Last year I attended Janine (aka Feralknitter) Bajus’ Fair Isle workshop, hosted by Suzanne of Madrona Fiber Arts. I loved it so much I knew I wanted to attend another workshop at Suzanne’s. 3 days of total knitting immersion….bliss!
Susanna is, I think, better known for her Bohus workshops (and Bohus collection). However, don’t overlook this mitten class. The unique technique (which, darn it, I’m going to use in some form or the other in a pattern!) is just so nifty, and looks so impressive, it’s well worth learning. Plus the results (once you’ve gotten any tension issues worked out…not that I had tension issues…hah!…suffice to say, you don’t strand on the looser side of things, like you try to with fair isle) are just so cool.
If you’d like a preview, find a copy of the Jan/Feb 2008 Piecework mag that has the article & fingerless mitt pattern (or the current/ 2010 Knitting Traditions special issue that has just the fingerless mitt pattern) (or check out these socks). Here are some Rav links just for the eye candy factor: here and here.)
I’d ended up frogging my progress several times before getting everything at a happier place. I tried to reassure Susanna it was perfectly okay (to me) that I didn’t have a finished wristlet (let alone pair). Had I not frogged, I’d’ve had about 1.5 wristlets. But my goal was to learn the technique and be in a position where I could practice it on my own, and I accomplished that.
The technique, incorporating a method of arranging butterflies of yarn along an extra straight needle to keep everything organized, then manipulating the stitches a certain way, is just so clever and elegant. It’s one of those things that, at least to me, makes perfect sense when you see it and practice it, but is very difficult to learn from an article (and I generally do learn well through written material).
After we practiced the technique with worsted weight yarn and just a few yarn butterflies, we chose colors for our wristlets. Susanna brought a large selection of miniskeins from which to choose. Once we chose colors, we used her colored art pencils (chosen to match the yarn colors — and they did!) to play with different color orders on extra charts she had for us. I was a bit exuberant with this part.
After working on our wristlets for a bit, we used the same color-choosing process to pick skeins for either full size mittens or fingerless mitts. I was very exuberant with coloring in my charts.
We also had time to leaf through her extensive collection of traditional mitten books (many hard to find and/or out of print).
We also learned how to do braids (left & right traveling/pointing) and a hand-knitted cord. The last morning Susanna showed us a slide show.
Susanna is an extremely capable teacher, no nonsense but with a nicely sharp sense of humor. She provides the right level of encouragement and feedback while letting her students find their own way and make their own decisions (i.e. I felt she respected our own skills and knowledge). She’s very knowledgable and passionate about her chosen subjects.