Those of you who are very careful observers of ritaLOVEStoWRITE may have noticed that for the first time in over a year I did not post a blog on Friday. SCANDALOUS to be sure! I had one in the works but then I ran out of time before I had to leave for a very special weekend of knitting… the somewhat mis-named “KNITTERS DAY OUT”
Knitters Day Out (KDO) offers classes for knitters at all points on the experience spectrum. All you need to be able to do for a beginner class is cast on, knit, purl and cast off.
Most classes offer specialty techniques for more advanced knitters, like the Socks, Two at a Time on Circular Needles class that we took on Friday night with instructor Leslie Broznak. Socks can be intimidating projects PERIOD, but to try to do them two at a time on circular needles. It was a tough class. The set up was an exercise in confusion — which is why we took the class and didn’t try to learn the technique from a book or YouTube video. Leslie, like more knitters I’ve met, was the model of patience, and provided hands on mini tutorials as needed around the classroom. Still we lost a few folks along the way. They quietly packed up their needles, thanked her for her efforts and admitted this method just wasn’t for them. (I don’t have any pictures from my sock class, my fingers were too tied up in yarn and cables needles to grab for my iPhone to take any photos. Sorry)
One of Kathy Zimmerman’s Aran sweater designs (this one graced the pages of a national knit magazine)
Our Saturday morning class was Aran Knitting with Kathy Zimmerman. Kathy took us through the interesting history of Aran Knitting, the style of Irish fisherman’s sweaters that originated from the small islands off the west coast of Ireland (Inishmore, Inishmaan and Inisheer).
People have lived on the isles for almost 4,000 years and, until recently, the Islanders made a living from farming and fishing. Outdoor work in this harsh environment created a need for warm, protective and practical clothing. Thus, the Aran sweater was developed. It is characterized by intricately patterned garments that involve lots of cables, bobbles and other textures. [Kathy Zimmerman’s Aran Knitting course packet]
Aran sweaters tell a story by the type of stitches and cables the knitters chose to use. A Grandmother might choose a honeycomb pattern for a child’s sweater to wish him or her a sweet life. Or she might add an “OXO” pattern to indicate hugs and kisses.
Some of the dozens of samples that Kathy Zimmerman brought to class to explain Aran Knitting.
The craft of knitting was handed down generation to generation by oral tradition by family members. A parent (both men and women knitted), grandparent, aunt or uncle, would show the next generation how to weld their needles to concur a particular pattern. “The original stitch patterns could often be linked to a family , village or region. ” [Ibid] But the idea that the sweaters were knitted in particular patterns as a means of identification — so that a fisherman lost at sea could have his remains identified by his sweater — was more folk tale than reality. And it was a folk-lore that the nascent Irish sweater industry of the 1900s was happy to incorporate into its publicity efforts when selling the sweaters to tourist.
Aran sweaters have become fashion garments. The inhabitants have established a thriving tourist industry for visitors interested in Celtic history or wanting to escape the stress of modern-day life. [Ibid]
Cables are made by placing stitches onto a spare needle, placing the needle to the back, knitting a stitch or two then going back to the stitches on the spare need and knitting them. By doing this you create a twist in the fabric. The next row (the back row) is the recovery row, no cabling is done on this row, you just knit the knit stitches and purl the purl stitches. But on the following row you are “working” again and the pattern will have moved a bit so the cable stitch is slightly to the right or maybe you’ll bring the needle to the front this time so the cable will go the other way… In the end what could have been a flat garment is instead a 3-D image of diamonds and ropes.
My bestest knitting buddy Sheila (front) picks up a cabling technique in our Aran class.
One of the really cool things about KDO is that the participants are always willing to help out each other and you are always picking up some trick or the other.
The amazing Kathy Zimmerman taught our Aran Knitting class on Saturday morning. She was informative, patient and generous with her knowledge and her chocolate. THANKS Kathy!
Green wool always calls to me. I’ve made an afghan in shades of the stuff and I still love it. Maybe it is the Irish in me. And since I choose this wool for my Aran class I was feeling doubly blessed by the Emerald Isles.
Lunch at KDO is always a gourmet affair and is included in the price of the weekend.
The Knitter’s Market takes over the conference center (and a few extra rooms and hallways). We picked up yarn, kits and notions. It is fun just to walk through and see all the new options and colors available. (This is just a fraction of the Market.)