Yarnover 2014

Yarn buddy (yarn holder) and skein of yarn.
Someday, perhaps, these two will meet again in a project.

All the waiting for it to be Yarnover finally turned into it actually being Yarnover yesterday. We got there in plenty of time to thoroughly examine the Yarn Market. I was fairly restrained this year, only bringing home a “yarn buddy” and a single skein of yarn. I’m not sure how much use the yarn buddy will get, but I’ve been curious about them for a while now, and since I wasn’t blowing all my accumulated savings on yarn this year, I figured, well, why not? I don’t know as I’d want to haul it anywhere, but for knitting (or crocheting) at home, it should work just fine. The yarn is a luscious silk/merino blend, fingering weight, and a different shade of pink than most in my stash. Not that you can see the pink streaks in this photo—the yarn is cream and super-pale pink—but really, they’re there. And buying a brand called The Grinning Gargoyle is fun in its own right.

Classes? Oh yeah, I went to classes, didn’t I? My morning class was “Starter Plug and Play Shawls” with Amy Singer. It was a good class with excellent handouts. I don’t think I’ll use the yarn I brought for the class for a shawl, but the technique made sense, and I can use it for a yarn that looks more interesting when turned into lace. The yarn I brought, a solid off-white fingering weight, spent the class murmuring quietly that a lace shawl was all very well and good, but it thought it should be something crocheted with textured stitches, or perhaps something with cables. It was distracting trying to hear the teacher over the yarn. I can probably find an immediate use for the shawl border she taught us. It feels like almost every shawl or shawlette I’ve done has a border of two or three garter stitches, and that’s a perfectly decent edging, but I’m bored with it. She has a simple alternative that ends up looking like applied I-cord, without being tedious to work like applied I-cord is. Yay!

Yarn vendor and knitters at Yarnover.
The merest hint of the wealth of yarn and other goodies available.

My afternoon class was Carson Demers’ second class on knitting ergonomics: “Swatchbuckling.” I’d taken the first class at Yarnover last year. It was theory; this was practice. I don’t know how far I’ll be able to take his advice to look up as much as possible and not at your knitting. Yes, I can knit simple stuff without looking at what I’m doing, but I like seeing the stitches form and seeing how the color changes in the yarn work out in the actual project. (Hmph.) On the bright side, I seem to hold the needles and move the yarn mostly all right, although my purling technique could do with some tweaking. I wasn’t thrilled to see the “horror” video again. He has short videos of different people knitting, some in healthy ways, some not so much. One is of someone knitting who has strained their left hand so much while knitting that a tendon in the forefinger has ruptured, causing a bulge at the knuckle and preventing them from ever straightening that finger again. Yeegh. Oh yeah, I’m feeling motivated to modify my purling! Not that it was all gloom and doom. At one point, he had us get up and try walking while knitting. Walking while knitting while not actually looking at our knitting, that is. So there we are, out in the hallway going around in a slow circle, when a classmate commented that we looked like monks in prayer. Maybe I should try this while listening to Gregorian chants.

By the way, Carson Demers does not recommend this practice when climbing stairs. Just so you know.


Yarnover 2013

Yarnover was this past Saturday, April 27. Well, it might be more accurate to say that Yarnover was Friday night and all day Saturday, but I’ve never gone to the dinner with the teachers on Friday night, so it’s still just a Saturday event for me. (And it’s just as well I didn’t go to the dinner this year, as I probably would have drifted off to sleep in the dessert.) Other years, the weather during Yarnover has been horrid, like all-day cold rain. It makes running out to the car to drop stuff off unpleasant, but it’s perfect weather for staying inside all day and knitting. This year, the weather was gorgeous, and on top of that, it was only about the second day of gorgeous, seasonal weather this year. It was a good thing I was in a windowless room for my morning class and sat with my back to the windows for my afternoon one.

The loot.
The loot.

The general loot this year included a bottle of Soak wool wash—your choice of Celebrate scent or unscented—and a travel mug that announces to all viewers, “I Knit, Therefore I Am.” No bag this year. Not that I need still yet another bag, but this was a lesson in the importance of never assuming anything. The bag I’d brought was stuffed full of the things I needed for the day, but I’d brought along a second bag just in case, and it proved necessary.

I found my first class, “Knitting Happily Ever After: Ergonomics for Knitters,” both educational and depressing. Don’t get me wrong: Carson Demers was an enthusiastic and positive teacher. I give him full credit for the “educational” part of my description and no blame for the “depressing,” because that would be my reaction to the topic no matter who was teaching it. I don’t deal well with the fact that an activity I enjoy so thoroughly (two of them, actually, since crochet has its hazards as well—okay, three, if you add in most things computery) can damage me. It was disheartening to go through his checklist of risk factors and add up how many of them applied to me, some of which could be worked on (diet, exercise), and some of which were basically immutable (being female, and in a few years, being over 50). And despite the fact that the entire point of this class was to learn how to do something about this and be proactive, I couldn’t shake the thought that maybe it wouldn’t be enough, that one day all the good posture, rest breaks, exercises, and so on simply won’t compensate. In the meantime, though, I now know a simple way to arrange a towel to nudge your back into a healthier configuration when you’re stuck sitting in a folding chair for the better part of three hours. No, the irony of holding a class on ergonomics in a room furnished only with folding chairs has not escaped me.

My afternoon class was “Top Down Shawl Workshop for Intermediate/Advanced” with Stephen West. Another enthusiastic and positive teacher—whee! I now have a better idea of how different numbers of increases can shape the angles in a piece of knitting, plus I also know how too many purl-side yarnovers on top of each other can distort a shawl. But the part the class couldn’t teach me and which I’ll have to get to on my own was how to trigger my creativity enough to get an idea for a top-down shawl in the first place, an idea that I could then make real.

Beyond the classes, Yarnover is an excellent opportunity to acquire yarn, and yes, I did pick up a few skeins. I’d had my eye on fingering yarn dyed in a continuous gradient already, and was thrilled to discover it at Yarnover. I was even more thrilled when I got home and compared it to the online source I’d been thinking to try. The yarn I’d gotten at Yarnover was $10 cheaper per ball, and had more yardage! My other yarn purchase was two hanks of Tosh Light Merino for a project (Barndom) I decided on while in Stephen West’s class. I dunno…they’re beautiful hanks of soft fingering yarn, but there are many beautiful fingering yarns out there, and I don’t get why these are so special that everyone murmurs reverentially, “Ooh, MadelineTosh…”

Afterwards, Suncat and I went out to dinner. I am certain that the sushi and ice cream we enjoyed at Yumi’s and Licks Unlimited in Excelsior was as excellent a meal as the Friday night dinner with the teachers, and a tad less crowded. But only a tad—nothing like a beautiful warm evening to lure people out for ice cream.

Improving your skillset

Today was Yarnover, the Minnesota Knitters’ Guild’s annual knitting event, and coincidentally, here we are, talking about developing our knitting (and crocheting) skills. How appropriate.

Day Six: 28 April. Improving Your Skillset

How far down the road to learning your craft do you believe yourself to be? Are you comfortable with what you know or are you always striving to learn new skills and add to your knowledge base? Take a look at a few knitting or crochet books and have a look at some of the skills mentioned in the patterns. Can you start your amigurumi pieces with a magic circle, have you ever tried double knitting, how’s your intarsia? If you are feeling brave, make a list of some of the skills which you have not yet tried but would like to have a go at, and perhaps even set yourself a deadline of when you’d like to have tried them by.

Looking over that first question, I knew that my answer would be that I consider myself to be both an experienced knitter and crocheter. It was when I tried to define exactly why I think I fit that description that I realized how slippery the whole experience thing is. I could say that I’ve been knitting and crocheting for years (true), but I could have done so and never pushed myself to make anything more complicated than a dishcloth. Indeed, I’m basing this estimation of my skills on just one criterion: as long as a pattern is accurate, I assume I can successfully make something from it, no matter how complex. And that still leaves me plenty to learn, because even if I can reproduce any knitted or crocheted item under the sun, that still leaves me all the skills related to designing original patterns to develop. Should I master those, I may think of some other set of skills I could pick up. The world of knitting and crocheting skills may not be infinitely large, but I haven’t reached the limits yet.

Maybe it’s just my librarian background, but I believe it’s not so much what you’ve committed to memory as what you know how to look up. Taking the suggestions from today’s prompt as examples, I haven’t the foggiest idea how to start anything with a magic circle, much less an amigurumi piece, I don’t remember ever tackling double knitting, and my intarsia is decent but not stupendous. But I’ve got books on hand and the Internet out there ready to teach me these things if I ever need to know them. [As an experiment, I paused writing this post and timed how long it would take me to find instructions on how to do a magic circle. It took me about 45 seconds to find tutorials on YouTube. And now I know that that’s a crochet technique and I know how to do one.]

I’m always interested in learning new skills, but the more you learn, the harder it is to find more to learn. That’s becoming clear in both my personal life and in the general state of knitting here in Minnesota. I took two classes at Yarnover this year: one on understanding neckline construction and the other on figuring out what styles of sweaters do and do not look good on you before you go to the time and expense of knitting them. I learned useful tips in both classes and expect to put what I learned into practice sometime. But it turned out that I already knew a fair amount about each of these topics, and I believe that I could have figured out quite a lot of the rest on my own if I’d had to. On a larger scale, I’ve heard that STITCHES Midwest is held in the Chicago area exclusively rather than Minneapolis-St. Paul because when they tried holding it up here, there wasn’t enough interest in the classes: many of the knitters up here knew that stuff already. Maybe that story isn’t actually true, but it sounds like it could be. So learning new skills has become partly a matter of chance for me, rather than planning. For instance, I learned a new way of doing an SSK (slip-slip-knit) decrease from the woman sitting next to me in the neckline class. That wasn’t what I came there to learn, but I’m happy to have added it to my repertoire. I’ll continue to look over the Yarnover schedule when it comes out, investigate promising books in both knitting and crochet, and hope to be in the right place at the right time to pick up tips and tricks from other knitters and crocheters. But maybe it’s time for me to see if I can wean myself off other people’s patterns and learn how to come up with stuff on my own.

Yarnover 2011

I went to Yarnover 2011 today and had a good time. Okay, that’s a bit brief for a blog post. Here’s a bit more detail:

The weather was wretched for much of the day: cold rain, nonstop. In other words, perfect weather for staying inside and knitting. We got there pretty early (Yarnover starts at 7:45 AM, and we were ahead of schedule). No bags as giveaway prizes this year, for a change, but I’m now the happy owner of a sterling silver needle sizer necklace. I’m likely to actually wear this; I wonder if any knitters will recognize it or if any nonknitters will ask about it.

Yarnover 2011 started off with a brief history of the event from Peg Torgerson, who got the whole thing going 25 years ago. Next, Merike Saarniit gave the keynote address. Kudos to anyone who manages a speech when recovering from laryngitis, and Saarniit’s talk about Estonian knitting traditions and the emphasis on invention and originality was interesting, although it may have been cut short to preserve her voice for the classes she was due to teach.

Off to the classes. I was able to get into my first-choice classes this year, “Knit to Flatter and Fit” with Sally Melville and “Reversible Twined Knit Scarf” with Laura Farson. I’m happy when I can find some half-day classes to attend. I’ve really enjoyed the all-day classes I’ve attended in the past, and I’ve learned some majorly important things from them, but they need stamina, and I can’t always come up with enough for them. My attention span is better suited to half-day classes.

Sally Melville’s fit class takes a small act of courage to participate in. There’s no knitting homework for this class, but you have to come up with a silhouette of your body to study. (Many thanks to Suncat, who kindly did my entire silhouette for me and had the necessary experience to do it right the first time.) It’s going to take me a while to digest everything I learned in this class. I’d done some reading on fitting clothing prior to this class, but unlike what I’d read, Sally emphasized clothing length (where do your sweaters end on your body?) and width (what sweater shapes set off straight pants vs. an A-line skirt?). I’m not going to rework any of my current sweaters in progress, but I’ll be putting plenty of thought into the next sweater I start.

Okay, the auditorium this morning had been crowded, but I really got a feel for the large attendance at lunch. While we’re in no danger of outgrowing Hopkins High School anytime soon, we did overrun the cafeteria. The line to pick up boxed lunches stretched out the door and well back into the vendors’ area, and Suncat and I were lucky to find anywhere to sit. Of course, sitting with perfect strangers is a great way to hear other people’s takes on Yarnover and learn about classes you didn’t take.

I wasn’t sure what to expect in Laura Farson’s class. I’d gotten so worked up about getting that silhouette made that this class sort of slipped to the back of my mind. So I’m pleased to report that I now know what twined knitting is and can produce very simple forms of it. I’m sure it’s warm, but I think the way the yarn wraps around itself as you knit it might drive me crazy if I were trying any project larger than a short scarf. Well, we’ll see what I think of the technique by the end of the scarf. The scarf itself is only about 4 inches long right now, but it’s turning out prettier than I expected and is nicely soft. It’s always a good sign when you want to finish the sample project you start in a class. (Photos to follow when I finish it.)

Perhaps you’ve noticed I’ve barely mentioned the vendors. They were there and they were plentiful. Beautiful yarns of all sorts of fibers abounded. One vendor even brought along an angora rabbit which was adorable, although I was worried that I would stress it out if I petted it (I settled for petting the angora yarn near its basket). I managed to get away from the vendors unscathed, however. I wasn’t actively looking for yarn for a project, and on top of that, as Suncat has pointed out, vendors at shows tend to bring lots of different kinds of yarn, but not much of any one yarn or color. I like to knit larger projects, like sweaters or afghans, so there’s often just not enough yarn available for the things I’d want to make. But if you’re a sock or shawl knitter, you’d probably have to save room in your car for all the yarn you could haul home.

And that was that for this year. But with Sally Melville at the Minnesota Knitters Guild meeting next week and Shepherds’ Harvest/Llama Magic next weekend, might I be in danger of overdosing on knitting goodness?