Monday, September 18, 2006

Wise women study under Wiseman

(Couldn't resist the punny newspaper headline title for this post). ;-)

This weekend I took two classes from venerable knitting instructor and author Nancie Wiseman. Classes were held at Got Yarn in Midlothian.

Saturday's class was on Continental Knitting, which I found is a skill that absolutely requires extended practice. The knit stitch can be picked up after a relatively short time. Purling is quite a bit more challenging. But I can definitely see the value in knitting Continental for two-color/two-handed fair isle knitting and for long stretches of ribbing or seed stitch, where you're switching from knit to purl and purl to knit relatively frequently. The movements are much finer, more precise and less overt than the American/English style method of "throwing" the yarn. Easier on the arms and shoulders, but requiring more time to re-learn to knit with tiny finger movements rather than big hand/wrist/elbow/shoulder movements. Ultimately, I can see that it is a faster method. Initially, however, it is much slower and more painstaking.

As Nancie indicated, with Continental, one must hold tension on the yarn. Since I don't currently hold tension when I knit American-style, my continental gauge is much, much tighter -- so tight that it's hard to move the stitches around the needle. I really will need to practice loosening that up a bit. Nancie recommends picking a project and knitting the entire thing via Continental, as that is really the best way to get the practice. I'm not sure I'm up to that yet, but I may just practice knitting more swatches. I don't have a swatch to illustrate here as I ended up ripping it out to use the yarn for Sunday's class. But it was just a boring garter-stitch swatch anyway, and not really photo-worthy.

I do have a picture of our instructor:

Got Yarn employee Natalie (tall redhead) and Nancie Wiseman

And here's a couple of silly fellow TNK members and class attendees:

Rita J. and Robin H.

As most local knitters know, Danna Savage, owner of Got Yarn, is closing her brick-and-mortar shop and will just be running an on-line business from now on. So this past weekend was the last chance for knitters (those of us taking the classes) to shop in her store. Everything was 25-50% off, which was really quite tempting. She still had a lot of yarn left, including a ton of Koigu KPPPM, Noro and many others. There were also still kits, books, needles, knitted shop samples, fixtures, etc. available for sale. (She would also like to sell her desk in her back office, so if anyone needs a desk, give her a call at the shop or leave a message). I'm kicking myself for not buying any Misti Alpaca super-chunky while I had the chance. I must have fondled that stuff, (and brought everyone else over to fondle it as well), at least six times over the course of the weekend. It was every bit as soft as the cashmere on the shelf next to it. I may see if she'll still sell me some....

I got out of there without too much damage to the wallet. I bought Nancie's Continental Knitting DVD, (will definitely be watching that again soon!), one hank of Takhi Cotton Classic in a mint-green, (for some washcloths), and some size 15 and 17 Brittany DPNs for future hat-making with chunky yarns (like the Misti Alpaca mentioned above - doh!). I also had Nancie sign two books I own which she authored -- Knitter's Book of Finishing Techniques and Essential Book of Crochet Techniques.

Sunday's class was less like yarn-wrestling and more like fun. Nancie taught us Intarsia basics, and from her simple instructions I was able to create an intarsia swatch:
beginner chart (with lots of my hand-written notes) and swatch
intarsia swatch

messy back-side of intarsia swatch

If anyone cares, the yarns I used were Paton's Classic Merino in "Too Teal", "Peacock" and "Bottle Green". I really enjoyed this class and can see why people find this a fun technique. And I now feel less intimidated by charts, which is a major accomplishment, folks! TNK members Sherry, Sheddy and Sangeeta were also in my class, but we were all so busy knitting that I didn't get a chance to get their picture. I'm hoping they'll bring their swatches Tuesday night, so we can all brag together!

I didn't finish the swatch before class was over, but did so last night while watching my beloved 'Skins lose badly to the Cowboys. (Ouch!) One thing I learned -- it took me almost as long to weave in my ends as it did to knit the doggone thing in the first place! Something to keep in mind for future projects. I don't yet have an actual intarsia project in mind that I'd like to knit, but I will now keep my eyes open for one. I think I'd like to design a Redskins scarf with intarsia letters (gold letters on maroon background).

I'm loving this multi-color stuff! I think I'd like to take a Fair Isle class in the near future, and I think Unraveled is offering one this fall.

So, all-in-all, it was a fun and educational weekend for this knitter, and I definitely feel "wiser" for having been taught by Ms. Wiseman.... ;-)


Courtney said...

Intarsia! I'm impressed. I need to learn that. You swatch looks great!

Robin said...

I love the intarsia swatch!! The colors look great together.

Isobel said...

VERY impressive!! And beautiful too!You are obviously a great student. Look out Kaffe!!

Suzanne said...

I am sooooo glad you got to study with the master! Her books are so clear and easy to follow. I would have loved to go to the book signing but I got in a car accident sat--I banged up my eye a good bit--and was in no shape to go anywhere.

You will have to tell me all about it!

LaurieM said...

Your swatch looks very tidy. It must be the excellent instruction! Did you block it before the picture was taken?

Personally, I find fairisle easier to do than intarsia.

Having a Knit Fitt said...

Both classes sound like something I could use. And what a fun group to take them with.

knitfriendly said...

Congrats on learning intarsia! I agree that with continental, you just have to commit to yourself that you are going to LEARN it. It is like taking one step back to take two steps forward. I knit my Sophie Bag as my first continental project. Perfect because it is felted so you don't need to worry about messy uneven stitches and it is knit in the round so you don't have to keep changing direction. I then did the Ribby Cardi to practice the purling. Good luck! :)

FFC said...

I am helping Kristy respond to all the knitters that have signed up for CAP!Thank you so much! We are so excited about the tremendous response! We are sure that this will be a success. If you have any questions you can e-mail at

lemmie said...

Hi Mary,
I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to talk to you on Sunday - It was our chance ot meet! I was there with Sangeeta. It was so much fun - Your swatch looks great!