Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Cabal of Knitters

As I've said, I generally take a more solitary approach to knitting, but the other night I decided to get out of the house and sit in on a knitting circle, having been invited by a woman I met at an Irish dance class.  It was, in fact, a delightful night all around filled with wine and cheese and chocolate-covered Matzo and lots of women - some with professional artistic backgrounds and some knitting for recreation and some knitting for charity - working on different projects.  There was a very tight, comradely sort of atmosphere as we all chatted about different events and tools of the trade (alpaca! mohair! raglans! Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, which I am officially banning myself from attending this year because I have no money to spend on more fancy wool!)  And it might just be me imagining it, but I'm pretty sure the knitting I did there was less sloppy than usual, because I was actually focusing on what I did.

There was also a lot of pressure to knit your best, because some of the women's other nearly finished garments were seriously gorgeous.  One or two of them were proper maestros, taking a properly creative approach to their craft.  I mean, I know a few knitting tricks by this point.  I can make a decent sweater, I can increase and decrease like a champ, and I am unfazed by cables.  But the women here were so far beyond all of that they were using patterns as guidelines only, making their own flourishes and changing the measurements or numbers of stitches whenever they felt it was necessary, which I would be terrified to do.  Plus, a lot of them knew how to knit pockets, which is my next big goal.  At any rate, it was a great community for bouncing ideas off of each other and asking for advice.  The most advanced of them was able to tell me the point of the whole turn and wrap technique, which I'd figured out how to do but couldn't put my finger on why.  It is, in fact, to be used when you want to preserve a certain pattern but have one side of the piece you're knitting shorter than the other, as in a trapezoid shape.  I needed this to knit a collar for a new sweater I'm attempting, and she described it as allowing for a sort of sawn-off cone shape to the collar rather than a cylinder shape, which would make it arrange itself more naturally on your shoulders.

So there was much chatting and gossiping and laughing late into the night, and everyone was very interested to hear about Peru, and especially the trove of alpaca wool I'd brought home from there.  One interesting thing I noticed, which seems to be universal among knitters who hang out with other knitters, is that it was very good manners to come up to someone, ask to see what they're working on, and then pick it up and feel it very intently it all over with your hands.  In fact, it's quite flattering when someone does that, and especially if they then start rubbing your stash of yarn between their fingers.  And anyone who shows up wearing an interesting sweater or shawl can expect to have it complimented and then petted by various different people who might be interested in replicating it.

The project I began there is the Alienor sweater by Anna Larsson which is beautiful but intimidating.  (It's the one that had me all frustrated by the whole notion of turning and wrapping.)  But I've gotten the initial cable pattern down for the collar and am making headway with that.

And, best of all, I've finally broken into my alpaca wool from Arequipa.  It is absolutely the finest stuff I've ever dealt with, soft and silky but with a slick feel of lanolin, and I have to hold myself back from knitting every spare second I get.

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