26 April 2012

STITCHES South 2012 Fun

Insouciant people with pointy sticks. What's not to like?
Debbie Radtke & her famous hedgehog.
Besides the Market and the classes, there are plenty of other activities at STITCHES South. Part of the fun is the chance to bump into famous knitters, such as Nicky Epstein or Debbie Radtke. There is lots of opportunities for networking and discovering the latest new and awesome products coming to a yarn store near you. I especially enjoyed the Friday night Pajama Party, which is held after the Fashion Show and Banquet. This is a great chance to hang out with other knitters, and you never know who will be there. One of the great moments this year was Benjamin Levisay standing up to an over-zealous security guard who felt that the party was too noisy. I'm not sure the guard was savvy. After all, he wanted 200 knitters (mostly women) with pointy sticks to be quiet. Perhaps he is not yet married and, therefore, did not have the worldly experience necessary to accurately assess the situation?

Jazz Turtle -- core spinning genius!

Since I don't have a knitting BFF, I tend to drift amongst the crowd. I met Esther from Jazz Turtle Creations, mostly because she was spinning during the Pajama Party. Jazz Turtle's contribution to the Fashion Show -- the Au Natural Circle Shrug made from handspun art yarns -- caused an audible gasp in the crowd when the model stepped onto the stage. She truly looked as if she had emerged from the pages of the latest top fashion magazine. I am finding more and more than I really love my wheel. Both spinning and knitting are relaxing, but in different ways. Esther was making a core-spun yarn and it was a delight to watch her fingers making fiber magic.

During the Pajama Party mingling I also met Tracey and Kim from new STITCHES South sponsor Interlacements Yarns. Did you see their gorgeous contributions to the Extreme Stash wall?
Interlacements contribution to Extreme Stash. Pretty!

Donna & Susan with a dapper Buck!
As in previous years, the local guilds had booths in the Market. That's another great place for hanging out and meeting people. And, of course, it is always great to watch people walk around with fabulous knitting on their backs. You can't help but leave the show with lots of ideas about what to knit next. Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance brought the Buck. Is he great or what? His vest is hand knitted. His antler covers are the leftovers from swatching the vest. His pants are a handsome handwoven herringbone. And that shirt that matches so perfectly? One of the SEFAA volunteers hand-painted a plain shirt. And I love the tuft of chest hair!

As current president, I must say I'm very proud of North Georgia Knitting Guild. All the volunteers have been incredibly helpful and responsible. Everyone pitches in! Our booth had lots and lots of beautiful knitwear of all types. Barbara helped show off the afghan on Saturday night at the Student Banquet. Betsy Hershberg kindly drew the winning name in our afghan raffle on Sunday. And during the show, many people admired the lovely group handiwork.
NGKG Booth with raffle afghan at lower left.
Atlanta Knitting Guild had some moments in the sun, too. For one thing, the framed Georgia Knit and Crochet Day Proclamation was on display in their booth. But AKG really shone at the Student Fashion Show, taking the top prize and two of the four runners-up. Just because you live in a warm climate doesn't mean you can't produce great knitting.
Student Fashion Show winners.

Cee Cee upstages!
Also at the Student Banquet was Cee Cee from Elephants Remember Joplin, who is doing charity work by making knitted elephants. Cee Cee came dressed to impress at the student banquet, wearing a fabulous fascinator that would make even British royalty jealous and carrying a matching bouquet of elephants!

STITCHES South is always a great weekend and a wonderful time with knitter friends new, old, and yet to be discovered!

25 April 2012

STITCHES 2012 Classes

One of my favorite things about STITCHES is the opportunity to take classes. This year I took three.

On Thursday afternoon I took Shannon Okey's "Get Published" class. Shannon is the genius behind Cooperative Press, who have published such great books as Alasdair Post-Quinn's Extreme Double Knitting. Shannon is definitely an extrovert. She gave a thorough handout and explained the pros and cons and options of self-publishing. Very helpful!

On Saturday I took Susanna Hansson's "Bohus Stickning" class. Thank you to Pam who advised me to take this class. This is an all-day class and possibly the one for which Susanna is best known. She has an extensive personal collection of garments produced by the Bohus Stickning (1939-1969). This class was a great opportunity to learn not just the techniques but also the social history. If you have any interest in economic history or women's studies, this class is very much worth your time. The class fee of $25 is for the Blue Shimmer cuffs kit. The yarn, from Sweden, is 50% merino and 50% angora. To say this yarn is soft is an understatement. The cuffs are worked on small needles, so this is an opportunity to practice your delicate knitting. I haven't been a huge fan of Bohus-style garments, but I came out of the class with a much greater appreciation. For one thing, Susanna explained the ways in which Bohus-style knitting is not Fair Isle knitting. Bohus garments use purl stitches as well as knit stitches, and those other-colored purl bumps that we spend so much time avoiding in other knitting situations are important aesthetic components. The patterns often use several subtle and related colors in order to create elegant color effects. When you see the samples in person, you understand how, like any great work of art, these garments are so much better in person than they are in photographs.
Bohus Blue Eskimo set from the collection of Susanna Hansson
On Sunday afternoon I took Edie Eckman's "Join Together: Six Join-As-You Go Crochet Methods." Edie teaches both knitting and crochet. She has written several books, including a wonderful crochet edging stitch dictionary in which all the patterns show you not just how to knit the edging but how to turn a corner in pattern. Edie has another book coming out in the autumn, and this class is based on that book. For those of you who enjoy making motifs but not so much the joining together, this class is essential. This is smart, clever crochet.

24 April 2012

STITCHES South 2012

I'm hard-pressed to decide which is the more delightful weekend of the year -- STITCHES South or Dragon*con?

This year STITCHES South was as wonderful as ever. I started off with the Opening Day Presentation. There were lots of interesting ideas from Laura Bryant, Anna Zilboorg, and Rick Mondragon. But I think my favorite was Myra Woods' very interesting butterfly-sleeve sweater worked both in crochet and knitting. It will be in the summer issue of Knitter's magazine, I believe. As you all know, I don't knit other people's patterns very often, but this one looks intriguing enough. Myra and I share a strong interest in shaping, and the sleeves in her design are very interesting.

While I try to limit my shopping, I did find some great things in the Market.
As usual, not a lot of yarn. My stash is already pretty good, plus I have spinning stash. (And remember, I have three alpaca fleeces in the spinning stash.) I was very happy to see Karen Poulakos Fiberarts Studio, as they were amongst the few vendors with spinning stuff. (Carolina Handspun was unable to attend.)  I was able to get one more bobbin for my Rose, and it came in handy the following weekend when I took a 2-day workshop with Jacey Boggs. Karen had the "How to Card Wool" video that was on my wish list, as well as "A Spinner's Toolbox." I bought the "Spinning Gossamer Threads" video elsewhere in the market, and was able to have Galina Khmeleva herself sign it. Glee!

While some of the shops here in town carry the Kollage square needles that I love, they don't always have them in stock. I was very happy to get the last needle I needed to finish out my set -- I have the full run of needle sizes in the 40" length firm cable. The tiny Addi dpns (sizes 1.75mm and 1.5mm) were purchased just in case for the Bohus Stickning class. I did end up using the 1.75mm. I also bought the Addi needle gauge because it goes way down to the small sizes. By the way, does anybody know what that strange slot/clip on the back of the gauge is for?

The yarn is another skein of Claudia Hand Painted Linen that may end up in the unfinished competition shawl from last summer. Plus, I met Claudia herself, which was awesome! She recognized the Dahlia Shawlette I was wearing from her competition last summer. I am still swatching for the second shawl. I am getting closer. The completed shawl will be a heartbreaking work of staggering genius, I promise.

And speaking of that unfinished shawl, the middle pattern booklet from Kristin Omdahl features a feather and fan pattern that may give me some insights into my shawl. On the far left is the older Jean Frost jacket book that had somehow never entered my library. An oversight, I assure you. The new blue one isn't in the picture because I already had it and, yes, I did get it autographed. And speaking of autographs, the book on the right is an autographed copy of Charles Gandy's The Embellished Sock: Knitted Art for the Foot. Even if you aren't planning on knitting embellished socks, Charles' wonderful sense of visual wit is infectious and can be used on other projects, such as bags and hats.

And at the bottom right is the pièce de résistance -- Ultimate Exotic Luxury Sampler from Wild Orchid Fibers. The stuff is so beautiful -- guanaco, qiviut, cashmere, silk, yak, baby camel, and suri baby alpaca -- it makes me want to put away the knitting entirely and just spin. Some of my spinning friends also bought the sampler kit, so we'll have to each spin it up and see what projects we can make. This is one vendor I would be very happy to see again in next year's Market.

11 April 2012

Photo with the Governor

Benjamin Levisay, CEO of XRX, Inc.; Whit Robbins, founder and chair emerita, Atlanta Knitting Guild; Governor Nathan Deal (R); Marian Rose, president, Atlanta Knitting Guild; Jolie Elder, president, North Georgia Knitting Guild
photo credit Alana Joyner, Governor's Photographer
What can I say? This has been an amazing and unexpected experience. There is also something wonderful about how things come back around -- that I was president of Atlanta Knitting Guild during the first STITCHES South and now I'm president of North Georgia Knitting Guild this particular year. So many thanks go out to Benjamin Levisay and Marian Rose, who really have done the bulk of the work on this. It was a delight to have guild founder Whit Robbins along. I'm only sorry Jenny Lee, who founded North Georgia Knitting Guild, doesn't live in the area anymore; because it would be wonderful and appropriate for her to have been included.

It was not an easy thing to decide what to wear today. One of my own published designs? An unpublished design? Somebody else's design that I've made? I decided on the Sunshine and Shade Scheherazade because I like it. I like the yarn (Nashua Geologie), the style of the ruana, and the whole outfit. And if enough people pester me about it, maybe I'll get the pattern written into a publishable form. (I've taught it three times as a class, so I already have something on paper.)

And if you ever meet someone important, I might recommend role playing it and practicing first. It is amazing how tongue-tied you can become -- forgetting to say "Hello" or "Thank you" and tripping over your own name. For me, the effect was almost like seeing a familiar painting for the first time in a museum. Your eyes see something that you've seen before so many times you can't quite believe you see it. And Governor Deal has Southern gentleman's charisma. You can perceive at once why he would be successful in politics.

There's been plenty else afoot this week as well. Marian and I appeared on a special edition of Marly Bird's Yarn Thing Podcast on Monday. You can listen here.

And don't forget the rally on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol on Saturday 14 April from 11 AM to 2 PM! The weather promises to be fantastic.  I'll be there and I hope to see ya all, too!

08 April 2012

Tetra Tutorials, Part 3

This final video shows you how to Kitchener graft garter stitch. Most people learn Kitchener stitch just enough to graft sock toes closed in stockinette. Garter stitch is trickier, because one side of the graft is knit and the other side is purl. I like to think this video will make it easier for you to seam your Tetra beautifully with a graft.

You might also be able to seam your Tetra instead with a combination of mattress stitch and garter stitch seam, similar to what you might do on a Baby Surprise Jacket. Whatever you decide to do, try to avoid a seam that would be thick or that would take fabric into a seam allowance. The fun of a Tetra is that you can fold it into lots of other shapes. I suspect it will fold less easily and be less comfortable to sit upon if you have thick seams in your blanket.

07 April 2012

Tetra Tutorials, Part 2

This second video also deals with the selvedge. Changing colors every other row (i.e. every right-side row) is a common knitting technique. Not only can you make stripes without breaking the yarn and weaving in lots of ends, but you can also blend two similar colorways of different dye lots when you are using hand painted yarns. Since there are two strands, you have a choice of which way to move your yarns when you change color. In this video, I show you both options. Choose what you like best.

Tomorrow: How to graft garter stitch.

06 April 2012

Tetra Tutorials, Part 1

The Tetra Stadium Blanket isn't a terribly difficult knit. After all, most of it is garter stitch. This means you can knit on it throughout the sport season, and have your blanket finished and ready for the post season. While you can make it in more than two colors, the two color style is perfect for incorporating the colors of your team. This is a good gift knit, provided you have the time and don't mind the yarn commitment. You can give it to a man who starts each day with ESPN, or you can make it in baby colors and give it to new parents.

This first video is how to work what Fleegle has called a vertical lifeline. Basically, you trap a piece of waste yarn, or a circular needle, or a cable from an interchangeable needle in your yarn as you turn to knit back.

Tomorrow: How to change colors every other row (i.e. every right-side row).

05 April 2012


The genesis of design ideas can be a strange thing. While the final success is the published blanket at right, the path to completion was not quick.

The initial idea dates back to the summer of 2009, when I was trying to come up with an original pattern for Christmas in July at The Whole Nine Yarns. This was shortly after the inaugural STITCHES South, which had featured Elise Duvekot, but also shortly after Sophia died and while Scenter was in the cardiac ICU. It also wasn't long after my stint as Atlanta Knitting Guild president, so I was getting back into the swing of working on my own ideas instead of guiding the guild. I still had thoughts of knit one below patterns in my head after STITCHES. I liked how the column pattern made vertical stripes by knitting back and forth. I started to think about making a scarf that would alternate horizontal and vertical stripes in blocks.

The idea for Tetra came, in fact, in the cardiac ICU. I don't recall now which visit it was. Scenter was maybe or maybe not aware of me. But I got in the habit of bringing knitting with me. On this visit I had the scarf with me -- a square section of garter stitch and a square section of column pattern. And I held it up to show it to Scenter. And then I thought about folding it. Of course! If I folded it this way, and then that, and then . . . . It sounds strange to say that somebody who was unable to speak should get partial credit on the design, but at that moment, Scenter was my muse.

Tetra Prototype
There's more to this ordinary-looking shape than meets the eye. And dang it, I'm sure Scenter would have known if topologists have assigned a special name for this form. Googling "four squares" doesn't really help.

So that was the prototype, a 1 x 4 scarf that was folded and seamed. It was about the size of a potholder. In fact, I still use it to cushion the head of my Majacraft Rose against the treadle when the spinning wheel is folded for transport.

The next Tetra was much larger and simpler, since I eliminated the knit one below stitches in favor of 100% garter stitch. This was also the summer we visited Wisconsin, so Lambeau Field and the Green Bay Packers were still on my mind. I knit a stadium blanket. Since it is an item that would get hard usage, I used eight skeins of Red Heart Classic Super Saver.

That's Vincent, helping to model and provide scale. In the picture, the blanket has been folded by bringing all the corners into the center. It works because the blanket is square. As with so many things, after the blanket was completed, I got wrapped up in other things. I really do have too many irons in the fire very often. But knitting it was useful, as I had proof of concept and had some ideas about what would need to be explained to help people knit it.

Then in January of 2011, Karin Skacel sent a gift a yarn to Atlanta Knitting Guild with a challenge to create patterns using her new yarn, Simplicity by HiKoo. Let me just say out of the gate that this is a wonderful, soft, easy-care, budget-friendly alternative to squeaky 100% acrylic. Knitting the green and yellow blanket was, at times, the Garter Stitch Death March of Knitting. Friends at Knit Night wondered how many miles of hard acrylic can anyone really take? On the other hand, Simplicity was very easy on my hands and a pleasure to work. And it has a lot of the easy-care and hard-wearing qualities of 100% acrylic, without reminding you at every stitch that you are knitting with plastic.

So I sent in my ideas -- including the picture above of Vincent modeling the blanket  and a mini Tetra -- and my design got accepted. Hurray! My first steps into being published!

And then the box of yarn arrived.

I actually had two patterns accepted -- the Tetra blanket and the Serpentine Short-Round Scarf. The scarf takes about six skeins. We decided I should work the blanket with sixteen skeins. I went from, "Hurray! Yarn! I'm going to be published!" to "Oh my gosh, what have I gotten myself into?" All of a sudden, I realized I had to do a lot of knitting, and quickly. I searched around for "speed knitting" and "Irish Cottage knitting" and "English Lever knitting." I think what I ended up doing was a variant of Irish Cottage-style. The blanket has 80,000 stitches. I got to where I could crank out 10,000 stitches -- 2 skeins -- in a 7-9 hour work day. Both the scarf and blanket were done in time to show at STITCHES South.

And you may be wondering, why would you want to make this object? Watch the video and see:

Special thank you to Karin Skacel herself for working the camera on the video!

Remember, it is easy to adapt the pattern to whatever size Tetra you want using however much yarn you personally feel like incorporating. You can make a small one that doubles as a potholder or hat. You can make a large one that is nearly a hammock when you fold it into a triangle. And there are some interesting ways you can play with it if you leave a seam open, but I'll leave that to ya'all to explore on your own.

I've also included some extra ideas at the end of the published pattern that will show you how to make Tetras in patterns other than the garter block pinwheel. Some of these other approaches could make good scrap projects. If you make a Tetra, please post a link in the comments below. I'd love to see what other people do with this idea!

Upcoming: Video tutorials to help with your Tetra.

04 April 2012

Governor's Proclamation

Benjamin Levisay, CEO of XRX, Inc, has already done a fabulous job getting this information out to knitters all across our country. Governor Nathan Deal will be issuing an executive proclamation recognizing the knitters and crocheters of Georgia. As part of that proclamation, he will be naming Saturday April 14, 2012 as statewide knitting and crochet day. There will be a rally on the Capitol steps that day from 11 AM until 2 PM.

As current president of North Georgia Knitting Guild and a past president of Atlanta Knitting Guild, I am overjoyed to see the knitters and crocheters of our community being recognized in this way. We know historically that knitters have contributed to their communities in times of need. Very often, knitters have been asked to make garments for soldiers at war. In the past it has been socks, but in our century it has been helmet liners. We make stoma covers, chemo caps, and preemie baby clothes that are distributed in our hospitals. We make scarves to celebrate Special Olympians or children graduating from foster care. We make blanket squares for Warm Up America. We make trauma bears to comfort children in dire circumstances.

I cannot begin to express how pleased and proud I am to be part of this amazing community!

I'll be looking forward to seeing everyone a week from Saturday in the shadow of the gold dome.