Friday, August 05, 2005

Yarn a Go-Go

There's this gigantic and famous Paul Gaugin painting at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, with the title painted helpfully right on the canvas:

D'où venons-nous? Qui sommes-nous? Où allons-nous?

Even though French seems to be the lingua franca of knitting blogs (must be all those Canadians) here's the translation just in case:

Where did we come from? Who are we? Where are we going?

I remember standing in front of that painting sophomore year with Birdfarm and another friend of ours, Sylvia, a vastly entertaining person who had more than a touch of Wednesday Addams in her personality.

Birdfarm and I gazed, and pondered, as was our wont. Sylvia sized the thing up for a second and said flatly, "We came from Cambridge. We're Harvard students. We're going to lunch."

Her tone of voice was such that Gaugin, had he been there, would have felt very silly for even asking such questions, let alone spending all that time painting an answer.

Today, however, I am not a Harvard student, I did not come from Cambridge, and it's too late for lunch. Today, I am a guy who knits, I just came from the yarn store, and I am going to Stitches Midwest in less than a week.

I wish I could tell you I'm wild with untrammeled excitement about the classes I picked. I am not. I selected them months ago (register now and SAVE!) based on what I guessed I'd be ready and willing to do by August.

Nine of my twelve hours are to be occupied by lace knitting. The first three are with none other than Nancy Bush, whose name meant nothing to me when I registered. Now, of course, I know she's dreadfully famous. I imagine the class with be full of devotées who have already knitted an acre or two of lace, and I'm scared shitless.

It doesn't help that after going 10 rounds with the @#$%@! Branching Out scarf, just to get myself accustomed to the processes of basic lace knitting, I have black eyes and a bloody nose. And no scarf. (Please don't tell me to knit lifelines so I can rip back when I have to. I should be so lucky as to get that far.)

My other three hours are an intarsia class. Unfortunately I've realized over the course of the past several months that I hate intarsia. Or at least I hate pretty much everything I've seen done with it. Fair isle, or jacquard knitting - those I would love to try. But not intarsia. And I won't change my mind until I've seen evidence that it can be put to better use than this, which is only slightly worse than the usual offenses.

I must qualify the above. This makes it sounds like I'm dreading Stitches, and I'm honestly not. I'm delighted to be going. I've never been to anything like this before. All that yarn, all those people to whom I can speak of knitting without their eyes immediately glazing over. Is this heaven? No, it's Rosemont.

It's probably good to have it under my belt before really jumping into the deep end at Rhinebeck.

Maybe dear Nancy Bush will not slap me for misplacing my yarn-overs. Perhaps I will encounter an intarsia pattern that does not look like a crayon doodle made by a second-grader with poor motor skills. Maybe my classes will not be like the last paragraphs of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" with me in place of Tessie Hutchinson.

Oh, I wish, fairy godmother. I wish!

I must remember that I get to meet and hang around with Jon, which alone is worth the price of admission. Of course, all bets are off when he sees that I've bought Lion Brand Wool-Ease for the intarsia class. (I know, I know. But it's practice yarn, and at $1 per skein it looked pretty freakin' beautiful to me. Even if it does feel like rug yarn. People wear this stuff?)

Now that I've vented my fears just as the nice doctor said I should, I'm going to go sit in a corner, hug my skein of "Dale Baby Ull or equivalent in a light shade" and think happy thoughts.



Carol said...

One of the cruel ironies about Stitches classes is that the classes fill based entirely upon first-come, first-served. So fear not, you will see a whole variety of skill levels. It makes it hard to actually accomplish anything, though, because someone who just learned how to purl ends up sitting next to, well, Nancy Bush.

Anonymous said...

You'll be fine, dear. Just think "i'm here to have fun, i'm here to have fun"......and then GO HAVE SOME FUN.

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, the wretched wrench sweater. Intarsia, feh! Perhaps you will be the knitter to make the breakthrough and produce something desirable in intarsia.

I only began knitting socks 6 months ago and find Nancy Bush's patterns wonderfully well written. Wish I could attend Stitches this year.

Have a wonderful time and give Jon a hug from

Jude the jealous

goblinbox said...

Oh, you will have such a ball! And the things that actually bother you won't, probably, be the things you THINK will bother you, they'll be entirely different.

And do keep Jon from overheating.

Cheryl:) said...

How could Jon not overheat around Franklin? Maybe the two of them will end up on a pile of yarn somewhere!!!!
Relax sweetheart you will have a TERRIFIC time at stitches...
(I haven't figured out the Branching out scarf now it's reserved for when I can actually THINK. ) I've seen the Flower basket's supposed to be fairly easy....

Anonymous said...

Hi; I hope you don't mind the comment from a stranger, but here's a link to what intarsia can look like:

Anonymous said...

A second post, because it looks like Blogger didn't print the whole link: it's his August 3rd entry

Anonymous said...

Oh darn, Franklin, I wish I could give you the intarsia class! There ARE wonderful uses for intarsia. Go to
/F2005MEN/review/POSMEN and look for Pringle of Scotland. There is a diamond zip front jacket that shows a nice use of intarsia.

As for the lace don't sweat it. Try A Treasury of Knitting's Feather Faggot. It's a ONE ROW pattern that will get your technique up to par.

Anonymous said...


Fear not, my friend. This will be my third Stitches and I assure you, there will be at least 4 students in the class who are unwrapping their needles for the very first time and saying "Now what's this 'cast on' thing I keep hearing about" so you will fall someplace in the comfortable middle. At my first Stitches, I took the felted clogs class and the woman sitting next to me got so frustrated, she left after break... never to return. So there's always something interesting going on!

I too will be attending the Estonian Lace class so I look forward to seeing you there. I'll be the tallish fat lady laughing quite loudly - although I hardly thing that description will disinguish me from many of the other attendees!! Ha-ha!

Don't forget to bring some sort of wheeled luggage for dragging around all your yarn finds. Alternately, the Windy City Knitting Guild will be hosting a bag check booth, so if you do go totally insane and buy out the whole market, you won't have to kill yourself dragging it all around.

Anonymous said...

I started Branching Out and didn't like it at all. I've done some pretty complicated lace (e.g. peacock feathers shawl) and that branching out pattern is just... I'm not sure.

Try the Little Leaf lace shawl on Sivia Harding's website (it's a free pattern). That might be more satisfying.

Also, a tip I got is to try the lace pattern in fairly heavy cotton (make a dishcloth). This way you can see clearly what is going on and get the hang of the pattern. The dishcloth will be useful (even if you miss a YO or two). And then you will be more confident when you do it with the finer wool.

have fun at Stitches.

Carla said...

Popping in late to say that you will LOVE Nancy Bush. She's one of the nicest, most patient teachers I've taken a class with.

Lisa said...

Okay, yeah, I'm only 6 years behind on reading your blog. But reading it straight through from the first post has been pure enjoyment.

And the reason I'm commenting on a 6-year-old post?? Because the mention of the Branching Out scarf reminded me of this:
That's a record of my daughter's attempt to make the same bloody scarf. She didn't have much success either! I thought you might appreciate the FAIL.

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