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Archive for July 4th, 2008

Beth, Gwynn and Scissors

Friday, July 4th, 2008

Fun: Knitting with Beth

Last weekend I took a two-day workshop with Beth Brown-Reinsel. We learned about the Norwegian Fana Cardigan, a historical sweater type which is still worn today. It is knit in two colors, from the bottom up as a tube. Then you cut open holes for arms and the front opening. Yes, cut. It’s called steeking (though steek is apparently a Scottish word, not Norwegian).

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After you cut openings for the neck, front and arms, you pick up stitches around the cut openings and you knit down for the sleeves (and up from the bottom ribbing for the buttonhole bands and neckband). You even knit built-in facings to cover up the rough cut edges. Brilliant.

The Goal

We made a tiny version of the sweater in two days. That is, some of us finished and all of us got a good part of fanainside.jpgthe way. The first day I was able to finish the body of the sweater after dinner. The second day I sewed reinforcement and cut my openings, knit one sleeve , sewed in most of that sleeve, and knit one front band/facing.

I have other deadlines, so I could not go home and just finish (as I did when I took Beth’s Gansey sweater 2-day workshop, and her Norwegian mitten class). I have hope I will return to it and finish that up at some point this summer.

A Plug for Beth B-R

I really love being in Beth’s classes. She is very knowledgeable, focused, and a calming presence. This is particularly good for a class where people cut their knitting.

Many people really have a hard time with that one. I don’t know if they think it won’t work or if it’s just about “breaking” something they made. I know that one of the things I love about knitting is that I can unravel and rebuild it without losing anything but time.

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However, I spent many years sewing as my primary artform. I can imagine my knitting as fabric that needs a shape cut into it. I also did my first cutting of knitting on a small tube I knit of some not-that-great yarn I had sitting around. I made the tube, reinforced on either side, and cut. And nothing bad happened. Knitting likes to run down, not sideways, it’s the nature of the fabric. And that test cut convinced me that the piece would not unravel.

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Beth made a comfortable and supportive environment for those who had never cut their knitting before. It is interesting how many responses to the same activity can inspire. Even thinking about cutting handknits can be difficult at times, depending on the person.

There were a few who had a hard time starting to cut. Some knew they liked projects with this technique in it, and wanted the support of the group to get through that unfamiliar moment of the first cut. I want to pat all of those on the back, who took the challenge and got through it. We all have different challenges, but some run away. Good for you!

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Meeting Gwynn

The best part about the weekend, though, may have been the fact that I got to meet Gwynn. She lives in Kentucky and came north for the weekend class. It turns out she reads this blog, and she was kind enough to start right away by introducing herself and letting me know she was a reader here.

We sat very near one another during class, and we got to take a walk one day to buy water on a break. I think we could chat a long time before running out of things to discuss. It was really a delight and an honor to meet her and make friends.

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What a bonus, on top of the excellent class we both got to take.

Photos? 1) My sweater after the first cut (up the front, where button bands will go). At the bottom it looks funny, but we had made extra ribbing to attach to the button bands and put those few stitches on waste yarn to hold them until later. There is no sideways-raveling going on, no matter what it looks like.

2) The inside of my sweater, showing what the yarn does when it is not being knitted. We call that “stranding,” where the strands of the unused yarn float across the back of the fabric.

3) Gwynn cutting her sweater’s armholes.

4) My sweater, flat, with both armholes cut.

5) My sweater as it stands now, with sleeve partly sewn in and one button band complete.

6) My new friend, Gwynn (notice Beth teaching a few students in the background. I only got one shot of Gwynn that she might find acceptable (I blur everything when I’m distracted)… and trust me she’s usually even prettier than in this photo. You should have also seen the striped tee sweater she wore Saturday! she combined features from two different sweaters when knitting, and it fit her really well.