|Tradewind Knitwear Designs|
A Happy New Knitting Year to all our crew!
It's amazing how the time has flown since our last edition: perhaps three newsletters a year is the best I can do while still producing knitting patterns and travelling madly off in all directions!
You'll be glad to hear that Nova Scotia has been mercifully clear of major weather events (if we don't count three major blizzards in one week this January, which we won't), but since then the mountainous banks of cold gray (formerly attractive white) stuff have been gradually eroding. From my point of view, this snow was very welcome, finally allowing our two modest ski areas to open more than a goat track. Ever heard the term "Oreo skiing"? Brown on both sides and white in the middle...
To the sound of a modest fanfare: It seems as if knitting-as-an-admirable-activity has arrived in Nova Scotia at last; we do tend to run a little behind the times here. This new enthusiasm has led to a number of specialist yarn producers and new yarn stores springing up, to the handrubbing glee of local hardcore knitters. One local television channel (we only have three, I think) has single-handedly 'discovered' knitting and decided that an interview with "Yours Truly" would be just what they needed for their evening chat show. Sounds glamourous?
Here is the inside scoop...we were visited by a camera-man (who for reasons that will become clear, will remain nameless) and the instigator and interviewer, Liz Rigney. Liz was a delight: she was thrilled by the colours, textures and techniques, and positively bubbled with questions. As a freshly cast-on scarf-knitting acolyte, she was delighted and excited by a glimpse at the diversity of things that may be done with two sticks and some string. (It's fortunate that I'm not Debbie New: Debbie's cunningly created pieces, which include a coracle (hint: it floats!), would have been knitting-overload!) You can view some of Debbie's work at the Philosopher's Wool website.
If you wish to sink your brain cells, and perhaps needles, more deeply into Debbie's techniques and unique ideas, her large, warmly-photographed book, "Unexpected Knitting", is magnificent. (I usually have a few copies on hand.)
Many miles of film were taken (well, a huge number of pixels perhaps). Anyone who has ever attempted to photograph me will attest that this is a very challenging task: no matter how happy I am, my face reflects the results of a hard day in the salt-mines. You'd think I never smile! I am sure I do, I just can't seem do it on order! (Look at the picture of the Andean vest if you want to see the 'look'. I did warn you!)
Liz whisked me off to my main studio area, leaving the cameraman seeking artistic shots in the yarn room. The cameraman emerged briefly from the basement, requesting additional garments, as he wished to drape them strategically for background shots. He disappeared again bearing mittens and socks.
Imagine my horror when a distinct aroma of burning wool began to permeate
the upper reaches of the studio!
In his artistic zeal, the C*****M** had decided that draping a sock and mitten apparently drying on the incandescently glowing wood-stove was the perfect shot.
The grand result: for two hours of chaos we have a singed Rainbow mitten and sock and netted about a minute of air time!...........
Ah, but we must suffer for our art.
My first major trip of the new year took me to the west coast for yet another delightful visit to the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat at Gig Harbor. This is a great little gathering, hosting renowned fibre artist mentors from many fields of expertise, dedicated and knowledgeable attendees and a select band of local vendors to cater to our desires: a wide-ranging yet intimate event. Although the website is for the past event, bookmark it and keep an eye open for next year's information. Pay special attention to the first date for registration if you really want a spot!
My next port of call was Point Reyes National Seashore in CA, a place of breathtaking beauty, for the Wool Lover's Retreat held at the incomparable Manka's Inverness Lodge.
During a couple of "free" days between camps I had a chance to venture into the National Seashore to revel in the abundant natural contrasts and the to-me-exotic wildlife: elephant seals, sea lions, Tule elk, turkey vultures, a coyote, a pelican, to name but the few I can remember! Lush foliage with spring flowers already in bloom, the scenery absolutely enchanting, especially when gently and intermittently adorned with Pacific sea mist, all this with a backdrop of howling winds at the Point Reyes lighthouse and magnificent crashing Pacific surf along the ten mile beach. It just blew me away.
The Wool Lover's Retreat attracts an eclectic mixture of knitters, both local and from the
sunshine-starved East coast; they gather in this unique setting for
workshops, fine food and frivolity. At the Thursday evening concluding dinner (known
as the "Casting Off party"), a jovial roasting of the attendees takes place. I
was awarded a real medicine vial full of M&M's carefully labelled by some bemused
local pharmacist, no doubt browbeaten by a couple of enterprising knitters (who were
lucky not to have been locked up). The label officially states: "Lucy Neatby, 3/3/05, Take one tablet as needed for stressed and/or scabby stitches." (this may make sense to those of
you who know my opinions on the subject of unhappy stitches). For others, I
think this could be interpreted as a pharmacist-approved prescription that
chocolate is good for your knitting!
The final injunction at the conclusion of the menu was a heartfelt: "Onward into the world - needles outstretched".
And on that happy thought, I'll bid you following winds and a hearty welcome to
Knitters seem to feel a desperate need to keep their knitting tidy as they work...but I say: "let it all hang out!"
When you join in new yarns, do so at the sides of the work, if possible, or at the edges of colour blocks in intarsia designs, or even behind a cable if you don't make it all the way across. Most important of all is to leave decently long tails of yarn dangling for later neatening. (I suggest 4 - 6" ideally, long enough to tie comfortably, easy to thread and hard to miss). If you wish to tie the new yarn to the old to prevent loose stitches, by all means feel free (I now use bows rather than reef knots, as they are so much quicker to untie later). Please understand that I am not ruling out the deft use of splicing the yarns (spit or otherwise) - but this is not always possible or practical.
As the work progresses, the number of tails dangling will grow. Cut off any superfluous length beyond the optimal six inch length but don't be tempted to bury these tails into the garment pieces before assembly! To do this makes seaming much more difficult. The tails are best hidden later in the selvage stitches after the seam is complete. Frankly, there are many downright ugly stages between casting on and final wearing: don't be disheartened. All this increases the satisfaction of the finishing process as from this shaggy monstrosity emerges a newly minted sweater.
The same principle of LIAHO applies whilst seaming: leave your tails of the seaming yarn loose and on the public side of the garment until you are happy with your seam. This way, if the seam is not up to par or the armhole doesn't quite match up, it is not a big deal to zip out the last length of yarn used and finesse the seam. For this reason I don't bind off my sleeves until I have tried the body on and offered up the sleeves for their final length adjustment: if extra rows are needed, no problem, or if a few need to be deleted, similar. But if I had to un-bind-off, that would be a different matter altogether.
The book I'd really like to write would be titled "Knitting, Warts and All!", picturing the progress of projects through their pimply, adolescent, pre-blocking and finishing stages and then revealing them in their newly evolved glory! I guess it's also a lot like the raggedy-brown-caterpillar-turns-into-a-holy-cow-it's-a-gorgeous-butterfly experience.
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