I will be teaching the 2-day Choosing Colors for Fair Isle Design workshop in Fayetteville, Arkansas, April 27-29, 2012. It's the perfect time of year to be in the Ozarks, according to the organizer! She has reserved a lovely space for the class.
Please contact me and I will forward your request for more information to the organizer or you can write to her directly through Ravelry.
I'm excited to spend some time in Arkansas with enthusiastic knitters!
My 500th post!
I thought that this might be a good time to organize the tutorials and knitting tips I've published in the nearly 7 years I've been blogging. (WHAT? Seven years??? Yes, just about: my first entry was on January 5th, 2005.) Reading back through the years was fascinating, and I was really surprised at all the technical information I've thrown in here willy-nilly (and I probably missed a few).
I've always seen this blog as a casual place for me to share my love of knitting, spinning, dyeing, and designing along with my thoughts on creativity, my pictures from vacations, and just about anything else on my mind. I began blogging a few months after my first move to Berkeley from Seattle. My life was very tense at that time and I missed my old friends. It seemed like this would be a good way to keep in touch with them while making contact with people in the Bay Area.
What happened surprised me! I've met so many people through this online home, local folks and those from around the world! (including a cousin in Sweden!) I was asked to teach, more and more often: I've had a chance to share my belief in the value—and joy—of making your knitting your own with so many people in person.
You've consoled me through some losses and your words really helped. You stuck with me through several moves, countless drives up and down the Pacific Coast, a broken ankle, failed experiments (cf: avocado dyeing), a teenage daughter. You've witnessed several successful projects and more than a few unsuccessful ones.
You encouraged me to start my business last year: Feral Knitter, a place to buy all 210 shades of Jamieson Spindrift Shetland yarn, specialized books and patterns for Fair Isle knitting, traditional to modern. What a growing experience that has been, and so far a viable business.
Knowing that you are there, whether you comment or not, makes me happy. Thank you! And here is my gift to you:
Tutorials Extracted from Years of Words
March 2005 Anti-swatching
April 2005 Sweater Bands
June 2005 Setting up Steeks
(but I notice that I never did get back to talking about how to stabilize steeks!)
June 2005 Spit Splice for changing colors (and several further notes in later entries)
June 2005 Placing Markers for Shaping points so I don't need a pattern
June 2005 Shaped Shoulders in the Round
June 2005 Getting your Floats Right and other stitch distortion problems
November 2005 Getting Started in Fair Isle: First Projects (read the comments, too)
December 2005 Purl When You Can (Meg Swansen's technique)
February 2006 If you began knitting your first row with the tail of the long-tail cast on
March 2007 Corrugated Rib at the neck without fancy calculations
October 2007 Radical surgery to fix the yoke of a yoke sweater
March 2009 Inspiration Journals
April 2009 Best Way to Increase a LOT in a row
May 2009 My Provisional Cast On work-around
September 2009 Spinning for long graduations of color (Rose Leaf Shawl)
April 2010 Hand Dominance in Stranded Knitting
June 2010 Joining Shoulders (a cautionary tale)
July 2010 Yarn Playpen
October 2010 Mini-Journals
February 2011 Blocking Tams
April 2011 Join Being Careful Not to Twist (see comments for advice
May 2011 Corrugated Rib
May 2011 Duplicate Stitch on the Fly
October 2011 Decorative "Seams" in Stranded Knitting
... Beyond this, it's advisable
to have a skill. Learn how to make something:
food, a shoe box, a good day.
Remember, finally, there are few pleasures
that aren't as local as your fingertips.
~Stephen Dunn, from "How to Happy: Another Memo to Myself"
Just a quick note to remind you that the registration for Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat (February 16-19 in Tacoma, Washington) opens tomorrow, November 15th. I'll be teaching the 1-day Color Outside the Lines Fair Isle Tam Class on Friday, February 17th. We always have a lot of fun at this retreat—the lineup of classes is beyond amazing: knitting, spinning, jewelry, dyeing, creativity, weaving, plus lots of time to meet other passionate fiberists. Check it out here.
I wanted to honor Veterans' Day by reprinting a letter my nephew Jake sent two years ago when he was deployed to Afghanistan:
Well I'm coming up on 5 months now here in sunny Afghanistan and thought I would share some of my opinions and views with everyone who has the pleasure of not being here.
While Afghanistan is and always has been a country of war, it continues to accept western influence. Most of the Afghan people welcome the U.S. with open arms. Never have I drove to a city in Washington where I knew no one and greeted with a smile from almost everyone. Maybe it's the uniform, or the fact that we are doing something good here. I like to believe the second of the two.
In my time here (about 5 months) I have seen a lot of tragedy but a lot of good as well.... But one fact still remains the same this is one of the poorest if not the poorest country on the planet.
My biggest point of this message is do not for a second take for granted what you have right now. You have to live your life to the fullest, this may sound like one of those posters hanging up in shop class you know the ones that say "honor" etc with a picture of some eagle flying. But what I'm saying is true. Take it as you will but there are kids afraid to go to school around here. Most of the schools have barb wire surrounding them. The people that aren't against us are just as much of a target as we are. Bombings are constant across the country in civilian towns.
People live off of homemade bread, rice, and goats. There are sheep herders who walk 20+ miles to make a living. Living in tents in the middle of the desert. Most homes are made of mud, sticks, and some feces. Pissing and shitting in the streets, most towns get their water from a well, and some have to walk to other towns just to get the water.
So what I'm saying again, live your life to the fullest please don't take anything for granted. I know I wont when I get home. Some of you out there aren't proud to be an American but after a visit to this place or places like this, you would change your mind. Love your wife, husband, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters don't spend time on arguments life is too short. I have become more mature over here when it comes to certain things, but don't worry hopefully I'll be the same Jake when I get home. Just a little better at the things I knew I needed to improve on.
Lucky to be knitting these days! Two new books on Fair Isle knitting have come out in the last couple of weeks. (I carry both of these in my shop: Feral Knitter.)
First, 200 Fair Isle Motifs by Mary Jane Mucklestone.
This colorful book is so much more than its title would seem to indicate! Certainly, 200 motifs are charted out, but other chart collections are available. What 200 Fair Isle Motifs offers that sets it apart is that each motif is photographed as a knitted swatch and then shown as a black-and-white chart AND as the same chart in two different colorways AS WELL AS shown when tiled, that is, expanded to make an allover pattern. Figuring out how to fill in a chart trips up new designers, and the ability to envision a chart tiled takes some practice.
Sample of an inside page
The front section of the book is filled with invaluable information about gauge, swatching, how to hold the yarn, steeking, color theory, design and more. These topics are covered briefly but well. I think this book is a must-have for the new designer who is learning how to make the traditional motifs their own.
The second new book, Fair Isle Knitting, is written in Japanese. It is filled with garments—37 pullovers, cardigans, vests, handcovering, scarves, and legwarmers to be exact—that make use of traditional motifs and modern coloring, shaping, and styling. The patterns use the Japanese conventions so they can be used, with some sleuthing, by non–Japanese speaking knitters. The yarns used by the designers appears to be Rich More, a slightly heavy fingering weight yarn; the patterns lend themselves well to re-coloring, though. At $60, this book is an indulgence for the knitter who wants inspiration.
I drove over to San Mateo last Saturday to catch a bit of Interweave's first Knitting Lab! So lucky to live nearby....
Stefanie Japel taught a short class on teaching online classes. I was curious about how, exactly, one set such a thing up, and Stefanie walked us through the process with the kind of detail I needed. I've been curious about online teaching because this is one way to solve the two main problems that I run into a lot: 1) stranded knitting is SLOW so it is hard to get much accompished in a day's class and 2) it is expensive to travel to teach. I'm going to explore online teaching some more—I'm very excited about the possibilities. If you have any experience taking an online class or teaching one, please let me know about it!
I roamed the market place several times. It was not large but there was a good selection of vendors. I was mesmerized by the beautiful handwoven, naturally dyed textiles from the Centro de Textilos Traditionales del Cusco. The artistry and craftsmanship were amazing, and each finely woven piece was tagged with a photo of the weaver along with her name and birthday. The prices were not inexpensive but they were reasonable in the sense that the weaver was going to receive a good wage for her work: fair trade. I purchased a long scarf that graces our dining room table (see photo above).
In the yarn company alcove I met Biggan of Biggan Design in Australia. Biggan, who is Swedish, has a wonderful design sense—she told me that she was raised with Marimekko fabrics and that has influenced her design every since. What attracted me to her booth was the range of some 65 colors in fingering weight wool ("4 ply") that she had. The wool, a fairly smoothly spun yarn, was 75% merino and 25% border leicester, which gave the yarn some body but left it gently machine washable. The colors are pure and vibrant; the yarn is slightly heavier than Jamieson Spindrift. I think this would make excellent clothes for babies!
The high point of the day was getting the chance to hear Alice Starmore talk! Yes, indeed: Alice Starmore. I was so excited when I saw her name added to the schedule of the Knitting Lab. Starmore's business relationships in America had undergone a huge (and negative) change right when I began learning how to knit stranded designs, and I had just figured that I would not have the opportunity to hear her. Her talk, accompanied by many photos, covered many topics—but the thread throughout was her deep love of the physical and cultural landscape of the Isle of Lewis, where she has lived all her life. She is active in movements to protect and restore areas of the island; she lives and works on a small croft, and I smiled as she spoke about how valuable it is to have animals because they force you to go outside, even when you might not want to go outside. And "outside" is where Starmore gathers inspiration for her knitting and needlepoint designs as well as her other artwork (primarily photography enhanced by painting). She ended the talk by promising that more new designs are on their way!
I was surprised that Interweave didn't have more of a presence at the event, though. Although many Interweave people were on hand and the events planning group was efficient and friendly, I expected to find a booth with information about Interweave publications. Of course, the people behind the scenes of the books, magazines and DVDs we enjoy so much may have introduced themselves at other times during this 4-day event—I was there for only one day.
Interweave Knitting Lab has announced that they will be having two Knitting Labs next year, one in Manchester, New Hampshire the first weekend of October, and one in San Mateo, California, the first weekend of November. I'm glad that this was so successful—I heard nothing but good things about the classes that people had taken.
Field trip! Last Saturday the Yolo Wool Mill in Woodland, California, was having its annual Mill-In. The mill can take your dirty fleece and turn it into a lovely two-ply yarn, or return it to you as sliver or roving. A nice hour-long drive with Carson as my co-pilot brought us to this set of buildings in the middle of some fields in the central valley. We were lucky in the weather: warm, to counteract the strongly gusting winds.
Several vendors had booths set up: I indulged in some local cashmere roving from Barbara Fiorica, a local goatherd, and a hank of naturally dyed yarn from Sincere Sheep. A shearer demonstrated the use of hand shears—he had a lovely attitude, noting that it can take him an hour to shear a sheep, but they are both happy to settle in together while he is working without the stressful whine of electric clippers.
But the real fun was the mill tour. The buildings were filled with old equipment: giant carding machines, combs, roving makers, spinners, plyers, skeiners. The machines were built in American between 1923 and 1956; solid metal workhorses from the days when the US had a thriving textiles industry. Jane was happy to tell us where each piece came from—none of it was bought new. She had to scour the country to find what she needed back in the 1990s when the mill was started as a way for local farmers to add value to their products.
You need a real feel for wool and for machinery to make this all work! Communities that have a local wool mill are lucky indeed.