Friday, 11 November 2011

Fairly Isle

I mentioned a few posts ago about going to the annual knitting retreat hosted by my LYS, Wolseley Wool.  There were opportunities to take up to three classes but I'm an underachiever so I only took two, only one of which was actually somewhat successful.  The successful class was taught by Odessa, one of the co-owners of WW, and it was on learning how to do fair isle knitting by knitting a small project - in this case it was coffee sleeves.  We were each given a kit full of tiny balls of Cascade 220, and a sheet with a few patterns on it.  Wanting to push myself (but not too hard, I repeat, I'm an underachiever), I picked the pattern that had five colours instead of three, but according to Odessa was still one of the easy ones.  The starting out was nothing I hadn't done a bazillion times before... just a few rows of 1x1 rib in the base colour.

After that is where it got interesting.  The first two-colour row of the pattern I picked required switching between the two colours for every stitch.  Easy to keep track of, but annoying if you're dropping the yarn between every stitch.  Odessa had suggested a few different ways to avoid dropping the yarn every time you are changing colours, and I decided that the method I was going to try was by holding the foreground colour in my left hand and knitting those stitches in the Continental style (my usual method of knitting), and holding the background colour in my right hand and knitting those stitches in the English style (I had never knitted this way before).  Needless to say, it took awhile before I didn't feel like the, um, most "special" kid in the "special" class.  My brain kept chanting clear, simple instructions at my hands (pick that stitch, wrap the next stitch, now pick the next one, and wrap the one after that, etc.) and my hands were like "Hurr durr derp?"  I swear, my hands were even drooling.  Okay my palms were sweating but that's basically the same thing right?

So anyway, the completion of each row felt like I had won a bloody effing war.  I had never concentrated so hard in my life, except for maybe when I was knitting my very first lace project, but that's another story.  My hands were cramped, my brain hurt from all the fruitless chanting, and if anyone said anything I felt like yelling at them, "SHUT UP I'm TRYING to KNIT over here!"  But slowly, surely, the pattern started revealing itself.  By the end of the class I was about half done the first sleeve.  By the time the retreat was over, my brain had wrestled my hands into submission and the completion of each row felt more like winning a round of rock paper scissors - still awesome, but much less epic.

I didn't finish knitting the coffee sleeve until I was back in the comfort of my own home.  Then came perhaps the worst part of the whole process: weaving in TWENTY FOUR ENDS.  Yes, I counted.  That's the downside to multi-colour fair isle knitting.  Every time you switch colours there are ends to weave in, and I have no love for weaving in ends, but I'm enough of a perfectionist that I can't leave them unwoven.

FINALLY, I had the finished project:

It was a lot of work, but I was hooked.  I made the other two patterns that came with the kit over the next week:

Another piece of advice that Odessa had given us was that blocking makes fair isle sparkle.  So I steam blocked the crap out of them (I had never steam blocked before so it is possible that I did it wrong), and they still look about the same:

But I don't really care enough to re-block them to make them the perfect shape.  Also I'm not sure why the one with the birds is bigger than the other two.  I'm not too worried about it at this point.  I don't even drink coffee.

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