Did I mention the Beatles fans? I don't think I've mentioned the Beatles fans. We were sharing the host hotel at Rosemont with a multi-day convention of Beatles fans.
They began arriving Friday, dragging beer coolers behind them. The muzak in the hotel lobby gave way to a nonstop loop of Beatles tunes supplemented by the simultaneous outpourings of a dozen amateur guitarists. The fans were a mixed lot, just like the knitters. Most were perfectly nice people. Many displayed a possibly unhealthy attachment to the 1960s. And a few need to get out in the sunshine a lot more.
I like the Beatles well enough, I suppose, but after the first full day of them blasting in my ears I was starting to twitch. Then I made up a little game called "What if the Beatles were knitters?"
Here's what I came up with:
- "She Loves Ewe (Baaaa, baaaa, baaaa)"
- "Norwegian Purl"
- "Can't Buy Me Yarn"
- "I Wanna Hold Your Handspun"
- "A Hard Day's Knit"
- "Sgt Pepper's Local Yarn Store Band"
- "All My Roving"
- "Lucy in the Sky with Bobbins"
Sunday was devoted to "Knitting Ganseys" under the tutelage of knitting rock star Beth Brown-Reinsel. I've admired Beth from a distance ever since I picked up her book on Gansey knitting at Halcyon Yarns in Maine.
This is Beth.
You may well imagine my surprise when she, like Merike Saarnitt, turned out to have read this blog and said some awfully nice things. I blushed to the roots of my hair. Or at least where my hair used to be. (Who else is out there that I don't know about? Lily? You reading this? Speak up, Lily. Don't be so shy.)
Beth's method in her full-day gansey class is to lead the students through the creation of a miniature gansey. It uses all the techniques of the full-sized garment, even unto itty-bitty baby cables. I was on enough of a cloud that I sailed right through the Channel Island cast-on (of course, I'd had a brief encounter with it at Knitting Camp) and sped upward through the body to the point where the patterned stitches begin.
And then I realized I'd 1) completely forgotten the seam stitch on the left side and 2) started adding an extra purl stitch in the patterned area, thereby throwing off the design completely.
It was at this point that I began to mutter to myself like the Condoleeza Rice reading the New York Times. I grit my teeth and ripped back.
Jon, meanwhile, flowed steadily onward.
He's such a good knitter. Clickety click went his needles, leaving an adorable little sweater in their wake. No fuss, no muss, no swearing. He reached the neckline in time to take off for lunch. I stayed in my seat and tried to make up for lost time.
I'm pleased to report that in spite of a precipitous drop in blood sugar around 1:30, I did catch up. I even made it to the Market in time to eat a stale, overpriced hot dog in the presence of Sally Melville, who was lunching with Sean. (They're pals, you know. Am I connected, or what?)
Then, back to class for three more hours of knitting. Beth handled the class extremely well, demonstrating processes (including basic gansey design) up front while still taking time to help everyone individually as needed. And she didn't dumb things down, either. Our miniature sweaters had split welts, shoulder straps, all the finicky details.
And I learned, oh boy did I learn, that I am a Loose Knitter. Not that kind of Loose. Well, not only that kind of Loose. Jon and I were working on the same sized needles and with the same yarn, and my sweater was twice the size of his.
Of course, that gauge meant that ultimately I created about 3/4 of a vaguely sweater-shaped conglomeration of lumps in which something like cables may be glimpsed if you strain your eyes.
But I've done it now. I've done the cast-on, the welt, the side seams, the arm gussets, the sleeve pick-up, and so forth. My plan is to do this mini-sweater again, on smaller needles, and then plunge into a gansey for myself.
Thank you, Beth. As we used to say back on the farm, it was just like one of the Guermantes party scenes in A la récherche du temps perdu. A total rip-snorter.
So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehn, Etcetera
When you've spent three days knitting with a group of guys, and eating food of dubious quality, and watching Marie Osmond hawk chillingly ugly baby dolls on QVC, you can't help but bond.
Here's my buds, in the shirts I cooked up as a welcome to Chicago.
Of course, they're gay. So then this happened.
Oy. I'm fahrklempt.
P.S. Cafe Press has picked up "Sheep on Plane" as part of their gallery of Snakes on a Plane paraphernalia. World domination through wool, comrades. Excelsior!