Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Madrona 2010: Lever Knitting & Komi Patterns

February 16, 2010

After Janine's class, I had a "day off" from Madrona, which really means a regular day at work. A regular day after being gone part of the day Tues / Wed for the Wilco shows, and Thursday for Madrona. In other words, a really, really busy day, capped by an evening of annoyance at NBC for tape-delaying the Olympics' opening ceremony.

Day 2: Speed Knitting with Stephanie Pearl McPhee

Fortunately, my next class wasn't until Saturday afternoon--Stephanie Pearl McPhee's Knitting for Speed and Efficiency. The top two photos show my desk area (including long, scary needles), and my finished swatch. The technique that she taught is called "lever knitting", where one needle is kept stationary. I could not believe how tight (and pretty uniform) my knitting was, using the recommended tensioning of yarn through several fingers--I'd sort of expected that this new technique would result in some sloppy stitches. It took some time to get the hang of it, but even after a just a few hours, I can see that some benefits--having better tension control, for starters. I just need to practice a lot more. A LOT more. Stephanie recommeded starting a new Lever-only project, and working on it steadily for about 30 days with long-ass needles. She showed us breifly how to adapt to other needles, but said (and this totally makes sense) that it's best to get comfortable with the technique as taught before going all freestyle. Note that I'm almost certainly not quoting here here, but that's the gist of it. I will probably wait until after the Olympics (or after I finish my two major Ravelympics projects), and the project will probably be a seed stitch or ribbed scarf. Equal knitting and purling, and lots of switching between = good practice!

Day 3: The Magic of Komi Knitting with Charlene Schurch

On Sunday, I was in Charlene Schurch's Komi knitting patterns class. The bottom row of photos above show my morning swatch, and my afternoon hat. This class was really cool, and it reminded me a lot of a lecture I went to at Sock Summit about Turkish knitting designs. I did not take good notes in either class (too busy swatching!), but I think that Charlene said that the Komi people are in the same language group as Turkish people, and Hungarians. The Komi Republic is in the far north of Russia, and if you're interested there's some possibly correct info available on Wikipedia. While the patterns of the Komi region were the jumping off point of the class, the emphasis was not so much on the exact way that these patterns were used by knitters in the region, or what cast-on a traditional Komi knitter might prefer, or what thumb is most historically accurate. The focus was more on the patterns themselves, and how they use simple, memorable stitch repeats to form very complicated looking items. I highly recommend Charlene's book Mostly Mittens, which uses the Komi patterns in gorgeous mittens--the samples she brought along were soooooooo beautiful!

In my swatch, I tried out several patterns with a few different colors, and decided to knit my Komi Hat with red, black, and a dull-ish light green. The hat pattern is sized for a child, but I think that at my gauge, it's probably going to fit a small adult head (or large child). I like the color combination, but wouldn't choose it if this was a hat for me, but once it's finished I'm sure I will find someone who can use it. In any case, this is my only new Ravelympics project--it's good motivation, since I have a poor track record of finishing class projects. But more about the Ravelympics will have to wait for another post, I think . . .

Monday, February 15, 2010

Madrona 2010: The Fair Isle Day

Madrona, Day 1

I packed so many good times into last week that I have a feeling that I'm going to be paying for it all this week. First there were two Wilco shows (Portland on Tuesday and then Seattle on Wednesday), and then the Madrona Winter Retreat ran from Thursday - Sunday. My Madrona schedule was a little less jam-packed than last year, which was a good strategy given my sleep-deprived state. I skipped all of the evening events, but had full day classes on Thursday & Sunday and a half day class on Saturday afternoon. It was good to spread things out a little, I felt a lot less rushed / overwhelmed than I have felt in other years, and I had really good luck in my classes--didn't accidentally sit next to a whiner, or someone who through no fault of their own would irritate me. I had great food (& evidently better service than some people had) at Bite restaurant, an easy time getting in and out of Tacoma and parking, and did not overspend at the market. My single complaint for the weekend is that the classroom on Sunday was about 5 degrees warmer than is comfortable. That's it--a relatively minor problem, in the grand scheme of things. And that E___ couldn't make it out for Madrona, due to jury duty, but that's not directly related to Madrona itself. So about the classes . . .

Day 1: Fair Isle Yokes with Janine Bajus

I took a great 3 day class with Janine during the summer of 2008 (see related posts here if you scroll down to the bottom & read from there up), and I jumped at the chance to take another class with her. Especially one that narrows down the infinite possibilities of Fair Isle Knitting to a plain sweater with a patterned yoke. Looking back at photos from the original workshop, I still really like the direction I was headed color-wise, but the idea of planning a whole sweater is still overwhelming to me. I also realize that if I want to make a sweater that I will actually wear in normal, daily life (as opposed to wearing at knitting events), a plain colored body is probably a better idea than the giant motifs I originally swatched.

We spent much of the morning talking about how to build a sweater using the Elizabeth Zimmermann percentage system, before getting into the yarn. It seems pretty straightforward, although it was a little shocking to learn that I'll have to knit almost the whole sweater (body to sleeves + two sleeves) before getting to the colorwork! Shocking, but o.k.--I don't have to make any final color decisions other than the body color for a really long time, unless I want some color around the hem or the cuffs.

Now to the photos:

Top Left: My work area. Note that I worked quite a bit on the Carrieline in the morning, since it's my biggest non-Ravelympics project and this was before the opening ceremonies. I've finished about six inches from the hem. The green was a swatch that I ended up not using, but I used the same yarn in both other classes.

Top Right: My initial color selections lined up on the color wheel. The lighter blue (Spindrift 322, Lomond) will be the body color, and I picked some red oranges and yellow oranges in a split complementary color scheme. Note that when I was googling this to make sure I had that term right, I found the following quote: "The split-complimentary color scheme is often a good choice for beginners, because it is difficult to mess up." I'm not sure I like what that implies, but I can't really argue with my results, so maybe it's totally accurate.

Bottom Left: The swatch beginning. The pattern I'm working with is a combination of several traditional banded patterns. Janine designed three yokes for us to choose from, and this set of patterns really appealed to me--possibly because I think that this is the direction I should have gone with my first swatch. I think that the yellowy section photographs better than it reads in person, but I do like the colors together. I may swatch this again, flipping the yellows with the red-oranges. I started to get really excited with the next section, with blues and red-oranges, which shows the pattern more clearly.

Bottom Right: My swatch as of yesterday. I took a little detour in the blue and red-orange section (I'm still not sure how), so I reknit it per the pattern after getting home on Thursday evening. Since taking this photo, I've swatched a little more--I've almost gone through the extra yarn from class, but I still want to test some things out before knitting a bigger swatch with all of the yoke patterns.

Today, after calling all of the local places to see if they had enough of the body color for my sweater, and checking in with several online places, I ordered it online from Schoolhouse Press, along with the other colors I used. Fingers crossed that they've got plenty of 322 Lomond in a single dye lot, or can get it in relatively short order. I guess I shouldn't be totally surprised that only one of the colors (the darkest gold) overlaps with my 2008 swatch, but I wish that more did so I could keep swatching! I probably won't start the sweater body until after the Olympics (or at least until my main WIP is done), but I'm really anxious to have the yarn in hand. Before I lose my nerve, I suppose.

I'll try to fit the rest of my Madrona posts (and maybe a Ravelympics post) in later this week, but this is certainly the meatiest class I took, and the one I'm most excited about. There's just something awesome about seeing all of the Elemental Affects & Spindrift colors all together, and how different people combine them. A good number of the students had taken Janine's fair isle class before (there were at least four of us from my workshop), so I am definitely not the only person who feels this way.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

January Made Me Shiver *

January 31, 2010

January started out so promising for blogging and knitting, but hit a tailspin mid-month. Out of town guests, crazy amounts of work, and a constant feeling that I'm just barely keeping my grip on things took higher priority. I'm back, for now, but a new whirlwind is starting up next week (most likely to be paid for in the weeks after).

A quick recap of what I HAVE been managing to do, clockwise from top left:

Photo #1: Started a new cardigan, using Sundara Yarn sport. I know, I know, it's a really big financial commitment to knit a whole sweater out of it, and I have a poor track record with sweater finishing. But I'm keeping this simple, and hoping it will work out. The pattern is Ysolda Teague's Coraline, a bottom up cardigan with a smocking-patterned yoke. My two concerns at this point are whether or not my gauge is correct, and whether or not this will be the right size when it's finished. Gauge is one variable, but the other is that I'm not totally sure what I will weigh once this sweater is finished. I've been running really regularly since mid-November and have lost about 20lbs, and am planning to lose more. Technically, I have total control over both of these variables, but that's really too many moving parts for me to accurately predict. I will state for the record that I will not deliberately gain weight in order to wear this sweater, but that I'm not sure that I have the nerve to rip it out if it's too big (or too small).

Photo #2: After finishing a week in which I nearly "lost my shit" (as the kids say) pretty much every day, I decided to go to Boise to see Langhorne Slim on the spur of the moment. Yes, I went by myself, and no, I don't know anyone in Boise. There were so many ways I could have been disappointed by this trip, but it was incredibly fun and just exactly what I needed. I've seen Langhorne Slim a few times before, so I knew that the show would be great, especially in a smaller setting, but travelling last minute & without a lot of planning carries a fair amount of risk with it--where to stay, how to get around, are people going to be friendly, etc. Really, I knew that everything was going to be fine when I stepped off the plane & saw six fantastic pinball machines in the waiting area. Awesome. And the bar had Addams family pinball, my old favorite/nemisis from Sundays at the Bow & Arrow in Harvard Square. In my sheer delight at being in a place where I felt so at home (it even smelled like my 20's--people still smoke in bars in Boise), I was a little overfriendly with the locals (and the musicians). I'm not sure that bringing it up here will ease my embarassment, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

Photo #3: I've been working on another Ysolda pattern, the Peak's Island Hood, in Cascade Soft Spun. It's a scarf that has a hood built into it and that buttons under the neck. Not so practical for the 50 degree weather we're having here, and it will probably be warmer still before I finish! I'm hoping to find some nice vintagey buttons at the Sewing Expo at the end of the month (or in the sewing room in my house--I suppose I should look their first).

Photo #4: This is where I stayed in Boise--look at the snow! I really dressed for warmer weather, but brought along the socks that E___ knit for me last year. It was a wise choice, my feet were nice and warm on the way home.

So next week is all about Wilco (Tuesday in Portland and Wednesday in Seattle), Knitting (Madrona starts on Thursday, Ravelympics starts on Friday), and trying to keep things moving forward. Wish me luck!

* Yes, it's the wrong month, but it fits.