Category Archives: classes

Surprises Madrona

This was my third time at Madrona in four years, sharing a room with Yvonne as for last year, hanging out with knitting friends from Vancouver which was great and an improvement over last year, taking lots of classes as usual. None of that was surprising, but each of the classes had a surprise or two in store for me.

Last year I went down on the train, this year I drove as the schedules didn't allow for an early-morning departure. After having made Bitterroot with beads on it, I wanted to know a bit more about beading techniques so I signed up for the Thursday afternoon bead class with Betsy Hershberg. I didn't expect much more than to learn a couple of techniques that I could use when I choose, sparingly since my image of myself doesn't include a lot of bling or beads.

Bead Knitting Sampler: Betsy’s incredible beadwork is a testimonial to the beauty of combining beads and knitting. She will guide you through an introduction to all that you need to begin adding beads to your projects and her enthusiasm will be contagious. You’ll learn beading techniques while completing a sampler from a pattern Betsy supplies. With your sampler and written materials, you will have a reference for future work.

Betsy started off by telling us she was our dealer and sure enough by the end of the session I was off buying yarn she recommended (Aziza 5/2 tencel from Just Our Yarn) and ordering her patterns. As if I don't already have enough hobbies... (I did manage to restrain myself from getting into weaving, saving that for another year).

The surprise in Evelyn Clark's session on Icelandic Modern--traditional lace patterns and new techniques for an Icelandic Lace shawl was a little different.

Icelandic lace shawls are wonderfully wearable and fun to knit. Since the stitch patterns are simple, the knitter can focus on colors--either traditional or contemporary. In class we will talk about the characteristics of Icelandic lace, discuss how the design probably evolved, and look at the characteristics of wool from Icelandic sheep. Students will knit a small shawl to practice a provisional cast-on, a sewn splice to change yarn colors and a chained crochet cast-off with tips on reading lace charts. The same pattern can be used later to knit a full-size shawl.

Here what was surprising to me was the way the Icelandic shawls use doily and tablecloth edgings similar to the German ones in Niebling designs, or the designs collected by Marie Niedner. Somehow I didn't expect Icelandic shawls to be (apparently) influenced by German tablecloths, although there's no reason for them not to be when I stop to think about it.

I learned a few tips (cast-ons, the sewn colour splice, how to stop the top of the shawl going in the wrong direction), but mostly it was just a joy listening to Evelyn's stories of visiting Iceland, and the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle. I felt a little sorry for the relative beginners in the class who were trying to concentrate on knitting from charts (new to some of them) and listen to Evelyn at the same time; it was much easier for those of us who were familiar with charts and knitting lace. A very enjoyable day and I have a shawl on the needles that will eventually be a reminder, each time I wear it, of Madrona 2011.

Next up, on the Saturday, was the "powered bling" class, a.k.a. eTextiles, taught by Syne Mitchell. The (minor) surprise here was just that I decided none of the things I'd started knitting were suitable for use with LEDs and EL wire, so I have to create something else. Also, that the multimeter I bought on the way down, not having been able to find mine, needed a 12V batttery. This is not a standard size.

eTextiles for Knitters and Weavers: Learn how to design textiles that light up, sense temperature, play sounds, and more! Imagine a sweater that glitters with a hundred LED stars, socks that count how many steps you take, a scarf that tells you how cold it is outside, laptop bags that announce when you’re in a wifi zone, etc. Modern eTextile technology makes creating this sort of interactive garment easy, attractive, and fun!

Students will learn the basics of eTextiles by either knitting or weaving LEDs and a battery into a scarf or hat. We’ll discuss additional ideas and examples while you work.

Fun was had, I have a bunch of wires and LEDs and more than a few ideas, I managed to avoid being sucked in by the weaving bug, despite Syne's best intentions, and I've finally got the right battery for that multimeter. I suspect the kids will have glowing outfits for Halloween this year.

The biggest surprise in store for me was in my Sunday class. I managed to get into Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's class on Knitting for Speed and Efficiency: So Many Knits So Little Time!

Here’s your chance to learn Stephanie’s perspective and secrets on knitting with speed. Want to knit faster? How about smarter or more efficiently? This class examines the various techniques, attitudes and history of the most productive knitters, and is designed not necessarily to change how you knit (unless you want to) but to help you become the most efficient knitter you can be on your own terms.

Stephanie knits on straights, with the right needle tucked in under her right arm. I'm not going to go into the details of what she teaches; other people have covered that. For me what was surprising was the personal reaction I had. My Mum used to knit with the needle held under her right arm, I suspect my great-aunt did as well (although they typically didn't knit in front of me, I think that was mostly kept as work for when the children were in bed or at least not around). When I started knitting that way, it felt like coming home, creating a connection to people I've lost. My great-aunt died many years ago, my mother in 2009; in some ways it's odd how a simple thing such as the style of knitting can create emotional connections. But maybe it isn't, maybe it's the small daily things that are the core of our memories. Something to think about as I consider my current family life, and not something I was expecting to be confronted with on the last day of a knitting conference.

Lace Design

I spent much of the weekend at Sivia Harding's lace design workshop, put on by the West Coast Knitters' Guild. I love knitting lace, so the chance to learn more about the design process to jump-start me into designing my own shawls was too good to pass up.

The workshop concept sounds deceptively simple: come prepared with stitch dictionaries and figure out how best to fill the triangle shape with appropriate stitch patterns. It's harder than it sounds, but Sivia made it seem, not quite easy, but reasonably straight-forward, with lots of places to make artistic design decisions.

Sivia has some wonderful designs and brought some of her shawls for us to admire and deconstruct, using them as teaching examples. She gave us ideas on how to start the shawls, various ways of finishing them, how to modify stitch patterns to fit nicely into the triangle shape, when and how to fudge stitch patterns to make the entire pattern easier to understand and knit, and lots of other tips. Everyone ended up with charts and swatches, and undoubtedly lots more ideas than they started with. Now all I have to do is finish the design I started (I want to change a couple of things), complete the charts, and start knitting!

Brown Sweater

I recently realised that I have a lot of projects on my Ravelry pages that aren't blogged. So I'm going to put in a few postings to catch up. Since it's some time since I knitted these, details are likely to be sketchy, but at least I'll have the photos in place.

First up is a sweater I knitted for my husband in Jean Wong's Level 2 knitting class (a simplified version of the Nihon Vogue course). The requirements are for a round-neck sweater; my husband picked the yarn colour and the simple k3, p1 rib pattern. The rest was customised to his measurements. The ribbing around the neck, waist, and arms is k1p1 on smaller needles.

I used Elann's Coto Canapone, a cotton/hemp yarn that shrinks when washed. Fortunately you do things properly for knitting class, so I did wash and block the gauge swatch. I made the body a little too long but am hoping it will shrink a little when washed again. I also made the ribbing around the neckline a little too deep; next time I'd make it only half the width. The yarn is hard on your hands while knitting, but does knit up really nicely and should wear well (my husband is hard on clothes). It's also a reasonable price, and is machine-washable.

Yarn: Elann Coto Canapone, 20 skeins

Needles: 3.5 for the body, 3.25 for the ribbing

Pattern: my own, based on k3p1 rib for the boddy and k1p1 ribbing

Comments: the yarn shrinks when washed

Dates: Started September 13 2008, completed November 12 2008

Ravelry link:

Brown Men's Sweater

Brown Men's Sweater

Diamonds Cardigan

This cardigan was my project for my Level 4 finishing class with Jean Wong. The finishing classes are a less hectic and less formal version of the Nihon Vogue course, which still teach a lot about design and techniques. Level 4 is meant to be a round-neck cardigan, so I decided I wanted to add argyle-style diamonds to it. Some amount of design and swatching later, I got as far as the photos show.

And haven't got any further, since I'm working on another project. Much of my knitting time is while watching TV, or at a knitting meet-up, and somehow duplicate stitch and seaming don't go as well with those activities as the more mindless knitting itself. Particularly as they both need good light.

Maybe tomorrow I'll get some more done. Or maybe not.

Diamonds cardigan, frontDiamonds cardigan, backDiamonds cardigan, frontDiamonds cardigan, bottom front

Yarn: Rowan Calmer, 7 skeins of main colour and 2 each of the contrast colours. The bottom photos have the most accurate colours.

Needles: 4.0 mm (body), 3.75 mm (bottom ribbing), 3.5 mm (sleeve ribbing), 3.25 mm (neckband and front bands)

Pattern: my own

Ravelry link:

Bohus and Rovaniemi

This weekend was a busy one, knitting-wise. The West Coast Knitters Guild brought Susanna Hansson to town for two workshops, one on Bohus knitting and the other on the lapland mittens from Rovaniemi. I enjoyed both classes though the second one spoke to me more. The Bohus garments are gorgeous, the Rovaniemi technique somehow rustic and alive. Lots of other people have blogged about the workshops in more detail than I have energy for right now; suffice to say that if you're interested in fine-gauge colour-work knitting, either or both classes would be fun.

And now it's back to the sweater I'm knitting for Jean Wong's Level 2 knitting class (no, not the Nihon Vogue, I don't have time for that, this is the abbreviated version), so I won't be finishing the wristlets any time soon, unfortunately. Oh well, that's life. So much knitting, so little time.