Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Franklinfest: a weekend at Makers'



During the first week of September, Makers' hosted two classes and a lecture/book signing from the funny fiberisto himself. It was an event to remember and hopefully will become a yearly occurrence, as he visits the Seattle area for the annual Men's Knitting Retreat.

I got to take his class, Bavarian Twisted Stitch, and I learned a lot. Along with earning a few snarky remarks and a compliment or two. It was an experience I've looked forward to, and feel honored to have had to say the least. I always feel extremely lucky when I have the privilege to be in the presence of an individual who has dedicated their career to some type of craft, let alone one who has been an integral part of the popularization of their field of interest.

Knitters unite around the lovely and charming Mr. Habit; on Social Media, in LYSes, and at fiber festivals. In December he is going on a cruise during which he'll teach classes and entertain the lucky sea worthy folks with his recent and widely discussed adaptation of a pair of vintage bathing drawers. 

So needless to say, having Franklin pay us a visit attracted the attention of a few yarn fanatics who had yet to hear of our relatively new shop. It also helped to demonstrate how well suited our venue is to this type of event. 

An old fashioned way of describing Franklin's tenacity

We hosted quite a few knitters in our lounge for his classes, and turned our usual classroom space into a lounge for the weekend. Unfortunately some yarn stores barely have a classroom. We are lucky enough to have a large one, as well as a huge lounge. 

I can't wait for the next guest teacher coming to Makers': Emily Wessel of Tin Can Knits. It's always amazingly fun when we are super busy in the shop, and I can't wait to pick the brain of a designer who is part of a team with such an impressive portfolio. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Envelope Case Recipe

I created this basic project as part of my class, Learn to Knit, and the pattern has been requested by a few knitters who are already beyond the level of the class.

So here it is! It's a free Ravelry download for a phone/camera/whatever case that can be finished in an afternoon!





Thursday, May 2, 2013

The tooting of my own horn.

Take my class/tell your friends to take my class!
http://www.makersmercantile.com/collections/classes/products/learn-to-knit

Plus other things I have made that are pretty:





Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Vogue Knitting Live Seattle Recap

I am still sad to have missed Stitches West this year, but VKL almost made up for it. 

I took a class from Laura Bryant called Advanced Design and Construction that was awesome. I have been slowly absorbing the necessary steps to writing a sweater pattern over the last year or so. I have read books, watched Craftsy classes, studied and knit existing patterns, but had never had actual live instruction on the topic. For some reason there is no substitute for that. I got to ask my questions and actually have them answered (rather than have Craftsy teachers tell me, "this class doesn't cover understanding why you should do it this way, it's just what I do.") and now I feel like I can move forward with more confidence. 

I took a very interesting fashion lecture about colors and trends for Fall 2013, which mostly just made me understand how much I don't know about fashion and want to study more. I had ideas about current trends that were pretty close to the same as what Anna Cohen said, but she got me thinking a lot about how culture and fashion influence each other. 

The free panel, "So you want to work in the knitting industry" was... I wish I had it on tape. I think that it gave me perspective on some of the stuff I've heard before, was entertaining, and was also just a perfect thing to be present for, since I want to let my boss know I'm serious about working my way up. 

Oddly enough, I didn't enjoy this weekend as much as I did Madrona, but I feel like I got more personal development out of it. I do enjoy the intimacy of the smaller shows more. 

The Loot!


Mom was generous, as always, and got me a case for my interchangeable needles from Chicken Boots, and some Unspun Bun (50/50 Merino/German Angora) from High Desert Fiberworks. Owning fiber animals is something I'd like to be able to do one day, once I have a yard and no longer have a terrier mix dog who wishes she was a cat. Bunnies and dogs that want to eat them don't sound like a good mix, but a girl can dream. 


I bought myself some Pure Elegance 100% Mink yarn from Great Yarns. It's beautiful and super soft! I am a bit suspicious that this might be Lotus' Mimi that Great Yarns has relabeled. Either way it is made in China. They made sure to tell me that the minks are brushed, so at least it's a way to use their fiber while they're still living, even if it's under mysterious conditions. Minks are not nice and don't like people much, so the bunny idea doesn't carry over well. 

The quality of Chinese yarns is no less than that of yarn produced in other countries, but the more I follow Clara Parkes, the more I like the idea of American production. The yarns at work mostly come from Europe; I haven't had a chance to try very many yet, but knitting samples for the shop and getting paid in store credit is definitely on my to-do list. 


The MM booth!

 

I only worked one day out of the weekend, but I got to spend it with some wonderful girls and meet lots of new knitters. The girls at the shop are the most helpful, non-threatening coworkers I've ever had. I introduced myself to Cirilia Rose and she was super friendly. I know I'm not alone in thinking she has one of the best jobs ever, and now I sort of get to work with her. At least I feel like working for a company connected to the one she works for makes me able to learn a bit more about her/from her. Listening to her speak in the panel was definitely a treat as well. Mostly it made me think about my own self confidence issues and made them seem less like mountains. 

The entertainment!


Above is what the "leave your mark on VKL" yarn bombing exhibit looked like when I was done with it. Just one of those pink strands was me.


And this is what it looked like on Saturday. Unfortunately didn't get a pic on Sunday, but it got even more intense; someone added a spider and fly to the web. 


My Mom came to visit and go to the show with me. After our classes were done we went to Pike's Place for lunch at Lowells.


These Calaveras were some of the coolest things I saw on this trip to the market. They were in a store I hadn't found before, featuring Mexican Folk Art. I don't know why exactly, but I love Mexican art. I love the fine art, the folk art, the music, the traditional dress, the indigenous religions. Just love them. 


One day I really want to go back and have the opportunity to do this sort of thing again. 


I want to go to Peru as well. Peru should be the new Iceland. That's just my opinion :o) 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Teaching Kids to Knit


I have hundreds of hours of experience teaching kids to knit. What that really means is I know that they make many of the same incorrect assumptions about knitting that adults do.



That wisdom is brought to you by a summer as a day camp counselor. The majority of my time was spent wrangling a limited yarn supply for 4-12 year olds with an inflated sense of entitlement. You read that right. 4 year olds. To say they taught me more than I taught them would be an understatement. 

You learn things about yourself when you untangle the same ball of yarn seven times throughout the course of a summer. You gain patience when you are asked the same three questions an average of 142.7 times a day. 


Graphic used with permission. Visit A Gamer's Wife for a different perspective on teaching knitting to kids. 

If I were a particular co-counselor of mine I might have actually calculated that, but being me, I estimated based on how many kids were usually in attendance. She was the music instructor and she tallied every time she heard the demo track blare from the electric keyboard. 


We all had our rough days at camp, but it will always be an experience I am unspeakably grateful to have had. Before that was a stint as a volunteer in a 2nd/3rd grade classroom that I like to think left me properly prepared for the onslaught. I was able to pick up a few things about how to best help them pick it up, but nothing really could have taught me how to ease the learning process like being a teacher in a "self directed learning" environment where yarn and scissors are involved. 


Self directed learning is a cute way of saying the kids can do whatever they damn well please. With such a myriad of options available, and other counselors to become appendages of, I luckily never had to bear the physical and intellectual weight of all 142.7 of them all at once. They trickled in and out throughout the day. There was one week it seemed like every single time I counted heads in my "studio" I came up with 36.


I did have a few tiny-human appendages despite the availability of clay and sewing machines, cooking appliances and karaoke machines, bouncy houses and huge inflatable water slides, and iPads and MacBook pros. There were a few that never left my den of yarn, but had a lot of progress to show for it. I helped an 11 year old knit herself a striped poncho. Several kids knit hats, both on looms and circular needles. Some just made funky rectangles. Others finger knit endlessly until I was forced to cut off their yarn supply.


I didn't know how to use a loom or how to finger knit when I started. Both are good introductions to knitting for motor skill challenged individuals. Aka what the 4 year olds mostly stuck to. It's worth learning any basic yarn craft so you can teach it to someone who wants to knit but gets frustrated easily.


A few useful things that might not occur to you if you've never taught knitting to kids before:

-Skip center pull balls. It took me a couple weeks of tangle induced pain to relinquish the center pull balls. I love center pull balls. For my knitting. Kids are gonna throw em down and let them roll on the floor anyway. They don't have to get very far before the center is hollow enough to risk implosion.

-Mnemonic is not just a funny word. There are many different ones but whichever you want to use is fine. You are going to want to say it over and over and over while you teach them. Tell them to repeat it to themselves until they've got the hang of it, tell them they can use it if they don't knit for a while and forget the steps. I found this by googling "how to teach kids to knit." Don't judge me. I'm hoping thats how you got here.
Here is the one I used for the knit stitch:
          Go in through the front, wrap around the back, jump out the window, and off jumps jack. 
And the purl:
          Come out through the back, wrap over the top, back out the window, and off jumps jack. 

Each part is important, reminding them to stick the right needle into the stitch on the left while helping them learn not to twist their stitches. Then reminding them to bring their yarn behind rather than in front of the needle to make the next loop. Then to pull that loop out of the hole they can see when they separate the needles a bit. Then to slip the original loop off its needle. 

-Have a learning project available. If the first thing you do is put a peice of knitting in a resistant kid's hands with at least 10 rows done on it, you reduce the chances of them quickly deciding knitting is too hard. I had several learning scarves that I changed the colors on every week, making them stripey and raggedy with loose ends. They were the first thing that any camper who had never knit before HAD to work on. After that I would teach them or cast on or do it for them depending on how confident they seemed with the learning scarf. I told the kids the scarves belonged to no one, they were everyone's. Really they are my souviners from camp. *evil laugh*

-Put a large variety of needle sizes and types in front of them and let them choose. Some will not be comfortable with circular needles. Some will love them. There is no truth to any generalization about any size range being better for any particular age.

-Variagated yarn will disappear first and get kids really excited about it. Followed by light blue, pink, white, purple, black and then red. Orange, yellow, and then green will be chosen in roughly that order. Brown can stay home.

-Show a group of three or four kids at a time and then let them try it for themselves. You can even move on to another group and come back to them if you are teaching a large group. Let em whine if they will. You will be surprised by the ones who don't. They will be silent for a while until suddenly, "What do I do when I get to the end?"

-Display projects you have completed. If you show them what they can make will make them a whole lot more motivated to struggle through their first scrappy rectangular object. DO NOT let 142.7 kids a day try on your hats. You will perpetuate head lice. You may get it yourself, like I did. You'd think I'd been warned enough times. But that's precisely it. I had been warned too many times and never seen a louse. So I didn't think about it until my head itched like crazy.

I hope this is helpful and that you have as much fun knitting with kids as I did. I may add more ideas as I think of them.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Madrona is coming. Stitches is soon. Oh and I got a job today.

Overwhelmingly wonderful; that seems like a good way to describe a fiber festival to someone who has never been to one before. The Market, the classes, the pajama parties and 80's sock hops, the banquets and cocktails and tea times. All surrounded by other knitters.

I remember walking the market floor at my first Stitches thinking: I am nuts, but I am going to make it my job to be involved with something like this. Somehow. I am going to get behind the scenes and maybe in the spotlight. I am going to figure out how it all works and make myself part of it.

If wasn't for that I think I would have thought more seriously about grad school or finished my applications for teaching credential programs. Knitting stole all my passion. Left no room in my heart for anything not related to yarn.

What knitting is not:
      -A career pursuit that the  average person can comprehend as rational.
      -A great source of financial security, generally.
      -Everything.

Knitting is fun. Crochet is pretty cool. Spinning is strangely empowering. Yarn is just the answer to my woes. 

Like many fellow yarn freaks I have knit my way through lots of anxiety and excitement and disappointment. In the last few years I've had fair bit I've needed to bounce back from and too often criticized the amount of time it takes me. If you steep yourself in rejection trying to figure out why you couldn't save your job, make them understand how the yarn industry is different from hollywood, it doesn't make you feel like that experience should get you another job. 

Deciding to keep this blog, rather than starting a new one to forget about all that stuff is me saying F that. Big. Fat. F.

Learning from a negative experience is actually even more valuable than a positive one. I learned about sacrifices: which ones to make and which ones to refuse. I learned about being an assistant. I learned about business. I learned to be as proactive as possible all the time. Even when it doesn't really seem like the right thing to do. 

Since I've been in Seattle I've thought about applying to Starbucks or for some kind of random McJob. But I didn't. I applied to mostly yarn stores. I like the idea of working for a relatively small company with a big interest in yarn. I finally found one of those with a need for my skills but its not a store, its a wholesale distributor. Who one of my best references happens to be connected with. 

So we'll see what I can do in what seems like the right environment so far. One of my new bosses knit through my interview this morning and then asked me to start tomorrow. Stitches is soon. I won't be there but I will be at Madrona this weekend for two classes and a lot of fun. 

Right now I am eagerly awaiting my first week, ok three days, of work. I get to work for people with... a little clout in the yarn world. I get to manage their schedule, and learn what they do and some of what they know. I get a discount... off of wholesale. That makes me a wee bit stupidly happy. 




Saturday, February 2, 2013

Pressure Cooker Potato Salad


~2 lbs red/gold/purple potatoes (small)
3 hard boiled eggs
6 slices bacon
2 celery stalks
1/2 onion
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard 
Mayo (start with about 1/2 cup, then stir, add more as needed)
1tsp dill
Dashes of salt, pepper, garlic powder, curry powder

Wash potatoes, place in pressure cooker with 1 cup of water and cook on high pressure for 2 min (add 1 or 2 additional minutes for larger potatoes). Quick release the pressure, drain, and set the potatoes aside to cool. 

Place eggs in cooker (use metal trivet) with 1 cup of water and cook on low pressure for 6 minutes. Let pressure come down naturally for 5 minutes, then quick release. Remove eggs from cooker and place in a bowl with ice water. 

While eggs and potatoes cool cut up onion and celery. Cook bacon. Mix spices together. 

Peel eggs and chop. Chop potatoes. Crumble bacon. 

Place 1/2 of potatoes and eggs in large bowl, then layer veggies, bacon, mustard, mayo, and spices, followed by remaining potatoes and eggs. Fold together gently. Add more mayo, to desired taste and appearance. 

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