Saturday, January 10, 2015

Simple Series of Swatches

In January 2013, I drove up to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan (The “Soo”) to teach a spinning workshop and a knitting workshop.

And next weekend I get to make this trip again. The Country Spinners & Bridge Shuttlers Guild is hosting me. Classes will be held at Gloria’s Happy Hooker.

On Saturday, I’m teaching Spinning Super Stretchy Wools. I love love LOVE stretchy wools. And I love teaching this workshop.

On Sunday, I’m teaching a new workshop, Matching Yarn to Project & Project to Yarn. Here is the workshop description:

Which yarn should I buy for this sweater (shawl, socks, hat, afghan)? What would be a good knitting project for the yarn I just bought? Which yarn would be a good substitute for the yarn recommended in this pattern? We will address these questions as well as details about yarn properties (fiber content, yarn structure, softness, elasticity, strength, smoothness, sheen, drape, durability, wrinkle), how to read yarn labels, selection of stitch pattern and project structure, gauge, needle selection, and care/cleaning of your knitted projects. All this information will help you find the most suitable yarns for making the most suitable projects.

For one of the workshops I taught on my previous trip to The Soo, I went swatch crazy. I ended up knitting 53 swatches just for that workshop. It was a wonderful experience. I got all kinds of new ideas. I came to appreciate some stitch patterns that I’d previously overlooked. These 53 swatches sparked intense fiber creativity that continues to influence my knit designs.

And it’s happened again. To prepare for next weekend’s knitting workshop, I started knitting swatches. Oh, what fun! What bliss!

For the first series of swatches, I used three skeins of Cascade 220. This is a basic worsted weight wool yarn. I wanted to knit swatches to demonstrate the effect that needle size has on knitted fabrics. So, I knitted a bunch of swatches in garter stitch (knit every row).

All swatches were 30 stitches wide and 59 rows high, not counting cast on and bind off.

I ended up knitting 12 swatches, each on different size needles (all Addi Turbo): US 2 (2.75mm), US 3 (3.25mm), US 4 (3.50mm), US 5 (3.75mm), US 6 (4.00mm), US 7 (4.50mm), US 8 (5.00mm), US 9 (5.50mm), US 10 (6.00mm), US 10 ½ (6.50mm), US 11 (8.00mm), and US 15 (10.00mm).

This may sound like a monotonous task, but I found it intellectually stimulating. Of course I am well aware that needle size influences stitch and row gauge. But the actual knitting made many other things clear to me. There were changes in fabric elasticity, fabric drape, and stitch-to-row ratio. I could see potential design value in each and every swatch.

I encourage you to knit a similar series of swatches. Even if you are a longtime, highly skilled knitter, I think you will learn something new in the knitting of such a simple series of swatches.

I knitted other swatches too. I ended up knitting 21 swatches for next weekend. I am so excited to share them in the workshop.

And I’m so excited to be travelling north in January.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014 in Review

Ok. I just re-read my New Year’s Resolutions for last year . Some I kept, some I didn’t; just exactly like every To-Do list I’ve ever made.

Despite not living up to all the items on the list, I feel pretty good about 2014.

I did get several articles published:
“Spin It! Mastering Mawata/Spinning Silk Hankies” (2014) PLY Magazine, Issue 4, Spring 2014, pp54-57.
“Spin It! Best of Both Worlds Fingerless Mitts” (2014) PLY Magazine, Issue 4, Spring 2014, p58.
“Knit It! Best of Both Worlds Fingerless Mitts” (2014) PLY Magazine, Issue 4, Spring 2014, pp59-61.

“Quick on the Uptake” (2014) Spin-Off, Volume XXXIX, Fall 2014, pp56-59.
“Wool into Stone Afghan” (2015) Spin-Off, Volume XXXIX, Winter 2015, pp82-86.

“Spin It! Holiday Inkle Band” (2014) PLY Magazine, Issue 7, December 2014, pp62-63.
“Weave It! Holiday Inkle Band” (2014) PLY Magazine, Issue 7, December 2014, pp64-65.

I finished knitting the merino/silk “Curvy Corner Shawl”. But I haven’t written the pattern yet.
I designed and knitted a cardigan from some Briar Rose Fibers yarn. I’m mostly pleased with the design – especially the collar – but I’ll redesign the sleeves if I knit this one again.
I knitted 10 pairs of socks, all of my own design. I do plan to write up patterns for at least three of them.
I designed and knitted a linen tunic and wore it at my 40th High School reunion. The reunion was a blast and the sweater was a hit. I also wore it at the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival and got several requests for the pattern. So, I may have to write that one up as well.
I re-knitted a charming wool vest. Not my design. From commercial yarn, not handspun.
I tried my hand at a few “firsts”:
I wove an inkle band with some handspun wool, recently published in PLY Magazine and pictured above. I’d woven bands before, but never with wool, and never with my handspun yarns.
I hooked my first rug. With handspun yarns. And it’ll be published in Spin-Off Magazine in the 2015 Spring issue.
I travelled far and wide to teach spinning and knitting: Alaska, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Jersey, and of course Michigan.
There will not be a resolution list for 2015. But I do plan to continue writing, spinning, knitting, designing, weaving, rug hooking, teaching. And trying something new. And enjoying every single minute of it.