Stef (firecat) wrote,

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Stitches West 2007, Thursday

This is the first in (I hope) a series of posts about my Stitches West 2007 experience in Santa Clara February 22-25, 2007.

I took three classes. On Thursday I was signed up for this one (this is the description from the Stitches web site):
Labyrinth Knitting
Debbie New
Design a knit strip that wanders like a labyrinth and fills a shape. Then choose a technique: circular knitting with miters, flat knitting with miters, or flat knitting with short rows. Build strips that can become a some-assembly-required puzzle sweater for a child or a join-as-you-go garment that doesn't need seaming.

Here is a photo of what one of Debbie New's wandering knit strips looks like before being assembled into a sweater.

Here is a photo of a finished sweater made by a woman named Ruby (can't find her last name) using this technique.

Debbie New wasn't there to teach the class; she had a family emergency. So a local knitting instructor, Sonya Philip, was recruited to take her place. You can read her blog entry about the experience here.

She gave us a copy of the handout Debbie New prepared for the class, and also explained the ways she had modified the technique to make it easier to keep track of the various subsections of the strip. The class was understandably somewhat chaotic because of the last minute substitution, but between her explanations, the handout, and a helpful woman sitting next to me (whose name I've forgotten) I learned the technique.

Basically, you graph a space-filling curve and then knit it all in one strip with increases and decreases (or short rows) to create the turning points.

Here are photos of my sample strip. It came out more curvy than sharp-cornered because of some confusion I had about where to work the increases. (But there are no rules that labyrinths have to be sharp cornered, after all.)

I would never dream of using this technique to make a whole sweater. The sweater shown above required casting on over 5,000 stitches (a provisional cast-on, yet) using multiple very long circular needles. Then once it is knitted you have to put it together like a puzzle and then seam it. None of that sounds fun to me. But I think this would be a fun technique to use to make designs to incorporate into a larger garment. There are also other ways to make a whole garment out of labyrinthian shapes.

I love the intersection between math and knitting. (Which might be odd because I'm otherwise not much of a math person.) This technique creates designs similar to stuff that's in the mathematical knitting books from Woolly Thoughts, (for example, this) but uses different knitting techniques.

Debbie New is like one of the "rock stars" of the knitting world. Her book Unexpected Knitting also contains descriptions of other math/sciency knitting techniques such as "Cellular Automaton Knitting" (Knit color or texture patterns that are generated by following a rule applied to each stitch) and "Ouroboros Knitting."

The evening

I stood in line to check into my room, stood in line to catch an elevator to my room (going to a Stitches event is a good way to get a sense for just What A Lot of Knitters there are out there), waited over an hour for my room service hamburger, and eventually got in another line to go to the market preview for students only.

At the market I tried to look at the Victorian Lace Today exhibit, but it was mobbed. I visited a while with my friends at the Purlescence Yarns store in Sunnyvale. I picked up a brochure on the Spindlicity Spinners & Knitters cruise to Alaska (drooool). Then I tried to look at the Blue Moon Fiber Arts booth, but it was also mobbed. So I went searching for needles and yarn suitable for making my first pair of socks with. I bought four sets of sock yarn.

Basically, I find the market completely overwhelming -- I have no feel for how to choose among dozens of vendors selling thousands of hanks of handpainted yarn in dozens of fibers and fiber blends.

What's really great about Stitches events

The real reason I go to Stitches isn't the market or even the classes, but just to see so many women (and a few men) walking around in gorgeous, exuberant garments that they made out of yarn or that friends made for them. Everyone looks beautiful and their outfits look beautiful -- even the simple things, and even the things that I now roll my eyes at when I see them in stores or books or magazines. One woman had a hat of a thick green yarn with a carry along of black fun fur poking out of the top. It really looked great on her. Lots of people had garments made out of large triangles, and those all looked really striking. I don't think I thought even once of a single garment "Gaah, that's too much" or "That's really poorly made" or "That's ugly."

Also Stitches is really friendly. If I stand or sit still for a few minutes people come up to me and compliment anything that I'm wearing or carrying that looks knitted or crocheted, or ask me what classes I'm taking, or what I bought at the market, or want to trade knitting tips or other geekery.
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