Classes at Vogue Knitting Live, Austin, Texas

Hello! If you follow me on Instagram you may know that last weekend I was at Vogue Knitting Live Intensive, held in Austin, Texas. I did two classes while there and thought you might like to hear about them.

The first was Dive Into Dipped Stitches with Jeanette Sloan. If you know Jeanette’s work as a designer, you’ll know that she loves bold colours; exciting stitch textures; and projects which enable you to create interesting, structured fabrics. Her class on Dipped Stitches brought all these elements together in a really inspiring way.

selection of hand-knitted swatches by Jeanette Sloan, featuring a variety of colours and variations on the dipped-stitch technique

Like me, Jeanette is a fan of swatching. I love the spontaneity and variety of ideas embodied in her swatches shown above – so much creativity, curiosity and play at work here. The dipped stitch technique explored in this class is so-called because it involves “dipping down” into a stitch several rows below the one you are knitting to create vertical floats which lie up the knitted fabric. The floats and how they are tensioned affect how the fabric behaves structurally and, of course, they are also highly decorative design elements. You can vary the placement of your dipped stitches, thereby changing the direction and height of your floats, and varying the colours and stitches used opens the door to an infinite range of creative possibilities. Each piece of Jeanette’s knitting highlights a different line of inquiry, and she finishes all her swatches with a neat length of i-cord which I think is a very elegant way to complete them. I got a lot out of looking at this little stack of swatches and thinking about the different variables explored in each one. To me, they buzz happily with an infectious mood of creative curiosity: “what about using this colour with that one?” “what about adding in a garter stitch row here?” “how about if I put my dipped stitch four to the right?”…

swatches made by students in Jeanette's class

…inspired by this approach, all of us in the class produced a little sampler documenting our understanding of the technique as Jeanette walked us through it in stages. First a left-leaning dip, then a right-leaning dip; then a V-dip; then whatever we wanted to do to apply and extend our growing knowledge of the method. The four swatches above are what we made in class and mine is the obscenely bright pink and orange swatch because really, what other colours would one bring to a workshop with Jeanette Sloan?

Bright pink and orange swatch

I had such a good time playing with my brightly-coloured yarns in Jeanette’s class and came away brimming with ideas for how to apply the endless possibilities of the dipped stitch technique. I cherished this invitation to play; the time and space to try something new; and the joyful and inspiring atmosphere with which Jeanette infused her class. I was so inspired that I stayed up late on the Friday night continuing with my swatch and trying out new permutations of pink, orange, and dipped stitches… Thank you for helping me Dive Into Dipped Stitches, Jeanette!

Pink and orange notions in Jeanette Sloan's dipped stitches class

The other class I attended was a day-long class with Denise Bayron exploring the construction and techniques in her carefully-planned out Hatdana design. This design can be worn like a hat or a bandana and is intentionally versatile, minimalist and elegant in all its thoughtful details. It’s also a beginner-friendly pattern which appealed to me a lot! I knew I’d be taking two long flights in a short space of time to get to and from the event and really wanted to pace myself and manage my resources in order to not end up frazzled and unwell. When I looked at the schedule I felt instantly relaxed at the thought of a day-long class with an achievable goal and not too many new-to-me techniques. Sometimes I think at knitting retreats there can be a temptation to try and cram in as much new knowledge as possible and although I was extremely tempted by the classes with both Connie Peng (HELLO COLOURWORK!!!) or Olga Buraya-Kefelian (HELLO TEXTURES AND CONSTRUCTION!) I was also mindful of jetlag and the need to manage my own event-anxiety, energy levels, and overwhelm. I had initially planned to cast a Hatdana on during my flight but when I saw I could spend a day knitting it with Denise herself, I thought that would be so much more fun.

Felix (on the left) and Denise Bayron (on the right). We are leaning into each other and beaming big smiles!

I wasn’t wrong.

I really enjoyed having a day-long class. It made me think about presence and process; accessible pattern design; accessible class structures; and the pleasures of revisiting and refreshing long-established skills. I loved the firm way Denise kept us on task “let’s keep knitting while we’re talking” and how she really got us into understanding what our stitches were doing at each stage of our making.

Hatdana on the needles

We spent the first part of the morning brushing up on basics like slipping the stitches at the edges of the Hatdana to make a lovely neat selvedge; managing our markers; and working cables without a cable needle. I really appreciated the careful way that Denise explained each step of the process of knitting the Hatdana to us, and how she managed our time throughout the day so that each of us ended up producing a miniature version of the finished thing. It felt like slowing down to knit; slowing down to appreciate my yarn; slowing down to appreciate the company; slowing down to appreciate it all. We cast on our Hatdanas and then slowly grew our skillset throughout the day, from the cast on at the beginning to the ribbed section that forms the front band and, finally, to the sewn bind off that so perfectly and tidily completes the Hatdana, framing the face and finishing the knitting neatly.

A row of miniature Hatdanas - little cones of knitting with cable detailing, yarn overs and a ribbed band at the top

There’s something so affirming about setting out with a plan to achieve something in a set amount of time, then getting it all done. This aspect of Denise’s approach is reflected in her patterns, which have lovely little check-boxes so that you can cross off every stage as you go. One of my bad habits is unachievable lists which make me feel bad (“boo! I didn’t finish everything, I failed” etc.) and it was really nice to remember the value of the opposite of this – achievable lists which make me feel good. Or, as Denise would say, “we had a plan and we followed it through.”

a brown cone of knitting with yarn-overs on one side and a neat selvedge on the other

I learnt so much in Denise’s class – not just all the technical skills for finishing my Hatdana, but also ways of ensuring a class is accessible at many levels of knitterly experience. I left a little more certain in my techniques for magic-loop; sewn bind-off; slipped stitches at the edge of my work; and stitch-marker management… but I also left with a refreshed appreciation for inclusive teaching practices and thoughts about how I could make what I do with KNITSONIK more accessible to less experienced knitters.

Thank you for a great class, Denise!

A word about the yarn I was using…

In Denise’s class, I was working with a precious skein of Castlemilk Moorit DK from my friend Rachel AKA Daughter of a Shepherd. I’d remembered I had it while listening to this beautiful clip, recorded by Raman Mundair, in which Shetland/Tanzanian teen Elsie shares her favourite Shetland dialect words. She says, of the word Moorit, “another word I love… describing the colour of your classic, brown, Shetland sheep. So… not really dark brown but kind of like a very earthy, natural brown… and that’s moorit. It’s a very popular colour.”

The moorit brown in the fleece of the Castlemilk Moorit sheep is partly derived from the brown Shetland sheep of Elsie’s description. Her enthusiastic description of the word “moorit” (which to me recalls a tasty digestive biscuit) sent me stash-diving for my precious skein of Castlemilk Moorit with which to make a lovely, oaty-brown Hatdana.

I’m so glad I took this yarn to a class where there was enough time and space to really savour working with it.

There is quite a bit of KNITSONIK news coming up so stay tuned for more posts and, if you’re subscribed to my newsletter, keep an eye on your Inbox!
Until soon –

Yours in the joy of learning,
Fx

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