Vogue Knitting Live Tip #1: Swatching

Swatches from Lorilee Beltman's Vertical Color Stranding Class

Swatches from Lorilee Beltman’s Vertical Color Stranding Class

As previously mentioned, I booked myself as many classes at Vogue Knitting Live as I could. It’s not every week that I have the chance to study with the best of the best, so I took full advantage when I had the opportunity! I’m generally a pretty adventurous knitter – I don’t really care about making mistakes if I have the opportunity to learn something, but I do get very frustrated if I spend alot of time on something and then can’t use it once it’s done. As with so many problems in knitting, the answer is to swatch.

I took a class in vertical color stranding in cables with Lorilee Beltman. The swatches in the photo above are from that class, although we only had time to do two of them in the class period. I knitted the rest at home because I didn’t want to forget how to do it, and I wanted to explore it further. As a designer who is moved first by color, this class was incredibly inspiring. I have never done this technique, so Lorilee opened a whole new world to me. It is a bit involved, and to be honest, I was very happy to learn it in a class instead of staying up half the night watching Youtube videos like I usually do when I’m figuring things out on my own. (For those of you who are wondering what this is, it’s a way of introducing different colored strands of yarn that work their way up your knitting without having to be wrapped and twisted as in Fair Isle or intarsia.)

I took other classes over the weekend also, which I will be sharing soon. However, all weekend long, I heard a recurring theme from all of the teachers, which was to swatch, swatch, swatch. After learning my lesson the hard way once, I have always been a person who swatches to get gauge before casting on for a garment. This truly is the best way to ensure that a garment will fit! But I’ve never really thought of swatching as a learning tool until I kept hearing every teacher mention it last weekend. Of course, it’s common sense. If you want to try or explore a new technique, there is no better way to do it than to work through a series of swatches. You can try all the variations without having to knit an entire sweater or shawl. Of course, if you are knitting a garment, it’s advisable to knit bigger swatches to get a feel for the drape of the fabric.

I was a bit burned out this week, as you might imagine (see my previous post). However, I did spend alot of time knitting swatches based on the things I learned in class. It was really relaxing and stimulating to simply knit swatches without having to worry just yet about how I’d apply it to a design. If you have certain techniques you’re interested in learning, I would encourage you to browse the knitting books at your local library, and start knitting swatches. Even though it feels like you’re not accomplishing much, you are expanding your skills and it will pay off when you start a new project!

Thanks to the teachers I was privileged to study with, I will now look at swatching as a chance to explore, rather than as a chore that needs to be done before I start a project. I hope you will too.

Perfect Storm Week

Last week was the perfect storm of everything going on. I booked as many classes at Vogue Knitting Live Pasadena as I could (more on that later), worked extra hours at the shop, and in the midst of it all, threw a birthday party for my daughter because turning 10 requires special recognition. I seriously considered making things easier on myself – skipping Vogue Knitting Live for example. But sometimes life creates the perfect storm, and the only way to proceed is through it. I didn’t get much sleep, as you might imagine, but when life is suddenly full of the things you love most, it is worth it to persevere!

Vogue Knitting Live Pasadena Teepee - yes, it's all knit

Vogue Knitting Live Pasadena Teepee – yes, it’s all knit

I will post more on Vogue Knitting Live soon, but suffice it to say for now that I am very glad I made the effort to be there. The teachers are so incredibly knowledgeable and thorough, and it’s not every day you get to study with a master of the trade. It is definitely an opportunity that should not be wasted, and as at the last Vogue Knitting Live classes I attended in Century City a few years ago, I came away with so much inspiration and new things to practice and incorporate into my design work. As anyone who reads this blog with regularity knows, I live to learn. I was very happy to hear Franklin Habit talking about the things he studies – it’s good to know that even when you’re at the top of your game, there is still learning to look forward to!

A happy birthday girl with the remains of her pinata. Double digits from here on out!

A happy birthday girl with the remains of her pinata. Double digits from here on out!

I know you want to ask - did I decorate this cake? No, I did not - but I have a really great friend who kindly stayed at my house til 1 am helping me. I owe her!

I know you want to ask – did I decorate this cake? No, I did not – but I have a really great friend who kindly stayed at my house til 1 am helping me. I owe her!

Happily, when I wasn’t studying with the best at Vogue Knitting Live, I was at home, in my happy place outside, with the people who make me happiest. I have never seen a bird of paradise plant as huge as the one that is in our back yard. I have also never seen this particular plant bloom in the seven years we’ve lived here. Since my daughter and I both love flowers, it was a nice birthday bonus. Even though I love parties, and even love party planning around a theme, entertaining stresses me out. So many things to coordinate, so many things that have to be left until the last minute to do, will the guests have fun, will they like the food we’re serving…you name it, I worried about it.

The biggest bird of paradise plant I've ever seen - I'm sure it's as old as the house!

The biggest bird of paradise plant I’ve ever seen – I’m sure it’s as old as the house!

On such a big plant, you can really see  textures.

On such a big plant, you can really see textures.

The colors in this flower are so beautiful - I'd like to have some yarn dyed to match!

The colors in this flower are so beautiful – I’d like to have some yarn dyed to match!


But happily, the birthday girl and her friends were smiling and laughing the whole time (always a good sign!), and now that I’m picking the photos to share with you all, I am glad that even though I felt overbooked, I did it anyway, and I’d gladly do it again.

On a Monday evening walk with a friend - when it's dark, there's not so much color to look at, so I train my eye to notice shapes.

On a Monday evening walk with a friend – when it’s dark, there’s not so much color to look at, so I train my eye to notice shapes. Trees have incredible shapes!

Surprisingly, Monday morning, I woke up full of energy and ready to go…but then, maybe that was because I left Monday open to knit swatches of all the new things I learned over the weekend so I wouldn’t forget. You can do way more than you think when you’re doing what you love. Enjoy the photos, and thanks for sharing in my fun!


Mitered Squares and Op Art

I have always had a thing for optical illusion. Those collages people do with thousands of tiny photos fascinate me, as does Op Art and Impressionism. When you look close, you see all the individual elements, and when you step back, you see the big picture. It follows then, in knitting, that I’m a sucker for mitered square projects. I’ve made mitered square blankets in the past and am currently working on this one. I would love to replicate some of Li Shurui’s work next. Her body of work is highly focused on the plays of light and color, which of course, speaks to me on yet another whole level. Many of her paintings look like photos that have been manipulated with filters, but in reality, they are acrylic paintings. Enjoy!

For the Sake of Passion

Some of us city folk have very romantic ideas about what it would be like to retire to some remote location in Maine to take care of a farm and animals and slow our pace. For me, this scenario usually looks most attractive on weeks where I’m overwhelmed, realize I’ve overbooked myself, and find my life a little too full of obligations that aren’t particularly bringing me joy. Knitters and crocheters are especially prone to these fantasies because of our appreciation for the animals who provide our fiber.

However, there are those folks who take the next step and actually make that jump, and as they say, there’s no teacher like experience. Cinnamon Girl of Maine gives in-depth descriptions of her life and challenges on the farm. She cringes at being called “inspiring”, which I’ve carefully NOT done here, and makes the point that this lifestyle is a choice to make when you’re truly passionate for it, as you will need the passion when the romance wears off. And for those of us who really are city people at heart, the point to have a passion still rings true. Pursue yours, whatever it is, and when you need an escape into someone else’s reality, a great blog helps!

Floor Installations

I am very excited to be taking a class on shadow knitting at Vogue Knitting Live later this month. Perhaps it’s my affinity for Op Art, but being able to create optical illusions fascinates me. I saw an article in Vogue a long time ago about Jim Lambie and I find his work extremely inspiring. I hope one of his floor installations will be on display in LA at some point so I have the chance to see it in person. He uses vinyl tape to create some of his installations, and aside from the fact I love all the bright colors, I also admire people who can take a mundane thing like tape and create something spectacular out of it. Of course, my medium is yarn, and once I learn the techniques behind shadow knitting, I hope to design some pieces inspired by his work.


I’ve been giving very careful thought to my next projects. Inspired by Stephen West, and my recent fun at Stitches with him, I decided to try my hand at swants. Harem-style pants are really fashionable right now, and I realized out of all the garments I’ve made, I’ve never knit any bottoms.

If you are interested in making your own, Stephen gave an excellent tutorial on his blog.

He also, just for fun, did a Youtube video of dancing in them.

There are many reasons to make swants, but the best one I can think of is putting a sweater you’re sick of to different use. There are lots of tutorials for doing it, and I would suggest doing a quick search on Youtube to watch a video if you have a hard time following the blog tutorials.

Yes, I saved the best for last. Steven and Stephen.

The two who can pull off everything, including swants!

So….you all don’t really believe me, do you??? April Fool’s! :)

A Good Education Put to Good Use

I have been super busy knitting and finishing projects (photos to come soon!), plus I worked ALOT last week for the Los Angeles Yarn Crawl. I am now on the lookout and in the mood for some new projects. I happened to stumble across this blog, and had to share. This well-educated designer who used to work for NASA and titles everything in Latin is fun to read and does great work! And I like the twist of using an ancient language as applied to an ancient tradition like knitting. Happy reading!


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