Howdy, knitters! I hope you’ve had a great week. My week has been busy and fun. If you’re a new visitor to the Knitting Daddy blog, I hope you enjoy what you read and come back for more. For my returning readers, it’s great that you keep coming back!
Edit to add (2015/04/14): A special welcome to all the new readers who found my blog via the link in Susan B. Anderson’s post about the weekend! Thank you so much, Susan, for the kind words and the link. After reading my review of the retreat, new readers might especially enjoy reading my knitting origin story to learn more about how and why I started knitting almost three years ago (short version: my daughter inspired me to learn how to knit preemie hats when she was born).
I just returned from a super weekend knitting retreat with Susan B. Anderson in Solomons, MD. I love Susan’s workshops and was thrilled to be able to attend these. I’ll talk about the workshops later in this post. First, let’s take a quick look at the other things that have been going on in my knitting world recently.
Scrappy Sock Yarn Preemie Hat Update
Wow. You guys really know how to make a new knitting designer feel good. Last week, I released my first knitting design: Scrappy Sock Yarn Preemie Hat. The pattern name pretty much says it all. It’s a hat. For preemies. And it’s made with leftover sock yarn. Response to the pattern has been great, and I’m thrilled to see project pages starting to pop up on Ravelry. The pattern is normally $3, but you can get a $1 discount by using the coupon code “BLUEBERRY” when you purchase the pattern at Ravelry (expires 2015/05/31). All proceeds from the sales of this pattern are going to Family Support Network of Central Carolina (FSNCC), the non-profit organization that meant so much to my family when Blueberry was born prematurely, and on whose Executive Board I am now serving.
I’ve seen a few projects where people knitted this pattern with larger needles and larger yarn to make hats that are sized for a newborn or baby. So if you want to knit a cute hat with the option for lace hearts on it and a fun crown decrease for a baby in your life, this is a great pattern to use — just knit it as written on larger needles with larger yarn.
Thank you all for supporting FSNCC though this pattern, as well as for using the pattern to knit up preemie hats for your local NICU.
This Week In Podcasts
I’m caught up on my current podcasts and am actually in the process of going back to listen to older episodes of podcasts I’ve recently discovered. A new podcast find for me this week comes by way of Paula at Knitting Pipeline. In her most recent episode, she mentioned the Teaching Your Brain To Knit podcast. So far, I’ve listened to the most recent episode and the first couple of episodes from their archives. It’s another knitting podcast with a scientific/research slant to it. I love those kinds of podcasts. I’m enjoying catching up on the back-episodes. They discuss why knitting seems to come easy for some people, but hard for others. They discuss the health benefits of knitting — especially as related to mental health. All in all, it’s sounding to be a great podcast and I’m definitely looking forward to adding it to my regular rotation.
This Week On My Needles
There are a few things on and off my needles this week, but I’ll catch y’all up on that in my next post, because I want to delve right into the meat of this post — the retreat I attended this weekend.
Susan B. Anderson Workshops: Owls, Mitts, Toys, Dolls, and Dragons
This past weekend, I had the good fortune to attend a set of Susan B. Anderson workshops as part of the Reston SnB annual retreat. Regular blog readers probably know that I’m a total SBA fan-boy, so when this opportunity (kinda) close to home presented itself, I worked to make sure I could attend.
Before I go into more detail about the weekend, I’d like to extend a huge thank-you to all the ladies in the Reston SnB group for making me feel so welcome. A special note of thanks goes to Marie, who organized the weekend, provided an excellent venue, and was just an awesome all-around “mom” for everyone.
This weekend was jam-packed with workshops: Little Owl, Fair Isle Fingerless Mitts Workshop, Build-A-Toy Workshop, Seamless Knit Doll Workshop, and Little Dragon Workshop. There was also great fellowship as we shared meals together, and just had time to “hang out” and knit with each other. The location was Solomons Island, MD, and the house was right on the water. The weather was wonderful. In short, it was a perfect weekend.
I was also thrilled to see my friend Melanie again, whom I know through the IBK Ravelry Group and last year’s workshops at Fibre Space. She even let me knit on her Signature Needle Arts DPNs for a little bit. It was enough to convince myself that I definitely want to upgrade all my needles to Sigs. It will take years to do it, probably one gift-giving occasion at a time. Father’s Day is just around the corner….
Let’s take a look at the workshops.
Susan has a background as an educator, so it’s no surprise that her workshops are well-run. There were about 15 people attending the retreat, which is a great size for these kinds of workshops. Susan combines giving instructions and information to the large group with breaking everyone into smaller groups for close-up demonstrations of specific techniques. There is also ample time in the workshop to just knit away on the project. Susan circulates through the classroom to answer specific questions and give individual attention to students’ needs. It’s a perfect set-up, and having been though her workshops on a couple of occasions now, I really appreciate how jam-packed they are with information, without being overwhelming. Susan also provides great hand-outs in the workshops that students can refer to when they go home. This is extremely helpful, because most students don’t complete the entire project during the workshop time.
Little Owl was Friday night’s workshop. It’s a workshop for constructing a simple toy, based around Susan’s recently published pattern “Little Owl.” Even though this pattern knits up quickly, it produces a cute toy and is useful for learning a lot of techniques. By the end of the weekend, several people had completed their owls, and it was really cool to see them coming off the needles. I managed to finish the body and wings. With feet and a face to go, I’ll probably complete him this week.
During this workshop, Susan covered the importance of achieving the proper stuffing for knitted toys, and how to correct toys that may be over- or under-stuffed. She went over her technique for doing the Kitchener stitch, which makes it a lot easier to remember. She also talked about how to pick up stitches to attach appendages like wings and feet.
This was a great workshop with which to start the weekend, as it introduced a lot of fundamental concepts we used throughout the retreat.
Fair Isle Fingerless Mitts Workshop
On Saturday morning, we had a workshop on creating fair isle fingerless mitts. This was very similar to the fair isle hat workshop I attended last year, and I was excited to have a refresher on fair isle knitting. It was also great for me to have the fingerless mitts workshop instead of the hat workshop, because now I have basic instructions for mitts in my knitting toolbox, with confidence to jazz them up with fair isle designs.
During the workshop, Susan covered many skills associated with fair isle knitting: holding your yarn in two hands, achieving consistent tension with your colors, how to trap your floats, weaving in ends, how to create the Latvian Braid, etc. It was jam-packed with useful information!
I still have a lot of practice to do before I become very comfortable with fair isle knitting, but Susan’s workshops have opened up the technique to make it accessible. Plus, it’s tremendously fun. I highly recommend either Susan’s fair isle hat or fingerless mitts workshop.
Saturday afternoon saw the Build-A-Toy Workshop. This is the same workshop that I attended last year. It was a great refresher, and I’m taking the opportunity to try to design a bat again. We’ll see how that works out this time. I think I’ve got a good handle on the body, head, face, ears, and feet. But those wings. I’m going to have to experiment on the wings. It’ll be fun experiments, though.
This workshop is a great follow-up to the Little Owl Workshop from the night before. We reviewed many of the basics presented in the Little Owl Workshop, and then dove deeper into some more advanced toy-making techniques. These techniques included a great discussion on the value of knitting appendages like arms, legs, feet, ears, etc. separately and sewing them on — there are so many more possibilities for your finished object doing it that way. Susan also demonstrated many great techniques for embroidering faces on your knitted toys. The face can often make or break the feel of your toy. So many knitters just rush through the facial embroidery and finishing at the end of their knitting and are left with a toy that is simply nowhere near the potential it can be. Spending just a little extra time working (or re-working) the finishing touches on your toys can make such a huge difference.
Seamless Knit Doll Workshop
This workshop is what I was looking froward to most. It is focused around Susan’s pattern for her seamless dolls: Mary, Millie, and Morgan and Ben and Buddy. I’ve been wanting to knit these dolls since they were released. They are so sweet, and there are so many possibilities for customizing them to be just right for what you want to create.
For this class, kits from Quince and Co. were available, and I got one of them. I’m knitting up the Mary version of the doll. The kits that Quince sells are awesome. They contain all of the materials you need to knit the dolls, except for embroidery floss for the face. I love that the Quince yarn is portioned to be appropriate for the amount you need to create a doll, in the right colors. These kits are available directly from Quince and Co., but they are a limited edition, so you should go snap them up now.
A lot of the techniques in this workshop were techniques we covered in other workshops during the weekend, and it was great to get refreshers. The close-up technique demonstration I appreciated the most in this workshop was the demonstration on adding hair to the doll. Adding hair really makes the doll come alive, and seeing how to get a good hairdo on the doll was awesome. Seeing this demonstration makes me confident to produce a great-looking doll, and also to go back and knit up a Chloe doll, which has been in my queue forever.
Little Dragon Workshop
The Little Dragon Workshop was a great capper for the weekend. This workshop is based on Susan’s Little Dragon pattern. We got instructions for both the regular sized and a mini-sized. Of course, I’m going to end up knitting both. 🙂 By this point in the weekend, we were all very comfortable with the basics of toy knitting. Susan reviewed those basics, which was great — repetition helps with learning. Much of the small-group tutorials focused on some of the features that are unique to the dragon. These features included making bobbles (used for the ridge on the back of the dragon), picking up stitches in various ways — like a the triangle used to pick up the stitches for the dragon tail, and the unique construction for the head that allows the toy to be created without having to knit the head separate from the body and attaching it later. These are all great techniques, and really helped round out the weekend.
Blueberry is on a Sleeping Beauty kick — she has been for some time — and is fascinated by Maleficent turning into a dragon at the end of the movie. While the Little Dragon is a different kind of dragon than the Maleficent one, I’m sure Blueberry’s going to love having a dragon toy of her own to play with. In the workshop, I made it about halfway up the body, and I think the rest of it should knit at a reasonable pace. Of course, I now have 5 new projects on my needles, so we’ll see which ones finish up first.
Again, it was a wonderful weekend, and a much needed break for me. That’s why they call it a retreat, isn’t it? I am truly grateful for all of the people who made it happen. Susan, your workshops are wonderful. Marie, the organization you put together to make the weekend happen was nothing short of amazing. Everyone in the Reston SnB group, you are the most welcoming group of folks and I hope to see you again. If you haven’t already “friended” me on Ravelry, please do so — I’m looking forward to seeing how all of the class projects turn out!
If you have the opportunity to attend a Susan B. Anderson workshop, you totally should do it. She keeps a list of her teaching schedule on the right side of her blog, so you can always check there to see when she’ll be near you.
What kind of knitting retreats or classes have you participated in? Do you have any suggestions for what to look for when choosing the knitting retreats or classes to attend? What have different instructors done to make their workshops particularly memorable and enjoyable? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below, or head over to the Knitting Daddy Designs Ravelry group and join the conversation in one of the threads there.
Until next time, keep on knitting for the ones you love!