Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Lake views, lace-knitting and a whole lotta chocolate

That pretty much sums up the main themes of my weekend lace-knitting and design retreat with Evelyn Clark! It was held in a huge cabin on Lake Cavanaugh that has one entire wall of windows facing the lake, so there was a view from everywhere in the huge main room. Here's a peek at the view from the deck outside...

It was quite the setting to relax, learn and have fun! The view of the lake was there every time you looked up. The main room of the cabin was roomy and comfortable, with plenty of room to sit and knit at the classroom tables, the dining room, or on the big comfy couches around the big fireplace.

The lace-knitting workshop itself was fabulous! Evelyn Clark is one of the most gracious, funny and knowledgeable people you will ever meet. Her teaching style is relaxed and open, and she has limitless patience with questions. This was a big plus for me, as I was the beginner out of the entire group. The class time itself was 8 hours total, 4 hours each day on Saturday and Sunday. However, one big plus of this retreat was that Evelyn hung out with the whole group to knit and socialize for the entire weekend, so we had unlimited access to visit with her, hear some of her great stories, ask questions and continue our learning outside of the structured class time. I have been to workshops in the past where the instructors are only there during the actual class time, so this was awesome!

We had some basics review (new for me) on chart structure and reading, and different structures of lace scarves and shawls. Evelyn brought along tons of her beautiful samples, many from her upcoming book, to demonstrate various motifs and shapes, and how they can be combined into a piece. She also showed us a few great methods for joining new yarn while knitting that are more invisible and don't require weaving in ends. She showed us a great sewn join that is almost invisible and works when spit-splicing is not an option.

Evelyn then went on to show us how to combine various motifs in a piece with transition rows that make them flow together, rather than one motif ending and another abruptly beginning. We were given some motifs from which to choose to combine as we chose to make our own original scarf or shawl, and how to chart them out to make our own original designs.

At this point, my brain was hurting! While everyone else in the group had made many lace scarves and shawls already, this was all new knowledge for me. Luckily, Evelyn also had a few choices of motifs already charted that we could combine without making our own chart. I chose to go that route, since learning to read and follow a chart and start learning to knit my lace piece was enough for my poor brain to handle at one time. I wanted to get started knitting on my first lace scarf before I left so I could take advantage of all of the expert knowledge and help in the room! I still don't have a pattern for my whole finished piece, per se, so it will be challenging to see if I can follow all of the separate motif charts and transitions to come out with my finished piece!

The second day was a little easier, and Evelyn went over various edging techniques and showed examples from her samples. She also covered blocking techniques, techniques to use beads in the knitting, and some different cast-on and bind-off options. Whew! I hope I can retain even a small portion of all of the stuff I learned over the entire weekend. By Sunday afternoon, my brain was so overloaded, I thought it would pop! Even though I can't use all of the things Evelyn taught during the weekend, I have them in my mind and in the handouts to review and use later as I gain experience.

Here's a picture of part of the group on Sunday afternoon. About half are missing because they were off napping or enjoying the views. That's Evelyn standing in the center, with the dark hair and black shirt...

If you ever have the chance to take a workshop or class with Evelyn Clark, jump on it! She is one of the most knowledgeable women I have ever met, and if you hear about all of the projects she has going, you wonder how she makes time for it all! She is my lace-knitting idol and an unending fountain of knitting knowledge.

The only small downside of the workshop was that the publisher did not have her new books available on time, so we will have to wait a while longer to receive them. I can't wait to receive my copy! Evelyn made us a great folder of handouts to work from until then, as well as bringing all of the knit samples from the book!

Okay, so here is the debut of the small beginning of my first lace project. Although I brought laceweight yarn with me, everyone fell in love with the sportweight Monarch I brought along, and it has the Evelyn stamp of approval, so I decided to use it for my first scarf/shawl project (I'm not quite sure how big it will be, but probably more in the shawl category....). This picture is of the top of the shawl, starting at the center neck on top. It will go out and down in two adjoining triangles starting with a ripple motif, then transitioning into....?

I have an idea about the next part of the pattern, but don't want to reveal it until I see if I can manage to figure it out myself---LOL! Even though this is only a small portion so far, I'm still really proud that I knit from a chart for the first time, started with a totally new cast-on that I've never done before, and have (so far) not had to rip back any of it!

Overall, the retreat and workshop were fantastic! The best part was that I had a really steep learning curve to climb going in, and I actually managed to understand most of what was covered in the classes, learn a ton about knitting lace, and start my first project! I also had lots of fun meeting everyone and hanging out, since there were only about a dozen of us in total. We were well-fed, learned a ton, had fun, knitted lots, and there was unlimited access to chocolate. What more could a girl ask for?