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by Susan Watkins
March 15, 2019
As a subscriber to countless yarn-related magazines and e-newsletters, I’m constantly presented with enticing invitations to join a Ravelry group or participate in a knit along (KAL). Yet, until recently, as intrigued as I was, I ultimately declined, leaving the participation in such “community” activities to others. I know my introvertedness was largely to blame, as I’ve never been one to gleefully leap into the unknown where I could possibly fail in front of a bunch of strangers. But this year, in keeping with my new year’s resolution to tackle at least one new knitting skill per month, I bit the bullet and signed up for Patty Lyon’s Labadee Cowl Video KAL. What a great decision! Not only did I learn how to do slipped stitch (mosaic) colorwork, but I witnessed knitters from across the globe encouraging one another to learn, to make mistakes, and to problem solve in a creative, supportive, and totally non-judgemental environment which left me eager to participate in more!
Imagine taking a 10-week, bottom-up sweater class at your local yarn shop. You show up at the first class, discuss the project, pick out your yarn, and begin working on your gauge swatch. You then leave the class with instructions to finish and block your gauge swatch at home. At the next class, you review your gauge, determine what size sweater you plan to knit, discuss customizing the pattern if necessary, possibly learn a new cast on technique, and then begin knitting your sweater, starting with the bottom ribbing. Your homework that week is to knit up to the armhole. Each week, you receive instruction and knit in class, finishing what you can’t get done in class at home in preparation for the next class. A Video KAL proceeds in exactly the same…only you never need to leave the comfort of your home, class size is unlimited (there were 800+ people in Patty’s KAL!), and you have more flexibility timewise, as the instructor is available at your convenience in the form of online and/or downloadable videos. The accountability that makes yarn store classes so appealing is built in, as “clues” (or “next steps” in the pattern) are released on a schedule. If you want to keep up with the class, you have to complete each section in the allotted time. But, if life gets in the way and you need a little more time…no worries! No need to schedule a make-up class or end-up with an unfinished project because the class has ended and your sweater is still on your needles.And if your schedule doesn’t permit you join the Video KAL when it is first announced…no problem. Patty’s videos live in perpetuity on her website and are accessible through Ravelry. Join at any time and you’ll receive all the same instruction as the eager beavers who signed up at the beginning. Plus, Patty and her crew monitor the chats and respond to questions no matter when they come in, so you can still benefit from the active participation of all the knitters who are online with you.
I chose Patty’s Labadee Cowl KAL as my first for three reasons: 1) Patty knows the Internet (i.e. she uses the internet better than anyone I know in the knittingverse) so I was confident she’d be well organized and her videos would be top-notch, 2) a cowl is a quick project so the KAL would be over before I knew it if I wasn’t a fan, and 3) I really wanted to learn about slipped stitch colorwork. I was right on all accounts.
I chose it also because I’d been dying to knit something in the DK-weight Trendsetter Merino VI that Izzy Knits stocks, and it seemed a good replacement yarn for the sport-weight, 100% superwash merino that the pattern called for. I knew I’d possibly have to alter my number of stitches to accommodate my gauge, but that was OK with me. And as it turned out…gauge became a huge topic of discussion in the KAL Ravelry group because a number of folks ran out of yarn precisely because they didn’t pay attention to it. Patty’s advice on the subject and the solutions she offered proved extremely helpful…and in my case, altered my knitting forever.
In the group, I posted a photo of two gauge swatches that I knit using the same yarn but different sized needles (US 4 and US 6), yet they both came out to the same gauge. Patty pointed out that I likely wasn’t using my needles to properly “size my stitches”. Huh? She recommended another one of her video classes called “Improve Your Knitting”, in which she explains it like this, “If you grab a one-cup measure and you scoop out a heaping measure of flour, you’re using the cup but you’re not really using the cup to measure.” Ahhhh! Though I was using a size 4 or 6 needle, I wasn’t using it correctly to get a size 4 or 6 stitch. You can actually see in the photo below, the difference in the size of my stitches before and after watching Patty’s “Improve Your Knitting” video. Both were knit using a size 6 needle, but look how much smaller the stitches in section 4 are compared to section 2. Section 2 was knit before watching the video!
In my next post, I’ll talk a bit more about the yarn I used for this project, as well as my experience so far with slipped stitch colorwork. For now, I’ll just say I’m hooked, and have already finished a second slipped stitch project that I can’t wait to show you!
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