Friday, July 3, 2009

New colors, new skills

Well, sort of. The colors I chose really shouldn't surprize anyone that knows me. But I absolutely love the laptop case I just finished knitting for myself. I wouldn't have been able to knit it, if it weren't for the wonderful experience of Knitter's Connection. I took a class there, "Two Colors, Two Hands" taught by Sally Melville. Some of you may remember the glorious disaster that was the f'ing deer socks. Once again, I've demonstrated why my friends crowned me queen of crazytown, because I thought that doing colorwork on the second pair of socks I'd ever made was a great idea. Needless to say the, socks didn't fit at all. The sock part of the sock was great, but my lack of even tension in the ankle kept the sock from making it past the heel of the foot when my boyfriend tried it on. The sock is in hibernation until I've refined my skills at color knitting.

I have to really give credit to Sally Melville, the woman who taught the Two Colors, Two Hands class, for giving me the skills to tackle color knitting again. She was just very reassuring, and very down-to-earth practical. She set attainable and pragmatic goals for knitting in new ways. I hadn't even been aware that I expected myself to be as good at knitting in a new style as I was with knitting lace and everything else I was used to doing. Bear in mind, my first knitting project was the branching out scarf. My bar for "easy" isn't the least bit logical or practical. She pointed out that the most important goals for learning a new knitting style are attaining the muscle memory, establishing good tension, and once both of those are comfortable for you to do, THEN you can start thinking about speed.

I found I was most comfortable knitting with one color in each hand, even though I'm a continental knitter. The thing is, you'll be knitting in a style that you're not normally comfortable with, so why should you be expecting beautifully even knitting your first time around? With her reassurance and gentle guidance, I learned to be comfortable with english style knitting. Her advice for dealing with that conundrum she pointed out? Do a felted bag. The thicker fabric of colorwork makes for a sturdy bag, and felting hides all those sins of tension and (un)even stitches. I took her advice, and went my own way with it, because really, I need another purse like I need a hole in the head. So I made a (soon to be) felted laptop case!

Just so you know, it is a lumpy, bumpy mess, just as she promised most people's first projects would be. Check out a close up of the stitches, pay close attention to how uneven the edge is.

It was just so reassuring to hear that it's not going to be perfectly even the first time around. In class, she held up this beautifully knit a-line skirt with an intricate insert panel of colorwork, and stated quite clearly that it was a lumpy mess until she blocked it. I'll post pictures of blocking, just to show what an effect it has, before I block it. And, like Ms. Melville said, felting will completely obliterate the uneven stitches. She recommended using noro if you want more color without having to constantly change yarns, but I have a deep-seated aversion to noro. So I used jojoland, colorway M-04 instead. I love the gradual color change from purple to lavender to burgundy.

I also followed her advice and used a simple, easy to memorize pattern, houndstooth. Well, it was mostly easy to memorize. As you can see here, I messed up one repeat.
By that point, I had cast on, knitted 2 repeats, and ripped it all back out at least 3 times. I thought I had a handle on the pattern and stopped looking at the pattern. Folly, thy name is pride, and I had too much of it at that point in time. By the time I had realized that I made the mistake, I was sick of ripping out and starting again. I saw that I'd done the repeat wrong right here:

I can live with it, though. I'm just so totally enamored of the color change that the jojoland yarn does. I used jojoland for the contrast color, some leftover paton's classic wool for the pink, and some leftover wool-angora blend in lavender that I got from an ebay auction. I have to say, the bag was great at busting stash. As you may have noticed, I have a terrible problem with leftover yarns, so being able to use them up felt wonderful. The bag is 9.5 inches wide by 15 inches long, to fit a 10.5 inch by 7.25 inch laptop. I'm waiting to felt it along with the celtic tote that I've done. I just need to finish the embroidery on the bag, and then it will be ready to felt.

I can't say enough wonderful things about Knitter's Connection, Sally Melville, and everything I got to see and do there. The Knitter's Market is like... taking your favorite yarn shop and multiplying it by 10. That's the best way I can describe two large conference rooms filled with all sorts of yarn vendors, from hand-dyers to retail distributors and everything in between. Forgot your knitting bag? That's okay, you can buy a Nantucket bag there. Just finished your cardigan in class or lecture, and need buttons? I saw at least 2 vendors that sold nothing but buttons and notions.

As for me? Well, the yarns I loaded up on are another story. I could gush on and on about those for pages and pages. But, I think I'll save that for later.

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Welcome to Crazytown, where my friends have proclaimed me queen. Why did they do that you ask? For some reason, there's very little that I fear about knitting. Hmm, a dress in laceweight done in lace knitting written by vogue? Sounds great! I have very few inhibitions when it comes to knitting, and that sometimes ends disasteriously. Apparently, other people think this signifies a level of crazy that only the royalty can attain. Follow along with my escapades as I dive head first into all sorts of insane techniques and projects without much more than an "Oh! That looks pretty, I can make it!"

Those will probably be my famous last words.