A.k.a. best weekend ever!
Anytime I can attend a 3-day conference, where knitting during lectures and classes is not only acceptable, but also encouraged and widely practiced, I am guaranteed to have a fabulous time. Add to the mix the best partner in crime, an array of knitting celebrities, and mountains of gorgeous yarn, and, voila, now I never want to leave!
I was one of the lucky prize winners of the NYC Yarn Crawl a couple of months back. And part of this prize was a 3-day package to Vogue Knitting Live. For those of you who have no idea what that is, my husband calls it “Knit Con”! I’d say that’s a pretty accurate description, except it’s way more fun!
Naturally, all experiences are more fun when shared with others, so I convinced my knitting bestie to join me (it wasn’t that hard). We signed up for the same classes and lectures, and started the countdown!
Before I continue, let me make one thing very clear. I won this ticket in September. We didn’t register for classes until the end of November. And not for a lack of trying. It is extremely overwhelming to go to the list of classes/lectures on the VKLive website, and only pick one or two. Did I want to learn color work from Mary Jane Mucklestone? Or advance my cable knitting with Norah Gaughan? Or perhaps some brioche with Nancy Marchant? So it took me months to actually make up my mind, and, thankfully, by then half the choices were sold out.
In the end, my friend and I decided to be pragmatic; pick classes/lectures that would really benefit our knitting skills the most. (Yay, finishing techniques!) We also threw in a bonus lecture with Norah Gaughan, just because I love her work so much.
So here’s our weekend in review...
Norah Gaughan. Designing Cables: How One Idea Leads to the Next.
In this class Norah Gaughan went through her new book (Norah Gaughan’s Knitted Cable Sourcebook) and explained her thought process behind every cable. How she went from one cable to the next. What inspired her to create these new cables and how she arrived at the final results.
This class was very inspirational, especially for an aspiring knitwear designer like myself. We often take already existing stitch patterns for granted, and get boxed down to only those available to us. What I took away from this class was that we should be more open to experimenting, and that when it comes to knitting, there’s really no one way to do things, and even mistakes can lead to new ideas!
By the way, if you haven’t seen Norah Gaughan’s Knitted Cable Sourcebook, it is absolutely stunning! All the swatches are worked in beautiful Quince and Co yarn, and the photography is just beautiful. I would go so far as to say that this book is so pretty that even non-knitters might consider adding it to their coffee table book collection. Just to browse and day dream, you know!
Deborah Newton: Top 10 Finishing Techniques
While my knitting is even and usually looks pretty good, I can’t say the same about my finishing techniques. So when it comes to picking projects, I either try to avoid any sort of finishing on my knitted garments (i.e. all in one raglan sweaters), or I am usually not 100% pleased with how the final piece turns out. Either way, it was time to learn a thing or two about the subject matter!
Deborah Newton has an incredible amount of knitting experience, and by that I mean an entire lifetime's worth. She could probably design a sweater in her sleep. So who better to learn from than the person who possibly has the most tricks up her sleeve in the industry?
Here’s a few of the things she talked about that I thought were extremely useful and/or interesting:
- She rarely ever blocks her knitted items. Isn’t that crazy? In fact, the only time she blocks her knits is when they have lace details, and she only ever steam blocks them. Her thinking is that you should make your knitting work for you, instead of counting on blocking to do the trick. And, at the end of the day, your hand knits should look like hand knits (her words, not mine)! This was completely mind blowing for me, and I’m definitely giving it a try next time I finish a project!
- Adding seaming stitches when the fabric is knit in any stitch other than stockinette. If you’ve ever had to seam two pieces worked in reverse stockinette, for example, you know that it never looks quite right. There seems to be a ridge, and the rows seem to be a little off somehow, no matter how good your technique is. What the added seaming stitches do is allow you to seam in stockinette, adding a little detail, yes, but a much neater one than can otherwise be achieved.
- She recommends always seaming on the right side of the work, so as to see the seam as you work through it.
- Knit the sleeves of a sweater first. It’s like a continuation of your swatch, and this way, if your gauge is off or something doesn’t quite look as it should, you only need to frog a sleeve instead of the entire body of the sweater.
- Making larger swatches (8x8” instead of 4x4 for example), and trying out edgings or details on your swatches. I thought this was really clever, because you can really see what works and what doesn’t, and adjust your knitting accordingly.
Amy Herzog: Creating Successful Sweaters
This was by far the best class we took all weekend! So much so that both my friend and I left class feeling the urge to find and knit the perfect sweater!
Prior to signing up for this class, I didn’t even know who Amy Herzog was. Needless to say, I’m a huge fan now! She’s the genius behind Custom Fit, a program that allows you to use any yarn you want, for any of the inbuilt designs, and creates a pattern to your choices and dimensions.
This 3-hour class was everything I had hoped for and more! I was so engrossed in what she had to say that I didn’t even knit a stitch the entire duration of class. That’s how good she is!
- First and foremost, knit a sweater you will wear! I feel like I fall victim to this all too often; I pick a pattern based on how much I will enjoy the actual process of knitting, rather than how much I will enjoy wearing it.
- The four main types of sweater constructions:
- Drop shoulder
- Set-in sleeve
Going back to the previous bullet, if your closet consists mainly of boxy drop shoulder type sweaters, don’t go knitting a fitted set-in sleeve! It will probably be fun and beautiful, and it will probably sit in your closet and never get worn.
- Which of these can be worked in separate parts vs. in one piece. For example, set-in sleeves are always worked in pieces, whereas a yoke is always worked in one piece.
- Customization and fit. How to choose the right size from a pattern if your measurements don’t exactly match those of the schematic. Her advice was to always match shoulder width to the bust size in pattern, because if the sweater doesn’t sit correctly at the shoulders, it just won’t look good, whereas adjusting for bust size is much easier (and may not even be necessary).
- How to choose the right fabric for the different sweaters, depending on sweater construction, stitch pattern, drape, feel, durability, etc.
- Wool = elasticity, memory, grip
- Silk, linen, cotton, alpaca = soft, heavy, drapey
- The importance of swatching and how to test your swatch. Can you poke your finger through it? Does it spring back after being stretched? Does it hold structure?
For anyone who likes to knit sweaters and will be attending VKLive in the future, I highly recommend taking this class!
I personally love to take my time when shopping for yarn. I like to look at each skein, touch them, and think about what they want to become or what color they would pair well with.
So, while a lot of fun, I found the Marketplace at VKLive to be a little too overwhelming. Too many people and too many choices!
I went to the marketplace knowing I wasn’t going to purchase any yarn. And I am so proud of myself for sticking with that decision, because as any knitter knows and will agree, it is extremely difficult to walk by mountains of gorgeous yarn and resist the temptation to purchase any. In fact, the only item I purchased the entire weekend was Norah Gaughan’s book, which she autographed!
I also found that I was drawn to specific yarns; natural, rustic, wooly yarns. My absolute favorite was the Lana Plantae stall. I hadn’t heard of them prior to VKLive, but it was love at first sight! They are a farm and dye house based in Maine. All their yarn comes from animals that they grow and tend to and sheer themselves. Some of the yarn is even spun by hand. And they achieve the most amazing and vibrant colors, all through naturally hand dyeing with plants grown on their farm or harvested by them. They are living my dream!
Other highlights of the weekend included running into Joji Locatelli, Beata Jezek of Hedgehog Fibres, Susanne Sommer of @sosuknits, and chatting to Maryanne Moodie while she worked on her loom! We looked and looked for Andrea Mowry, but, unfortunately, she was nowhere to be seen. I even spent the entire weekend knitting on my Fade, hoping I would show it to her. Oh well, maybe next time!