I’m taking a time out from packing to write a quick post. Last November, I registered attend PlyAway, a spinning conference hosted by PLY Magazine. My friend Lorelle was planning to go too, but by the time registration came around, she knew she wouldn’t be able to attend. “I’d love to go to fiber events with you,” she lamented, “but work and other financial obligations keep me from going. Why aren’t there any local retreats?”
“We can make our own retreat,” I responded. And so we have. This weekend, six of us our staying in a condo on the beach. One or two others are driving in for the day on Saturday. I’m the only one who knows everyone going. Everyone else knows no more than two others and some (including Lorelle) don’t know anyone other than me. We have no firm schedule. Everyone’s bringing their projects. Via e-mail, everyone shared what they are bringing and what they’d like to learn. Fredi’s bringing unwashed fleece and will show us how to wash it. She’s bringing her drum carder and hand combs so we can make rolags if we wish. I’m bringing all my acid dyes and equipment for dyeing, including bare yarn. Dawn’s bringing bare fiber. Dawn, Nancy, and I are all bringing our rigid heddle looms. Shellee and Lorelle have never woven before and want to try it out. Everyone except Shellee spins; she’s going to try the spindles Nancy and Dawn are bringing. Everyone else is also bringing their spinning wheels. Shellee will show us her unique method of knitting. She speeds along so fast, her hands are a blur.
So now I’m packing, and I must consider the first question — the one a fiber crafter always asks before she packs anything else — which projects shall I bring? How many is too many.
I’m definitely bringing the current project on my rigid heddle loom.
I’ll bring yarn to warp the loom again, in case I finish this project. I have at least 3 spinning projects in progress, but I’m only going to bring the Three Feet of Sheep with me.
I really run into trouble with the knitting projects. Shall I bring the Bubble Baby Blanket that I haven’t worked on in months, but is part of my Detention OWL for the Harry Potter Knitting / Crochet House Cup (HPKCHC)?
Or the Begonia Swirl Shawl that I started months ago to replace the one that was accidentally felted?
Of course I’m going to bring the Cloisters Shawl I only started working on a week and a half ago!
I need to bring some crochet. Because I must have all the things, right? I’ll probably just toss some cotton and a hook into my bag so I can whip up some quick dishcloths. Maybe 2, no 3, who am I kidding 4, better make it 5, seriously 6 skeins is the limit.
Am I bringing enough? Better toss in just one more thing — I don’t want to run out of projects.
Oh! Shellee is bringing blocking mats and wires. I need to bring the 3 shawls I have laying about that just need blocking!
I have not yet written crafting goals for 2016. November and December were pretty crazy around here! First was my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday on Thanksgiving Day. Then there was the Weavers of Orlando Annual Sale, followed the next weekend by the Holiday Party. Then we had Christmas festivities with my family. On December 28, I flew to Indiana to play matron of honor for Stacy’s wedding on January 2. Chris flew up on December 31 so we got to spend New Year’s Eve together. We just flew home this afternoon, to a cooler and wetter Florida than I left last Monday. Stacy’s reception was held in a building at the same fairgrounds that hosts The Fiber Event. It was so strange to be in that building without seeing rows of lovely fiber, yarn, and tools for sale!
This past week has been busy as the wedding preparations including baking 680 cookies and a 5-tier wedding cake! Stacy, her mother, her aunt, her sister-in-law, and I baked the cookies last Wednesday. Fortunately, we had the use of Stacy’s parents’ church kitchen, which had a commercial oven that could fit 150 cookies at once. We baked all 680 cookies in only 3.5 hours!
After baking cookies, we started on the cakes. I was the lead decorator and giver of orders, as I have been decorating cakes since I was 12! I made the cakes and the lemon curd. Stacy made the chocolate ganache and all the buttercream and mixed lemon buttercream and raspberry buttercream.
Her mother and aunt cut out fondant Christmas trees and painted them with powdered food coloring. I showed Stacy’s sister-in-law how to pipe miniature Christmas trees and she cranked out 250 of them, while Stacy’s mother went behind her putting the little stars on top of each tree.
Stacy’s brother cut the dowel rods that help support each tier (using a pipe cutter borrowed from a cousin) and her father cut and sharpened the dowel rod that goes from the top to bottom through all the tiers. When it came time to stack all the cakes, Chris helped me line up my edges correctly. At every step of the way, Stacy and I discussed colors and placement of pieces. This is the first time I’ve made a cake in such a collaborative fashion. It was so much fun, and I love the result!
Now that the wedding is over and I’m home, it’s time to look ahead and lay out my goals for 2016.
Before I start making ambitious plans for myself, I wanted to look back at 2015, to see what I finished and what remains unfinished. I’m working on a slide show of all the projects I finished this year, and I will publish that later this week. Today, I’m making a list of all my WIPs. It’s a scary list, even though it only includes projects I’ve actually started, not everything in my mental queue!
Projects started in 2015
TKGA Master Knitter, Level 1
This week I will start working on addressing my gauge issue
Splash Socks (started in April 2015)
Tier Scarf (started in June 2015)
Miranda Shawl (started in July 2015)
Bubbles Baby Blanket (started in July 2015)
Morrigan Shawl (started in August 2015)
Begonia Swirl Shawl Redux (started in August 2015)
I still have all the sweaters I got from S. They need to be seamed and blocked. I believe there’s 10 or 11 projects right there!
Projects started prior to 2015
Dishcloth Advent Calendar
I need to knit or crochet 18 each of 25 different patterns. This is a list of the knitted dishcloths I’ve finished.
18 tribble scrubbies
18 waffle stitch
4 brick pattern
16 illusion heart
4 random designs (1 each of 4 different patterns)
Baby Blue Monster
Granny Square Blanket (started in 2014)
Skulls and Roses Scarves (started in October 2015)
Dishcloth Advent Calendar
I need to knit or crochet 18 each of 25 different patterns. This is a list of the crochet dishcloths I’ve finished.
4 or 5 diagonal (corner to corner)
Camel Down / Silk Blend (started in September 2015)
Three Feet of Sheep (started in August 2015)
One pound of BFL (started in November 2015)
Since the only loom I’ve been using is my rigid heddle, I only have one weaving project in process! I started this scarf on December 5, 2015 while at the Weavers of Orlando Annual Sale, so that I could demo weave. I talked to many people throughout the days of the sale and did a fair bit of weaving. I haven’t had time to work on it since.
In addition to this project, I now have the storage unit full of weaving things to sort. This includes minor repairs to one loom (the 36″ Harrisville) and probably a complete refinish of a second loom (the 48″ Macomber). I’m hoping to the the storage unit cleaned out by mid-February, though the refinishing job will most likely take longer than that.
Dyeing doesn’t really have WIPs as something is either dyed or it isn’t. But this is a list of dyeing projects I’ve been meaning to do but haven’t.
Dye Maple Leaf Shawls (pending since December 2014)
Dye Triangles (pending since August 2014)
water source / pH experiment (pending since early 2015)
I’m not sure if this is actually all my WIPs. It’s everything I could find laying about or listed in my Ravelry project pages, but I’m sure I missed more.
American Spun: 20 Classic Projects Exploring Homegrown Yarn (affiliate link) was released on December 8, 2015. I pre-ordered it, so it arrived in my mailbox a couple of days before the official release date. This book is primarily a pattern book. If I had understood that, I would not have ordered it, which would have been a shame because not only do the patterns seem to be well-written, the book is also much more than just a pattern book.
The projects in this book are all designed using yarns which are made in America, at some point during their production process. Sudo highlights fifteen yarn companies ranging from shepherds who send their own wool out for processing to a mill (Harrisville) to yarn designers who source wool from the United States to indie dyers. Some of the yarns are completely American made from sheep to yarn. Others might be only milled or dyed in the US, from wool produced elsewhere.
American Spun is organized by yarn producer. Each section starts with a two page spread featuring pictures of the company and short interviews with an owner of that company. When I pre-ordered the book, I expected this type of material to make up the majority of the book. While I definitely enjoyed these pages, I was disappointed that each section was so short. You get only a broad overview, similar to what you might get on the “About” page of a website. I was hoping for something more in-depth.
Following the two-page spread is at least one pattern designed by author Anna Sudo using one of the company’s yarns. The 20 patterns offer a little something for everyone — hats, gloves, scarves, shawls, sweaters, slippers, leg warmers, jelly jar cozies, a rug, and a blanket. None of the patterns are suitable for an absolute beginner knitter. Every pattern uses an intermediate to advanced technique like steeking, stranded colorwork, or grafting. A few patterns involve more basic knitting (hat, scarf, mittens), but you then embroider on top of that basic knitting. Anyone who already possesses all the skills represented in this book would certainly be considered an advanced knitter.
I have not knit any of the patterns in this book, so I cannot vouch for their accuracy. However, I will tell you that all the patterns include a feature that I very much like and look for in patterns: detailed information in the beginning of the pattern. Every pattern should include finished measurements and gauge, but often patterns don’t include more than basic information in these areas. In American Spun, the provided measurements are complex. Fingerless mittens give you both the hand circumference and cuff to fingers measurements for all three sizes. Hats specify the circumference at the brim, unstreched. Sweaters give you the chest size both of the person the garment is intended to fit and the finished garment itself, so you can see how many inches of ease Sudo built into the pattern. The leg warmers pattern provides the calf circumference, foot circumference, and length for each size and advises you to choose a size based on your foot circumference. Every single pattern specifies the size of the sample shown in the pattern pictures. The gauge information is also detailed. Most patterns provide multiple gauges, for stockinette and a stitch pattern. Every gauge listing describes the stitch pattern used and every pattern that includes something other than stockinette lists a gauge in the stitch pattern. The pattern lists up front the notions you need for the pattern. While I haven’t knit any of the patterns, the care taken in providing this detailed pattern information raises hope that the patterns themselves were handled with similar care and will be accurate.
Every pattern where fit is relevant gives a range of size options. Accessories like socks, hats, and gloves include two or three sizes. The men’s sweater includes instructions for sizes S to 5X. The two women’s sweaters are graded for sizes XS to 5X. The only one-size patterns in the book are the blanket, scarves, shawl, and jelly jar cozy.
Even if you aren’t going to knit any of the patterns in this book, there is one feature of the book that is worth the purchase price: the three page appendix of grafting instructions. Several of the patterns in this book require grafting, and sometimes that grafting happens along borders that aren’t straight stockinette. All the instructions I’ve ever seen for grafting were written as though you were grafting stockinette, so you are grafting two knit stitches together. But what if you are grafting reverse stockinette edges? Or garter stitch? Or ribbing? And what if your stitch pattern changes along your seam? The appendix of American Spun has grafting instructions for these scenarios. I have too long of a queue to buy and hang onto knitting pattern books, and that’s why I wouldn’t have bought this book and ordinarily wouldn’t have kept it on my shelves after I realized that it was primarily a pattern book. But this appendix on grafting earned the book a permanent home on my crowded shelves of knitting reference books.
Whether you are looking for a coffee table book with stunning photography, an introduction to yarns produced in America, thoughtfully written intermediate to advanced patterns, or clear descriptions of knitting techniques, this is the book for you. The fact that this single volume includes all of these features makes American Spun an outstanding book that belongs on every knitter’s shelves.
I haven’t updated my progress since week 29, back in July! Since we’re coming to the end of the year, it’s time to review my goals and start thinking about goals for next year. Anything that’s crossed through in the list is something I did not get to at all. If I did any work on a goal, even if it isn’t finished, I kept it on the list and made notes about its status. In early January, I will publish a slide show with pictures of every project I finished this year and a list of goals for next year. While I didn’t finish everything I hoped to finish this year, I am happy with what I accomplished. I learned a great deal, especially about crochet, and I’m looking forward to learning more in 2016!
Review of 2015 Goals
Knit myself a sweater Moved to 2016. In July, my friend Stacy got engaged and I’ve been working on projects for her wedding instead of knitting a sweater!
Swatches 1-12 knit on size 7 needles, finished by July 19, 2015
I did actually finish the swatches by the dates listed here. I went to Masters’ Day at the TKGA Conference and learned that I had guttering issues I need to work out before finishing my swatches. I haven’t gotten back to my swatches yet.
On the Friday before Thanksgiving, I’m on a plane flying north for 10 days of family fun and I’m not in my usual traveling groove. I’ve flown a great deal in the last four years, usually alone but also with my husband, and I have habits. Whenever possible, I pack in a carry on only. I have Global Entry which gives me automatic TSA Pre-check so I arrive at the airport about 1.5 hours before my flight, sail through security, and once I’m in my terminal eat a meal if it’s mealtime. I have a short wait before boarding and I sit in an aisle seat as close to the front of the plane as possible. While I’m waiting to board and while I’m on the plane, I listen to podcasts and knit. I do not make small talk with my seat mates. When the plane lands, I’m out of there as quickly as possible and don’t have to go to baggage claim since I’m packed only in a carry on.
These habits are all part of a personal defense mechanism. I’m an introverted person and have a difficult time filtering out noise. All the stimuli of random conversations and interactions with strangers is exhausting. Since I fly in and out of Orlando, my flights are always full of families with small children on their way to and from the theme parks. As a result, there’s higher levels of noise than might be the case if I was flying in and out of any other airport in the country. In addition, when I started flying so much it was because I was flying to New Jersey every other week, helping my mother-in-law with the details of life after several deaths in the family. I was hanging on by an emotional thread and would randomly burst into tears. I was terrified that this might happen on a flight, where I had no means of escape from scrutiny. I had no bandwidth for handling even inane conversations. And so I didn’t engage. I popped in my headphones and focused on my knitting. It was the only way I made it through those trips, putting on a façade of normalcy and shutting out everyone around me. And now, it’s a habit.
But on this flight, I’m traveling with my parents. My father likes to get to the airport super early. They have bags to check and might not get to go through the shorter TSA Pre-check line. We’re flying on Southwest and my father has status since he flies on that airline every week for work, so they do end up with Pre-check, but we didn’t know that was going to happen. We get their bags dropped off, sail through security, get breakfast at Au Bon Pain and are still at the gate 2 hours before our flight is scheduled to depart.
My project for this trip is a new scarf for charity. I worked out a design a couple of days before we left and cast on while waiting to board. I knit about 3 inches and realize I don’t like how wide it is, so rip it all out and start again. I knit 3 inches and this time it’s too narrow. I rip it out again. Finally it’s time to board. My father boards before either my mother or I, thanks to his status, and saves us a row close to the front of the plane. I’m in the window seat. My mom is chatty, so I only have one ear bud in, on the side by the window, so I can halfway listen to a podcast and still hear my mom when she starts talking. I cast on again, rearranging the order of the cables, and knit another 3 inches. This time, I’m happy with the width. I put the knitting down for a minute and stretch out my fingers and wrist, looking around the plane for the first time since we took off. And that’s when I see The Other Knitter.
Suddenly, it strikes me that I’ve never seen another knitter or crocheter on any of my flights. Why is this? Years ago, on a flight home from Boston, I was sitting in front of a high school classmate. There was only 13 people in my high school graduating class; there are millions of knitters in the United States and many knit on planes. It’s far more likely that I might run into a knitter than into a high school classmate. But I’ve never seen another knitter.
The Other Knitter is sitting one row in front of me, on the opposite side of the plane, in the middle seat. I realize that I’d vaguely heard the woman directly in front of me telling her son he could sit with Nana. The three seats in front of me contain a husband and wife and a son about 10 or 11. Across the aisle is another boy of similar age, Nana (The Other Knitter), and a gentleman I take to be Nana’s husband.
I find myself fascinated by The Other Knitter. I strain my neck to see if I can figure out what she’s knitting. Her pattern is on the tray in front of her and she’s working with royal blue yarn. She’s on the second page of the pattern, and there’s a picture of the finished object, but I can’t quite see it. At first, I think she’s making a sweater. But the pattern’s only two pages long and when The Other Knitter puts her knitting back into her clear plastic bag and gets up to use the restroom, I can see she only has two skeins of yarn with her, including the one she’s knitting now. Perhaps a sweater for one of the grandkids? I can’t tell.
Throughout the flight, I keep looking at The Other Knitter. I want to talk to her, to find out what she’s knitting and for whom. Does she like her yarn and pattern? Is she heading home after a family vacation at the parks or is she leaving home for Thanksgiving at another relative’s home? Is she on Ravelry? I feel like a stalker or paparazzi or a fan girl. I want to take her picture, but stop myself. It’s a step too far. What’s the matter with me? I didn’t get like this on the few occasions when I’ve been around celebrities!
We’re starting our descent into Hartford, Connecticut when my mother notices The Other Knitter. She nudges me. “There’s another knitter over there.”
“I know,” I say, casually, like my heart didn’t start beating a little faster when I first saw those needles working the royal blue yarn a couple of hours ago.
When our flight lands, we all gather up our things and head to the baggage claim. I don’t see The Other Knitter there, but I can’t stop thinking about her. I’m sorry I was too far away and boxed in the corner by the window to talk to her, too afraid to get up and ask her what she was making. I’ve missed the opportunity to meet someone new and perhaps make a friend. Maybe next time.
I have been knitting, crocheting, spinning, and weaving away, but have not been writing posts on each of my finished projects. I received a private message on Ravelry, asking for the details of this project, so thought I’d write it up to share with all of you!
Date Started: September 16, 2015
Date Finished: September 28, 2015
Pattern: as discussed below
Yarn: Cascade Pinwheel in Autumn Leaves (#21)
Needles: US 8 , 5.0 mm
Finished Dimensions: I forgot to write down the measurements; but approximately 6″ x 65″
I bought the Pinwheel yarn specifically to knit for charity. I got two skeins of most colors so I could make matching sets with a scarf, mittens, and hat. The scarf takes one skein and I can just squeak a hat and mittens out of a second. For three colorways, I only had one skein because that was all that the shop had. In September, I decided to knit up a couple of those skeins into scarves. I looked at the free patterns on Ravelry, but didn’t find anything that caught my eye that I hadn’t already knit. So I pulled out my Barbara Walker treasuries and found stitch patterns. This scarf uses the Traveling Rib pattern from page 180 of A Fourth Treasury of Knitting Patterns.
When I first started this project, I planned to add a couple selvedge stitches, but after knitting the repeat a couple times, I didn’t like how that looked, so I ripped it out and started over, using just the stitches for the pattern. Ribbing isn’t going to roll and makes a nice stretchy fabric. It doesn’t really need a frame to give the fabric structure.
K = Knit
P = Purl
RS = Right Side
WS = Wrong Side
This pattern uses a 7 stitch repeat. I’ve been casting on somewhere close to 40 stitches for all the scarves I’ve made with Pinwheel. This gives me a finished scarf of 5″ to 6″ wide and 60″ to 65″ long, depending on the stitch pattern. For this particular pattern, I assumed the ribbing would pull the fabric in so chose to cast on more stitches than usual. I cast on 7 repeats (49 stitches), using the long tail cast on, which is my default.
Row 1 (RS): K1, *P3, K4* 5 times, end P3, K3
Row 2 (WS): P2, *K4, P3* 5 times, end K4, P1
Row 3. K2, *P3, K4* 5 times, end P3, K2
Row 4: P1, *K4, P3* 5 times, end K4, P2
Row 5: K3, *P3, K4* 5 times, end P3, K1
Row 6: *K4, P3* repeat to end of row
Row 7: *K4, P3* repeat to end of row
Row 8: K3, *P3, K4* 5 times, end P3, K1
Row 9: P1, *K4, P3* 5 times, K4, P2
Row 10: K2, *P3, K4* 5 times, end P3, K2
Row 11: P2, *K4, P3* 5 times, end K4, P1
Row 12: K1, *P3, K4* 5 times, end P3, K3
Row 13: *P3, K4* repeat to end of row
Row 14: *P3, K4* repeat to end of row
Repeat Rows 1 – 14 until scarf is desired length, ending on either Row 6 or 13. BO loosely and in pattern. In this case, that means working Row 7 or 14 as written, and passing the preceding stitch over the just worked stitch as you work across the row, using larger needles if needed to keep your bind off loose.
This scarf is reversible; I’ve only marked a right side and wrong side in the pattern to help keep track of where you are. If you look closely at the pattern, it may appear that rows repeat, but while the instructions repeat, you are on the opposite side of the fabric when you work it (Rows 1 & 12, 2 & 11, 3 & 10, 4 & 9, 5 & 8, 6 & 7, 13 & 14). As a result, if you put your work down and come back to it later, it may be difficult for you to tell where you are in the pattern. If you think you’re on Row 1 and you were really on Row 12 or vice versa, you will find that the direction of your rib changes midstream! You may want to mark the right side of the work, by hanging a locking stitch marker on that side.
While I was at The Knit and Crochet Show, more than one person commented to me that they couldn’t take classes the entire time because it was too much for them to absorb. Wasn’t I totally overwhelmed? Nope, not at all. The entire event was an adrenaline rush and I enjoyed every moment. A week after I got back, after reliving the entire event through writing the blog posts about it, I crashed. This wasn’t all because of the show; August is break month for the Harry Potter Knitting / Crochet House Cup. I push myself hard during the term, achieving feats of crafting that I otherwise wouldn’t attempt, and I appreciate break month! Don’t get me wrong — I still crafted and had fun adventures in August and September to date. Here’s the highlights.
S’s 5th Birthday Party
My cousin’s daughter turned 5 and had a birthday party at the zoo. It was the largest kid’s birthday party I’ve ever attended — 28 kids and 30+ adults. I made fondant cupcake toppers (I don’t think I’ve mentioned here that I’ve got mad cake skills? I don’t make cakes as often as in the past). Since I live 2+ hours from my cousin, she bought cupcakes locally and I put the toppers on when I arrived at the party.
Birthday party at the zoo = live animal show and tell!!
And I was the first person in line to get my face painted. I got to the party early so I could get those cupcake toppers on the cupcakes and the few children already there showed no interest in getting their face painted. I figured I’d beat the rush!
I knit the birthday girl a Barbie dress.
A few months ago, my friend Nancy and I went to the home of a member of the weaver’s guild who had passed away (see my blog post). She wanted her yarn to benefit the guild. Nancy and I sorted it to pick out anything that was suitable for demos. We always have a little takeaway for kids and are constantly on the look out for yarn for those. We packed up any project kits or yarns suitable for weaving and brought those to the guild’s annual auction. The money raised from the sale of those yarns is designated for demos and will be used to buy yarn for takeaways once we use up our current stash.
Orlando Shakes Open House
From the Weavers Guild meeting, I went straight to the Orlando Shakespeare theater for their annual open house. I’ve never made it to this event before and had a great time. I went to all three panel discussions — one on lighting and sound production, one on building props, and one with the directors and educators about visioning and producing individual plays and the future of the troop. They also had a small display of props and costumes from previous productions. Here’s a small selection of the spectacular costumes, which are created in house, in conjunction with the theater department of a local university, and with the help of many volunteers.
My order from Akerworks arrived! I got 6 bobbins for my wheel (one in each style) and 3 drop spindles (one in each size). I didn’t take pictures before they got pressed into service, but I’m sure you’ll see pictures in future blog posts. I did take a picture of the lovely hand-written note Adan included in the box.
I accepted a position as blog mistress for The Ravenclaw Aerie, the blog for the Ravenclaw Tower in the Harry Potter Knitting / Crochet House Cup. This is a big part of the reason for the neglect of my own blog; planning and executing for that blog has taken the time I had for blogging. Now that we’re on a schedule over there, I expect to be back to my own blog regularly! Most of what’s on The Ravenclaw Aerie is probably only of interest to those in Ravenclaw Tower or the Cup, but one of the first posts is about something else I did in August. Ravenclaw Porcupine Snuggles works at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. She and two of her colleagues drove from Baltimore to New Smyrna Beach, FL to release Cougar, a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle. I met them in New Smyrna Beach so I could witness the release, and Porcupine Snuggles and I wrote a blog post about it for the Aerie.
Disney with Beth
My friend Beth came on vacation for a week and we spent lots of time at Disney! We ate at the Be Our Guest restaurant in the new part of Fantasy Land in the Magic Kingdom. We did not expect to be able to get a reservation because this restaurant, the interior of which is a replica of the castle in Beauty and the Beast, is sold out 6 months in advance. We checked anyway; someone must have cancelled because we got a 1:15 pm reservation! The restaurant is stunning inside and out.
On the day we went to EPCOT, it poured. My mother, Beth, and I walked from The Land to Journey through the Imagination without seeing any one else walking around (everyone else was smarter than us — when we got to Journey through the Imagination, the ride was down because the building was struck by lightning!). It was eerie, and made us think about what the park is like after it closes. We waited for Journey through the Imagination to be back up, and after we got off the ride, the rain had settled down to a normal rain shower rather than a deluge. We headed towards the World Showcase, wading through a calf-deep puddle on our way there.
All the rain made for a beautiful sunset!
A couple days after Disney, my husband got sick with a very bad cold. I caught it from him and it turned into a sinus infection. Yuck! For the last week of August and the first week of September, we took turns feeling misearable. Not much got accomplished around here. I was coughing so much that fiber crafting wasn’t even viable 🙁
We were trying to decide what to do next when I saw someone walk by with a Mood bag. For those who aren’t familiar with the name, Mood is a fabric store and is the place contestants on Project Runway shop for the fabric used to make their creations. We decided to go to Mood and since it was a lovely day we walked the 10 blocks to the shop. I was totally overwhelmed by Mood. On the ground floor, there’s a two-story section of upholstery and other home decoration fabrics. To get to the main shop, you take this old elevator, operated by an elevator attendant, to the third floor. Once there, you have another 3 stories of every fabric imaginable. I have no idea how the contestants manage to shop for fabric in only 30 minutes!
One day, we went to the Tenement Museum (no pix allowed there). Our grandfather grew up in the Depression-era tenements of the Bronx, so this was a poignant visit for us. Afterwards, we wandered around SoHo and I bought my first ever pair of Fluevogs.
Later that evening, my sister and her friends went to a play. They bought tickets before I committed to the trip, and I wasn’t able to get a ticket to the show. Instead, I took a train out to Long Island to visit law school classmates and meet their 4-month-old baby. It was good to see them!
The next day, my sister, her friends, and I went to the Cloisters Museum, and visited their famous room of unicorn tapestries.
We ate fabulous food every day, including the best doughnuts I’ve ever eaten, from The Doughnut Plant. The interior of the shop was adorable, with doughnut pillows on the wall, a doughnut tile backsplash, and donut chairs!
The last night, my sister and I stayed in her friend’s apartment in Brooklyn. The friend was out of town, but gave us a key. The apartment came with bonus kitty, Billie.
Billie was super sweet and reminded me of my Pepper, whom I still miss very much!
Although I lived in the Northeast for nearly 30 years, I had never spent more than an afternoon in New York City before this trip. I had a wonderful time and hope I get to visit again!
For the fifth year in a row, Chris and I have season tickets for the Orlando Shakespeare theater. The first show of the season was Spamalot! It was absolutely spectacular. If you have the opportunity, you should totally see this show.
Orlando Maker Faire
Last weekend was the Orlando Maker Faire. The Drunken Monkey Spinners and Weavers of Orlando shared a booth for the event. Nancy and I spent the entire weekend in the booth; other members of the two groups spent one day or the other.
This was the fourth year of the Orlando Maker Faire. Last year, they expanded from the Science Center and included some exhibits in the park. This year, they expanded further, with arts and crafts exhibits in the Orlando Museum of Art, which is located on the opposite side of the park from the Science Center. The expected attendance at this event was 15,000; I didn’t hear an actual number after the event, but it is by far the highest attendance at any event where I’ve demoed.
The Science Center was wall-to-wall people; the Art Museum, where we were located, was steady but manageable. This was a fantastic event to demo. The people coming to this events are makers themselves. They like to know how things work and ask lots of questions! I spun the 50/50 Camel Down / Silk that I bought from Red Fish Dyeworksat The Knit and Crochet Show. I only got 1 ounce spun, out of 4, in the 17 hours I spent spinning! This is partially because I talked to lots of people, but also because it is spinning very fine.
Florida Fiber In
This weekend is the Florida Fiber In. I went last night, but won’t make it there the rest of the weekend. I picked up some Black-Faced Valois locks and some Bombyx Silk fiber, and spent a couple hours spinning and chatting!
The new HPKCHC term started on September 1 and I’ve been crafting like a mad woman. I haven’t taken pix of anything yet, but I’m working on that today and tomorrow. I’ll have a Year of Projects update post sometime tomorrow.
I have also been working on improving skills to benefit my blog. I bought my first DSLR camera (a Canon 70D (affiliate link)) and a Pro-Am video camera (Canon XA-10 (affiliate link)). I added Adobe Stock to my Adobe Cloud subscription. I used my Lynda.com subscription to learn how to use Adobe Bridge, then used Bridge to move all my photos out of Apple’s Photos app and into their own folders on my external hard drive. I’m still working on adding metadata and tags to the photos. I had 19,000 photos and videos in Photos and have a very hard time actually finding anything when I’m looking for it! It’s a lot of work to organize, but I believe it will be worth it in the end. I’m just starting the Lynda.com courses on Adobe After Effects and Lightroom, to further improve my photography and videography skills.
So that’s the highlight reel of the last six weeks. What’s your highlights?
I went to TKGA primarily for education, but I signed up for every event I possibly could. Since I was traveling all the way across the country to attend this Conference, I might as well do All The Things! These extra events were the Market Preview, The Breakfast of Brilliance, and The Yarn Tasting. I realize that the title of this blog sounds like it is the last post in this series on TKGA. It is not. These extra events took place on Thursday and Friday. I’m publishing this post today since I’m writing in roughly chronological order. I did attend two classes on Saturday and I will post about them tomorrow.
But before I get to those events, I have to share this license plate, which Heather and I spotted in the hotel parking lot when we were on our way back from lunch on Thursday:
I particularly love how the setting sun looks like a ball of yarn!
The Market Preview
The market did not open to the public until Friday, but anyone attending the conference got to go into the market from 7 to 9 pm on Thursday. When we arrived 20 minutes before the doors opened, the line reached all the way across the lobby!
The line grew quickly, snaking around the lobby. By the time the doors opened, the back of the line was nearly to the market doors.
I headed straight to RedFish Dyeworks. I had not heard of these local dyers before, but during the Finishing Course on Thursday, Arenda showed us several Fair Isle sweaters she’d knit with their yarn and raved about their color sense. I bought a package of twelve 50g / 450 yard skeins of 20/2 silk for weaving:
I also bought 4 ounces of 50% silk / 50% baby camel roving. The roving is incredibly soft thanks to the baby camel fiber and has the sheen of silk. I can’t wait to spin it!
They sell weaving yarns at excellent prices. I looked through the booth, but didn’t buy anything. Most of their yarns were cotton or tencel and I already have many cones of those fibers for weaving.
The Yarnover Truck was in the house. Like literally in the house, on the market floor.
Four Purls, a LYS in Lakeland, FL, has a yarn truck, which I’ve seen at various events (e.g. Orlando Distaff Day 2015), but it’s always parked outside. I love the name “Yarnover Truck.” I want to call them and ask them bring that yarn over. Too bad I live on the opposite side of the country. The inside of the truck is lovely, with built-in cubbies full of yarn:
I didn’t buy anything from them during the market preview, but I came back later to pick up some yarn for a baby blanket that I’m making for a friend.
Another booth carried Jelly Yarn.
Remember those jelly shoes every little girl had back in the late 70s and early 80s? This yarn feels just like those shoes. And some of the colors glow in the dark:
I resisted the temptation to buy some during the market preview because what would I actually do with it? While it’s tempting to think that I might knit myself jelly shoes (or slippers, perhaps) I’m certain they’d be too fragile to wear outside during a Florida summer. I was unable to resist its siren call for the entire Conference however. Three skeins came home with me (in Ravenclaw colors, of course).
Unique Market Features
The TKGA / CGOA Market had two unique features: The Brilliance Bar and a Yarn Winding Station.
During posted Office Hours, at least two Master Hand Knitter Committee Members manned the Brilliance Bar. Attendees could make an appointment to ask knitting-related questions. Whether you wanted a little info on the Master Hand Knitter program or you needed help trouble-shooting a current project, this was the place to go! I didn’t personally make an appointment — almost every class I took was taught by a Committee Member, so I had many opportunities to ask questions during the Conference. I’d love to hear comments from people who did visit the Brilliance Bar or people who worked it. What kind of help did you get? What was the craziest problem anyone brought to the Bar?
OMG. Every fiber event should have one of these. I realize it might not be practical for a large event like Maryland Sheep and Wool, but why haven’t I seen this at the smaller events I’ve attended? I could knit my new yarns NOW. I don’t have to wait to get home to my swift and ball winder!
CGOA Member Design Competition
Each year, CGOA (Crochet Guild of America) runs a Member Design Competition. Entrants must submit their work by July 1. Pieces are on display at the Conference Market and prizes are announced at the Saturday night banquet. “Entries must be original designs that have not been previously entered in this competition, previously published in any print or electronic media, or otherwise publicly available before the date of competition (our judges need to have never seen this work before). Entries do not have to be new or recently crocheted, as long as they are your own designs.” (from the Eligibility Guidelines, available on the members-only section of CGOA’s website). This year, crocheters could enter pieces in 7 categories: Fashion, Accessories, Home Decor and Afghans, Thread Crochet, Young Designer (25 years old or younger), and First-Time Entrant / Non-Professional (no designs previously published in any form). CGOA judges awarded prizes in each category. Anyone attending the Market could vote for one piece for the Attendee Favorite. Here’s a few of my favorites:
My favorite pieces were all by the same person: fiber artist Kayt Ross. Her website (www.vivaciousart.com) is down, but she does have a Facebook page.
This crocheted cat suit probably looks unwearable:
But someone has actually worn it and looked amazing in it. I found this picture on Pinterest; it was pinned from the artist’s website.
Ross’s entry in the Afghan category was only partially visible under the other afghans. I love the color combination and the freeform shape.
Her piece Danikil Depression won Third Place in the Artistic Expression category. This one was so huge that it was difficult to get good pictures. Here’s a couple of angles.
Her piece Cobblestones won Second Place in the Artistic Expression category.
Finally, the piece that I considered the showstopper: “Emily Rose”. I voted for this one for People’s Choice. I don’t know if it won in that category or not, but it did win First Place in the First Time Entrant category and the overall Grand Prize. Yes, this really is crochet. I leaned in as close as I could get to the piece without touching it and even that close it was difficult to see the stitches. It’s beautiful work.
The list of all the winners, except People’s Choice, is on MarlyBird’s website. She was at the show and did book signings. I believe she was also one of the Design Competition Judges.
The Breakfast of Brilliance
The Breakfast of Brilliance started at 7:30 am Friday.
At this event, anyone who finished Master Knitter Level 3 (the final level) since the last Knit & Crochet Show received a pin from current Committee Chair Suzanne Bryan. A total of 13 people finished level 3 in the last year, but only 7 were able to come to San Diego. I asked Arenda if this was the most people to finish level 3 in one year. She didn’t know off the top of her head, but there’s no doubt that Master Knitters are an elite group. (While working on this blog post I ran across a page on TKGA’s website with pictures of each pinning ceremony since 2007. In 2007, 24 people received pins. In 2008 and 2010, 17 graduates received them.) In the 30 years of TKGA’s existence, only 300 people have completed Level 3. TKGA has the complete list of graduates on their website. Congratulations to all the new graduates!
Level 3 requires knitters to design two projects: a hat and a sweater. One must be Aran (that’s one color, with lots of cables, bobbles, and texture) and the other must be Fair Isle (that’s color work). The knitter can decide if he or she wants to make an Aran hat and Fair Isle sweater or vice versa. During breakfast, we had a fashion show of the new graduates’ final pieces. Some graduates modeled their own pieces. Master Hand Knitter Committee members modeled the rest. Each piece was beautiful! I didn’t get everyone’s names to match with the pieces and I didn’t get good pictures of all the pieces. These are the best pictures and information that I got during the event!
At the end of the Breakfast, we had a drawing for door prizes. Emma won a bag full of yarn. It was like Mary Poppins magical bag but full of yarn instead of mirrors or hat stands.
The Yarn Tasting
The most important thing I have to say about the Yarn Tasting is THANK YOU to Arenda Holladay, Suzanne Bryan, Binka Schwan, and Charles Gandy. One hundred tickets were available for the Yarn Tasting and the event sold out. Each attendee left the event with 40 mini center pull balls of yarn. Arenda, Suzanne, Binka, and Charles hand wound those mini balls. That’s 4,000 mini balls. Arenda makes it sound easy; she’s even got a video on YouTube demonstrating how to wind them. I don’t care how easy they are to wind; it’s got to take a long time to wind 4,000 mini balls. Thank you all!
The Yarn Tasting was spectacular. There’s just no other word for it. I’ve never been to an event like this one and had only the vaguest idea what it would be like. We got to the ballroom 15 minutes before the doors opened, so of course there was a line.
When the doors opened, we all filed into the room. Committee members handed each attendee a goodie bag:
We used the goodie bags to collect our mini yarn balls during the event. When we got the bag, it only had 8 yarn balls in it.
The bag itself is part of our gift — it is moth-proof 4 mil plastic! In addition to the 8 yarn balls, each bag held coupons from several sponsors, a 16″ bamboo Chiao Goo needle in either US size 2 or US size 2.5, and 3 magazines.
As you may have guessed from the “Fiber Fiesta” on the event sign, the Yarn Tasting had a Mexican theme, which was carried throughout the night. Seven or eight varieties of yarn were scattered around the table. There was one mini ball / person of each variety.
The placemats listed every yarn we got to sample. Each person got one mini ball of each variety of yarn listed here!
We got 8 mini balls in our bag and 7 or 8 on the table. The remaining samples were set up as a buffet.
We walked through the buffet, collecting one of each variety displayed.
The buffet sections were labeled by courses, just like they would be if we were getting food. A swatch of each yarn in that category decorated the tables. I believe Arenda knit all the swatches.
After we got our yarn from the buffet, Charles Gandy MCed a fashion show, featuring objects knit from sponsor yarns.
I did not get pattern names, model names, or knitter names for any of these projects — I was lucky just to get pictures! I only have pictures of a small fraction of the beautiful knitwear in this fashion show.
I submitted two items for the fashion show, but failed to take pictures of the models! The first was the Sand Tracks Scarf, knit with Swans Island yarn. The second was a Quinn Cabled Bag. In 2013 I knit 9 of these bags, each in a different color of Peace Fleece. I finished 8 of them and gave them as Christmas gifts. The 9th was mine. The knitting has been finished for more than 18 months, but it’s been sitting in my UFO pile, waiting for me to sew in the lining. Since I said I would submit it for the fashion show, I had to get that lining sewn in. I finally finished it during lunch on the day of the Fashion Show!
After the Fashion Show, anyone who submitted objects went to the ballroom next door to pick up their knitting. Everything looked beautiful, folded up in a row on tables!
As if everything we’d gotten already wasn’t enough, we each got a bag with 5 or 6 skeins of yarn as we left the Yarn Tasting, all donated by sponsors. Each person’s bag was a little different. Arenda suggested we head out to the lobby for a “Halloween candy swap” if we wanted to find enough skeins for large projects!
Like I said — a spectacular event!
Bonus: A Visit to Green Mountain Spinnery
Back in May, I went to Burlington, Vermont to attend my cousin’s college graduation. I drove from Burlington down to Northampton, MA to go to WEBS and meet up with some Ravelry friends, then on to Hartford, Connecticut to spend a couple of days visiting my sister. During my trip, I visited a total of 12 yarn shops! I keep threatening to write blog posts about the trip, but haven’t done it yet. One of the places I visited was Green Mountain Spinnery. Since they were one of the Yarn Tasting Sponsors, I thought I’d slip that visit into this post.
Green Mountain Spinnery is a co-op. Most of the people who work there are part owners of the company, and it is run on democratic principles. When I planned to visit the shop, I didn’t realize that it was a tiny retail space in the mill! As soon as I parked, I knew this wasn’t an ordinary yarn shop. This sorting table is right beside the parking area. Yes, that’s a pile of discarded wool, full of tags or debris.
There’s another big pile of discarded wool out back.
The entrance to the retail space:
Inside the retail space:
It was late in the day when I got there, and the mill was not operating. I did get a quick peek inside.
Thursday was the first official day of the TKGA Conference. I should have already mentioned that CGOA (the Crochet Guild of America) Annual Conference and the TKGA Annual Conference are held at the same time and place. Attendees can choose to attend only knitting events, only crocheting events, or a combination. I only attended knitting events because my primary goal was to learn anything and everything that might help me complete the Master Hand Knitter levels. This year’s attendance was a record. I didn’t hear an official number, but the rumor swirling around the event was that 600 knitters and crocheters came to San Diego!
For those of you that asked yesterday, I never did find out who bought me dinner. I’m happy to leave it that way! On Thursday, I met Heather from South Carolina, Jo from Sydney, Australia, and Emma from Illinois. All four of us were newbies and had come to the Conference knowing no one there. We spent the rest of the event hanging out. Eventually we discovered that Heather, Jo, and I are practically triplets; our birthdays fall within an 8 month range! Unfortunately, we never got our picture taken together. I have a picture of Heather and I taken at the Yarn Tasting, so I’m saving that picture for tomorrow. Here’s a picture of Emma (left) and Jo (center) with Master Hand Knitting Committee Member Christina Hanger (right) on Masters Day. I believe Sadie Pachan took this picture.
I attended a 2-day Finishing class taught by Arenda Holladay, the Executive Director of Cast On magazine. Rather than writing a post about everything I did on Thursday (first day of Finishing and the Market Preview), today I’m just going to writing about the Finishing course. Tomorrow I’ll write about the Market and the two wonderful events I attended on Friday, the Breakfast of Brilliance and the Yarn Tasting.
The finishing class covered all the skills you need to assemble a finished garment. This included seaming vertical, horizontal, and combination (attaching a horizontal to a vertical) seams; picking up stitches along vertical, horizontal, and combination (e.g., collars because they are vertical on the sides and horizontal across the back of the neck) edges; buttonholes; weaving in ends; three-needle bind off; Kitchener stitch; and probably other skills that I’m forgetting.
I took this class for three reasons. (1) In 20+ years of knitting, I’ve never knit a sweater. Knitting myself a sweater is on my list of goals for this year. If I’m going to knit a sweater, I need to finish it properly. If I don’t, it won’t be wearable! (2) Master Hand Knitting Level 2 is all about finishing. (3) I have 12 of S’s sweaters to finish. I learned so much in this class, and I’m now excited that I have all those sweaters since I have a way to practice my new skills!
We had to knit (or buy from Arenda) a lot of homework for this class. I already posted a picture of my finished homework in last week’s Year of Projects post, but in case you missed it, here it is again (the one piece in the bottom right was not for the finishing class):
Finishing requires so much homework because you need two pieces to practice seaming techniques and because we practiced vertical seams and weaving in tails in various stitch patterns — stockinette, garter, seed stitch, 1×1 ribbing, and 2×2 ribbing. We even had two different swatches for 2×2 ribbing so we could see two different ways to create seams in ribbing. Despite having two full days and a talented, organized teacher, we did not have enough time in class to actually execute all the seaming. There’s just so much to cover!
Arenda is a fantastic teacher. (She also brought us bourbon caramels from a distillery near her Kentucky home and a constant supply of chocolates. And she’s hilarious). For each technique and variation, she first explained what we were trying to accomplish, the correct technique, and the common mistakes. She used still photographs to illustrate these points; the photos were marked with arrows or diamonds or numbers to clearly identify stitches or running thread or whatever it was we needed to see. She then demonstrated each technique live, projecting the video onto the screen so everyone could easily see what she was doing. Then we each used our own swatches to work the technique and she walked around the room answering questions and correcting our inevitable mistakes.
Arenda suggested that we leave the last inch or so of our seams loose so that when we look back at them, we can see the path of the yarn. Prior to this class, I’d done minimal seaming and I hadn’t done any of it correctly. I totally did not understand how mattress stitch worked!
Prior to this class, I had picked up stitches on horizontal and vertical edges, but never on curved edges. I had never done a double pick up for bands.
Prior to this class, I had never knit a buttonhole. We knit these swatches in class and they aren’t blocked, which makes it more difficult to see the buttonholes!
On the second day of class, we ran out of time for weaving in ends. Arenda presented the information and gave us a demo, but the only swatch we worked in class was the mid-row color change. I haven’t woven in the ends on any of the other swatches yet!
And here’s all the finished swatches together!
I highly recommend attending Arenda’s Finishing class if you have the opportunity. However, those of you unable to attend the Finishing Course either because you weren’t in San Diego or because the class was sold out aren’t entirely out of luck. Arenda has an excellent YouTube channel and blog covering many of the techniques we learned in class. Here’s links to the relevant videos and blog posts.
Just a quick note on my swatch photos. I use my iPhone to take the photos that appear on this blog. I usually take the pictures on my dining room table in the mid-afternoon when filtered sunlight shines through the window right beside the table. If it’s raining or I’m busy, I sometimes have to wait to take pictures until I can take them in good light. In order to be more flexible with photos, I’ve wanted to get a light box. During Amazon’s Prime Day sale, I bought the StudioPRO 24″ Portable Table Top Product Photography Lighting Tent Kit (affiliate link). It was delivered to my house while Chris and I were in NJ for his Uncle Angelo’s funeral. These finished swatch pictures are the first pictures I’ve taken with the light box. It was 10:30 pm when I took them, so obviously I wasn’t getting any sunlight! I love how the pictures came out and I look forward to using the light box on my future pictures!
Wednesday started bright and early simply because I was still on East Coast time. I woke up at 3:30 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. By 6:30 am, I was showered, dressed, packed, and at the front desk to get my room changed. I couldn’t get into a new room until the regular check in time of 3:00 pm, so I left my suitcases with the bell hop and went to breakfast in the Terrace Cafe on the hotel property. I forgot to mention this yesterday, but all the food I ate at the hotel was excellent. Since it was also expensive, I ate most of my meals at the mall which was behind the hotel property.
After breakfast, I headed over to the Conference Center.
Since I received my registration packet in the mail a couple of weeks before the event, I already had my tickets, but I needed a sleeve to hold my name badge, so I stopped at the registration desk.
I got two surprises at registration. Neither should have been a surprise; I knew about both things, but had totally forgotten. Since this was my first time attending TKGA, I registered as a newbie. This meant that I was assigned to a buddy group, consisting of three newbies (including me) and a previous attendee. My buddy was the program organizer, Kate Steinke. The surprise I got at registration was this envelope:
Inside, I found this pin:
Kate crocheted a pink pin for each newbie and a blue pin for each buddy! I attached mine to my name tag.
My second surprise was a goodie bag from Lion Yarns. The first 500 people to register for the conference got this goodie bag.
Here’s a better look at the yarn. I hadn’t heard of this yarn before, and at first glance I thought it was wool (because of the texture) blended with silk or bamboo (because of the sheen). It’s actually acrylic!
I also bought two TKGA pins
I added them to the collection on my backpack:
After registration, I headed to Masters Day!
The Masters Day program included four tracks: one for each level of the Master Hand Knitting program and one for Level 3 graduates. I am working on Level 1, so I attended all the Level 1 sessions. Since those are the only sessions I attended, I can’t tell you about any of the other tracks! Here’s the schedule for the day (downloaded from the TKGA website):
I was so busy learning that I failed to take pictures during the day. Sadie Pachan, the Managing Editor of Cast On, took this picture of my table. At least I have proof I was actually there 🙂
The three mornings sessions were vitally important to completion of Level 1, as these are the three skills underlying every single swatch. While each swatch does test other basic knitting stitches, if yarn selection, gauge, and tension are off, every single swatch will be off. I learned this lesson the hard way during the afternoon’s swatch review!
The information presented during the morning sessions is already available to everyone taking Level 1. The general instructions, the On Your Way to the Masters articles in Cast On, the TKGA Ravelry group, and YouTube videos by several MHK Committee members cover the same topics in detail. I don’t know about you, but no matter how much research and writing I do (and I’ve done all of it for the first 15 swatches and the blocking report), I’m never 100% certain of my application of the technique. I’ve knit for a long time, but I’m self-taught, and I know the hazards that this can involve. No matter how much I think I understand, I don’t always do it right!
The morning sessions were valuable because we got to see examples and ask questions. During yarn choice, we could hold up our yarn and say, “Is this light-colored?” Answer: While other colors might be acceptable, you can’t go wrong with white, cream, or pastels. The green yarn that I thought I might use for the mittens (the same yarn that I used for the swatches below) is too neon. It takes about 8 hours (all volunteer, by-the-way) to review a level 1 binder, and 20+ hours to review a level 2 binder. MHK requires light-colored yarn to make it easier for the reviewer to see the stitches during his / her detailed review of our work.
During the gauge session, we walked through the steps of measuring gauge, using swatches provided to us. While I was working on my Level 1 swatches at home, I watched Arenda Holladay’s excellent videos on marking the swatches for gauge, measuring for gauge, and calculating gauge. During Masters Day, we used this same process with one important addition — we saw the process of placing the markers (in Arenda’s video, the markers are already in place).
I found this demonstration to be particularly valuable on the cable swatch. Throughout Masters Day (and the 2-day Finishing Class I took on Thursday and Friday), I was repeatedly reminded of the importance of differentiating between a knit stitch (looks like a V) and the space between stitches (looks like an upside down V). While I’m generally skilled at reading my knitting, the first two times I placed the marker in the cable swatch, I put it in the wrong place. When you have a knit stitch next to a purl stitch, it is difficult to see the demarcation between stitches.
Here’s the swatch I marked at home:
I threaded the markers through the column of purl stitches beside the cable on the right and the border on the left. When you turn the swatch over, you see that each marker runs through the middle of a column of knit stitches.
Here’s the swatch I marked during Master’s Day:
This swatch is correctly marked between stitches. On the back side, I did not split any stitches. On both the front and the back, the green yarn is barely visible!
My biggest aha moment of Masters Day came during the tension session. I learned that I have tension issues. During the afternoon swatch review session, I realized that some of the problems I had with the swatches which I thought were execution problems were actually tension problems. Since these two sessions run together in my mind, I’m going to conflate them into one discussion on tension!
During the tension presentation, we saw several examples of swatches with poor tension and with good tension. We saw gutters across the entire swatch and gutters only along the edge stitches. We also learned two techniques for diagnosing whether our purl stitches are larger than our knit stitches or vice versa. (For most people, the purl stitches are larger, but that isn’t true for everyone!) The first technique is to cut the yarn after a purl row and after a knit row, pull the rows out and measure the yarn. Suzanne Bryan, current Committee chair, wrote a step-by-step blog post on this method. The other technique is to knit a swatch with four rows of one color and four rows of a different color. This method, detailed on knittsings blog, makes it easier for you to distinguish between purl rows and knit rows.
I’ve knit for a long time. I did all the research for the swatches and learned the definition of guttering. I’ve read many posts on the TKGA boards re: struggles with tension and guttering. I looked at the back of my swatches, but since my guttering is not as pronounced as the examples I had seen, I didn’t recognize it. Here’s pictures of the back of two Level 1, Swatch #2 that I knit. The top row, on size 7 needles, is the one I brought to Masters Day. The bottom row, on size 8 needles, I rejected because I didn’t like the gauge. The guttering is more pronounced on it, so I’m including it here. The pictures on the right side are close-ups of the right edge of each swatch, where the guttering is more pronounced.
For those lucky readers unfamiliar with the concept, guttering happens when your knit and purl stitches are not the same size. In reverse stockinette, two rows of purl bumps snuggle up to each other and on either side there’s a bit of space between the cozy rows and the next pair of purl bumps. As a result, the knitting looks striped. (The front also looks striped, but I think it’s easier to see on the purl side, so only included those pictures here).
At least three Committee members looked at my knitting and offered suggestions on tension and guttering. My knit stitches are larger than my purl stitches. In addition, the guttering gets worse as I work across the row. Suggestions included trying a different yarn, going down another needle size, and taking a video of my knitting so I can see what I’m doing differently on my knit rows and purl rows. The Committee members tried to encourage me — it’s not the worst guttering problem they’ve seen and I don’t have to reknit all 15 swatches. I appreciated the kind words, but I’m actually not discouraged by the notion that I might have to reknit all the swatches! In fact, I was happy to learn that other things I thought were problems were a result of tension issues.
For example, here’s the picture of all the swatches pinned out for blocking.
Notice how the increase and decrease swatches aren’t symmetrical. I thought I wasn’t executing the paired increases and decreases correctly. The increases and decreases on the left side of the swatch look more pronounced to me (the pencil points to the spot where I think this is easiest to see). While my increases and decreases aren’t perfect, my tension problems exacerbate the problem. If I fix my tension, I will likely fix the symmetry of my increase and decrease swatches.
Remember last month when I mentioned that the Raindrops on Roses shawl is slightly asymmetrical? It’s probably just me. I had the shawl with me in San Diego, so when I got back to my room at the end of Masters Day, I looked at the back. I have the same guttering problem on that shawl, and it is more pronounced on one side. I also had with me an Icarus shawl that I knit 3 years ago. That shawl does not have the same guttering problem.
These were important revelations for me, because it means the problem is not the yarn or needle size on my TKGA swatches. The problem is how I knit, and it’s a problem that developed in the last couple of years. I’ve been knitting more and knitting faster than I did before. I already knew my tension had changed substantially, thanks to the Liquid Silver Shawl, but I didn’t know that the increased speed and change in tension meant I developed gutters.
I immediately signed up for TKGA’s Taming Tension Course and Patty Lyons Improve Your Knitting: Alternative Methods (affiliate link) Craftsy Course. I signed up for the latter course because it covers several different ways to hold your needles while knitting. I’ll be working through both courses during August, trying to figure out my tension. I knit through my entire flight on the way home from San Diego, and I looked carefully at how I’m holding my needles. I’m pretty sure I know why my knit stitches are larger than my purl stitches. Later this week, I plan to record myself knitting so I can confirm my suspicions. I’ll share the results on my blog. Once I find a solution to my tension issue, I plan to reknit all the swatches.
After swatch review, we had a blocking demonstration. My swatches pictured above are poorly blocked; you should ignore them. I was stretching out the swatches too much, attempting to correct the tension issues through blocking. That’s never going to work!
Several attendees brought swatches with them and Suzanne showed us the proper technique. She put the swatches in a bowl of water and gently pressed them down, holding them in the water until air bubbles stopped rising to the surface. She then blocked several participant swatches, including swatch #15 (horseshoe cable) and #13 (yarnovers). In short, the proper method is to pin the bind off and cast on edges straight, without stretching the knitting. Then you gently unroll the edges and pin them down, again without stretching the edges. Of all my swatches above, the only one that I think is properly blocked is #15 (the swatch with two cables).
During the Q & A Session, Joyce demonstrated a method for working the cuff on the Level 1 mitten. I haven’t looked at the mitten yet, so recorded the demonstration for my reference. She kindly granted me permission to post the video publicly. On one row of the cuff, you knit three, then k2tog. On the next row, you work a m1o increase, followed by k2tog. The k2tog on the preceding row tends to tighten the stitches, making it difficult to see the running thread that you need to pick up for the m1o. She showed us an easy way to get to the running thread. Most of the video demonstrates Continental knitting. If you knit English style, like I do, skip to 2:50 for a method that works for you.
I did not take any classes on Wednesday evening. After Masters Day, I picked up the key to my new room, dropped off my things and headed to the mall for dinner at True Food Kitchen. When I finished dinner, something happened that transformed my day and, I believe, the rest of my Conference experience.
Everyone falls prey to negative self-talk at some point. I’m particularly vulnerable when I’m tired, and by early evening on Wednesday, I was quite tired as I had been up since 3:30 am. From my room to the restaurant was a 10 to 15 minute walk. The entire time, one of those negative lies (that I’m unable to connect with people — otherwise, I wouldn’t be going to dinner alone) burrowed its way into my head. The food was truly delicious and I enjoyed it, but the negative voice still echoed in my head. The waitress brought me the bill and I gave her my card. Just about the time I was beginning to wander where she got to with my credit card, she came back. “You don’t owe me anything,” she said. “Someone else paid for your dinner.”
I’m not the kind of person this happens to; I don’t think it’s ever happened before. “Are you serious?!”
“He doesn’t want me to tell you who he is,” she replied before I even asked.
Incredulous, I practically ran back to my hotel room and wept with gratitude (I’m tearing up again as I type this). I have no idea who this stranger was, but here’s a public thank you. Your random act of kindness blew all the negative crap out of my head. Because of you, I didn’t isolate myself during the rest of the conference, like I probably would have otherwise. Since I didn’t isolate myself, I met some new friends from across the country and the world. Thank you.