Thursday, February 19, 2015

On Blocking, and Vegetables


My first Craftsy class (ooh... there's a hint there... ) is all about Blocking.

I was having a discussion with someone about it recently. He described the class as being an "Eat Your Vegetables" sort of thing.

Now, I feel very strongly about blocking. It's one of the least-understood and yet most important steps in the knitting process. Everything I knit has a bath before I declare it done.

Especially swatches. And anything that needs seaming. Or any special fabrics like lace, cables or colorwork. Or anything that I might have spilled coffee on. Or that might have dog hair on it. Or anything I've knitted during the winter when I'm obsessively applying moisturizer to my hands.

Now, if I tell knitters that they should wash their stuff before it's done, fear of water aside, this instruction is usually understood. And knitters can usually cope.

But as soon as we use the word blocking... well, we get blocked.

It sounds complicated. There's special equipment: mats and wires and pins. And you need to buy special wool-washes. And lie things flat. It sounds hard.
(So let's get this out of the way: 9 times out of ten, a wash is sufficient for blocking. Yes. When I say "block", most of the time all you need to do is wash it. 
Yes! The only time you need to do anything complicated, or with special equipment like mats and pins and wires, is when it's lace. The rest of the time, washing is ALL YOU NEED TO DO.)
And compounding the problem, I think we do a lousy job of explaining the value of blocking. We don't even do a good job of explaining why it's so important - let alone why it's so wonderful.

It's a bit like eating your vegetables. It sounds difficult and boring and it doesn't seem like there's any value. Who wants to, really? So you don't.

But then you discover that broccoli with cheese sauce is delicious, and that mushrooms add a sophisticated depth of flavour to a tomato sauce, and that roasted cauliflower with a bit of garlic, salt and olive oil is an even better snack than greasy old chips.

But you have to prove it to people. They won't just take your word for it. They have to try the roasted cauliflower. (Really, you do. It's amazing.) I have had to actually take stuff out of people's hands and put it in water, to prove my point. And then they get it.

To that end, I had a comment from a student in my Craftsy class recently that I wanted to share with you.
I knit a large hat, my first large item on size 1 needles, first 2 color in about 40 years and I was not really thrilled with it. But after blocking, it was just like you said. The stitches evened out and I feel the 4 months it took me to knit it (a promised gift) was time well spent after all.

See? Just like I said. Totally worth it!

And if you're still not sure it's worth your time or money, here's a trailer for the class.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

At Shall We Knit this weekend

In some ways I'm very relieved that the end of February is approaching fast. But in others, I feel like it's moving too quickly. It feels like it was only last month I was visiting some of my fibre-besties over at Shall We Knit in Waterloo.

But it was before Christmas. Before the epic winter of coldness and misery got started.

I'm teaching a full slate of classes:

Two Socks Two Circulars. Because Second Sock Syndrome is a Very Real Problem.

Fearless Finishing. Because admit it: you don't like sewing up, and there's a little voice in your head that says you're probably weaving your ends in wrong. For knitters of all experience levels, this class focuses on making it easy and fun. And helping you understand the value of the techniques. I explain blocking and seaming and ends and picking up stitches.  And I promise I won't judge - you should have seen my first attempts at seaming!

Introduction to Colourwork. Because working one colour at a time is boring. Stripes, both horizontal and vertical! Polka dots! Checks!

Cables 101. If "C6R", "T2L" and "C3/2B" make you panic; and charts cause concern. This bootcamp will have you working cables with ease and style - and definitely no tears.

Plus, I believe the sale closet is open this weekend. I have a special weakness for the sale closet.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

So many great things! Frolic classes, Sockupied Knee Socks, New Book Cover Art

Weeks like this are immensely gratifying. As a freelancer, I work on many different projects at the same time, all with different deadlines and timelines. Although I'm working at a pretty steady pace through the year, the pace of releases doesn't always match that... sometimes nothing gets released for weeks at a time. And sometimes a bunch of things I've been working on for weeks/months/years all launch at the same time.

And this is one of those weeks!

Working on for weeks:
I'm teaching at this year's Toronto Knitters' Guild Frolic April 25 & 26. I love this event. The vendor fair is always fantastic, I get to see so many of my far-flung friends, and I have a wonderful time with smart and engaged students.

This year, I'm teaching:
  • Crochet for Knitters
  • Short-row Skills
  • Slipped Stitch Colourwork
  • Continental Knitting
  • Intro to Brioche
  • Finishing Masterclass
There's a great line up of instructions, some of them new to the Frolic. If I wasn't teaching? I'd be first in Amy Swenson's photography for knitters class, or exploring beading with Sivia Harding.

(I won't lie: one of the reasons I always get so excited about it is that it's always announced in the depths of the winter, and it always makes me feel that perhaps Spring might be coming after all.)

Working on for months:
My Washington State Knee Sock design is in the just-released Spring 2015 issue of Sockupied
Image courtesy Sockupied/Harper Point Photography
Accompanying the design is an article about how to create custom-fit knee socks. Because after all, we're not the same height and we certainly don't all have the lovely legs the model has... 

Now, I love wearing knee socks, but knitting them is less fun. That leg takes a loooooong time. They can be tedious, it's true. Can I share a secret with you? These socks are worked in sport-weight - Lorna's Laces very clever and lovely Sportmate! Trust me, they go MUCH faster than if worked in fingering weight. I swore off knitting knee socks after two designs in short order, but when they told me I could work in sport-weight, I had no qualms at all.

Working on for  years:
My Custom Fit Sock book cover art has been revealed, and the book is available for pre-order through Amazon in the US, Amazon in the UK, and indigo in Canada

I'll write more about this book in the near future. I'm too busy jumping up and down about how great it looks.

Monday, February 09, 2015

A Knitter's Guide to Yarn: Webseminar this Wednesday!

On Wednesday I'm doing another web seminar for Interweave: A Knitter's Guide to Yarn

The right yarn choice can be all the difference between a garment you’ll wear and proud of, and something that never sees the light of day. This web seminar will help you become a better yarn shopper and a more confident knitter with better finished projects.
With this web seminar, join designer Kate Atherley, you'll talk yarn thickness, weight and gauge, demystifying all the different categorizations: it is a #4, a worsted or an aran? What’s a DK and how does it relate to a sportweight? And why is a fingering weight yarn not always a sock yarn? You'll learn an easy way to check your gauge and provide solutions for what to do if you can’t match the pattern.

For $19.99, you can join me live, or listen to the prerecorded webseminar at your leisure. All preregistered attendees get a copy of the slides, too.

For more info and to sign up, visit the Interweave store.