kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (Default)
Sunday evening, I was on the Central Line, heading home from work. I took out my knitting and started working on the will-they-ever-end box pleats for Celtic Leaves.

Three seats away, a blonde woman leaned toward me. "Excuse me," she said.

I looked up and smiled at her.

"What are you knitting?"

"It'll be a shawl," I replied.

Across from her, two women who'd been talking to one another listened in. One of them said, "That's going to be a big shawl!"

I chuckled. "These will be box pleats, so the piece will only end up being about half this wide."

"You knit differently than I do," said the other lady.

The blonde lady two seats away nodded. "Me, too," she said. "I've never seen anybody knit like that."

The first lady across the way said, "Oh, that's the Continental style. I was taught to knit that way, believe it or not."

"How's it different?" wondered the blonde lady.

"I handle the yarn in my left hand," I explained. "It's just the way I learned to knit."

"Is it faster?" she asked.

The second lady across the way said, "That's what I've heard."

I didn't notice the lady to my right nodding. "I knit in the old fashioned English way," she said, "and everybody I know who knits like you do knits much faster than I do!"

"There we go!" said the blonde lady. "If only we'd all brought our knitting, we could have a Central Line knitting party right now!"

Everybody had a giggle, and I got back to my knitting. I paused to answer a question from the lady to my right about how the box pleats were going to be made. I explained to her that the purl-side stitches would fold back to create the pleat texture. She made 'impressed' noises.

At my stop, I folded up the knitting and headed down to the Jubilee Line. All the ladies gave me a pleasant goodbye on my way out of the carriage. :-)

And they say Londoners don't talk on the Tube.

Today at work, I was finishing up about three transactions at once and helping a lady find the right person to check her in for an appointment. I paused to ask a gentleman who was standing at the counter if he was doing all right; he'd been standing there a while. He allowed that he was fine, no problem, just waiting for someone to bring him a product. I reassured him that I just like to check on people and was getting ready to head back and take care of something else, when the woman with him said, "Hey! I know you!"

She didn't look familiar to me, but I turned to her and smiled anyway.

"You go to knit nights at I Knit London!"

"Yes, I do," I replied.

"You made that amazing shawl, didn't you?"

"I did," I said. It's hard not to sound prideful when I admit I made this gorgeous thing keeping my shoulders warm in the dry air conditioning. "And I'm almost always at I Knit London on Wednesdays; I teach beginning classes there."

"Do you ever teach lace?" she wondered. She reached out to touch the shawl and I handed her an end to examine.

"I do; it's just a question of when things get onto the shop calendar. If I don't our other teacher, A, has taught lace there before and may very well again."

"I would love to take a lace class from you," she said. She turned to her husband. "See? I told you I knew her!"

I told her I hoped I'd see her at IKL soon, and went back to doing my job.

We are everywhere. :) I've had students and former students come into my workplace before, and others who've recognised me from festivals and knit nights. I also recognise and compliment handknits when I see them on my customers. I say, "Did you knit that?" and get a knowing smile in return. "I thought you might notice," some of them say. I admit I've been wearing the Screaming Green Alien Shawl at work a lot, because it doesn't cover up essential bits of my work identification, and it keeps my shoulders and arms warm. It also makes me feel good about myself, in the same way that wearing handknit socks makes me feel good about myself. I feel more confident when I'm wearing signs of my own competence, if that makes any sense.

At home tonight, I'm wearing a shawl made for me by dear friend SN, whom I haven't seen since I left Atlanta six years ago. It's made out of Aran-weight Wensleydale, in two contrasting shades of grey, a comfortable and homey wrap-for-warmth that makes me feel happy and loved. I'm also wearing a pair of socks [personal profile] otherdeb sent me. They feel good, too. They're all green and lacy. And y'all know how I love green and lacy.

Although there's not much to see yet, there are three photographs of Celtic Leaves, currently barely in progress, below the cut tag.

Celtic Leaves, Box Pleat Photos )
kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (Default)
Hey, Kniterati!

I'm just writing up Thursday night's mini-sock class, and I want to make sure I'm not forgetting anything. Prereqs for the class say students should be able to knit in the round, but that doesn't mean they'll understand dpns, so that'll be the only not totally sock related thing we'll cover.

I guess my question here is: on a very small sock (say a 24-st cast-on just to make the maths really easy), do you think I can cover all this in two hours?

Here's the outline, for the interested )
kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (Default)
I spent most of Friday at the show at the Knit One Pass It On booth, teaching mostly secondary school girls to knit, though I did have a rewarding continental knitting session with one of the other teachers early on and a few crochet students later in the day.

The fun thing about the continental lesson was that while I was teaching the lady how to purl, some knitters from Denmark came by. Initially they exclaimed, "Wow! You knit like we do!" and then they realised I was purling differently and offered to show me. Though I was pretty sure what they were going to demonstrate, I handed them my needles. Because I'd never seen someone from Denmark do this in real life and I wanted to make sure I was doing it right.

Friends and students, if you've learned Norwegian purling from me, I am here to tell you I do it exactly like those ladies from Denmark! Wahoo! I demonstrated again for my student (OK, I was showing off by this time), and she was, as most English knitters are, totally boggled by the necessarily quick motions of the needles-- even though I wasn't nearly as fast as the ladies from Denmark. They were delightful, and they enriched my day.

I did have an unpleasant experience a bit later on, which I've outlined on a friends-only post on LiveJournal, but I'll give you the gist here (copied from the other entry, for those of you who are now experiencing deja vu):

While I was teaching a group of five secondary school girls to knit at the Knitting and Stitching Show, a cranky old biddy walked up to my group of students and started criticising the way they were knitting, the way I was teaching them, and pretty much everything. No matter what I did, she wouldn't go away. My students were mortified and vulnerable; onlookers were appalled. I asked the booth supervisor to come stand behind me while I very evenly explained to the old biddy that this was my class, she was interrupting it, and could she please find something else to do with her time besides terrorising fourteen-year-old girls (who are naturally unsure of themselves). She ended up saying that my teaching methods were irritating her so much she had to go away and stomping off. My students were highly critical of this lady, and so was everybody else who overheard (and a lot of people overheard).

There's no need to dwell on that cranky old lady: my students learned to knit and purl, and they were doing pretty well, too. I took a break and saw a little bit of the show, got some fudge for [profile] filceolaire, and picked up a copy of Divas Don't Knit because I'm craving some mindless fiction and somebody recommended it to me. Hopefully it won't be as bad a recommendation as The Friday Night Knitting Club. I am actually looking to find a copy of a book by Barbara Bretton called Casting Spells, which is apparently about a witchy/sorceressy knitting shop owner. I could probably get into that, even if it's appalling. ;)

And that was my entire haul from the Ally Pally show. I simply didn't have the money to buy loads of yarn, the crowd was too dense for me to stop and see anything for long (for shopping, I admit that even though the variety was slightly less varied, I'd prefer the quieter and less packed I Knit Weekender any day), and the fact is, there were only two things I could have been enticed to buy knittingwise yesterday: a copy of Cat Bordhi's new book, which I really can't afford but dearly, dearly want, and some of the new neon Kauni. Unfortunately, Scandinavian Knitting Design were not at the show, which was a bummer. I had such a great experience ordering from them last year and I would have loved to meet the nice people who do such great business over the web and over the phone. Web of Wool were there with their usual supply of self-patterning everything; I abstained. GetKnitted weren't there, unless I missed them. Colinette was there with new colours that were barely resistable (but I resisted), and there was the usual astounding display of Shetland lace at Jamieson's of Scotland.

At the end of the day, Fred related a story about one of our teachers sweetly offering to teach someone to knit—and him sitting there with his hand over his mouth, covering the hysteria, because "someone" was Nicky Epstein. I wouldn't recognise Nicky Epstein if I tripped over her, so I hope it wasn't me. He promised it wasn't. Brief pause while I google: No, I don't think it was me, but she isn't a wild dresser it would appear, so I might have made the mistake. For any of you who would like to know how to recognise Nicky Epstein at a distance or even close-up, here's the best photo I found.

The trip home wasn't as maddening as the trip there, where I'd been the victim of two disabled trains on the Northern Line and a station mixup at Moorgate, but I did just miss the train out of Alexandra Palace and had to wait 15 minutes for the next one. I am still not sure I had the right ticket for this train, but no inspectors in the carriage ftw.

I came home via London Bridge, and [profile] filceolaire met me at the New Cross train bridge, just because he is the sweetest husband ever. I hope he keeps me.
kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (Default)
I think if you have a skill, you should pass it on. I teach people to knit for money, sure, but I also do it for free. This weekend I'm teaching knitting as a volunteer for I Knit London in Covent Garden, for example.

It doesn't matter how many students I see every week, I reliably remember faces, but not names, and sometimes not even which class they were in. One of the things I forgot to mention in my report about the I Knit London weekender was how many of my students, past and present, were in the exhibit hall. One student who'd been in one of my teddy bear classes proudly showed me the full-size jumper he was making for his partner. Others just smiled and waved. My two Brighton ladies shared some funny stories with me outside the venue. And one lady walked up to me with a friend, greeted me, and introduced me to her friend: "This is Gwen! She is the patient goddess who taught me to knit!" I was a bit embarrassed (but not embarrassed enough to put it out of my mind completely).

On Wednesday night, I saw a new group of beginners. There are seven of them, and they range in age from twenties to fifties. They range in ability from someone who's remembering her knitting lessons from her grandparents and had a six-inch swatch knitted by the end of class to students who are still having difficulty remembering that the working needle goes beneath the holding needle. They are all smart, fun, and interesting. One of them, the oldest lady in the class, came to class because she has tension problems and because she's never seen anybody who knits the way she does and she's positive she's doing it wrong. She wants to do it right.

After I get the other students settled into knitting and purling, I come to watch her knit. And there's nothing wrong with her knitting! She's a natural combination knitter: she knits through the back loop and doesn't twist her purl stitches. She's also knitting Continental, so this means she has a very fast purl. I tell her she's just knitting in a different style: if she wants to relearn the Western style of knitting, that's OK, but we can work with what she's doing right now, and if it's what she's been doing for years, then it may be the best way for her to knit. She says 'thank you!' and goes on about her knitting, and I move on to help another student.

After class, I catch my combination knitter on the way out. "I hope you don't find the class too basic," I say. "You're already knitting at a level above beginner level."

"No, no!" she replies. "It was worth the price of the course to hear you tell me there was nothing wrong with the way I knit!"

I tell her that we'll have to do some different decreases to make her work look uniform, and we'll definitely spend some time talking about tension as it relates to her knitting. Even though she is pleased, I feel like I haven't given her enough.

When I go back into the shop, V introduces me to some new knitters who have just started doing projects tonight. I tell them (jokingly) they should come to my class, and one of them takes out a notebook and asks me when it is! I take a look at another's ribbing, which is looking great, and show her how to tell her knit stitches from purl stitches so she doesn't have to just keep repeating the knit 1 purl 1 mantra over and over. This way, if she's interrupted while knitting, she can come back to her work and not be confused. Her two friends watch while I explain this to her. "You are a really good teacher," one of them says.

"Thank you," I reply. "I really like teaching."

And you know what? I really do.
kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (Default)
It was a great weekend! I could just end the report there, but that'd be mean! ;) I will put my ramblings beneath cut tags, because I'm nice like that.

Friday: Getting Lost, Annie Modesitt, Technique Tangent, The Exhibit Hall, Mobile Phone Madness, and Leaving Early )

Saturday: Hitching a Ride, Yarnissima, a Long Afternoon, Teaching the Ladies to Knit for Bears, and, um, Hitching a Ride! )

The I Knit London staff are an amazing bunch of people, and they had a great staff behind this event. Everyone at I Knit London deserves gold stars, free beer, or better yet CASH! ;) for their dedication and hard work. I'm so pleased to have been a part of this weekend; I hope it'll be the first of many more to come.

Photograph of my meagre haul )
kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (seussocks)
There are a ton of sock knitting resources out there. On the Internet, you can find hundreds of free patterns, along with sock construction guidelines and tips for just about every kind of sock knitting you can imagine. And I only say ‘just about’ because I’m sure someone will think of something new. Maybe they are thinking of it right this minute.

Some of you know that last week’s sock class required me to begin rewriting a sock pattern on the fly, in a class with six students. Other chaos occurred as well, but what I’m now anticipating with dread is the fact that not all my knitters will be able to knit a complete heel flap, plus turn their heels, plus begin their gusset decreases, in two hours’ time. I’m halfway through my heel flap on this sock and intend to stop at the heel turn so I can demonstrate it on Saturday. All but one of the students in this class are relatively new or inexperienced knitters, and we were just getting into the swing of working in the round when it was time to end the class. Most of them are at the stage where they’re just sort of trusting the patterns they knit. They may have reached the, “I don’t like this pattern stitch, so I’m going to substitute another at the exact point,” stage. But nobody here is really knitting fearlessly, at least not yet.

Anyway, because I have to rewrite this pattern for my class, I thought I’d talk a little bit about sock construction, what there is out there, and how to do it without really thinking about it. No reason not to share that here. ;-)

Lots of my knitting friends know these tricks, but the truth is I can explain the basics of cuff-down sock construction in a series of simple bullet points.

Basic Sock Formula )

Using this formula, you can make socks for anybody, using any kind of wool, on circulars or double points; it's your choice.

Please don't be intimidated by the maths. They are really very basic, and after knitting socks for donkey's years, I pretty much just know them off the top of my head.

Great books about sock knitting:

  • The aforementioned Folk Socks. It's a great resource, although it's somewhat densely written. Like most books that try to do absolutely everything, some bits of it may not appeal to everybody.
  • Sensational Knitted Socks provides a number of zipper patterns with lots of variations.
  • Simple Socks, Plain and Fancy is a great resource for short-row heel socks, toe up and top down.
  • Ethnic Socks provides a great introduction to socks and techniques from Eastern Europe and Turkey. If you like stranded knitting, this is a great one to play with.
  • Cool Socks, Warm Feet presents itself as a pattern book for socks made from printed and self-patterning yarns, but there are some great technique notes in it as well.
  • Sock Innovation, my newest acquisition, has already proven to be a great resource, full of fascinating design notes about how to make your socks spectacular and unique.
  • New Pathways for Sock Knitters, which amazon lists as unavailable in the UK, is actually available. If you're ready to branch out, Cat Bordhi's book explains a number of different ways to handle sock shaping so that you can create some fascinating and fantastic socks.

Great Internet resources for sock knitting:

  • The Internet Sock Knitters List Homepage. Here you'll find a lot of resources. If you decide to join the list, be aware that it is very, very chatty and high-traffic. I skim the digests when I have time, but I haven't been a regular poster to mailing lists in years.
  • Knitting Socks provides tutorials and some tips and patterns. Google Ads on front page.
  • A quick search on Ravelry reveals 557 matches for groups with keyword 'sock'.
  • Ravelry also has a huge pattern database. The most popular sock pattern on Ravelry is currently Cookie A's 'Monkey', from Knitty. More than 8,000 Ravelry members are knitting or have knitted this sock. Ravelry lists 6,900 sock patterns, nearly 2,500 of them free.
kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (knitting!)
You know, since I started designing jumpers for the teddy bear jumper classes, it now seems the most natural thing in the world to design [ profile] filceolaire's fair isle vest by first knitting a sample for Cody, my very patient bear (who is, incidentally, spending the week in Peterborough with friends).

I'm going to knit the Cody version in the green Kauni that G from I Knit London gave me last week. I'll still have plenty left over for a pair of socks. J's vest will be in a series of dusty blues and greys; these are some of his favourite colours, they bring out his eyes, and they're good for the office, unlike some of the other things I knit. ;-)

The ever-fascinating design process )
kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (knitting!)
I posted this on the IKL Ravelry group earlier today, but thought some folks reading here might be interested as well.

Class list behind cut tag )
kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (knitting!)
I arrived at I Knit London early enough last night that I could sit and knit with some of the regulars (and hawk my upcoming classes!) I was working on the entrelac sock, which is just barely into its next tier (I've mostly been knitting the Harika), so I got a chance to tell people about entrelac and how simple it really is. I hope a few of them sign up to take the class. Cody was also in attendance, showing off his jumper, and we talked about those classes as well.

I ended up with eight students in my class instead of the usual seven, so G rewarded me for my patience by giving me that ball of Kauni (in green, yellow and black, YES!) for free! :D

But the coolest thing, the above-all coolest thing from last night, was that I have a student in my class who is Portuguese. Now, obviously because my stepdaughters are half Portuguese and I have a good relationship with their mum, I do know some Portuguese people. But I taught my stepdaughters to knit; their mum knitted a few things for them when they were little but hasn't knitted in years. So my stepdaughters knit like I do, with their hands in their laps and, while I wouldn't swear to it, I think they both even knit Continental. I'll have to look sometime!

Y'all know I'm a knitting technique geek. I'm fascinated by different techniques, how to make stitches inside out, how indeed to knit backwards, and all kinds of other flash little tricks like that that make knitting easier and more fluid. I often say in class that it doesn't matter what technique and yarn hold I'm using: students who got an image in their heads of how people knit when they were very young, usually from a relative, will naturally knit in that style. So I make it my business to be able to demonstrate as many knitting styles as possible; this way I can show students how to knit more fluidly in a style that feels right to them. I can demonstrate English and Continental knitting styles with ease; I can even do that Scottish thing where you tuck the right needle under your arm and use your right index finger like a lever and almost all movement is in the left needle. And if anybody out there knits differently or oddly, I want to know about it, study their technique, and figure out how to demonstrate it or incorporate it into what I'm doing.

Years ago, I bought a Threads book called Knitting Around the World or something (I still have it) that showed various people from all over the world knitting in their special style. There was a photo in this book (and I've googled all over the net and can't find one to share with you this morning) of two Greek women knitting. The caption said only that they tensioned the wool around their necks, rather than directly through the fingers, and that the technique was quite fast for stranded work.

All this is leading up to something, I swear! Remember how I said that people naturally fall into the knitting rhythms they've seen in their cultures and from their parents and relatives? My Portuguese student naturally wanted to tension her wool around her neck! And -- there's more to this! It looked like she was doing everything inside out, but really she's not. OK, she is. The natural fast stitch for her is a very fast Continental-style purl, with just a thumb-hook. And, get this: Her knit stitch is like a Norwegian purl, only done what looks backwards to me! With the yarn in front, she double-loops and makes a twist, just like the Norwegian purl -- only back to front. She never moves her yarn. I stayed with her for a few minutes after class, because she was worried she wasn't doing everything right, since all the other students were knitting with their yarn tensioned from the ball and through their fingers. Once I figured out what she was doing, we put English names to her stitches, so she knows that when I say 'knit' I mean what she thinks of as a back stitch, and when I say 'purl' I mean what she thinks of as a front stitch. Absolutely fascinating.

So, on my way home, I rang F, the girls' mother, to ask her how she knitted! She said that yes, everyone in Portugal does it like that. Some people, she says, tension the wool through a big safety pin, like a nappy (diaper) pin, attached to their blouses, but she doesn't know how to do it that way. Next time we get together, will she show me, slowly, so I can demonstrate to other people? Of course, she says, though she is not a very good knitter anymore. I also rang [ profile] little_cinnamon, who, being Greek, might have seen this technique used in Greece.

So my question for the Kniterati out there: what other countries in the world use this tensioning method? I had previously thought it was only Greece, though Portugal makes sense as well. Is this how those amazing Estonian knitters turn out things so fast? I've also heard that middle eastern women knit incredibly fast, but I have no idea how they do it.

Tell me, too, about interesting knitting methods you've seen. If you can supply photos, I'd love to see them!

Knitting Portuguese Style
kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (knitting!)
I got a call today from G at I Knit London, who wanted to schedule just about all my proposed classes!

So, here is the docket.

  • Saturday, 7 March: Tunesian Crochet, 12pm-2pm
  • Saturday, 14 March: Knit Fix, 3:30-6pm
  • Saturday, 21 March: Weird Knitting Techniques, 12pm-3pm
  • Saturdays, 4, 11, 18 April: Entrelac Scarf, 12pm-2pm
  • Saturdays, 4, 11, 18 April: Sock Knitting for Beginners, 2:30pm-4:30pm.

Also: I bought yarn. Just look for 'Kauni'. I didn't buy as much as I planned to buy, but it is amazing stuff, and it's further amazing how little you need to make a cardigan! :D
kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (knitting!)
(I know these are getting boring, but you really should look at this one; I'm quite proud of it!)

Click for pictures )
kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (knitting!)
Well, one more with a fragment of the next one. I'm really just preparing samples in shop wool at this point. I'll probably end up going with different wool for the gansey than I'd originally intended, and possibly different needles for both garments.

Five photographs below the cut tag )
kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (knitting patterns)
This morning, I submitted the following list of potential project and technique classes to the fellow at iKnit London.

Would you be so kind as to tell me which ones, if any, you'd be interested in if you were a knitting student, able to get to my classes, and willing/able to pay for knitting classes?

Class descriptions below the cut; poll to follow. )

[Poll #1317861]
kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (knitting!)
I'm pleased to note that I'll be teaching a beginning knitting class at iKnit London on Saturday, the 14th of June. We'll start at 11:30 in the morning, and the class runs for four hours with a half hour break.

In this class, students will learn how to cast on, knit, purl, cast off-- and a little more than that! The aim is for everybody to leave with the basic skills they need to begin their first knitting project. I provide detailed handouts, hands-on teaching from thirty years of experience, and a supportive, affirming atmospher in which to learn a valuable new skill. iKnit London provides wool, needles and everything you need to get started on your own project once class is over.

This is a fun, fast-paced class for people who want to get started fast. It's geared toward absolute beginners, although people who used to knit many years ago have also found it helpful as a refresher course. Average class size is 3-6 people, which means a lot of personalised attention from the teacher and a small enough group that you'll all know one another before we're done.

I hope to see some of you there!
kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (knitting!)
Hi, folks--

I just spoke with Gerard at iKnit London, and it turns out we don't have many students at all for my Norwegian Purl class this Saturday at 4:30pm at iKnit London.

If you're interested in learning this fascinating technique from somebody who's been using it regularly for years, please consider ringing the shop and signing up! It's £10 for the class, which should run about an hour and no more than 90 minutes, and you get to spend time at iKnit London, the only knitting store in the UK that's also a licensed bar. :-) (They also have great wool, a great space, and friendly and personable shopkeepers.)

The owners were away over the weekend, and their newsletter didn't get out for this week, so here is the blurb for the class, in case you're interested:

Saturday 26 April
Hermetic Secrets of the Norweigian Purl Stitch -- Are you a continental knitter? Do you hate to purl? Here's a purl stitch you can make that won't break your rhythm.

Norwegian Purl students should be comfortable with all the basics: knitting, purling, casting on and casting off, and there will be detailed handouts to show all the steps. I will also provide links to online videos if folks would like to see examples of people going through the technique after the fact. While a swatch is not technically necessary for this class, it wouldn't hurt for folks to bring some knitting already on needles.

I'd love to see some of you there!


kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (Default)

April 2011

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