It’s almost two weeks since I went over to Rowan in Holmfirth

for the Design Your Own Knits workshop with Sarah Hatton, and I’ve just about absorbed the things I learned… it was pretty intense, but not actually being able to knit didn’t matter much. [Yikes – my inner editor was obviously on holiday here – what I meant, in amongst the double negative, is that it was fine even though I couldn’t knit. Write for a living? Moi?] And I’m much better prepared for when I can actually wield those needles.

(My silence since the workshop was due to the Harlech Christmas Craft Fair, of which I am one of the organisers, and not to any major wool-related injury, though The HCCF can result in MWRI, and has done in the past – the Great 2008 Baby Beanie Marathon left its scars, for instance.)

It was a wonderful weekend, despite the spooky weather on the Sunday – though as we discovered when we left a little early to drive back to Wales, the atmospheric fog was confined to the valley bottoms. Bright sunshine up above…

We began our work by coming up with some rough ideas for designs, and I was immediately interested by the sheer variety and range of what people wanted to try and knit – from recreating a much-loved commercial sweater to creating draped garments which would require a a toile to work out the construction. I felt my contribution – strongly influenced by my love of vintage and a sweater seen at the Shetland Museum – was a little pedestrian by comparison.

Nothing unusual in the construction of either.  No top-down, no knitting from side to side, no wild armholes (but matching the patterns and working out the repeats on the lower one would probably be enough of a challenge). I’ve done some designing before but just shawls and really complicated things (yeah right) like cabled cushions, though that did help me to understand about stitch counts and pattern placings, and meant that not being able to join in the next part – knitting some simple wrist warmers and putting a design on them – didn’t have a negative impact.

I was able to spend some time wandering about and doing my silly hand exercises after all that writing, so I must have looked more than usually bonkers. But it did give me a splendid opportunity to get a closer look at some of the designs from recent Rowan books. Very good indeed to see the real things, albeit in sample sizes. 

The great thing about two-day workshops – at least as far as I am concerned – is the time you have to really absorb things. If you miss out on something, you can go back and revisit it until you do get it. And this became more necessary on the Sunday, when the maths started.

Calculators out!

I loved it – there were so many tips and so much helpful information, and if I can decipher my notes I have almost everything I need for a basic design. There were so many resources: pattern books, glossy mags, garments. Some I’d not seen in any detail before – the four Barbara Walker Stitch Treasury books, for instance. Seen them at places like Wonderwool and online, but not had a chance to get down and dirty with them. They’re good – but I’d built them up into near perfection and was personally more impressed with the Harmony guides. Unexpected workshop benefit number one.

Perhaps we got a little distracted by trying to make some of the more adventurous or unusual designs work, but there was still plenty of really sound content. There was also much wandering about – not just me this time – and a lot of trying on of sample garments (well, by those among us who were a conventionally shaped size 10, ho ho; those who weren’t spent time examining their construction. Er – the garments’ construction!). And of course there were tea and coffee breaks…

not to mention the wool sale. Very scary.

I’d not experienced this before. I was a yarn-sale virgin. Yes, I have been to a Rowan workshop at the Mill, but we arrived after the plunder of the Sale Bins. This time, the sale stock didn’t come out until the coffee break on Sunday, and it was hysterical. Remember those newsreel shots or feature-film recreations of the last helicopters out of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War? Edit out the US embassy gates and the Vietcong, edit in more yarn – and you’ve got it. Yikes again.

Ah. I suppose I’d better ‘fess up.  I did manage to get something, after most had gone and I’d been literally growled at by one woman for approaching her box. Five balls of Pure Silk in a lovely oyster pink – it will make a lovely shawl. I know just the lace pattern I want to use.

(And the colours, the colours, the colours – I took lots of pictures in the area around the Mill, and the echoing colours just leapt out at me. More to follow in the next post – my broadband is running like a slug for some reason. Who knows?)


12 thoughts on “Workshopping

    1. kate Post author

      It was so good to feel I could still do something knitterly – and also know that I can plan my little heart out for when I can knit properly again. I’ve even been going though the stash to find a suitable project!

  1. heikeknits

    I knew you would have a ‘ball’ even without being able to knit and I know exactly what you mean by the madness that is the yarn sale. I look forward to getting a deatiled account of your design when you are ready and able. Hope the Christmas Fair was a success too? 🙂

    1. kate Post author

      You were right – and I’m glad I’m not alone in thinking the yarn sale was insane! What made me giggle was the fact that some of the most enthusiastic sale-grabbers had been explaining that they had to hide their huge stashes from their partners not 5 minutes earlier – addiction, what addiction?

      The Christmas Fair was FAB – there are some shots on ArtisAnne’s blog (link in my blog roll). Christmas! Eek!

  2. Artis-Anne

    Didn’t get much of a chance to chat about your weekend away last time I saw you , I wonder why 😉 It does sound like a very good workshop ad a great weekend had by all 🙂

    1. kate Post author

      It was very interesting – I think some got more out of it than others, but that’s the nature of workshops. I went into it with a clear aim, which I think helps (that would be understanding how to design for my handspun, if – no! – when I can spin properly again)…

    1. kate Post author

      It was lovely, and I thought Sarah Hatton was good – gave us plenty to think about… this was my second mill-trip, and I was impressed with the last one (Colour) too. I just adore workshops!

    1. kate Post author

      It was funny at the time too – quite difficult not to laugh (but I did think I might have been torn limb from limb had I done so)… One minute a normal person, next minute – well, Trainspotting‘s about right. Yersssssss…..

  3. Lindsay

    What a fantastic workshop – I think I would have spent my time looking at everyone else’s work and the sample knits and failing totally to grasp how to size things and design stuff (I’ve very basic knitting skills, I just make pretty yarn!). Yarn sale sounds very scary – handbags at dawn stuff…

    1. kate Post author

      WEll, I sort of did – I had a licence to wander about because I couldn’t do the little knitting project, and there was some lovely work. The Yarn-Sale Scavengers knit really, really beautifully…

      (I wish I made pretty yarn. I make – sorry, that should be ‘made’ at present – yarn with lumps.)
      (I could always call it ‘art yarn’!)


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