This week I attended my first Red Alder Fiber Arts Retreat (AKA Madrona Fiber Arts Retreat) and it was worth it. It’s relatively local to me, just a long drive, and the classes were well balanced between beginning, intermediate and advanced. It was also smaller and less expensive than many knitting events.
Being a long-time knitter, I took moderate to advanced topics; such as Knitting Argyle Socks and Patterned and Textured Double-knitting. Overheard from an attendee coming out of the pre-requisite for one of my classes, “that hurt my head”. I agree. Some of these techniques that employ new ideas, especially with color, take concentration when you are learning them. As with everything, with practice, they become easier.
What surprised me is not what I learned in class, but what I learned about what like, and don’t, as a fiber artist. In part this is because this is a very introspective time for me. I’m on leave considering leaving the workforce (for good) or what might be a ‘next career’ for me.
Not to say that the classes weren’t all consuming. Hats off to the instructors, who were patient and expert at their craft. I would recommend the classes I took at Red Alder above many, maybe even most, I’ve taken in more than 20 years of fiber conference class attendance. I’ll talk more about them as I use the learnings in future blogs.
In general, what helped most was finding out what works for me as a knitter. Maybe it will help you too:
- It’s okay to be practical. I should make things that my family asks for, will wear and use. The things I was most drawn to on other attendees and display were were both beautiful and practical.
- Challenging to make can be challenging to wear. It’s time to clean out my Ravelry queue of hard to make, never to be worn, specialty items requiring expensive, highly contrasting, skinny yarns. On real people, they can look more costume than couture.
- I’m so *over* shawls. They age everyone–even the very young!
- Designing colorwork patterns is hard. Charting color patterns is easy to get wrong and they are worth every penny. While I aspire to do colorwork designs, for the time being it’s perfectly okay to use someone else’s tried and true pattern.
- New designs DO look better. Older patterns were created to sell yarn and often lacked attention to detail, especially in sweater finishing and socks. New teachers are teaching new techniques that look and fit better. And many are easy to learn and apply to old patterns.
I’m now looking forward to Seattle Vogue Knitting next month. It’s even closer to home. And, as usual, I’ve signed up for lots of classes.
I hope I never get tired of learning new things.
Have you picked up any new techniques and ideas lately?
PS: Though I did buy things at the marketplace—real fur pompoms and an elegant stainless steel stitch gauge necklace from Crossover Industries, I managed to stick to my resolution to knit only from my stash this year.