It’s been a busy spring so far—full of workshops, writing, and woolly beasts. Here are a few highlights:
I had such a wonderful time teaching with Nancy Bush in March. It was a full weekend of spinning, knitting, and embroidering Estonian-inspired handcoverings. Nancy brought a breath-taking pile of embroidered textiles which she has collected during her many travels in Estonia.
I have a new pattern coming out soon. Secret for now, but here is the gorgeous fiber that inspired the project—combed polwarth/silk top from Copper Corgi Fiber Studio. This was a happy spin. More on this soon!
And this is where I can be found right now—in the lambing barn! Most of my sheep have their lambs without assistance, but when they need help, I’m at the ready. So, I try to check on them about every four hours during lambing. Nearly all of the lambs have arrived now, and I’ll post pictures and a video soon. After I get a good night’s sleep, that is!
When I visited Estonia several years ago, I fell head over heels in love with the embroidered textiles I saw in museums and private collections. Estonian embroidery can be found on woven fabrics like linen shirt collars and cuffs, fulled woolen coverlets, and aprons. Other examples adorn knitted pieces, such as mittens, gloves, and the button bands on fitted jackets. It’s fascinating to look carefully at these pieces and see how different types of yarns were used to knit or weave the base and stitch the embroidery. Often the embroidery alone will incorporate several different yarns. Creativity and thrifty use of materials combined to express cultural identity in endlessly captivating ways.
I’m thrilled to announce that author Nancy Bush and I will be offering a workshop in March:
Estonian Island Weekend
The Trading Post for Fiberarts in Pendleton, Indiana March 27, 28, 29, 2015. Join Kate Larson and Nancy Bush for a weekend visit to the world of Estonian spinning and knitting. Our days will be focused on creating Gloves, Mittens or Mitts (your choice) which include interesting Estonian cuffs and can be embellished with traditional embroidery motifs from southern Estonia and one of the most traditional islands, Kihnu. Learn how to spin a wool yarn close to what the Estonians use for their base yarn, and then how to spin several wool embroidery yarns for the embellishments. We will use a variety of different wool fibers from Estonia and closer to home. The course will also cover several Estonian cast ons, some traditional cuff patterns which include colorful lateral braids, and other uniquely Estonian techniques, thumb and finger construction for gloves, as well as mitten and mitt construction, and how to decorate and finish each item. Included in the class will be enough commercial yarn to complete each pattern offered. $345+materials fee. For more details visit the Trading Post. To register, contact Susan Markle at email@example.com.
Skill level: Comfortable knitting in the round on double pointed needles or circulars and beginning spinning skills. No embroidery experience necessary. If you would like to take class with Kate before the workshop to expand or brush-up your skills, join us at the Trading Post on Saturdays. See the schedule here.
These special buttons have a fascinating history. For three hundred years, intricately patterned buttons were produced in Dorset, England. Most often, these small, soft buttons were made by wrapping linen thread around a wire ring. With the invention of machine-made buttons in the mid-nineteenth century, the Dorset button industry all but disappeared.
I’m excited to share tips and tricks for making beautiful buttons using both traditional materials and modern knitting yarns in this live presentation.
I’ve also included a knitting pattern that incorporates Dorset buttons to get your creativity flowing. The Gold Hill Cowl combines a straight-forward lace pattern with my favourite one-row buttonhole—a great way to show off your button-making skills!
I’m excited to announce my upcoming Interweave webinar!
The webinar format is really interesting, and I have had a wonderfully creative time thinking about how to use this medium to its best advantage. The webinar experience goes like this: I create a powerpoint presentation chock-full of images and descriptions of how I spin the yarns for different types of knitted fabrics. Then on August 30, 2013, I give the presentation live to an online audience of participants. I’ll cover:
Fiber preparation, spinning draws, and plying.
Colorwork knitting in Shetland, Norway, and Estonia.
Swatching, blocking, and finishing.
And an introduction to my design process–how I combined the elements above to create some of my favourite textiles.
Once I have gone through my slides, participants ask questions through the moderator, Laura. It is a live event, so we are able to have a conversation and I can answer questions directly. After the presentation, the audience members receive a digital copy of the webinar along with a handout I have provided. The entire presentation will then be available for download in the Interweave Store after that.
I really think that this format can be a great tool for sharing this type of information. I can link easily to resources, museum collections, and videos. I can provide high-resolution images of textiles that everyone can see as I discuss them, rather than handing them around a classroom. Every teaching platform has its advantages, and I think this is a good fit for exploring spinning for colorwork knitting. I hope you can join us! Check out Spinning Daily for more details.
UPDATE: This webinar is now past, but you can still download a recording. Visit the Interweave Store for details. It is basically the same experience as the watching the live event, without the opportunity to ask me questions during the presentation. You can, however send any questions my way at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Swatch (swäch)= a sample piece or a collection of samples. (M-W)
For many knitters, acquiring a deep affection for the act of swatching can take some time. While we intellectually understand that our efforts are less likely to be fraught with false starts and needle changes if we take the time to make a sample, it can sometimes seem as if the swatch is simply standing between us and the bliss of casting-on. Never an absolutist, I always keep a place in my work for projects where the planning process never interrupts the creative flow. I love the indulgence of diving into a project head-first at 2am with an artist’s abandon.
However, when I am spinning for specific knitting or crochet projects, I always swatch first. As handspinners, we can tweak a yarn in innumerable ways—drafting method, amount of twist in single and ply, number of plies, etc. I also often find that only half the work of swatching is in the actual creation of the swatch. When I am planning a large project, I keep my samples and swatches with me as I move through the world to see how the colors interact in different types of light. I can carry them in my purse and see how the yarn holds up to wear. I also often pin my swatches on my studio wall where I will pass them often. I almost always end up changing things a bit and reswatching. My work improves through the process.
Much of my current work is handspun color-stranded knitting. (Color-stranding is when more than one yarn is used to knit a row and yarns are used alternately to create a graphic pattern.) Swatching is a necessity, so I often make the swatch itself a project. Fingerless mitts are a great way to test a yarn and pattern combination. I published this fingerless mitts pattern in the spring 2013 issue of Spin-Off Magazine.
I often use this pattern in my spinning and knitting workshops. For the sample mitts shown in the magazine, I used five colors of 2-ply fingering weight Shetland yarn.
Color-stranded knitting motifs (graphic pattern) usually fall into one of three categories: strong horizontal movement, strong vertical movement, or strong diagonal movement (all-over pattern). I used all three in the Swatch Mitts pattern so one color sequence can be sampled in three types of motifs:
A color sequence in color stranded knitting will sometimes complement one type of motif while obscuring another. These mitts use a strong color change between brown and black. Color changes in stranded knitting are horizontal, along the knitted row. The horizontal motif in this pattern compliments the color change. The color change from brown to black does not complement the vertical and diagonal motifs as well. But, who is to say that a slightly obscured motif in a larger pattern isn’t what you want? Try it yourself and see what happens!
Exciting news! Judith MacKenzie and I will be offering a workshop at The Tradingpost in Pendleton, Indiana on April 26-28th, 2013. I am really looking forward to it! If you have any questions about the workshop, email me at email@example.com. To register for the workshop, see Susan Markle’s contact info at the end of this post.
Inspired by Bohus Stickning
Spinning and knitting a treasured textile.
With Judith MacKenzie and Kate Larson.
The fine, hand knit garments produced by the Swedish Bohus Stickning workshop are truly unforgettable. The workshop’s fleet of rural knitters produced couture pieces for shops in Paris with a distinctive texture created by combining fine wool and wool angora blends in an abundance of shades with well placed purl stitches and subtle color shifts. Join Judith MacKenzie and Kate Larson as they explore the history, techniques, and possibilities of the Bohus Stickning style. Working with a variety of fibers, you will not only learn how to spin for the gauge and texture of Bohus yarns, but finishing techniques to bring out the vitality and character of the fiber. The stranded knitting style used for Bohus Stickning differs from other traditions in many ways. We will talk about knitting with more than two colors per row, managing floats, reading charts, and more. With this workshop’s tips and techniques in hand, you can go on to spin and knit your own Bohus-inspired piece. If you can spin a continuous yarn and both knit and purl, join us for a fun weekend exploring color and fiber!
Skill Level: All levels welcome. If you can spin a continuous yarn and both knit and purl, join us for a fun weekend exploring color and fiber!
Supplies: Spinning: Wheel in working order and its parts; extra bobbins; lazy kate; handcards; niddy noddy. Knitting: sets of 5 DPNs in US#0, 1, and 2; stitch markers; scissors; other needle notions you typically use. Optional: DPNs in US#00 or 000. Some needles will be available to purchase.
Workshop will be held April 26-28 in Pendleton, Indiana. Conact Susan at 765-778-3331 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to register or if you have questions.
One of my favourite things about traveling is revisiting places made familiar years earlier. I just returned from SOAR (Spin-Off Autumn Retreat) 2012, held at the Granlibakken Resort at Lake Tahoe, California. SOAR changes location each year and was last held at the Granlibakken in 2006, when I attended as a scholarship recipient. SOAR is a fast-paced, fiber-filled week of workshops. Experiencing SOAR for the first time that year, I was immediately swept into the current of the event. New people, fascinating conversations, fiber everywhere—and my first brushes with those individuals that would become, and forever be, my mentors.
Six textile-obsessed years later, the stars aligned and I was invited to participate in the 2012 event as a mentor. Amazed and thrilled, I was! Now that it has come and gone, I am left feeling as I usually do after SOAR—creatively energized and brimming with new and renewed friendships. I’m still digesting the experience, but here are some highlights:
Snow. When I arrived it was seventy degrees. By the next day, this is what was outside my window. It snowed for days and then the sun came out—spectacular!
Amy Clarke Moore, the lovely editor ofSpin-Off and Jane Austen Knits, took some pictures of my three-day workshop. My classroom was amazing: huge windows on three sides looking out into the snowy trees. We spent the afternoons knitting round the fireplace—really. I had so many wonderful people in my classes all week. I hope they had as much fun as I did!
Unexpected bonus: my colorwork bag was on the cover of the SOAR event booklet. Yay!
One of the high points of the experience was getting to know some of the other mentors a bit better. They are such an amazing group of interesting folks. Now back at home, I know that I will continue to carry the creative inertia of the SOAR community through my year.
I will be teaching at the 2012 Carolina Fiber Frolic in Sapphire, NC, on March 30-April 1st! The event location has changed and will be held this year at a retreat center in the mountains of North Carolina. The facitilty looks great. Check the Carolina Fiber Frolic website for more information.