Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Laissez le bon temps ROULER!!

Happy mardi Gras Y'all!!
As I sit here perusing my Uncle's coveted gumbo recipe, I have come to realize it's been over a week since I had my Madrona Winter Retreat class with the Yarn Harlot and I haven't posted about it?? That shall be rectified this moment...

Dateline: February 15, 2009
Place: Hotel Murano, Tacoma.
Time: too damned early in the morning

OK so I may have been a little bleary-eyed when I got up that morning to drive to Tacoma. I wasn't looking forward to it because I hate driving alone for so long... it's boring! But thoughts of getting to sped a couple of quality hours with my knitting hero perked up my attitude and kept me from crashing into my lane-neighbors. I am sure they appreciated that.

After taking TOTALLY the wrong turn with the evil downtown freeways (I swear they ply those things together like a worsted) my guardian angel managed to get me to the right place anyway, without taking me through some slum or other... for which I am very grateful. I found the hotel quickly, found public parking almost immediately and got myself a spot for the appropriate amount of time. I could tell I was in the region of knitters... I could smell the wool fumes.

I managed to find my way to the check-in-table in the hotel lobby (thank you signage!) and after taking a moment to be grateful that I wasn't at a gaming convention (the last time I went to any kind of convention at all... and I don't have to tell you why I am grateful that it was WOOL fumes I was smelling... right??) I discovered that I won a door prize! Woot! Talk about a great start! It was a $20 certificate to one of the vendors in the market area, which lucky me, was going to open half an hour before class began, and about 10 minutes from the moment at which I was given my welcome packet. Neat!!

After perusing the market for a while (and being totally unable to find the vendor I was looking for OR any Malabrigo yarn) I decided I should probably go find a seat in the classroom and see what was happening there. Stephanie was already there! Chatting up people and ready to go! I was so excited. I think I may have skipped to my seat (ok maybe that was just in my head).

Stephanie is a very good teacher. She obviously knows her stuff, she's been knitting for 36 years! But there are plenty of people who know what THEY are doing... they just don't know how to teach others to do it as well. Stephanie is not one of these people.

We started out with a little history of knitting-habits. How in Europe in the **mufflemuffle** hundreds (no I wasn't taking notes in this part... sue me), women in the upper classes took up knitting but decided that instead of being PRACTICAL about it, they should look good. And we have been following in those footsteps ever since. She told us that the speedy knitters are the ones who learned from people who had to knit for a living. Makes sense. This is how Stephanie learned (lucky duck). So the large part of the lesson was learning lever knitting. You can probaby find all kinds of videos online with demonstrations, but she showed us the video of the 'contest' last year at Mall of America to find the fastest knitter (knitter... not purler...) and 3 of the 5 of them were lever knitters, including the gal who won. She gets something over 100 sts per minute. Stephanie gets something around 75?

Next we got to find out where we stood in this ranking. We had all been told to bring some worsted-weight yarn and kneedles that were good for knitting said-yarn. She really wanted us to bring 14" straights, but we could additionally bring circulars and double-pointeds in the same size. I brought them all, and a ball of Malabrigo. I was ready. Stephanie had us cast-on 20 stitches any way we liked, and knit a few rows while we got our history lesson. Then it was time, she pulled out her iPhone and stoppwatch app and told us we were going to knit for two minutes. And off we went. We were told to knit relaxed, that we weren't here to try to break any records (because for SURE we weren't going to be breaking any... or we wouldn't be in a class called "Knitting with Speed and Efficiency") and that the point was to get an honest idea of how fast we knit. At the end of class we were going to do it again. Without going into more detail I was at 30 sts/minute and that was in the middle (upper middle!) of the class.

Then the real lesson started. We had to un-learn what we had learned. We had to re-learn how to hold the kneedles, how we hold/tension the yarn and how we pass the yarn around the needle for each stitch. When she thought we had the knit stitch down we moved on to the purl stitch. HERE is where I got my money's worth out of this lesson. I hate purling. Hate. It trips my knitting-rythm like a rock in front of a roller-blader. Not anymore!! The lever method makes it so unbelieveably easy and SO MUCH like the knit stitch that even though I was going VERY slow in my newfound skill, I was actually purling faster than I was knitting. True!

Clicky to Embiggen

Note in the picture the 'corseting' of my swatch. This is where the lesson really began. I tell you, I was knitting so tight I thought I was going to break the yarn! Where it gets narrower-still in the picture is where the ribbing was, that naturally makes things pull-in, but I wanted to point out the changes in width there. It's pretty funny. I pretty much have it under control now that I have been practising though.

After getting both of those under my belt I tried some ribbing, then since she showed us how fast she could do it, I had to try some yarn overs. I couldn't believe it. It was amazing. I was still slower than I would be if I was using my normal knitting habits, but it was all so smooth and easy. I knew with practise that I would get faster.

In addition to this method of knitting, she gave us a huge list of other techniques/habits that would make our current methods faster. She tought me the norwegian purl, which allows people who knit like me to purl faster! It's amazing too. She also taught a different way to perform a slip-slip-knit stitch (ssk) and a good bind off that is less fiddly than most. She also talked about reading patterns smarter, etc.

After all this wonderful tutelage, we all went back to our "old way" of knitting and knit for another 2 minutes to see how we had improved. Folks, I added 9 stitches to my minute. I think I was the greatest-improved in the class, but that's nothing... Yarn Harlot gets the props because EVERYONE WAS FASTER than their before-class time! Everyone!!

She started the class telling everyone we wouldn't be able to do this method today. That we were going to be frustrated and want to throw the knitting away etc etc. but if we practised maybe 15 minutes a day with this lever-knitting method on a side-project that we would get better and faster and more comfortable with it. She's right! I'm making the Noro-stripe Scarf because it's 1x1 ribbing which would make me crazy with my normal knitting style, but with my newfound knowledge it's currently my favorite project.

It's way bigger than this now...

The Yarn Harlot has ruined my knitting because I can't use the new method on any current project (it has wrecked my gauge!) and it's all I want to use right now!

She said after a while knitting with the straight kneedles, we would be able to use it for socks and things on circular kneedles (yeah...so, I am cheating and already trying it lol) it's much more dificult because the whole trick with this method is holding the straight kneedle steady under your arm or in a knitting belt... can't do that with a circ!

In outdoor news: Lookey what I saw this sunday in my front yard!!

It's a weensy Iris!! You know how much I love irises! Spring is coming y'all! It's coming!!!


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