Saturday, 29 October 2011

Yarn School

I went up to Glasgow to take part in the Glasgow School of Yarn last weekend. It was a good excuse to visit some friends in my lovely old hometown of Glasgow (I find it easier to love Glasgow when I'm not subjected to the constant dreary weather).

The weather was very dreary over the weekend, but we got only light rain showers instead of the heavy rain that was forcast, so I didn't get too wet. Anyway, we've been suffering from near drought conditions down in Oxford lately and I find myself actually missing rain, so it was nice to get a good dose for once.

But enough of the weather, you want to hear about the knitting! The School of Yarn was held at the Mackintosh Church at Queen's Cross. A most appropriate location, since Charles Rennie Mackintosh is one of Glasgow's most famous style icons (the genesis of the name of the knitting weekend was the Glasgow School of Art, housed in one of Mackintosh's better known buildings). Mackintosh designed buildings in the arts and crafts style, but appropriately he and his wife were active in textile design as well.

Stained glass window in the Mackintosh church 

I took two classes, Plug and Play shawl design with Amy Singer and Steeking with Ann Kingstone. I suppose I could have picked up most of the information from knitting reference books or the internet, but I found it really useful to have everything packaged conveniently in a 3-hour class. Also, it was fun to meet some teachers who are members of the kniterati, and additionally, I learned some useful things from my classmates.

The woman I was sitting next to in the shawl class was a video podcaster, and she shared with me a bunch of knitting podcasts she listens to. I'm always on the lookout for new podcasts, so I'll check them out and perhaps do a podcast review in future.

The woman I was sitting next to in the steeking class was a continental knitter, and she showed me how to improve my purl technique. I learned knitting from a British knitter (my husband's granny), but immediately gravitated to the continental method. But since no one ever demonstrated the method to me, I always suspected I wasn't doing it quite right. When knitting I hold the thread around my index finger and use my middle finger to push the yarn into position. When purling I used my thumb and middle finger to pull the yarn into place. But now I've learned how to purl without the assistance of my thumb - I just use my middle finger to hook the yarn around the needle. I'm hoping that having fewer fingers to coordinate will help speed up my purling, and presumably it should reduce hand strain as well (not that I often suffer from it). 

Unfortunately, though I've been working on perfecting this new purling technique, I haven't made progress with any lace shawl or steeking projects. I abandoned the shawl I started in class because I wasn't happy with either the yarn or the lace pattern I chose. I bought some lovely Old Maiden Aunt merino/silk 4 ply in my signature chartreuse colour at the Yarn School marketplace.

Old Maiden Aunt merino/silk 4ply in grellow - irresistible!

I'm going to try to design a nice leafy lace top down shawl for it, using a chart from my Vogue Knitting Stitchionary (volume 5, lace knitting).

For the steeking class we had been instructed to knit 4 swatches for homework. This was really helpful because the idea of cutting knitting is terrifying; it was comforting to have plenty of material to work with, and additionally to get the group support of the whole class. We were instructed to use shetland wool, and it really is amazing how the cut ends stick together. My cat has been playing with the cut up scraps for days, and they are hardly unraveling at all!

Ann Kingstone introduced us to her new pattern Tess, a pair of colourwork slippers that use steeking.

How perfect would these be for Christmas presents?!

The pattern is being released in 5 installments as part of a KAL (knit along). I've bought the pattern but have not started yet because I've already gotten hung up on the new cast on technique (Judy's magic cast on), which I have actually done before but have already forgotten. This is exactly why classes and demonstrations are so critical, to help us overcome the knitting hangups that prevent us from starting projects.