How do you distill two busy days into a single post? I've been asking myself that since Sunday. Friday and Saturday, I spent at the I-Knit London Weekend at the Royal Horticultural Hall in central London. Since Sunday, I've tried to make sense of it all.
In summary: I did 5 classes; met a couple of very nice teachers; spoke to several very nice knitters; walked across St James' Park in the dark; blew my budget; fondled a lot of yarn; purchased a ball winder and swift; blew my budget; bought a couple of books; broke my yarn diet; bought a multi-size pack of Knitpicks DPNs; and (did I tell you?) blew my budget. So, where to start?
I did 5 classes: two with Annie Modesitt, two with Alice Starmore and one with Marjan Hammink a.k.a. Yarnissima.
Alice Starmore is a lovely, soft spoken, gracious Scottish lady, with an innate sense of colour and an appreciation of the history of her craft and her people. Alice's first class was about fair-isle knitting techniques, but it was far more than just learning how to knit two colours in the same row. We talked about fair-isle garment construction, changing colours, using both your right hand and your left to hold different colours of yarn. Alice showed us steeking and discussed techniques for setting a steek, picking up stitches from the steek, and finishing off the cut edges. The choice of yarn is one key to success - the traditional wool is soft, springy and felts a little when it is first washed.
Alice's second class was about her design influences. She talked about the history of the Isle of Lewis, including her own family history, and her love for her island and her craft. She talked about her own design history, the patterns and the yarn line that she now runs (both of which can be brought directly from her website). Next birthday, I want my present to be one of her kits.
There is a core of steel to Alice Starmore - she is a fierce defender of her land, fighting to protect the ecology of the island from developers. However, she was very gracious to me and to the rest of my class, signing copies of her books (including my pre-publication copy of her Book of Fair-Isle Knitting) and posing for photos.
(Me and Alice Starmore.)
Thanks to the Yarn Thing podcast, I've listened to Annie Modesitt talk about designing and book publishing several times. each time, I've found myself nodding along in agreement, so I was curious to meet the person behind the voice. I am very impressed. Annie is lovely: warm, friendly and very welcoming. After six hours of teaching, she was still as interested in her subject and her students as she was at the beginning.
I learned so many techniques, I'm not sure I could list them all. Annie is an amazing teacher and a thinking knitter's knitter. She didn't tell us to "do X because that gives you Y", Annie explained why X works and what would happen if you chose to do Z or T instead.
My world is richer for the six hours I spent in her class; I hope that I get the opportunity to take another Annie Modesitt class one day.
(Me and Annie Modesitt.)
The final class I did was Socks from the toe up, with the sock designer Marjan Hammink/Yarnissima. To put it bluntly, if you get the opportunity to take one of her classes, don't bother. After Alice and Annie, I was so disappointed. Yarnissima didn't teach us anything; she just handed us a worksheet to knit through. She barely spoke to us as a class and never spoke to me in person. There were no explanations of why you do something or tips and tricks to make toe-up socks better. We weren't even taught a cast-on for toe-up socks - I had to rely on the knitter next to me to cast on for me.
In 3 hours, I learned nothing from Yarnissima that I wouldn't have picked up from following a randomly chosen toe-up-sock knitting pattern. It was so bad that I've written to Gerrard and Craig, the guys behind I-Knit London, and told them exactly what I've just told you. (I also thanked them for a lovely weekend and raved about Annie and Alice.)
I haven't got time to talk about the rest of the weekend, right now. It's after 11pm here, I'm really tired and I need to go to bed. Can I leave you with a one word summary? It was brilliant!