Stitches West 2008

First, a little note for all my fellow Ravelers! Now that we can add designs to Ravelry as part of a ‘store’ (currently it’s only for the free designs, but they’ll be adding designs for sale soon), I’ve uploaded my Diagonal Basketweave Afghan pattern as my first store pattern. My design store (all one whopping pattern – heh) is located here. I will probably create a pdf of the Counterpoint scarf pattern to upload at some point, and I have decided to take a chance and write up my new sock pattern and upload it to Ravelry for sale once that functionality goes live.

Now for the actual entry. I went to Stitches West again this year, except that this time I decided to try taking a few classes instead of just going down for the market. I’ve not really taken any ‘official’ knitting classes before, so I thought it might be interesting to see what they might entail.

I signed up for two all day classes – Ethinic Textured Knitting, and Ethnic Color Knitting. It turned out both were taught by the same instructor – Joan Schrouder – which made it easy for me because I only had to track down one classroom in the rather huge maze of hotel + convention center where Stitches West is held. Plus, it also meant that I spent two days learning numerous methods of stranded knitting – whether it was two strands of the same color, or two (or more) strands of different colors.

I drove down to Santa Clara on Friday morning, which meant getting up at 5am so I could make the two hour drive during a time frame where I could avoid most of the traffic. That meant arriving about 45 minutes early (I did hit a little traffic on the last stretch of the drive) but that was preferable to getting stuck in traffic for 3 hours, which was the alternative.

Friday’s class was on textured knitting. We spent the morning learning about the technique of Twined Knitting, including various cast-on techniques that produce lovely braided edges (whether with one color or two). Twined knitting produces a dense fabric that isn’t very practical for California, but I can see where it could be fun to play, just for a little decoration here and there. I do question the sanity of the people who invented this method, however (grin), since if one is doing it authentically, one is supposed to twist the threads with every single stitch, resulting in a rather tangled mess that had to be untwisted at the end of each row. They must have had incredible patience!

The afternoon wasn’t nearly as informative for me, mainly because it focused on Bavarian twisted stitches….precisely the sort of technique I used in the socks I just finished designing and creating. Ah well. I kept myself busy by working on a rather complex twisted stitch pattern while the rest of the class learned how to cable without a cable needle (been doing that for quite some time now) and decided that this was also a great opportunity to remind myself how to knit backwards. So maybe it wasn’t the same technique everyone else was working on, but at least I felt like I was learning something ‘new’ after all.

Saturday’s class was all about stranded colorwork. Since this is traditionally done in the round, but we were doing flat swatches for practice, Joan recommended we just keep sliding the knitting to the other end of the needles and leaving huge floats behind. I decided instead to just use it as an excuse to continue to practice knitting backwards (and okay, I also did it because the one row I tried this on, the big ugly floats drove me nuts and kept getting in the way, so I figured it was just easier to go back and forth the ‘usual’ way). She led us through several different methods of doing stranded colorwork, and gave all sorts of interesting historical background on all of them. We all worked with the same swatches throughout the class, and at the end, she brought in her iron and steamed all the swatches flat so we could go around the room and check out what everyone else had done. That was rather fun, mainly because lots of us had just grabbed random colors from our stash, so some of the color combinations were a little…uh…jarring (and I include my own color combinations in this – heh). But it was definitely easy to see that with a larger selection of shades, one could certainly create some lovely designs.

I did, of course, manage to get to the market during my two days down in Santa Clara (I spent the night Friday at the hotel because there was no sense at all in trying to drive home from Santa Clara in Friday traffic, just to turn around Saturday morning and come right back again!). During our two hour lunch on Friday I grabbed a sandwich from the lunch bar set up near my classroom, and then hoofed it over to the market, where I picked up my Ravelry passport and spent the next hour visiting all the booths in the passport to collect my stamps. Once I turned that in, I did a little more wandering, just to browse, but it wasn’t until after class that I did any actual shopping.

I’ve been dealing with a little bit of stash-overload since we moved into the new house, because I do have a lot of yarn and I am making a concerted effort to knit from my stash and not buy anything that wasn’t immediately needed (like, for example, the yarn for my niece’s scarf). But as my friend and I wandered around, we found ourselves in the Philosopher’s Wool booth, and we both remarked that every year we come to Stitches, we stare at all the pretty, pretty designs in this booth, and every year we say ‘someday we are going to buy one of those’…and, well, it didn’t take much more pondering before we were both picking up kits for this sweater. She got the blue colorway and I got the red one. We’ll both be making cardigans, so not only am I going to get a lot of practice with all the stranded knitting techniques I’ve learned; I’m also going to get to do some steaking for the very first time. Eek. We figure if we both are working on this together, we can be prodding each other about progress, or working out any complications along the way.

At least that was the only yarn I *did* purchase, although there were a few other things that had to come home with me. My friend was the one who spotted them on the table at one of the large book sellers in the market, and there were only three copies left, plus absolutely no line at the cash register (a novel situation, considering this place is usually packed to the gills!) so we each also grabbed a copy of Janet Szabo’s Aran Sweater Design. I’m quite happy about this, because this book has been on my wishlist ever since I made the cardigan for our Ireland vacation in 2006, following her Aran-along group. And on the way out of the market, as we were heading off to get dinner, we passed by the Ravelry booth and discovered that they’d finally gotten the t-shirts, so naturally we both had to buy one of those as well.

It was a fun two days, even though they were busy and I didn’t get nearly enough sleep. I got a lot of really great ideas for how to use up some my stash yarn (especially some of the varigated yarns in my sock stash that I’ve been wanting to use for quite some time now), and I was inspired enough to buy myself my first big colorwork project, and I got a lot of practice working on knitting backwards and holding two strands of yarn in one hand (that whole ‘holding it in the right hand thing’ still evades me completely).

There was a little knitting content during the trip. Thursday night while I was packing up my bag for the trip, I printed out a few patterns to play with, and grabbed a ball of Trekking XXL from my sock yarn stash. It took a few false starts before I finally settled on a pattern that I liked enough to keep on with it – Nutkin – and in fact I liked it so much that I’ve been working on it ever since.

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