30 October 2013

Pieces of Knitting History

I wasn't sure if I should blog about this or not, but considering how little traffic it seems to be generating, somebody needs to say something.

Schoolhouse Press has organized a series of three auctions of garments handknit by Barbara G. Walker. The first auction is already open. It ends Saturday night 2 November at midnight. The second and third auctions will follow in sequence, ending on Tuesday 12 November and Saturday 23 November respectively. Look books can be downloaded at this link.

Right now, I don't know whether to be excited or disappointed. There's a sweater I might bid on, because it is currently listed at under $100, and to me that seems a crime against knitting. As someone on the temporary board for the Center for Knit and Crochet, I hope all the pieces end up in the homes of knitters who will adore and treasure these items for decades to come.

05 October 2013

What I Learned at TKGA, Day 4

I left Saturday morning unscheduled for sleeping and catching-up. While I like taking classes, I’ve been learning it is helpful to have at least a little rest built into your show schedule. I did hang out for awhile in the knit and crochet lounge. There was a crocheter working on finishing a cookie afghan! This was a motif afghan in which the round motifs were identifiable representations of different types of cookies. It was adorable, although I think it could be dangerous to have such an afghan in the house, unless you are very good at not purchasing sweets.
Contents page from Stories in Stitches No. 1.
Because of my connection to the Center for Knit and Crochet, at lunchtime Jan introduced me to Ava Coleman. Ava and her business partner Donna Druchunas have started a venture called Stories in Stitches. This is a wonderful journal that tells the stories behind the knitting. Some of the stories are anecdotes, but some are scholarly research about the role knitting has played. The first issue features counterpanes. The second issue looks to feature some pioneer lace. Ava very kindly gifted me a print version of the first issue. You can be sure I intend to keep acquiring issues as they appear, although I will need to decide if I want electronic copies, paper copies, or both.
Celtic Cables swatches
The final class I took was on Saturday afternoon. I chose Melissa Leapman's class on Celtic cables. Again, I already have her books and have even done a few closed-loop cables. But I know cables are required on Level 2 of Master Knitter. I had never taken a cable class, and I figure Melissa wrote the book! She had us knit two swatches in class and a third swatch for practice afterwards. One of the things I really enjoyed about the class was her discussion about how to design closed-loop cables of your own. Melissa does live in New York and has some of that air about her, as well as boundless creative energy. There's almost an electric zap as she discusses design. She also showed us an advance copy of her upcoming book The Knit Stitch Pattern Handbook.  She has come up with several fabulous stitch patterns, including a butterfly that sits in high relief off the fabric and an all-over texture pattern of grapes and vines. Even with all the stitch dictionaries I already have, I think this one may need to find its way on to my bookshelf.

Saturday night was the TKGA Banquet and Fashion Show. I put my Valentine Gansey in the fashion show, as well as my recent scribble lace shawl. I also volunteered to model, if needed. In the end I got to wear Lily Chin's "Chevron Stripes" from the cover of Knitter's Magazine, issue 110. I also modeled a 100-year-old antique traditional Swedish jacket with twined knit sleeves that belongs to Beth Brown-Reinsel. Awesome! The TKGA Fashion Show overall was definitely a parade of extremely-skilled knitting. I may live in Atlanta, but Arenda Holladay's work makes me want to knit a Fair Isle sweater, even if I can use it only two months of the year.
Jan Stephens receives lifetime membership from Penny Sitler
The best parts of the evening were the awards. Several people who had completed Level 3 of Master Knitter were pinned. And Jan Stephens was made a lifetime member of TKGA in recognition of the work she has done to promote knitting. I was a little way back from the stage and didn't get great pictures, but I think you can tell from the photograph that Penny Sitler, TKGA Executive Director, was getting just a touch teary-eyed.
Everyone at the banquet also received two skeins of Cascade Fixation sock yarn and a sleep shirt from Annie's as favors. I don't necessarily agree with the consumerist sentiment, but I know lots of knitters who do. There were also many door prizes over the weekend, although I didn't win any.  Considering the size of the my stash relative to the size of my house, that's just as well. Thank you to all the kind sponsors who donated to the party!

On Saturday, Jan and I drove home. I’m so glad she encouraged me to attend the conference. I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend; and I came home re-inspired to put some focus back on Master Knitter.

04 October 2013

What I Learned at TKGA, Day 3

On Friday I took an all-day class with one of the sweetest, kindest knitting teachers you'll ever meet, Beth Brown-Reinsel. I had taken classes with Beth several years ago when she came to teach for Atlanta Knitting Guild. This time I decided to learn twined knitting. This is a Swedish technique that dates back to at least 1680. How do we know this? Because a twined knit glove was found under a slag heap. I do not know which is more astonishing -- that a glove survived 300 years under a slag heap, or that the Swedes keep such good records of their garbage! Books on the subject by both Anne-Maj Ling and Laura Farson have been on my shelf for some time. I figured taking the class would get me to spend a little time actually doing the technique rather than just reading about it. And Beth is the sort of teacher who has worked out subtle details in how she teaches. For example, her handout is stapled together except for the stitch chart, which is separate because you will need to knit from it during class. While twined knitting is not a fast way to knit, it is interesting and satisfying. Beth also showed us some inspiring photographs of work that Anne-Maj Ling has made. The two-color method is especially striking, as it produces pinstripes. If you shape the knitting with increases or decreases, then the pinstripe patterns move around in delightful ways.

I should also mention that Beth has a Kickstarter campaign running until Tuesday 22 October. I did not realize, but she has already produced one knitting video and the Kickstarter funding is for post-production on a second video. I haven’t seen either, but based on the quality of her classes and her essential book Knitting Ganseys, I have no doubt the videos will be first-rate.

Friday evening was the TKGA Fun Night. Patty Lyons gave a hilarious multimedia presentation on gauge. Patty did more than just talk about the importance of gauge and how to use it. She showed sad examples of gauge gone wrong. Mostly these were sweaters that were far too big to fit their intended recipients. The saddest example was probably a beautiful Fair Isle sweater. It was clearly a labor of both love and great knitting skill, but it just didn't fit. Heartbreaking! Most of the examples were less sad, and it was a case of all of us laughing in recognition. Maybe we’ve recognized the work of the gremlins early enough to have ripped out the project before getting to the end, but we’ve all been there with a project that went off on its own adventure without properly consulting its knitter first. And so many of us have just kept knitting along, disbelieving that our knitting could betray us.

03 October 2013

What I Learned at TKGA, Day 2

I took quite a few classes during the weekend. I started out on Thursday morning with Joan Davis' "Measuring Magic with Ease." I didn't know anything about Joan, but quickly discovered she is an energetic teacher. Her class handout is about the size of a softcover book! And Joan even gave us bags and yarn. Thank you to Patons for the yarn donation! Lace Sequins is a pretty yarn with a little fuzz and a little bling.
Swag from Joan Davis' class.
Joan's class covered measuring your body and knitting to fit, but she also covered a lot of material about what will and will not look good on various body types. If we are going to knit or crochet a garment, we should be nice to ourselves and make something in a color and cut that is flattering, and we should adjust it appropriately to fit our figures. No matter what your figure is, you will look better in clothes that fit you properly.

In the afternoon I took Galina Khmeleva's class on "Russian Grafting with a Twist." What a great technique! And who better to learn something Russian from than Galina herself? She also covered some basics of Russian knitting. It was like learning knitting at the knees of a Russian grandmother. While I love modern knitting innovations, it is very grounding sometimes to go back to basics and look closely at traditions. The ways of the Old Country usually persist for a reason. And I was delighted when Galina explained that Russian grafting was originally used as a way to join strips of weaving to make fabric wider than the loom. Remember, my weaving loom is only 24-inches (60cm) wide. So this is a cross-genre technique. Glee!

02 October 2013

What I Learned at TKGA, Day 1

I spent the first week of October at the TKGA Fall Show in Concord, North Carolina, just north of Charlotte. It is always fun to attend a show, and this one was no exception.

First off, my roommate for the extended weekend was Jan Stephens. Jan has been involved with TKGA for years -- designing, writing articles, and running the course for certified knitting judges -- but has recently retired. I must say that attending with Jan was great fun. Jan knows nearly everybody, and if she doesn't know someone, she quickly introduces herself. Plus, Jan's just a generally pleasant person to be around. She is also a wonderful mentor, as she knows when to poke me. I probably should have made a “minion hat” for the weekend, as I was grateful to be Jan’s minion. And on the drive up, Jan introduced me to the joys of Cracker Barrel’s Double-Chocolate Coco-Cola Cake. Yum!
Size 10 cotton yarn donated by Universal Yarns
It was Jan who poked me about attending the On Your Way to the Masters Day. This was an all-day seminar with members of the Master Hand Knitting Committee. They helpfully pointed out common pitfalls and how to avoid them. I found the swatch reviews especially helpful. Sometimes when you are working on Master Knitter, it is hard to evaluate your own work. Watching committee members evaluate a swatch helps me to look at my own work through their eyes. Also, talking to other people who have completed levels 2 and 3 is motivating for me. Thank you to Universal Yarns for donating yarn for the day. I had forgotten how many pretty yarns they make, until I saw the box filled with a nice assortment. And a special big thank you to all the members of the Master Hand Knitting Committee, as they were obviously pretty tired by the end of the day!

In addition to classes (posts to follow), there were other distractions. There was a market, of course. My favorite part of the market was the Crochet Design Challenge. Wow! Some of the things crocheters are producing right now are amazing. There was voting for audience favorite, but it was very hard to choose. Some examples: very fine gauge doilies, fine gauge motif dress, complex afghans, wire necklaces, a miniature diorama, and a lamppost and Mr. Tumnus costume for a child who was a fan of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I was sorry the knitters didn't have a great display like that, but delighted the crocheters put their talents so prominently on display.