Monday, March 2, 2009

Stitches West 2009 Recap

I attended my first Stitches West Knitting Expo last week - me and hundreds of other knitters - it was truly amazing to see so many knitters. I arrived in time to check in at the registration desk, get a feel for what was going on and then spent the rest of my time trying to find the room for my class. Fortunately I eventually found it and got settled in for my 3 hour class on learning how to cable.

My first class, "Cables Untangled" was taught by Melissa Leapman who presented our class in a manner that made everyone feel at ease and confident to get started. First, we learned how to read those, often intimidating, knitting charts and got a feel for understanding how to use them for cabling. With our first swatch in hand, she walked us through our first cable chart. My first several attempts were quite pathetic, but Melissa was very patience with all of us who were struggling and gave us plenty of time to get the hang of it. When I got home, I actually took out what we did in class, and knitted it all over again, which I found very helpful.

Here is what my first cable swatch sampler:

Three different types of cables:
In the green I actually did one of the cables wrong. It's towards the bottom, I think I was supposed to move the cable needle to the back, but instead I moved it to the front.Our second swatch was a little more challenging, but my first attempt in class come out better than I anticipated. Again, I decided to start it over but using a different yarn that I had picked out for class. It took me a few attempts to get it started, and I had to go back and redo a few places. This one I really have to concentrate on because you have to remember not only where place the cable needle, but when to purl and when to knit along the way. I think I will keep doing this pattern and make it into a scarf. Melissa suggested using a wool blend of yarn rather than the yarn many of us were using in class, acrylic blends. Her opinion was that wool blends give a more defined detail and bring out the cable appearance. I personally found it easier, because my yarn wasn't splitting.

Here is our second cable project done in rowan soft baby. I took me several repeats to see what the pattern was supposed to look like.

Close up of cable pattern:We skipped one project #3, which I think I am grateful for, since after she explained it briefly I am not sure I would have understood how to do it. Instead we skipped to our final swatch, where we added a second color of yarn. Very cool, and actually seemed a lot easier than the first two. However I am not going to keep this swatch and will take it out (if I haven't already done so by the time I get this posted!) and use the yarn for my original projects. When Melissa was explaining that this project was basically a form of fair isle knitting. She added that she doesn't put that in the class description because she felt if she did she would scare away potential students telling people they would be learning to cable with two colors at the same time!

Fair Isle and Cables all together:
This is the back of my swatch. One thing we had to learn was how to make the yarn go across properly. These stitch are called floats, and in order for the fabric not to curl, you have to make very loose floats. As you can tell I am still learning to make the floats with less tension.On Saturday I did a 6 Hour class with Gwen Bortner on how to adapt a published pattern. We learned how to properly swatch and check our gauge so we can make a published pattern fit as we want it too. After several exercises on how to recalculate gauge, adjusting the numbers we were able to see how we could take just about any pattern and tweak it to give an almost perfect fit. There was so much we went over I can't even begin to explain it.

If you ever get a chance to take a class taught by Gwen invest in it. This particular class covered a lot of ground in 6 hours. On her website I see that she also offers this class broken down into small classes of 1 or 3 hours, focusing only on certain topics for each one. However taking the 6 hour class will give you the complete picture of using gauge, preparing swatches, proper measurements, understanding the math of knitting, and how to really make a garment fit, etc. It's like a puzzle that now all neatly fits together on how to adapt a published pattern. No pictures of this class, but in the future I hope to be able to show that I did using her methods.

The market place was OK for me. There was plenty of beautiful yarns, and other items out there for sale. I am not all that familiar with yarn companies, especially ones that spin and dye their own yarn and sell as their own label. I am more of a Lion Brand Yarn or Knit Picks type yarn person. There was yarn that was absolutely gorgeous, soft to touch, beautiful colorways and plenty of delightful textures. However, most of these to-die-for-yarns were quite expensive, especially when you need several skeins to make a project. There were places that had bins of yarns, that were prepackaged, but even they were too expensive for me, even with the sale price. For me, this is not my one and only hobby, so I just couldn't see spending that kind of money on yarn.

So even though Thursday was preview night, and only open to students, I didn't stay long. I guess I didn't really know what I was looking at or for. I did purchase some yarn from Webs because I wanted to get some nice yarn for my swatch for Saturday's class. I have ordered from before and most the yarn was in my price range. By Saturday I was interested in giving the market another chance. Despite that it was a lot more crowded, I did find a few things I knew I could use. I also felt a lot more confident that I could purchase yarn that I would/could use for the many patterns that I accumulated from what I learning in my class!

I ended up purchasing several nice yarns from Webs. Their prices were more in my price range and as always most yarn can be discounted when you purchase a certain amount.

Malabrigo Worsted in Marine Blue:

Valley Yarns Stockbridge in Chocolate Brown:

Valley Yarns Springfield in blue:

Plymouth Silk Merino
in Pink:

As we were getting settled and set up for our Saturday class, one lady pulled out her handy caddy and set it up in her work space. Turns out they were being sold at the Market place, but I must have missed them on Thursday. They had did have a nice two for one special, and I thought they would be very useful for me since I take my knitting with me to a variety of places.

I have always wanted some kind of shawl pin, but most I have seen are so expensive for my taste. I found these very simple ones at the Gita Maria Booth and decided to get two. Guess I should finish one of my shawls now so I can start putting them to use. She also has beautiful jewelry and I would have loved to get a pair of earrings, but decided that I could add that to my wish list for another time.
Over all I am very glad I choose to attend Stitches West. My classes were definitely worth it, and I feel I got some very helpful and useful information. My son asked if I would attend again, and after thinking about it, I said yes. Not really for the market place, but definitely for the classes.


Robin said...

I enjoyed reading about your experiences at Stitches West. I love cables and they are really aren't that hard are they? Love the pink yarn you got.

Robin said...
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