The first sight of Chicago through the plane window made the city look like it was painted by Monet (very appropriate considering The Art Institute’s famous impressionist collection)
I always fall down on the job taking photos in Chicago. It is arguably one of the world’s most photogenic cities, with the lakefront and amazing architecture, every glance of downtown offers you a spectacular view . . . and then, there’s the lobby of the Palmer House!
Welcome to Vogue Knitting Live Chicago!
To say this venue is a special place, doesn’t quite cut it. I’ve taught in hotels and conference centers all over the country, but none of them welcomes you with this. Vogue Knitting Live Chicago at The Palmer House is truly magic!
My first night there I taught “All About Stripes” to an amazing group and it really started my show off right
Things just kept getting better as I headed to the market Friday night after another wonderful day of teaching. As I got close to the entrance I saw one of my designs had made it onto the Vogue Knitting mannequin!! SQUEEEEE!!!!!
I headed into the market to ooh and ah at the fiber art:
After seven classes I was both exhilarated AND exhausted all at the same time. My amazing students give me so much, and I even got a wonderful bracelet from a student from Istanbul,
and this card from another . . . it sums up how I feel about my students, the other teachers, and the entire staff of Vogue Knitting Live
If you missed it . . . don’t worry, you can still join us in New York in January. Believe me, it’s worth it. See you all in Jan!
It’s been a crazy month, and I’m sitting in a hotel room in Chicago at Vogue Knitting Live (more on that later), and I saw my file of wonderful Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool pictures and realized . . . oh yeah, I was going to post those.
Since I’m 15 hours of teaching deep, with six more to go, and I can barely keep my eyes open, I’m just going to post some pretty pictures and say this . . . if you’ve never been to Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool, seriously, go. It’s always the third weekend in October, the sky is always blue, the leaves are always perfect, the sheep are always adorable, the food is always great and the yarn . . . well the yarn is . . . YARN!
And now . . . onto the sheep. Road trip to
Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool
Goodbye for now, see you soon sheepies!
Is it possible to be homesick for a place that isn’t your home? It can when that place is as special as coastal Maine and you just came back from spending a weekend teaching with amazing students in the company of amazing fellow teachers in a most AMAZING location at the Make. Wear. Love retreat.
From the first glance at the coast and our lighthouse home, I knew this was going to be an incredibly special weekend – but I had no idea how special.
Make Wear Love retreat – sweater love and proud of it!
The retreat is the brain child of Amy Herzog to spend a weekend focusing on sweater making, and helping students put what they learned through Custom Fit in action (if anyone out there in blogland doesn’t know about Custom Fit, click the link – seriously, your sweater knitting life will never be the same), but it was SOOOO much more than that.
I think what spoke to me as a “technique nerd”, was Amy’s welcome comments that first night. She mentioned the much noted statistic that there are more knitters than golfers, yet one big difference is golfers don’t apologize. They don’t apologize or feel “silly” for the time and money they spend working on perfecting the thing they love. This comment was like a bolt out of the blue for me. As someone who has made their life’s work exploring what others might find to be “minutia” (like the technical details of how our stitches are formed and how to form them better), I felt more than just validated, more then just appreciated, I felt understood – and so did every knitter in that room.
I was expecting to be inspired by working with incredible teachers like Amy (who made knitters embrace the thing I love to make more than anything – sweaters) Clara Parkes (obviously to say she “wrote the book” on everything about yarn is not just an expression – if I could crack open her head like a walnut and extract everything she knows about yarn . . . but that’s creepy, so instead I’ll just bask), Kim McBrien Evans (who created such amazing yarn with the most brilliant colors and equally brilliant names – seriously BRILLIANT), and Gwen Bortner (a woman proud to call herself a technician, and damn does she know some cool tricks!), but I didn’t anticipate how inspired I’d be by the 80 spectacular knitters who showed up to learn.
The weekend was filled with such laughter, relaxation and ah ha moments, it’s impossible to sum up, so I’ll just share one story and then let the pictures speak for themselves. I was there to teach “Improve Your Knitting”, that meant we spent hours just focused on better ways to form the stitch, tension your yarn, create increases and decrease, blah, blah, blah. We weren’t “making” anything (except better knitters), but wow were these knitters energized and brilliant students.
There were two friends Cindy and Britta who took the time to show me just how much their knitting had changed since taking my class (something that brings me more joy then I can say). Cindy showed me a swatch and said, pointing the the bottom half “look, this is the swatch I made before your class, and here (pointing to the top half) is my knitting after your class. Can you see the difference?”. After a moment of dumbfounded silence I nearly yelled ” What am I, hard of seeing? Of course I can see the difference!”. These pictures don’t quite capture it, but . . .
The next day, Britta was in my class. I was walking around the room watching people knit and giving feedback, and I made a small suggestion to Britta on a change she might make to how she was tensioning her yarn. She screwed up her face and stared at her knitting with the intense concentration of a golfer trying to perfect her put (see it all comes full circle). By the first break she showed me proudly the perfect stitches she made. Here they both are proudly displaying their knitting. They have a right to be proud.
Then there was the knitter who decided to start her sweater over once she took Kim’s class, knowing she COULD get the neckline she wanted, the knitter who told me she would never look at yarn the same way again after taking Clara’s class, the knitter who seamed her VERY FIRST ever sweater together after taking Gwen’s class, and the knitter, after knitter, after knitter, who told stories of how they made the sweater they love thanks to Amy’s classes.
I teach at a lot of shows and guilds where you spend 3 – 6 hours with knitters. Spending three days, talking, listening, laughing and eating Lobster with knitters . . . that’s a whole different, wonderful ballgame.
Here are a few pictures to enjoy. I hope when the traffic noise and crazy life of NYC gets too much, I can close my eyes and see the coast, smell the air, feel the grass under my feet and hear the click of needles and the laughter of happy knitters.
Yeah, yeah, yeah (you’re probably thinking), I know I need to make a gauge swatch. This isn’t about the need or even the how, but the what the heck do you do when . . . .
Measuring in Knitting – The X-Ray
So as many of you that have taken my gauge class knows, I’m not a fan of just measuring the entire width of a swatch to get your gauge. This method (for me) has proven to be very inaccurate, especially when designing a garment in negative ease where the gauge will really matter.
Designing Knitting Stitches
So where does inspiration come from? From a sunset, a beautiful field, a work of art . . . a laundry hamper.
Yep, you heard me right. Sometimes inspiration comes from the weirdest places. A little over a year ago, my husband David and I were at an adorable Inn In Woodstock New York, and I just loved the laundry hamper. It was a cool basket with a kind of weird swirley pattern.
Even though I was on deadline at the time for another sweater (more on that hoodie at a later date), I picked up my needles and started playing around to see if I could recreate it. I tried traditional cables, and lace stitches, and finally, I just invented a weird twisted stitch pass over thingy that I quite liked.
Does the stitch look exactly like the basket? Not at all, but that’s not the point. The basket was a jumping off point that made me pick up my needles. I stopped trying to “match” it when I got something on my needles that said “hey, stop, look at me, aren’t I cute?”
Since I loved the way it added a certain structure to a really floopy silk, and the swatch trapped air in a pleasing way, I thought, scarf or shawl??? How bout scawl or sharf. That’s when you can’t quite make up your mind so you design a really wide scarf that can stretch out over your shoulders, or squinch up around your neck. Also, it’s easy to adjust at any length or width because it’s a 4 stitch repeat.
So if you want to make one for yourself,
Here ya go (click on the picture or name for more info, or the “buy now” to . . . well, you know)
I woke up with my head full of deadlines, and then I turned on NY1 for my daily dose of weather on the 1s, and “In the Papers”, and I realized what day it is. I’ve never written about 9/11, in part because of how politicized it has become and the terrible things that have been done in it’s name, but I went onto Facebook and saw this really wonderful video posted by my brilliant friend Francesca. (you can watch it here).
New York City after 9/11
It made me remember what it was like to come to the city when it was so beat up and broken. I posted this on Facebook:
“I moved to NY for a job (the amazing show The Last Five Years). I arrived on Dec 3, 2001. It was 12 weeks after 9/11 and the city was still on fire, the subways were a mess, people downtown still wore masks, the city was hurting, and the people were amazing. It’s hard to describe what it was like, but it was sad and wonderful and beautiful. We’ve lost a bit of that spirit of kindness that existed in those months following the attack, but it still comes back when we need it the most. I’ll never forget how amazing people were during the city wide blackout that happened two years after 9/11. I forgot who said it, but when asked why there was virtually no rioting or crime during the blackout (the city was ravaged by crime during the citywide blackout in the 70s) someone said, because New Yorkers now know the difference between a tragedy and an inconvenience. I saw that spirit of kindness again after Sandy.
We all complain about NYC from time to time. It can be a hard place to live in, but it can also be unspeakably beautiful. I love New York. Thanks for taking me in when you were broken.”
It started me thinking about New York and how frustrating, wonderful, difficult, exciting, ridiculous, brilliant, horrible, and magical it is to live in this city. You hate and love this place. It infuriates and delights you. It’s like your family.
Just like your family, it’s not perfect, but it’s yours. You understand it when others don’t. You can complain about the insane rents and home prices, but when someone outside the city says “but you can get a mansion in (fill in the blank) for that price”, you say “but then I’d have to live in (fill in the blank) and not NYC.” You can complain about the city, but you are defensive when non New Yorkers ask you “how can you live there?”
After all, just like your family, you can complain about it, but up comes your dukes if anyone else dares to do the same (I think that’s what bugged me so much about the tourist family I wrote about in my subway rant). So just like your family you might take the city for granted from time to time.
So on this day, let’s take a minute to thank our city for everything it gives us. Through all the craziness of the last 13 years, I can still say – I Love New York.
When Bad bind offs happen to good people.
When you bind off do you get something that looks like a noose at the end of your knitting? Does it bug you as much as it does me?
Better Bind Off
First let’s take a look at what a regular bind off leaves you with:
Ah, but to paraphrase Jason Robert Brown’s Last Five Years (movie coming out soon!), we can do better than that!
“JUST DO IT” – Doing What You Love
It’s been quite a year. Yep, believe it or not, I began this incredible journey of being a full time knitwear designer and teacher a little over a year ago. I’d been working in the industry for seven years, but always for other people (yarn shop, yarn company), but now I’ve spent the most amazing year doing ONLY what I love full time, and working for just one crazy boss . . . me.
It’s been quite a roller coaster and there have been a few uh oh moments along the way (if you submit to six different magazines who all have the same deadline and all designs get approved . . . better hire some sample knitters!). There have been some 12 hr knitting days when deadlines were tight, and I’ve learned that as much as I love to knit, I have to let projects go to other knitters, so I can move on to the next one. That’s been hard. To see some of the designs I did this year, that are already published (can’t show you the other 14 that haven’t come out yet), you can click here.
There have been too many great things about this year to name, but I think one of my favorite things about the designer part of my job is that my grandmother’s rocking chair in front of my fireplace has been my workspace in the winter, and my (now destroyed, but that’s a story for another day) roof deck was my workspace in the spring / summer
As a teacher, I’ve been lucky enough to travel all over the country this year, teaching at shows, guilds and shops. I’ve loved working with all the students and have been really excited to see the same students from last year coming back. It’s really fun to get to know students (and Sandi always brings me a little gift – pretty awesome). I also had two video classes and two webinar classes launch this year, and I just got done filming another one. Doing on camera work is a whole other ball game, but I love it. Stay tuned for more info about some new classes I’ll be filming this winter.
But the most important, wonderful, shocking, amazing, awe inspiring thing I found out this year, was how generous and amazing people in this industry can be. It’s no exaggeration to say there were many things I knew NOTHING about. I was lucky enough to have brilliant friends to bother all year long with “what do you do when . . .”, “how do I . . .” , “what happens if . . .” questions. I also was lucky enough to have a bunch of brilliant and well respected folks believe in me enough to say, yeah, let’s work with her. I’ve had a year of feeling humbled, stupid, smart, ashamed and proud (remember roller coaster).
I wanted to name all the people who have helped me so much this year (and in past years), but I was afraid of two things:
1) It would sound like an Oscar speech and I hadn’t won anything
2) They would be “outed” for how wonderful they are and have their doors pounded down with people asking for help.
I hope you all know who you are, but just in case, I’m going to send you an e-mail saying “hey, I was talking about you”
On second thought, maybe I did win something . . . the job I’ve always wanted. I wish the same for all of you.
I’ve been a terrible blogger, but I hope you’ll forgive me when you see the new designs & classes coming out. It’s been an insanely busy summer with planning for filming a new online class for Annie’s as well as an exciting new teaching plan (sorry can’t tell ya yet, stay tuned) and many new designs (sorry, can’t show ya yet).
Since the summer is slipping away fast, you can imagine how excited I was when I found out I’m going to CAMP, Camp Stitches that is!! Yep, that means three straight days of knitting in GORGEOUS New Mexico! Squee!!
Camp Stitches –
Secrets to Spectacular Sweater Success!
Join me for a three day sweater intensive – click here for more info and to book
There are so many ways your sweater can go wrong but even more ways it can go sooo right. In this three-day sweater intensive, we will be looking beyond the pattern to really explore all the secrets and tricks every knitter needs to know to create their perfect sweater. We will begin with an exploration of knitting technique—how to create a more stable fabric with no “rowing out,” how to make neat edges and fix the big loopy first stitch, as well as better cast-ons and bind offs to name just a few.
Next we will delve into specific knitting techniques and how to improve them including best practice for picking up stitches, tricks to avoid gaps in your necklines, and how to improve the look of ribs and cables, better matching YO in lace, making a SSK that matches your K2tog, better transition from rib and so much more!
We will also be answering what every knitter wants to know: what parts of the pattern to ignore or change. When to use short rows, should you or should you not convert to in the round, what if you want to get a different size or use a different yarn.
Finally we’ll address what you need to start and end a perfect project: gauge and blocking. How and why does your gauge swatch lie to you, and how to block your garment perfectly?
Make this the year of your perfect sweater!
For those of you who hear “camp” and have these images jump into you head
Actual uniform catalog. Note the helpful fashion suggestion to “Show that you belong – wear your complete dress uniform properly and with pride at all times”.
Or perhaps you grew up as a city gal, and have never camped a day in your life . . .
Camp STITCHES WILL have:
Camp STITCHES Will NOT have:
|– Fabulous Teachers
– Fun classes
– Brilliant Students
– Beautiful Setting
|– Uncomfortable sleeping bags
– Ugly camp uniforms
– Horrible camp food
– Bad camp songs (Can’t swear to this one)
Hope you can join me November 13 – 17 and make this the year of your dream sweater!
In the last Tuesday Tip I covered the felted join as the spit splice. This type of splice is for animal fibers that are non machine washable . . . but wait, there is another way.
Meet the Needle Felted Join
When I want to splice a non animal fiber I try pulling out my handy dandy needle felting pen. I’m never 100% sure if a fiber will hold the splice until I give it a try, but often if a yarn has a bit of bite to it, a cotton, or raw silk blend for instance, or a machine washable wool, acrylic blend, it will work like a charm.