Monday, July 25, 2005

TKGA Conference

I feel like I have SO MUCH to blog about, and so little time to do it, but TKGA is the sort of event that it's important to blog about, so here we go.

I had a somewhat mixed experience, starting with arriving at 8:30 am on Saturday and finding out that there was no record of my existence in the TKGA files. (Even though I was holding a print-out of my email confirmation.) Apparently, I should have received a packet in the mail with tickets and badges and things. Odd, since you had to check in at the registration desk anyway! Fortunately, my classes were still available, so I paid (again, or so I thought), and went in to Nancie Wiseman's Continental Knitting class.

I looked around for Spinnity -- alas, she was up at the registration counter having the same experience. It's not a huge surprise that a craftspersons' guild like TKGA might be filled with Luddites -- and I should have been alerted by the hopelessly inept website that I won't even link to here -- but this is the 21st Century, people! Even knitters do things on-line! Especially California knitters. I doubt Spinnity and I were the only ones -- I overheard another woman talking about how they had her signed up for all the wrong classes.

So, one strike, or maybe even two, against TKGA already. However, by 9:01 am, when Nancie Wiseman opened her mouth, I'd pretty much forgotten about it. I love this woman. I would take any class from her. She is so down-to-earth, so modest, yet so knowledgeable. By the middle of the class I was knitting Continental. By the end I was purling pretty comfortably and even contemplating Fair Isle. And it felt painless! My only gripe was my crummy yarn kept splitting, but that was my own fault. I never like to practice with good yarn, so I had some crummy Lion Brand Wool-ease. Should have brought the good stuff.

So by noon we were in a grand mood and singing the praises of Nancie. I took a quick spin through the market and got some gorgeous deep red bamboo yarn from Habu (a cool fiber company in New York, very expensive but it's one of those things I needed in order to go on living), a skein of undyed alpaca which looked like my DH might actually wear it, and a ball winder, which I've been meaning to get for ages. Then I had to go to work, no afternoon classes for me.

After a late night finishing the seven (!) swatches for Joan Schrouder's Finishing class, I came in Sunday caffeinated and ready to learn. Alas, I picked the wrong class. It was advertised as "Intermediate," but this clearly means very different things to different people.

We spent the morning, all three hours of it, practicing grafting. Now, I had a brilliant grafting class with Sally Melville at Stitches, and completely understood it, but I haven't had an occasion to do it since, so I needed the practice. But Joan's teaching method pretty much consisted of saying "This is important, you need to learn it. Now do this," without demonstrating very clearly. I basically followed the instructions on her handout, which I could have done at home. Some of the students were completely clueless, and Joan spent a lot of time helping them and no time at all with those of us who were semi-competent. Or she'd just stop by, glance at my work, say "You're doing this wrong," and move on without helping me. I was not pleased.

But the two-hour lunch break was great. I spent way too much money on Rowan and Manos at Skein Lane, bought enough Koigu for a Baby Surprise jacket at Foxyknits, and visited White Lies to show off my camisole, which I was wearing. Joan had some excellent suggestions on finishing the Nicole lingerie that I will share in a future posting. The market was not very big, but there were some interesting new things.

We had a delicious lunch at the hotel's restaurant -- this, at least, seemed an improvement over Stitches, since everyone complained about the hotel food there. Spinnity had taken a Slim Stash Reduction class in the morning, and had a couple of adorable swatches to show off.

In the afternoon half of Joan's class, we started by grafting in garter stitch. Ack! More grafting! Then, believe it or not, we did mattress stitch. This, to me, is a beginner skill. I have done a LOT of mattress stitch already. But Joan, who knits her sweaters in the round then grafts the shoulders, hardly ever does it, so I guess she considers it to be a difficult skill.

At about 3:30, we actually got to some of the new stuff I was interested in learning, but we were running way behind schedule since there were so many beginners. We learned two nifty ways to join slip-stitch edges, both of which are very pretty. Then we rushed through 3-needle bind-offs, which I will have to review, but I was happy to learn them. We skimmed lightly over button bands, which I really could have used more work on, and blocking.

Joan is a brilliant knitter (her sample sweaters have graced numerous magazine and book covers), and her sweaters are always gorgeously finished. However, she is not a great teacher. I should mention that many of the beginner students around me seemed to be learning a lot, but I would say that the class was not as advertised, and therefore not right for me.

I should have gone to Nancie's Color Work with Short Rows class -- what a gorgeous swatch Spinnity had to show after that class! And what praise she heaped upon the divine Nancie!

As one student observed, the class subject matter itself is not necessarily what's important. A good teacher will always teach you something new. Nancie and Sally are at the top of the pantheon for me.

I did like one thing Joan had to say, which is particularly relevant to my White Lies designs experience: knowing how to finish something is your responsibility. A lot of pattern writers will not give you great directions, so you should figure out what works best for the garment and do that, regardless of what the instructions say.

I cast on for my second pair of fingerless gloves last night -- in Continental. They're green Karabella wool with a little zany Crystal Palace Squiggle at the cuffs, and they're pretty cute!


spinnity said...

Very well put! We can all use a good tip on mattress stitch or grafting. But.. if you are going to devote 4.5 hours to grafting and matress stitch, the class had better be called "Grafting and Matress Stitch".

Really excellent take-away point about the finishing. I hadn't thought of it that way! Finishing is my responsiblity, I'm in!

So.. have you been charged twice or not??

Wiz Knitter said...

Ah, I must eat crow! I went through my receipts and I don't think I have been charged twice. Won't know for sure until I see my next statement, which should arrive any day. What I did do was record the expense in Quicken, which is why I remembered it appearing somewhere. I behaved as if the money had already come out of my account.

Christina said...

I'm so sad I missed TKGA and the Continental Knitting Class with Nancie. :( I got pink eye on Wednesday and was told I needed to be quarantined until Sunday as I was highly contagious. Maybe I can find a LYS that's offering a Continental Knitting class? I so need to learn. Sorry to hear your finishing class didn't go as expected.

Oh, and I saw your comment about Manos and felting. I'd be happy to help anytime you need it!

~ Christina

Wiz Knitter said...

If you help me with felting, I'll help you with Continental! I thought Nancie's technique was quite easy to learn.