Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chicago, Chicago!

With apologies to Frank Sinatra...

"Chicago, Chicago I'll show you around - I love it
Bet your bottom dollar you lose the knittin' blues in Chicago, Chicago".

Yes, I'm off to Chicago this October, to teach at Vogue Knitting Live.  I'm teaching several classes: Pattern Writing Skills, Design Your Own Custom-Fit Socks, Socks for Absolute Beginners (really! I can get beginners knitting socks! I promise!), Top Down Socks 101 and Toe-Up Socks 101.

I'm very excited - the class list is astounding and I'm honoured to be included with such luminaries as Nancy Bush, Sally Melville and June Hemmons Hiatt. More info here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Anti-Mentor

Totally off-topic:
This story isn't about me, but it begins with me.

I used to have another career. In an industry I didn't really fit into. I liked a lot of the work, but I never felt passionate about what I did, and never really felt like I fit in.

About 15 years ago, my paths crossed with Michael O'Connor Clarke. He hired me to do a job for which I had neither the experience nor the qualifications. I'm still not sure how it turned out for him, but it was terrific for me: I got some amazing experience, learned a whole load of new things, and found myself a mentor.

Michael was my mentor for a few years, helping me out as I muddled my way through, trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. And he listened to me and supported me when I went through a difficult time in my personal life.

And then at lunch a few years ago, he delivered his final and best act of mentorship: he told me to go away. We both knew that I was unhappy and hadn't really found my place in the tech world, but I didn't have the courage to get out.

He didn't want to be my mentor anymore because he didn't want me to be in the position of needing his help. He didn't want me to be in his industry anymore.

I'm not, and I'm happier and more fulfilled professionally than I ever was in my previous career. And Michael gets credit for helping me make that jump. I'll forever be grateful to him for that.

It was with shock and sadness that I learned yesterday of his illness. Michael has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer, a very aggressive and difficult to treat cancer. I'm still processing this, I'll be honest. There is a call for support that has been organized by his friends and colleagues.

And old and very dear friend lost his father to brain cancer recently, too. I just don't know what to say.

Actually, I take that back. I do know what to say: Fuck cancer.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

On the Road

This week I'm off to Columbus, Ohio, for the TNNA industry conference.

Other than TNNA, Columbus is notable as being the home of the much-loved Jeni's Ice Cream... I've heard so much about it. Apparently it's a highlight of the event, and people love this ice cream so much that they have it shipped across the country. (Image shamelessly borrowed from their site.)

I've stocked up on Lactaid and I'm very much looking forward to trying it!

Of course, there are other, more sensible reasons to visit Columbus during the humidity season: so many knitters to meet up with, so many new yarns to fondle and drool over, so many new products to see... and so many opportunities to talk up my first book, and the coming second book... yes, that's right, I'm working on a new book. More details to come!

Did you know that this week marks Knitty's 10th anniversary? My first contribution - "Socks 101" was the Spring of 2005 issue, and I've been honoured to have been a member of the team since 2008.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Kate Learns to Use Her New Camera

Have you been following the series I wrote for Knittyblog on learning to use my new camera?

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3.

Some helpful tips in the comments, too - make sure you read those!

You can see of the results of these efforts on my Photo A Day page, too. It's listed in the Nav Bar on the left.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"You're doing it wrong"

As a knitting teacher, these are words I work very hard not to say.

And yet I hear stories every week about non-teachers who are more than happy to say them. They are most often meant to be kind and helpful, and are delivered with the best of intentions. But in many cases they are less than helpful.

Even if the speaker is correct that the knitter is indeed wrong, it's a pretty discouraging message to hear. But sometimes, wrong turns out to be very, very right.

While I playing Knit Guru at Shall We Knit this past weekend, I met a knitter. She approached me nervously, saying that she "knitted funny", and needed help getting sorted out.

She told me her story: she learned to knit when a girl, and happily knitted along, on and off over the years. And then a neighbour, a woman from the former Yugoslavia, ripped her knitting out of her hands and said those terrible words... "You're doing it wrong."

So our knitter learned to knit again from her neighbour.

She put her knitting down again for a number of years, and has recently restarted. She's been knitting with a group of friends who once again told our now very confused friend that she was doing it wrong.

She came to me anticipating that I would help her "get it right".

It gave me great pleasure to tell her that she was doing it right, and she needn't change a thing.

You see, there's more than one way to knit.

Most of us in North America and the UK knit - regardless of whether yarn is in left or right hand - knit a specific way: our stitches are oriented so that the right leg is at the front of the needle, and we work into the front loop. Easy.

But there's another way to do it - and it's generally accepted as being a faster and ergonomically more efficient way of doing things: Combination Knitting. It's also known as Eastern Uncrossed, and it's common in the far east of Europe (the former Soviet Territories) and the "near east" of the Middle East. I know a lovely Iranian knitter who works this way. And everyone who works this way is blindingly fast.

(image from Annie Modesitt's website -
she created it, she owns it)
In essence, you wrap your purls the "other" way, and therefore your knit stitches are seated the other way - right leg at the back of the needle. The angle to work the knit stitch is more convenient, and it goes without saying that the purl stitch is easier to do.

So my new friend left happy - and perhaps even a little smug - upon learning that she wasn't just doing it right, she was doing it better!

If you're interested in this, or suspect you might indeed be a 'combinationer', please visit the website I've linked to above - the author, Annie Modesitt, is the master of Combination Knitting.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

What Are You Doing for WWKIP Day?

It's World Wide Knit In Public Day starting on Saturday, running for a full week. We knitters clearly have the ability to bend time...

I will be at Shall We Knit in Waterloo, participating in their activities. There will be a bake sale, manicures (using Soak’s fab new kit), an Indigodragonfly trunk show and dyeing demonstration, sales and other shenanigans. I’m going to be playing Knit Guru Kate, offering assistance to any and all knitting problems for $3 for 5 minutes. (If I can’t answer the question, it’s free!) All proceeds are going to Canadian Breast Cancer research.

Did I mention there was a bake sale?

And if that's not enough, on Sunday, I'm teaching two classes:

There's Continental Knitting in the morning, and my Herringbone Lace Shawl in the afternoon.

My Herringbone Lace Shawl is an ideal first lace project, it introduces you to safe, easy and fun lace knitting. I teach you about the magical top-down shawl works. And it's great way to use up those single skeins of sock yarn....

Register for either class here.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Swatching for Gauge: Everything You Wanted to Know But Were Hoping You Could Just Ignore...

Ok, I've gone on at length about why you have to check (and match gauge). And now to answer the first question: How? And what do you do about it?

At its most basic, you swatch to make sure you're using the size of needles that's right for you. That's all.

Step 1. Knit a swatch.
How many sts and rows are you supposed to get? Take that number and multiply it by 1.5 to 2. E.g. for 18 sts/24 rows, cast on about 30 sts and knit until the piece is about 6 inches long. Use the needles recommended in the pattern to start. 'Recommended' is the key word here - these are the needles that the designer used to get gauge, but you might knit looser or tighter. Work in the pattern stitch specified; most often stockinette stitch.

Step 2. Wash the swatch.
Oh yes. Are you going to ever wash the garment? If so, you need to wash your swatch. Many fabrics can change quite radically with washing: superwash wool stretches out a fair bit, cottons can shrink up and change shape; linens and hemps relax. If your garment fits you before you wash it, it's quite likely it won't fit after you've washed it.

(This means that the garment that comes off your needles might not fit until you wash it the first time. Cool by me, since you should wash the pieces before you sew them together anyway.)

Oh yeah, and let it dry before you measure it. Like, overnight.

Step 3. Measure the swatch.
Using a ruler - not a tape measure, they can stretch - measure out 4 inches and count all the sts in the four inches. Including fractions of stitches. Fractions matter very much.

And then measure rows. Same deal, including fractions.

Step 4. Consider your plan of action
Have you matched gauge? Raise a glass! Eat a cupcake! Give yourself a round of applause! You're ready to start knitting.
And by "matching gauge" here I mean PRECISELY the right number of sts in 4 inches, and pretty much the right number of rows in 4 inches. Dirty secret: there's a bit of room for fudge in rows - if you're within about 10% of the required number (e.g. 28 instead of 26), you'll be fine for most purposes.

Are you off? By how much? If you're within about 10-15%, then a needle change should get you where you need to be. If you're off by more than about 10-15%, chances are you're going to need to change yarn. Changing the gauge of a fabric that much is likely to affect the fabric too much.

Too many stitches?
You're knitting too tight. (You're fitting more sts into four inches than you should have, therefore they are too small.) Move up a needle size and start again.

Too few stitches?
You're knitting too loose. (You're fitting fewer sts into four inches than you should have, therefore they are too big.) Move down a needle size and start again.

Frequently asked questions:
OMG. Are you telling me I have to do this all over again? Are you out of your mind?
Frankly, your gauge should never be a surprise. That is, I start measuring once I've got an inch or two of my swatch worked to get a sense of whether I'm even in the vicinity. If I'm not; I'll stop right there and restart. I've even been known to wash a half-knitted swatch on the needles.

Will I run out of yarn?
Likely not, but hang on to your swatches and if you need the yarn as you get near the end of the project, undo them.

Isn't this a lot of work?
Well, it might take up an evening, but it's significantly less work than knitting a sweater that doesn't fit. (See my post about me being unsympathetic on this point... )