Monday, November 5, 2007

Patchwork Knitting with Irene York

I just spent the greatest two days! On Friday and Saturday, Nov. 2nd & 3rd, Kiwi Knitting Co. presented a workshop lead by Irene York, a knitting designer and teacher whose specialty is Patchwork Modular Knitting. Irene has studied with the master of the technique, Horst Schultz, in Berlin, and hosted him for workshops here in the States. We here in Tucson are fortunate that after all their travels and roaming, Irene and her husband have settled just outside of Tucson, giving us this amazing opportunity to take one of her workshops without having to travel far.

Patchwork Modular Knitting is a process of knitting that creates small pieces that build upon one another to create your fabric, much in the same way that a patchwork quilt is made of small pieces of pieced fabrics. Part of what makes the techniques so much fun is that the possibilities are endless - the fabric can be built in almost any direction at any time. I came away from both days of the class with my mind reeling with all sorts of ideas and half-formed designs that I want to incorporate into my own design work and knitting projects.

Both days were well attended, with a full house on Friday for the 5 hour workshop on equilateral triangles and U-shapes. I've done several modular knitting projects before this, but knowing that there is always something more to learn, I was excited about working new shapes that I hadn't encountered before. The most common shape we see with modular knitting is the mitered square, but there are a world of shapes beyond that - rectangles, isoceles triangles, equilateral triangles, U-turn squares and rectangles, diamonds, circles and shells, to name those that come to mind right away.

The basic techniques were ones that I was already familiar with, and could (and did) apply them to the new shapes with great glee. But for those in the class who were new to the whole process of modular knitting, the techniques and methods were very accessible, and before long everyone was knitting away, concentrating on their patterns.

One of the things I really enjoyed about Irene is her teaching style. In these days where it is considered a plus to be as energetic as inhumanly possible, it was such a joy to learn from someone who gave you the info you needed to proceed, and then just let you get on with it - with plenty of help if you needed it as you went along. Several people remarked on how nice it was to have such a quiet class so that we could concentrate on our patterns and our knitting without our minds having half an ear also paying attention to the conversation. On Saturday, one of the students also thanked Irene for not talking while we were working, and said what a treat that was in a class. I would definitely take another class from Irene, I found her presence as a teacher to be very calm and reassuring. That is a great thing in someone who teaches a subject such as knitting.

We were well fed on both days, with a lunch of sandwiches and a huge fresh salad brought in from Chopped on Friday, liberally augmented with snacks and desert, as well as coffee and teas from Rincon Market. On Saturday, for the 3 hour class, we grazed abundantly on veggies and baked goods, with the great treat of the day being one of Sarge's pumpkin cheesecakes.

Classes on both days concentrated on techniques, and we were also given patterns to make different bags using the new shapes we were learning. We each picked out a yarn kit when we came in containing three colors of coordinating yarn, with stickie notes and pens to help keep us on track. Friday's bag starts with a base circle made up of equilateral triangles.

From this base we began to build up sides to the bag, made from U-turn squares. Last night I finished my sister's Christmas present, so today I plan to sit down and work on the remaining sides and finishing to my bag. The units go pretty quickly, and like chapters in a book, are good places to pause and get up to toss the laundry in the dryer. I sometimes half joke that someday they will find me in my knitting chair, dessicated and starved, with my knitting still in my hands. It is nice to work on projects that have a natural stopping point!

On Saturday we worked with shell shapes, including half shells for each side and for the upper edges. It is interesting to work in modular shapes that don't have straight sides, and to see how they can be fit together. I know just how I am going to use this shape in a design - when I have a spare few minutes!

Those who love to combine travel and knitting should note that Irene and her husband also lead several knitting retreats in San Miguel Allende during the year that get rave reviews and repeat business from knitters who have taken them in the past. I'm not able to bring her website up at the moment, but the URL is

If you joined us this weekend, you know what a great time we all had for a fantastic price. If you were not able to join us this weekend, don't miss it the next time!

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