Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Felting: Color

Welcome to everyone who has just gotten their new Kiwi Knitting newsletter and class schedule by email or snail-mail, and are tuning in to our Kiwi Knits blog for the first time. We hope you enjoy our new endeavor into bringing you more of what you need and want from Kiwi Knitting, and would love to hear your feedback and suggestions. You will see 'Comments' in small type at the bottom of each post that takes you to a spot to leave comments. You can also email me, Lynda Sorenson (Blog Mistress) directly at Lynda@Kiwiknitting.com Help us to make this blog the resource that you want to see in the Tucson fiber community.

Now that Lynn has finished the Herculean effort it requires to fit the puzzle pieces of several teachers with several classes each of varying number of sessions into the new Fall class schedule, we are hoping for her to have a spare few minutes to unpack the delicious Malabrigo yarns that have just come into the shop so that I can show them to you. Til then, I thought I would give you a bit of a preview of one of my upcoming classes in the Kiwi Fall quarter.

As I mentioned to you last week, I have become more and more fascinated by the textural transformations that take place when knitted and/or crocheted pieces are felted. In addition to this, both colorwork and lace knitting have become ever greater addictions for me. At the moment, I am designing and knitting a jacket from Noro's Kureyon - with its ever-intriguing color transitions, and working on a lace stole in Zephyr wool/silk lace yarn. Then there is the luscious Fair Isle cardigan waiting in the wings, swatched and all ready to go that I am absolutely dying to start, just as soon as I get a little farther ahead in my class samples.

So when I have all these various projects simmering away in their baskets (and you know how they each have to have their own basket, don't you?), eventually all those individual ideas start to leak out of their assigned corners in my mind and begin to meld together. Hence the Fair Isle cardi that I won't allow myself to start just yet surfaces as designing and knitting a felted Fair Isle bag because somehow in my own peculiar form of reasoning I can justify a quicker project that satisfies that FI urge right now. Instant gratification, a knitting snack that will tide me over until I can sit down and start the turkey-with-all-the-trimmings project of the knitting world.

In my upcoming felting tech classes I want to open your eyes and your mind to incorporating traditional knitting techniques into felted projects. Once you have a taste for what can happen, I believe that there will be no limits to how you can transform simple felted projects into anything you want, the only limit being what you can imagine.

In the Felting: Color class to be held this Saturday, Aug. 4th from 10 -12, we'll explore using Fair Isle and slip stitch Mosaic knitting techniques to bring some spice to any project. In class we'll make up some swatches for you to felt at home, and discuss machine and hand felting techniques that will help you to achieve a more dependable result in your felting projects. The samples above give you a taste of what can be achieved when you combine color and felting. You don't have to already know any of this in order to fit into the class and walk out with new techniques under your belt. Come in, have fun, and learn something new!


Thursday, July 26, 2007

More Class Info...

Marianne checks in with her classes...

One of the reasons why I pick the classes I teach is because of the technical nature that is involved in most of them. Having been a nurse for many, many years, I worked with patients AND all the associated mechanics. My brain works that way so it has translated well to my knitting.

In all my classes, I teach as much hands on as the 2 hour time period allows. With socks, I am having the students do mock up socks first so they can wrap their minds around a technique prior to applying the skill to sock yarn. With that said and there is a sock yarn that you MUST have, then swatch that in stockinette stitch on your preferred method of DPNs, 2 circulars or a Magic loop and bring it to class. Otherwise, just wait for the class and we will cover everything.

Now, it may sound like I am a perfectionist and to some extent that is true. I also feel strongly about knowing how to execute and finish one's work to the best of one's ability. That is why I teach "Fixing Mistakes" and "Finishing Classes". I love teaching people how to finish their work so that the recipient of the knit piece can be proud to wear the completed item. Again, in both of these classes, you fix the mistakes and finish the sweaters on mock up pieces...it's fun.

I also really enjoy encouraging people to finish what they have started or going for a more difficult project if the desire is there so my "Knitting Coach" fits in with that. I will help you finish those pieces or walk you thru starting and finishing pieces that you may think are too complicated for you. Teaching brand new knitters in the Beginning Knitting Series has been a joy and helping knitters who haven't pick up sticks in ages sharpen their skills with Knitting Revisited has been a real pleasure.

Crochet is here, too and soon you will be seeing the "Larger than Life" bag in the shop. It's fun and looks great and if you feel comfortable with your chaining, sc's, sl st, and dc's join me in that class. You could also take Crochet 101 before the project so you can put your new found skills to good use.

I also have a new class from the Itty Bitty Hat Book, I will be doing displays of both girls and boys hats and the customer chooses which she/he would like to make.

I am always available for private lessons is the schedule doesn't meet your needs or will do the work for you if you just don't have the time or ability!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

New Classes!

Well, as I mentioned last week, the new Kiwi newsletter and class schedule comes out any day now, and I thought I would give you an overview of some of our upcoming classes. Since I already know what my classes are to be, I'll start talking about those. I am hoping to hear from Marianne about her upcoming classes before I finish this post, and if so, I'll slot that info in here as well. Next week I'll talk about additional classes with our other wonderful teachers that are also coming up on the new schedule.

There are a variety of reasons why each teacher chooses the classes that they want to teach in any quarter. I know for myself, they usually reflect the ideas that I am inspired by at the moment that Lynn asks for a new class list! When I am choosing a new project for myself to work on, I always look for something that is going to challenge me and teach me something new about my craft. I firmly believe that you can't wait until you already know how to do something before you try it, the best way to learn a new technique or process is to dive in with both feet. If you have heard me get up on my soap-box about this issue, then you already know that I maintain that it isn't having a wide range of techniques or countless years of knitting under your belt that makes a great knitter, but rather a fearlessness to try something new, to take a risk. I encourage you all to live that ideal in your projects.

I continue to be fascinated by the felting process, and love all the incredible new books coming out this summer. For myself, because I always have a pretty strong idea of exactly what I want, I am much more likely to design my own bag pattern using my ideas than to look for one that fits my vision of what I want now. So to help those who love felting as much as I do, and who want to break out of the simple routine and explore color and texture, I have a series of Tech Classes on various felted stitch techniques coming up. Felting: Color is about incorporating Fair Isle and Mosaic techniques into your felted pieces to bring more color into your life. Felting: Texture will explore adding dimension to your pieces using various textural knitting techniques. Felting: Lace explores the beautiful delicacy of lace in a felted medium. For each of these classes, we will be working swatches during the class for you to felt at home using your preferred techniques. Information on machine felting will also be available if you are relatively new to the process, or just looking for some pointers. In Felting Embellishments I will show you various ways to embellish finished felted projects, using a number of techniques and found objects including buttons and beads, embroidery and felted pieces.

I have three Project Classes that use a variety of these techniques: a Shibori Scarf that is knitted with feltable lace-weight yarn and then transformed with texture using objects tied into the fabric during the felting process. My White Queen's Bag that uses a cabling pattern to add dimension to the bag, and a Mitred Square Felted Bag that uses color to explore the wonderful color patterns that occur with this technique. Any one of these classes is easily accessible to comfortable knitters who are new to either Shibori, cabling or mitred squares.

Because I love to make garments, I have included three sweater projects: My May's Summer Jacket pattern, a side-to-side project that you have seen on the mannequin in the front room for the past several weeks. This project uses a variety of yarns of different textures and weights in easy stitch patterns to create color and movement in the fabric. A great project if you have been wanting to explore the side-to-side construction technique. The Baby Surprise Jacket comes from the brilliant mind of Elizabeth Zimmerman. It is great fun to knit up this amorphous blob and with a quick twist, turn it into a wonderful little jacket! And because that is so much fun, why shouldn't we try the Adult Surprise Jacket? Both of these are great ways to incorporate color into your knitting.

For those of you who are dyed-in-the-wool sock fiends, I have found a great new technique for sock heels called the Sherman Heel. This short-row heel uses techniques that avoid holes and makes a very neat, clean heel that requires no gussets! I promise you, once you have done a Sherman Heel, you'll never want to work another 'flap and turn' heel again. And the concept is very easy to translate into any stitch count.

Finally, because I am enjoying the exploration of color in my projects, I am designing a Fair Isle Wrist Warmer pattern using sock yarns. Many of you enjoyed my two wrist warmer patterns from last winter, the Winter Woodlands and the Sweetheart wrist warmers. This time we will take these fun, fast & portable projects just a step further and use a really easy method for creating Fair Isle patterning.

I also want to remind you that I am available to teach these and classes on any other subject as private lessons if scheduled class times don't work for you, or if you have a project that you need help tackling. And I am available as Knit Doctor every Friday morning from 10 - 12, and this is a free service to you.

Monday, July 16, 2007

New Hand-Dyed Yarns, New Books and New Class Schedule

As many of you know, Lynn went to TNNA in June to check out what is new in the yarn and fiber world. She found lots and lots of wonderful things that you will see starting to appear in the shop over the next couple of months as we head towards fall, and I have a few new arrivals to show you today.

Lorna's Laces is a brand name that many of you have heard of or have seen, and they do some gorgeous yarns that are well loved by fiber addicts all over the world. These amazing yarns are hand-dyed, one by one, in natural fibers. Lynn has brought in six colorways of Lion and Lamb, a 50/50 blend of silk and wool that knits at 4.5 sts per inch, and has 205 yards per skein. If you haven't seen this yarn yet you are in for a treat, as the lush, saturated colors and very touchable 'hand' makes them a true pleasure to work with. I can see these making gorgeous shawls & light winter tops and sweaters.

Araucania Nature Wools have been a staple at Kiwi right from the start, and Lynn has just gotten in some beautiful Multis in worsted weight. You are probably familiar with the variations in color present in the Araucania colorways that Lynn has always carried. The kettle-dying process results in a lovely range of hues that blend together in the knitted fabric to produce subtle color tones. But these Multis are a glorious riot of color that would be delightful in any number of projects. Imagine how wonderful these would be in a felted project, or in winter accessories and sweaters! This 100% wool knits up at 18 sts/4 inches, and has 240 yards per skein.

Two new books that have caught my eye in the shop this past week are Nicky Epstein's 'Knitting Never Felt Better', and Alison Jepson-Hyde's 'Wrapped In Comfort, Knitted Lace Shawls'. I find Nicky Epstein to be incredibly inspirational, this amazingly creative woman seems to be constantly coming out with books that are stuffed with new ideas and patterns. This most recent offering is no different from her usual stunning fare in that in addition to some of her unique patterns that let you put her methods to work, she has so much information about how to make various effects happen that you will find yourself very inspired. Look for classes in the upcoming Kiwi schedule that take advantage of some of these methods.

A while back Lynn experienced one of those life changes that we will all have to experience at some time. Not knowing what to do that would express my sympathy and support, I found myself knitting a cranberry cashmere moebius scarf and suddenly realizing it was meant for Lynn. In certain knitting circles, this counts as 'Alisoning' someone. Alison Jepson-Hyde has gotten a reputation in the knitting world for giving all her knitting to the right person at the right time. Dealing with severe lupus means that she is on a never-ending cycle of hospital visits, medical tests and doctor appointments, and I imagine that she just never has what the rest of us know as a 'good day'. But I have never heard Alison complain. Just the opposite. This woman has a gift for finding beauty in every situation and turning it into knitted lace. It takes someone with Alison's unique outlook on life to always be able to see that someone else has it much rougher than she does, and she is constantly to be found with finished scarves and shawls on hand, waiting to find their rightful owner. Her gifts have touched many lives, and to be suddenly handed a knitted gift has come to be referred to as being Alisoned. I've seen her stories change many knitter's views on giving, and Alisoning someone has passed into our lexicon. Her new book not only contains photos and patterns for her gorgeous lace shawls, but also the inspirational stories of how these pieces came to be. Everyone I know who has bought the book has laughed and cried by turns as they read her stories, and all are now deep into one of her lovely patterns. My disclaimer? I am proud to be called a friend by Alison. In fact, I have been Alisoned by Alison herself! But even considering that, I think you would love to take a look at this book.

Lynn is cooking up the new Kiwi class schedule even as we speak, and next week I will tell you about some of the new classes we have coming up in the next quarter. Be on the look-out towards the end of the month for the new schedule when you drop into the shop.

CLASSES FOR 7/17 - 7/23:
7/17, 10-12: Crochet 101
7-9: Beginning Knitting Series
7/18, 10-12: Needle-Felted Teddy
1-3: Tennis Vest
7/19, 10-12: Knitting Revisited
1-3: Socks Your Way
7/20, 10-12: Making Charts
7/21, 10-12: Lace Socks
7/23, 10-12: Beaded Crochet Purse
1-3: Beginning Knitting Series

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Mystery Stole and Some Lace Knitting Tips

Any knitter who has had their ear to the ground in the internet world during the last month has probably heard about the Mystery Stole 3 project. It is the brainchild of Melanie Gibbons of Pink Lemon Twist, an incredibly talented young lace designer whose niche is gorgeous stoles. Melanie offered her first Mystery Stole project in the summer of 2005, and had somewhere around 650 knitters join her for the adventure. Just over 1000 knitters joined to make the 2006 MS2 stole last summer. This year's Mystery Stole has about 6700 knitters from all over the world, knitting along in harmony. I found out about last year's KAL just a little too late to join in, but have purchased the pattern from Melanie and am nearly finished with this delightful stole. So as soon as I got the notice that MS3 was in the wind, I rushed to the website and signed up.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, a mystery knit-along (KAL) starts with a designer with a whole lot of talent, courage and energy who puts out the word that they are starting a mystery KAL. They release 'clues' (pattern sections) - usually once a week - and the KAL members have a great time trying to figure out just what they are knitting as they go along. In Melanie's case, we know two things: it will be a lace stole, and it will be delicious! Her last two mystery KAL's had themes based on women in classical literature - Leda, and Scheherazade. All we know of this year's entry is that while the story does center on love, it is not a happy ending, and that black and white are the colors that best suit the theme. And - we are working with beads!

In my typical bulldozer fashion (or is it the Fox and the Grapes?), I talked our Desi into joining me on the journey. Last time I saw her before she started a bit of her summer travels, we got a chance to sit down and compare our yarns and beads, with Desi's yarn in Vanilla and mine in Charcoal. We are both working with the suggested yarn - Jaggerspun Zephyr, a 2/18 blend of wool and silk that has an incredible drape. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I'll knit with anything so long as it is merino wool, but every now and then I find something that just takes my breath away, and this Zephyr is it. Lynn has started carrying Zephyr lace-weight yarn in the shop, and currently has a beautiful array of colors for you to choose from. Drop in and give it a squeeze next time you are in the neighborhood, or stop by on Friday mornings during Knit Dr. hours between 10&12 - I'll have my MS3 in-progress with me to ooh and ahh over. I'm also working with the new Addi Turbo lace needles from Skacel, they have wonderfully pointy tips that make it easy to get into sts to work ssk's and K2tog's, and are much less slippery than regular Addis. I want them in every size! I've just completed Clue 2 of the stole and am so looking forward to the next installment this Friday, as well as catching up with Desi to see hers. You can also follow my progress at my own blog, Luna Knits.

And while you're at it, if you have a knitting mystery of your own that you just can't figure out, bring it along to Knit Dr. That's what I'm here for - every Friday morning from 10-12 - and I love to see what all of you are working on and to help you to solve your puzzles. We usually get a nice little group all knitting together around the table in the front room. The service is free to you, and it is first come, first serve. In the meantime, some


1- First Rule: Alway make a copy of your pattern and charts that you can mark up to your heart's delight. In fact, make two copies, just in case. They are a lot easier to carry with you, too.

2- As anxious as I am to dive right into a new project with yarn and needles flying - when working from a lace chart, I find it is always a good idea to 'prep' the chart first. If there will be long stretches of knit or purl sts all together in a row, I take the time to count the number of each in a run, and mark the number right on the chart in pencil. Go back and re-check those numbers before you get started. I'll do the same if the chart has a series of several yo/ssk or K2tog/yo combinations one after another in a row. Trust me, once you have slippery needles and thin yarn in hand, you don't want to take the time to count those out as you read the chart row.

3- Next, I'll rule some lines on the chart - if the pattern has several repeats of the same combination across the width, then I will rule vertical lines between each stitch repeat. I also place stitch markers in my knitting at those same places, it helps me to quickly know where I am. If there are several repeats of the pattern in rows, then I will rule a line horizontally on the chart between each of the repeats. The two stoles I am working on right now do not have stitch repeats or row repeats, so I mark the center stitch with vertical lines on my chart and stitch markers in my knitting. Same with the side edge stitches. I also rule a horizontal line every 3 or 4 rows, depending on the pattern, so that I can quickly glance down and know what row I am on as I am knitting along.

4- Once I have done this, I laminate my chart. You can do this at home with a cheap and cheerful laminator from a craft store, or your local copy store can do it for you. Now it will go through pretty much anything you can do to it, and you can use highlighting tape, post-it's or masking tape to mark the row you are working on, if you like, and it will be easy to peel them off and move up to the next row when you are ready.

5- Most knitting patterns for lace use what I call a 'rest row' on the wrong side - either all knit or all purl sts, with the actual 'work' of the pattern done on the right side rows. I use this rest row to count my sts and make sure I have the correct number of sts between each of my markers. If, for example, there are ten sts in each repeat, on the rest row I count and make sure I really have 10 sts between each set of markers. Melanie's patterns that I am working on have 99 sts in a row - 2 edge sts on either side, one center st, and 47 sts on each side between the edge sts and the center. If I am counting along and find that I don't have the correct number of sts, I turn my knitting to the right side and first look for a missing yarn-over. For me, that is always where my mistake is. If you don't already know how to read your knitting, now is a good time to learn. Look at what is hanging directly below your needles - an ssk looks like two sts together with the right st on top, a K2tog looks like two sts together with the left st on top, yo's look like holes. Double decreases come to a center point made up of three sts together.

6- If you are new to lace knitting - and even if you are not - you might want to use a lifeline. This is either a length of thin, slippery thread or a small knitting needle strung through your sts every few rows. You can put one at the beginning of every row repeat, or before you embark on any thorny-looking section of your chart. This can be done in several ways: by threading a straight yarn needle with a length of slippery thread (some people use waxed dental floss)and running it through all the sts on your needle at the top of a row repeat. Some of the interchangeable needle sets have a small hole where the needle and the cable are joined, and you can thread your lifeline through this hole before working the last row of the repeat. As you knit, the needle pulls your life line through all the sts in the row for you. You can also use a size US 0 circular needle that is wider than your knitting, and thread that through the sts. All of these methods give you a safety net - a lifeline - that you can rip back to if disaster should occur. Then you can just pick up the sts from your lifeline onto your needles, and start that section over again.

7- Another way to salvage your project without having to rip the whole thing out if you make a mistake, is to lay your piece on a towel and pin it out as if you are going to block it. Spray it lightly with a couple of coats of spray starch and let it dry overnight. Tomorrow you can frog as many rows as you need to, and all your other sts will stay right where they belong, with no fear of unraveling.

I hope you have found some of these ideas useful in your own projects. And remember, what makes a great knitter isn't always knowledge and skills, but the bravery to dive into something new, something you haven't tried before. After all, it is just yarn and needles.

Lynda Sorenson

7/10, 1-3: Beginning Knitting Series
7/11, 1-3: Tennis Vest
7-9: Beginning Knitting Series
7/12, 10-12: Ripple Baby Blanket
1-3: Socks Your Way
7-9: Techniques Squared, Entrelac
7/13, 10-12: Knit Doctor
1-3: Triangular Lace Shawl
7/14, 9-4: Fair Isle Knitting Workshop
7/16, 10-12: Sock Project Bag
1-3: Beginning Knitting Series