese stitch patterns is an indication of the high level of skill of Japanese knitters.
As always, an excellent weekend of expanding my personal knitting universe.