Saturday, March 15, 2008

What Those Odds and Ends Were

Well, This will probably be shorter than my usual rambling, blithering blog post. Yesterday I started on antibiotics for bronchitis. Since I only started getting sick the day before, I am hoping that we are nipping this in the bud pretty thoroughly, and that by next week this time I will be leaping about like a spring lamb.

Last week I entitled the blog entry as 'Odds and Ends' and ended up talking through the whole thing about slipped stitches. Never did get to put in the other things I was going to address, so it was a peculiar title for a post on just one topic. This week I'll tell you what else I meant to talk about.

A few weeks back, when I was (yes, again) sick during the Sock Boot Camp and couldn't go in to teach the techniques that I had intended, I posted here each day to tell you what I would have been teaching had I been there. One of the techniques I talked about was Short-Row Heels. Someone commented to the blog, mentioned that she has really high insteps, and wondered if that wouldn't be a problem with short-row heels. Here, finally, is my reply.

I also have very high insteps. There has been many a pair of shoes in my life that I have lusted after and not been able to buy because I just couldn't cram my feet into them. Or if I could, I knew that nothing below the arch of my foot would have any blood supply for the entire time I would be wearing the shoes. I have done a few pairs of short-row heels now - both for socks for other people, and for myself. I haven't had any problem with the short-row heels fitting my feet, even when trying on the socks I made for my sister with the smaller feet.

One of the things that I think could be a big factor here is the stretchiness of the instep of the sock. The first two pairs I made both had cabled patterns, which usually pulls the fabric in more and can have less give in the fabric. But the both were made using very stretchy, bouncy yarn. Another pair that I made for myself was knitted using a much less resilient sock yarn, and the first time I put them on I felt like it was a bit of a struggle to get them over my instep. But after the first wearing there has never been a problem with them, the heel fits snugly but not tightly.

I would encourage you to try short-row heels if you have never tried them before. They have become by far my favorite heel to work for socks. Take into account the stretchiness of your stitch pattern - a nice, stretchy rib might be a good place to start - and the resiliency of your yarn choice.

PHEW! After typing the foregoing, I surfaced to the real world and realized that my bronchitis needed me to sit down and rest a bit. That was two days ago, and I'm back. I'm still fighting the effect this has had on my asthma - so far I am winning, but at the moment it is a close-run thing. Remember what Auntie Lynda says, there are more people out there like me than you realize. If you are sick, please don't go out in public and as one of our clients phrased it, 'share to joy'.

Okay, the second odds and ends I wanted to talk to you about comes from Marianne. When I was posting about Kathy's classes here a few weeks ago, I asked Marianne if she had anything she would like to say about her classes here in the blog. She replied that what she really wanted me to discuss here is the importance of doing your class homework. Great idea, Marianne!

When we teachers sit down with Lynn to go over our suggested class list before the start of a new quarter, one of the main things we talk about is how many sessions to schedule for a given class. There are two warring factors at work here, each of which need to be given their due. On one side, there is the reality that each class session adds a certain dollar amount onto what a student is going to pay for the total class. Makes sense - the more sessions there are, the more the overall class will cost. We like to keep that number as low as we feasibly can so that we are watching out for your costs. We balance that against what we expect the materials for the class might cost. We don't want to make the classes so expensive that no one will want to take them. We're are thinking of the consumer when we make that decision.

Now contrast this with making sure that we set aside enough time so that you can learn all the necessary steps for a project during class times. Unfortunately, these steps don't all happen at the same stage in a project. So we need to be sure that we schedule enough class sessions so that we hit each new stage with a class so that we don't leave you hanging.

I'll use the Adult Surprise Jacket that I taught last fall as an example. This can be a pretty tricky project like nothing most knitters have encountered before, and there are several stages to it. Each knitter determines their own yarn weight and needle size, depending on what they like. They then work a gauge swatch, measure gauge, block the swatch, and measure gauge again. The whole pattern depends on that gauge swatch. If you look at the archives for this blog, you can see that I did an extensive post about swatching for gauge. So when students signed up for the class, they were told to choose whatever yarns and yarn weight they like, swatch with several needle sizes to determine what density and drape of fabric they prefer, and then to work the gauge swatch according to the blog post info. We had them do this before the first class session so that we aren't charging you for the considerable amount of time it takes a knitter to do this essential step.

Then during the first session, we were able to take the info from the gauge swatch, measure each student, determine the amount of ease they wanted in their jacket, and figure out their individual magic number that the entire sweater pattern is based on. This takes some time, a lot of detail, and is definitely worth a class session. Next the students cast on their sweaters, and learned the increase technique. From here they had several hours of knitting to do - following what had been learned in that session - before the next stage. Depending on how much work needs to be done before the next stage, we might decide to schedule one to two weeks in between that session and the next, to give the students knitting time.

We all know that life can (unfortunately) take precedence over our knitting time. I also know at least two students that when I see them signed up for a class, I know that what they really want is to sit and talk with other knitters while working on a project. One sometimes doesn't even do the class project, the other gets to the end in her own time. That's fine with me, I enjoy them both and don't worry if they haven't done their homework, because I know them and know their needs and life.

For the rest of you, however, if you don't do your homework in between class sessions, then two things happen - you aren't ready for the next stage that is scheduled for that day, and you are paying a teacher a whole lot of money to watch you just knit for two hours. And it will cost you more money in the long run as you will need to schedule private class time with one of our teachers in order to finish your project. This is entirely your choice, but it is a waste of your money and of an opportunity to learn.

For the most part, when I teach, I have to teach first to the level of the majority of the class so that they can continue on. Everyone else has to wait until those people are knitting merrily on their way before I can help them.

We teachers are a great resource! Pick our brains! Learn what we have to share with you. We LOVE to teach, that is why we do what we do. We hate to not see you get the most that you can out of our classes. Do Your Homework! :-D Love, Your Teachers.

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