Thursday, January 21, 2016

Getting grounded

Ideas, techniques and inspiration

Felted dragon and gnomes
by Jennifer & Melissa VanSant, Going Gnome
With four years now under our belts, attendance at Vogue Knitting Live New York has become a very special time for me to learn and be inspired by some of the best knitting instructors in the world. 

Although Kris and I could make the event a day trip, we splurge and stay one night. This allows us to have two days of classes. I oversubscribed myself....again....with a total of four classes and one lecture. Kris did the same. That meant we had four different instructors. Some were outstanding. More on the topic of teaching another time.

Lion Brand Yarn's
'Produce Stand'

Market madness

The public areas feature special exhibits such as the felted dragon and gnomes (right) and Lion Brand Yarn's produce stand (below). Although some were simply displays, most were devoted to business-minded fiber artists. Some, like Jennifer and Melissa VanSant of Going Gnome, and Ruth Marshall, who hand knits pelts of exotic endangered animals such as the clouded leopard (below), offer kits. 

The Marketplace grows year over year growing Vogue's revenue streams and offering shoppers a wider range of goods. There is an extensive variety of yarns, tools and supplies in ballrooms on two floors. This year added spaces in an area adjacent to one of the ballrooms. The market is definitely worth visiting, but it gets in crushingly crowded. Next year I plan to leave at least one class time open time so that I can spend some time in a less crowded market. Maybe I'll even buy something.

Machine magic

Silver Reed knitting machine
Susan Guagliumi's machine knitting refresher class was my first choice among all choices. I had been shut out in past years and looked forward to a morning of immersion. The morning course was exactly what I wanted--and needed. I have a knitting machine--a fabulous Passap Duomatic 80 acquired many years ago. They are no longer manufactured although they're workhorses and plenty are still in use. I found one in the Virtual  Knitting Machine Museum that made me feel, well, old. 

I knit on the Passap machine a great deal during our years in London but slacked off after returning to the States for no other reason than that life intervened. Although not stored under my bed, it might as well have been. Thanks to Son #1 and Son #2, it is now accessible. (As my knitting machine is not transportable, I am particularly thankful to Stitcher's Dream, Lansdale, Pa. for providing Silver Reed knitting machines for the classes.)

I have long struggled to understand the low interest in knitting machines. Susan Guagliumi, whose knowledge of machines is both broad and deep, attributes the decline to the output of ugly garments knit in acrylic and mostly in Fair Isle. 

Knitting machines can be workhorses. Sure, they can knit garments--and knit them beautifully if executed properly, but they offer much more versatility than that. I find my machine a perfect companion for finishing hand wovens and it's the perfect tool for hand knit projects with brutally boring expanses of a single stitch type. 

Now that I'm home, I can't wait to get the machine working. Yes, I have a re-learning curve, but I'm motivated. Really motivated. And after hearing a lecture by Laura Bryant, I think I have the perfect project.

Finishing School

Finishing techniques were my other focus for the weekend. This is an ongoing interest as it  can make a difference between a garment that looks like it was 'made by loving hands at home' and a hand crafted knit. 

Sample for Finishing School

My class, "Finishing School," with Deborah Newton was excellent. Prep for the class was a large, square, blocked sample that had a cable in the middle with 4 inches of a small all over pattern on each side. (I used a small basketweave)  In class, we practiced her recommended seaming technique on about two inches of it. To get the full benefit of the class, I need to follow through on her directions to try out the other techniques. 

My biggest take-away is a new perspective on blocking, especially wet blocking. "Blocking isn't necessary," Newton  advises. "Maybe a light steam, if the fabric is appropriate." Also, she says she has no special tools and recommends none--a reassuring note in the midst of a market mania.

Taking instructors home with me

I was so impressed with three instructors that I came home and ordered their books. In addition to Deborah Newton's "Finishing School" and Susan Guagliumi's books on machine knitting, I ordered Laura Bryant's "Artful Color, Mindful Knits: The Definitive Guide to Working with Hand-dyed Yarn," after hearing her speak and seeing the jacket she was wearing. I expected a pattern book, but no! This book is a gold mine for anyone who hand dyes yarn for their craft. The knitting patterns are a bonus.


  1. Thank you so much for inspiring me to get my machines out again! The obsession to salvage older machines hit about five years ago and I have eight now. I'm afraid of a Passap, however :-) xo

  2. Eight! Fantastic! I'm envious! Should you come across a Passap, fear not. Acquire it! You won't be sorry. But as I found out, tools etc. are not interchangeable with the Japanese-made machines, which are spaced at 4.5 mm. (Passap's are 5 mm.)