Attending Susan B. Anderson Workshops

Howdy, knitters! Welcome back to another installment in the Knitting Daddy blog! I know that many of you are new, thanks to the very kind things Susan B. Anderson said about me and this blog on her recent blog posts. I offer all my new readers a big, hearty welcome! I hope you enjoy what you read and come back for more week in and week out. If you’re new to the blog, you probably want to check out my knitting origin story to read about how I started knitting, then poke around the rest of the blog for the entries that interest you.

This week I’m super-excited to write about the weekend I spent at Fibre Space attending three workshops led by Susan B. Anderson. That really has been the focus of my knitting over the past week. Before going over the wonderful events of the weekend, let’s take a look at the other things that have been going on in my knitting life lately.

Blueberry's Fair Isle

I finished knitting the Fair Isle Hat (except the pom-pom) on the way home, and Blueberry is rocking it in the back seat.

This Week In Podcasts

Last week’s blog post was so short and quick, I didn’t even write about the podcasts I’ve been listening to. So I’ve got about two weeks of podcast episodes to go over here. There has been so much in the way of great knitting things coming out of my iPod lately! It really helps pass the time during my commute to and from work.

Since I last wrote about podcasts, I’ve listened to new episodes of Ewe University, TwinSet Designs (2 episodes!), Knit 1 Geek 2, The Lost Geek (2 episodes!), Fiber Hooligan (2 episodes!), Never Not Knitting, Knitcircus, and Knitting Pipeline (3 episodes!).

In Ewe University Episode 20, Dr. Kelly talks about the benefits of nature. There are lots and lots of interesting studies that show how beneficial nature is for our health and well-being. She also reviewed an interchangeable needle organizer from the sarahkincheloe Etsy shop. I’m jealous — this organizer is definitely on my wish list, especially since there are several fabric options that won’t make me feel like a girl with a pretty little case if I’m using it.

In TwinSet Designs Episode 36: Spring Forward, Ellen and Jan share a funny story about alpaca on the loose, have some great information about yarn substitution math, and talk some about the history of sheep. In Episode 37: Teaser!, they share a great essay on why sometimes “quitting is winning.” That’s a great essay, Jan! This episode is my stand-out episode of the week.

In Knit 1 Geek 2 Episode 87: Revenge of the Rhinopharyngitis, Karen and Maggie gloat about the Canadian gold wins in the Olympic Games. They also spend a good amount of time talking about comic books, which I love. They particularly railed against the fact that there are many strong female comic book characters who don’t have their own movie. Where is our “Black Widow” movie, Marvel!? Oh, and look at all the cool and geeky project bags over at Kicks And Giggles Shop, especially the “Doctor Who” ones!

In The Lost Geek Podcast Episode 30, Arlin talks about non-truths and half-truths. She gives a good overview of what are good things to do when you find information in your email, on your Facebook, or just in general, that sounds unbelievable — information about how to check its validity, etc. Great advice. In Episode 31, she celebrates a year of podcasting. She also talks about a Master Knitting Program, which is something up my alley at some point.

The two Fiber Hooligan episodes I listened to included an interview with Barbara Walker, a legend in the world of knitting and an interview with Cee Cee and BeLinda Creech, organizers of the Elephants Remember Joplin fundraiser. I especially enjoyed the Barbara Walker interview, and learning some of her history.

In Never Not Knitting Episode 80, Alana shears a heartwarming and heartbreaking story about her son emphatically telling her that he doesn’t appreciate a particular sweater she knitted for him.

In Knitcircus #43, Amy and Jaala give a wrap-up report of Vogue Knitting Live Seattle and talk about the impending stash down.

In Knitting Pipeline Episode 165, the KP gang get together to talk about the recent Knitting Pipeline retreat. It made me jealous, reminding me that I wish I could have been there, too. Then, the jealousy intensified with Episode 166, which shared information about the upcoming Maine retreat — including the fact that Susan B. Anderson is going to be the artist in residence for the retreat, leading another workshop. Wow, I wish I could go to that, too! In Episode 167, Paula talks about an Elizabeth Zimmerman baby sweater that she recently knitted. As always, Knitting Pipeline continues to be one of my favorite podcasts week in and week out.

Wshew! That’s a lot of podcast listening! And I already see the episodes stacking back up in my iTunes. There’s never a shortage of good knitting-related podcasts out there!

This Week In Ravelry

My week in Ravelry has been pretty dedicated to keeping up with the talk in the IBK forum, especially the talk surrounding the IBK meet-up that Susan B. Anderson’s workshops generated.

This Week On My Needles

These past two weeks, my needles have been clicking with a few projects. First, my project for the IBK Bunny Swap is complete. I’ll put it in the mail in the next day or two.

Bunny Swap

The bunny hasn’t reached his new home yet, so he’s hiding.

I also started a couple of toy projects in two of the workshops I attended over the weekend. They’re still on the needles. The fair isle hat I did as a result of one of the workshops is off the needles and blocked. It was a lot of fun.

Attending Susan B. Anderson Workshops

The highlight of my knitting week was traveling up north to attend a weekend full of three Susan B. Anderson knitting workshops at Fibre Space in Alexandria, Virginia. Susan is my favorite knitting designer, and I’ve knitted lots of her toy, ornament, and hat designs. When I saw she was going to be in the DC area for some workshops, I quickly signed up for all three of them and made plans to stay with my brother, who lives in Maryland, for the weekend. Susan wrote extensively about Day One, Day Two, and Day Three on her blog, and you really need to go read her accounts of the weekend if you haven’t done so already. I’m honored and humbled by the kind things Susan had to say about me and the Knitting Daddy blog, and that she included so many nice pictures of my knitting in her blog. I’m especially grateful to her for linking to my Knitting Daddy blog and to all of you who have discovered Knitting Daddy through Susan’s blog. Thank you again, Susan, for a wonderful weekend of workshops and for your kindness and generosity to me, and to all the students.

The Book Signing

The workshop weekend started Thursday night, when I dove to my parent’s house (they live a few hours away) so that we could all ride together when we went up north. On Friday morning, we got up, got our things together, and hit the road. The drive from North Carolina to Maryland isn’t a bad one, and it was made easier by the fact that my dad did all the driving. It takes a little longer than usual when traveling with a toddler, but we got to my brother’s house at a reasonable time. We shared a delicious dinner, then my dad, Blueberry, and I headed out to Fibre Space for the book signing.

I think Fibre Space might be the perfect yarn store. I felt welcome as soon as I walked in the door. There is a wide variety of yarn and accessories available. I especially liked the way the shop was arranged — it was long and narrow, but partitioned off in bits and pieces so that it felt like a series of rooms. The area closest to the front door included several couches and chairs, and they stayed filled with people hanging out and knitting most of the weekend. I was especially excited to see that one of the days included a men’s knitting group. I moved away from the DC area for a reason (mostly traffic), so I don’t wish I was back in the area so Fibre Space could be my LYS. Instead, I wish we had an LYS like Fibre Space in my town.

The shop had Susan’s book-signing table set up in an area that was our workshop space for the weekend. She had her trunk show of toys and hats on display.

Susan's Toys

Some of Susan’s toys. I took this picture after the last workshop, so there are also a few items from the workshops on the table, too.

When I came around to get my books signed, there wasn’t a line, and Susan immediately recognized me from the IBK forum and got up to give me a hug. I introduced her to Blueberry and my dad and she posed for pictures with us.

Susan, Blueberry, and Knitting Daddy

Susan B. Anderson, Blueberry, and Knitting Daddy at the book signing. Blueberry is wearing the Go Hoppers! hat made from Susan’s design.

I had copies of all five of her books, and she happily signed every one of them for me. I inherited from my dad a love of collecting autographed books, and those autographed books are even more meaningful when you develop a relationship with an author and his or her work. There’s nothing like knitting a designer’s patterns and participating in her workshops to develop that kind of relationship, and these books will be some of the most cherished in my collection.

I also brought all of the items I’ve knitted from Susan’s patterns (except the few I’ve given away as gifts) to show her. She was so gracious to look at them all and compliment me on them. She even set them all out on her table and took a picture to include on her blog. It was quite a thrill to see them when I read her blog the next day.

Build-A-Toy Workshop

Saturday morning, I got up and headed to the shop in plenty of time to be sure I could find parking and the like before class. I was there in plenty of time — about forty-five minutes before the shop opened! It was fine, though — it was a nice day, there was a nearby shop where I could buy a cup of coffee, and there was a nice bench outside on which I could comfortably sit. Before too long, other people started showing up, including my friend Melanie. We know each other from the IBK forum, and this weekend was the first time we met in “real life.”

Greg, Susan, and Melanie

Greg, Susan, and Melanie have an IBK meet-up.

We chatted for a bit while we waited for the shop to open. Once the shop opened, we got a couple of seats next to each other and we had a grand time together for both of the Saturday workshops.

Susan’s workshops are awesome. They are so well-structured: including big group teaching/demonstrating, small group technique demonstrations, individual attention, and lots of opportunity to ask questions and get answers to things that are particularly interesting to each student. Susan shared that she used to be a middle-school teacher, and that experience probably informs much of how she manages her workshops. It’s a great system, she’s a top-notch instructor.

The build-a-toy workshop gave me the tools and confidence to start coming up with my own toy designs. The idea of this workshop was very much centered around collecting a lot of toy “ingredients” like different body shapes, head shapes, arms, legs, ears, wings, etc. and encouraging the knitter to mix-and-match the different options to come up with a unique toy. Susan shared ideas about where she gets her inspiration, how she goes about translating what she sees in real life to a knitted object, and a ton of techniques for all of the different things to keep in mind while creating knitted toys.

I started with the idea that I was going to make up a bat. After knitting a body and half a head, I admitted the direction I was going was not going to work, so I think it will become a cat instead. But I’m still going to try my hand at a bat someday.

Build-A-Toy

This build-a-toy is probably going to be some sort of cat.

Fair Isle Hat Workshop

After the Build-A-Toy workshop wound down, there was less than an hour before the next class, so a few of us crossed the street for what we hoped would be a quick bite to eat. It turned out to be very slow (but tasty!), and we ended up getting back to the shop right when the next workshop was starting.

While I was looking forward to all of the workshops, the fair isle hat workshop was the one I was looking forward to the least. I’ve never done color work besides duplicate stitch, and I’ve really become a toy knitter of late. I’m thrilled that I took this class, because it turned out to be my favorite of the three!

Working a strand of yarn in each of my hands at the same time was quite awkward at first, but I stuck with it. After a few minutes, it started feeling more natural. After about thirty minutes, I was pretty comfortable with the techniques involved and was having a great time. I especially enjoyed the demonstration on how to do a Latvian Braid.

Faire Isle Hat In Progress

Ready to to the 2nd Latvian Braid on the Fair Isle Hat.

By the end of class, I was about halfway up the straight knitting portion of the hat. When I got home for the evening, I worked the rest of the way up, including designing a little heart motif to add some additional length to the hat. I wanted to make it a little taller because I shorted the brim by 3 rows in order to keep my knitting on pace with the instruction that Susan was providing. That extra length might have been just a bit much — it’s a little tall on Blueberry, causing the top portion of the hat to fall on itself and create a fez-like option. Wearing it like that is pretty cute, so I’m not worried. Besides, perhaps her head will grow into it by the time next winter comes around.

Fair Isle Hat

The Fair Isle Hat, ready to be blocked.

At the end of class, Melanie and I said our good-byes since she wouldn’t be returning on Sunday for the third class. Again, it was great to have an IBK meet-up, and I’m looking forward to the next time I can get together with any of my IBK friends. I shopped around the store a little bit, made a few purchases, and came on home for the evening.

String-Along-Toy Workshop

The class on Sunday was in the afternoon, so I had time to get up and go to church with my family before heading back to Fibre Space. I got to the shop early enough to do some more browsing before class started. I didn’t pick up anything, but I made note of some yarn I wanted to pick up after class was done.

The string-along-toy is a neat little design for a frog, monkey, our mouse that includes a feature in the hands or tail that allow you to attach multiple toys together in a chain — to string them along. It’s a very cute design, and each toy will knit up pretty quickly. It’s a great way to use up bits of leftover worsted weight yarn, too!

A lot of the techniques in this class were similar to the techniques from the build-a-toy workshop on Saturday, so I greatly benefited by having the opportunity to see the techniques demonstrated another time, which helped solidify my understanding. I worked on a little mouse and got the body and head complete before class was over. I’ll probably be able to find some time in the evening over the next few days and finish up the face embroidery and the arms.

String-Along-Toy

This string-along-toy is going to be a mouse.

Then, just like that, the time was up! I met a lot of great people in all of the workshops and it was sad to be packing things up for the last time. All of the classes included lots of great hand-outs with tips about technique, patterns, and hints. Everything we went over in class was included in a handout, so there wasn’t a need to take notes during class, which was a great help. I’m looking forward to finishing my toy projects and knitting some more fair isle hats from the patterns that were included with the class. In her blog, Susan said she’s already talking with the shop owner about coming back sometime for more workshops. When she does, I’ll be there!

Thank you again, Susan, for the amazing workshops. Thank you, Fibre Space for hosting them in a wonderful space. I’m looking forward to being able to do this again.

What about you? Have you taken any exceptional workshops — either Susan’s or someone else’s? What are your favorite parts about them? Join the conversation and leave a comment about memorable knitting workshops in which you’ve participated.

Until next week, keep on knitting for the ones you love!

-greg

Ravelry: KnittingDaddy

12 thoughts on “Attending Susan B. Anderson Workshops

    • Thanks, Susan! It was a great weekend, and I’m looking forward to the next time you’re leading workshops near enough for me to be able to attend.

    • Hi, Dr. Kelly! Thank you so much for the kind words about my projects — they are a lot of fun. Yes, it was quite the dreamy weekend. I learned so much. I knitted so much. My needles were so busy, I even developed a small blister on my left index finger!

  1. How lucky you are to get to attend a workshop with Susan B. Anderson. I know I would love to go to one of those, too.

    It was fun to read about and to find your blog through her link. I’m really impressed with your knitting and loved reading about your introduction to knitting – truly a tale with a happy ending (or maybe more accurately, a happy beginning :-!). Blueberry is truly a precious, beautiful girl!

    I’m looking forward to reading my way through your older postings and keeping up with all the current posts and checking out what’s on your needles. Happy knitting!

    • Hi, Barb! Thanks so much for the kind comments. Yes, I’m very fortunate that it worked out for me to travel up to the DC area for Susan’s workshops — especially since I have family I was able to stay with while I was up there. I highly recommend her workshops, and I hope you’re able to attend one some day. I’ll definitely keep my eye out for her future workshops and attend any of them that I can.

      Blueberry is definitely a precious, beautiful girl. She’s so sweet and loves wearing/playing with the things I knit for her. It really is a lot of fun experiencing the world fresh through her eyes. She continues to do well, and we’re very thankful for her.

      I’m glad you found my blog through Susan’s link, and I hope you continue to enjoy going back through the older posts and keeping up with what’s going on in my knitting world week in and week out!

  2. I have been able to attend two weekends of workshops, and I learned a ton from both. The first was the second day of an Amy Herzog weekend. The all-day class that I attended was about how to modify a sweater to fit yourself, and it included a lot of math. I had only barely heard of Amy before the workshop, but I am SO glad I went. She is a lot of fun to take a class from, and she is really passionate about knitting properly fitted clothes so we can all look and feel our best.

    The second was the weekend of classes at the DFW Fiber Fest. I attended a full weekend because it guaranteed me a chance to see Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s talk on Friday, but I had so much fun that I will definitely be trying to go back next year. The classes that were the highlights of my weekend were learning to spin with a drop spindle, and learning to knit forward and backward, using both the Continental and English styles. The other classes were fun, but those two ally made the trip worth it (and getting to see SPM too, of course).

    I am going to suggest to the ladies on the DFW Fiber Fest board that they invite Susan B. Anderson down here for next year. Her toys and fair isle classes would be such a hit down here, where we don’t knit a lot of sweaters and mittens because it doesn’t get cold enough. 🙂 Then I’ll get to take a class or two from her, too. 😉

    • Yes! I was excited about the workshops, but they were even so much more enjoyable and useful than I anticipated. I’m definitely going to be looking out for more opportunities for other workshops in the future, from a variety of instructors. Good luck getting Susan to head to your neck of the woods for some workshops — she’s an excellent teacher, and any venue would be fortunate to have her instructing.

  3. I just love the fair isle hat. I’m currently trying to learn colorwork, and I’m struggling with my tension with the yarn held in my left hand. I’m determined to conquer it! I tried making a pair of fingerless mitts (Police Box Mittens by SpillyJane), and got one almost done, but it was way too small, so I have to start over. The pattern is adorable, though, especially for a Dr. Who fan like me. 🙂

    I hope I get the chance to attend one of Susan B. Anderson’s workshops one day. I love her stuff. I did get to hear Stephanie Pearl-McPhee speak at a signing for her book recently. She is someone I highly recommend seeing – she is hilarious. I was practically weeping from laughter.

    • Hi, Laura — sorry for the late reply! I saw your Police Box Mittens, and they are splendid! Getting the tension figured out for colorwork is definitely an important aspect. Susan’s instruction was excellent. If you ever get a chance to take one of her workshops, I highly recommend it.

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