Thursday, September 29, 2011


This last weekend I attended Vogue's knitting LIVE which is a convention for knitters.  I always thought my first convention or workshop or other gathering would be a sewing one, but when my Mom mentioned that she was going to this knitting convention in LA, and I could join her if I liked, I decided to give it a try.  To be honest, I would have probably paid money to attend a slug eating convention if it meant a day or two's break from the kiddos, so the knitting thing was a plus.

I had so much more fun than I thought I would have-- I immediately enjoyed the camaraderie with my fellow knitters, and I gave over to complete knitting geekdom.  Is it true that there were a lot of women who were wearing knitted things that I most likely wouldn't be caught dead in?  Yes, but I have to admit, they were very skillfully knitted, and I appreciate talent in any form.

I signed myself up for two classes and a lecture-- Fair Isle knitting, Continental knitting, and whatever lecture my mom was attending which turned out to be Nicky Epstein talking about her career as a knit work designer.

Fair Isle Knitting was taught by the cutest and most adorable woman-- Mary Jane Mucklestone, who, from what I gathered, travels extensively to the Shetland islands to learn/do/teach fair isle knitting.  What's this?  I've always loved Scandinavian fair isle knitting, and anything Scottish, and now I realize that the two are basically merged together in the Shetland islands?  What a coincidence.  If it weren't for my raging American personality, I'd swear that I was born in the wrong country.  Maybe I should have been born sewing kilts and knitting fair isle and celtic knots?  Or maybe my Scandinavian/Scottish ancestry is more powerful than I thought?  I digress, but it is interesting isn't it?  That I would come to love these things separately and then realize they are all connected? I mean it's not as if I fell in love with African color weaving or Mongolian clothing, I'm just saying.

Anyway, back to the class--  I loved it, and fell into a rhythm right away.  I've always wanted to try fair isle, but I was always so intimidated by all of those colors and intricate patterns.  I'm excited to say that I am no longer intimidated and can't wait to give it a try-- in 100% Shetland wool of course.  Want to see what I made?

 Just a few of the motifs designed by Mary Jane and featured in her new book*

 The back side of fair isle

My fair isle sampler/ wrist warmer

I went for a very Scandinavian red/white color combo, and it turned out so well, I think I'll make another to match it.  I started at the hand end with a very simple diced pattern, and worked my way up to the flower pattern.  It was a little more challenging toward the end, and there were times I lost my way, but I figured it out.  One piece of advice was to mark every so often at the end of a pattern repeat so that you can keep yourself on track. Another thing I need to work on is holding the yarn looser on the back so that the work doesn't pucker.

Continental knitting-- this is knitting while holding the yarn in your left hand as opposed to holding it in your right hand and "throwing" the yarn over the needles.  I have always wanted to learn this because I have heard that it is faster, and I am a hopelessly slow knitter.  Also, it turns out, because you make less movements, your fingers and arms strain less-- total bonus.  I loved it, I still need some practice though, and my gauge is much looser, but that's fixable.  I've discovered because it is so much looser, I can use it to bind off without getting a tight end.  All in all, very helpful.  Also, with the fair isle, it's helpful to be able to hold the yarns in various combinations of hands.

Nicky Epstein-- Honestly, I had no idea who she was.  In fact, all of the knitters that people were ooh-ing and aah-ing over were people I had never heard of.  But, I did enjoy her presentation, she's created some beautiful designs.  The main thing I got from her lecture was that designers get their yarn for free, and that is why they can use millions of skeins per project without being aware of what that will cost you the home knitter.  And now you know.

There was also a marketplace where you could view and buy the latest in yarn and knitting accessories, this was fun.  One interesting idea I'd like to pursue is knitting with silver wire.  Must remember that one.

Overall, it was a lovely weekend, and it was over way too soon.  I'd like to do the bigger one in NYC someday, anyone want to come with me?

*Mary Jane's new book is called 200 Fair Isle Motifs: A Knitter's Directory, and will be released for sale on Nov. 29th (I was lucky enough to score a copy at the convention thanks to my mother and her keen sense of early-bird-gets-the-worm buying.  Also, she had it signed for me since I couldn't be there, and Mary Jane may or may not have called me her best student in the inscription...


Jill said...

I love Fair Isle knits. I don't really know anything about knitting but I would think that if you can handle a Fair Isle motif, you must be on your way to the knit whisperer category. Your sampler looks great and I'm excited to see what you do next.

Kara said...

How fun! You definitely need to make a mate for your armwarmer. It is so cute. Fair isle is quite addicting.

Erin said...

You know, I can easily knit continental when I am fair isle knitting (meaning I can knit with one yarn in each hand) but the minute I try to knit continental on its own it is like I have lost all ability to reason. I just can't do it. Your whole weekend sounds like a blast.