Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Lady Eleanor Entrelac Stole

Every time I wear this shawl I get compliments. Strangers - knitters or not - stop me on the street or in shops. The pattern comes from the Interweave Knits publication, Scarf Style and is designed by Kathleen Power Johnson. Beginning on Saturday, January 6th, from 10-12, I'll be teaching a workshop on this project at Kiwi Knitting.

This will be the third time I've taught Lady E, as she is affectionately known, and each time I fall in love with her all over again. Every session, in a class of 4 - 5 students, every knitter is making her with a completely different colorway, and each one is absolutely gorgeous. I've seen her in everything from sandy tans mixed with muted greys, to tropical turquoise mixed with peach. Blacks with oranges and blues, and deep reds, pinks and burgundys. And they are all beautiful.

The pattern is fairly easy to follow, once you get the hang of knitting entrelac. Although the pattern is not written this way (and I think it should be) the whole trick to knitting any entrelac pattern is to learn to knit backwards, and so that is how I start the workshop. It takes about ten minutes at most to not only learn this neat trick, but to become completely comfortable with it. I also add a crochet cast-on and slip-stitch edge so that all the exposed edges are uniform. And I may as well confess here that while I'm at it, I have changed the increases she uses on the left side triangle so that they are more elegant than the workhorse, ugly, over-used K1f&b.

Do any of these small changes make the pattern more difficult to knit? Not really, and in the case of the backwards knitting, it certainly makes the project a lot easier to knit, and this is why entrelac is classically done this way. By the time one knits roughly 300 little entrelac squares, you are really, really glad that you don't have to flip this shawl over every 8 sts.

The other changes - the slipped stitch edge with a crochet cast-on, and the Lifted increase in place of the K1f&b - are simple changes that everyone should be able to make with any pattern that requires them. Any time I am making a project that will not be seamed, such as a scarf, a shawl, the edge of a button band or collar, I slip the edge sts. This makes the project look much more finished than the usual raggedy stockinette stitch edge. In the case of a scarf or a shawl, all 4 of your edges should match, because all four of your edges are going to be seen. A lifted increase is quick and easy to learn, and allows your new sts to make an elegant entrance into your piece. They just spring up out of nowhere.

I believe that many knitting patterns written right now are 'dumbed down' to the lowest common knitting denominator, so that the newest of knitters feels comfortable trying the pattern out. While it isn't a bad thing to attract the newer knitters to a pattern or idea, I do think it is a bad thing to simplify techniques and patterns down to the point where the knitter doesn't have to actually employ her brain. To my way of thinking, it doesn't do the new knitter any favors to not challenge them with new techniques and methods that they haven't been exposed to in the past. Everyone nowadays has a handy knitting reference book, or access to the internet, or a handy knitting Guru who can get you going on a new cast-on, some new increases.

Do some research! Take some time on your own to sit down with a knitting reference and a pair of needles with worsted weight yarn, and try out the ideas and techniques in the book. That way, when you come across a new pattern that you want to try, you know how to do the techniques they are using in the pattern, or you know how to improve the techniques they chose for the pattern.

This is is why I prefer to teach project classes rather than just technique classes. There is so much more to working a project than simply following the pattern. You should be able to look at the pattern, say to yourself, I have no idea why they would choose to do it that way when if I do this instead it will give me a much nicer result - and make those changes yourself. I look at written patterns as a starting-off point, a suggestion. Then I take them and refine them before starting my project (and often as I go along!).

Challenge yourself. Exersize your brain. Learn new tricks. And come knit Lady Eleanor with us!

Anytime you are working on a pattern that you have questions about, or have hit a snag in your knitting, remember that I am available on Friday mornings from 10 -12 as Knit Dr. This is free to you. If your problem is more thorny or time consuming, contact me for a private lesson. Private lessons can be one or more hours long, and it gives you the one-on-one help that you may need. I have several students that just do ongoing private lessons to improve their knitting skills and knowledge through a variety of projects that they are working on.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do the students taking your Lady Eleanor class have to buy the book?