Feb
05
2011

  Strick-ly Skirts Workshop

I haven't taken a class on anything in forever, mostly because it's a huge time commitment since most involve a 30-minute minimum commute each way, in addition to class time. I can't take W with me during the day, and in the evenings once he's in bed, I'm generally too tired to feel like going out for another several hours.

But when I got an email from my local yarn shop about a weekend full of knitting workshops (they have a visiting teacher down from CT for a few days), I signed up! There were a few that looked interesting, but I knew I couldn't leave W with T all weekend without suffering a large amount of payback in the following days, but I figured T wouldn't mind watching W for an afternoon. So I went to the Strick-ly Skirts workshop.

It's called that since it's taught by Candace Eisner Strick, using her techniques for knitting skirts. The main innovation is that she starts knitting around the hipbone, and uses a large pre-made waistband for the top (as opposed to knitting an extra few inches, folding it over, and using elastic in the casing. She found some Miley Cyrus tights for $3 at Wal-Mart, so she got a pair that fit, cut off the legs, then sewed the skirt to the top part. About 4" or so of the tights are used as a waistband. She also did the same thing with a pair of Danskin shorts she found. What you use doesn't matter so much, as long as it's a knit that doesn't ravel, and it fits you in the waist.

I like this technique, since I could theoretically wear the same skirt both during and after pregnancy, if the waistband is stretchy enough. I can always put something like a 14" stretch band at the top for maternity wear, then all I'd have to do later is trim it down to a few inches, et voila, regular skirt.

She also taught us various techniques for increasing stitches. She didn't use any individual stitches I hadn't already seen in my knitting books, but I did appreciate the discussion of the various "proper" ways to use each kind. Armed with this knowledge, I don't have to rely on a printed pattern, I can pretty much come up with my own design. When using these various increases in the past, I'd wonder why the pattern would use fewer (or more) stitches on one side or another of the increase yet the thing would still wind up looking symmetrical. Now I know. Although of the three methods we tried (we knit a little sample), I think I prefer the one where you don't have to remember to alternate on either side of the project and you don't have to do any extra maneuvering of the stitch markers.

Next we learned a trick to add a layer (like a ruffle, but it could be anything) to a row. If you're in stockinette stitch, knit the row where you want the attach in garter, so it sticks out on the right side. Then you can pick up and knit the stitches that bump out to the top (although hold the project upside down so they will be the bottom from a working vantage-point), and when you flip the thing over it will cover the other half of the stitches. I don't know that I'm really doing justice to the technique through this description, I'm not experienced writing about knitting.

We got a bit of instruction on how to design skirts-- how many gores we might want to use, whether to space the increases to come all in the beginning rows or just top half of the skirt, or all the way down, and the different effects our choices will have on the finished project.

And we knit another sample that used stockinette stitch to keep even panels with garter-stitched gores of increasing width. Although we didn't finish this sample in class, so I'll have to refer to our project sheet to see exactly how it's done. But it seems straightforward enough, and she had finished skirts on display, and it looks very nice.

Most of the women there seemed to have grown children (although most looked like they were probably within 10 years of my age) so they have a lot of time to knit. I don't know if I'll have time to knit a skirt for myself, although the instructor did say she thought they went more quickly and easily than sweaters since they are just round and you don't have to fuss with sleeves or seams or anything. I know W's little diaper covers go pretty fast, so I think it might be realistic that I would have the patience to at least knit a short skirt (especially since it's just from the hipbone down with the attached waistband-thing).

Oh, and we learned how to make a petal hem using Japanese short rows. I've used short rows in the context of patterns before, but always in the middle of a project, not at the edge. So it's nice to know a finishing option that's a little more fun than a straight edge.

I think the biggest impediment to me knitting a skirt is priority more than time. I really want to finish W's baby book before b2 arrives, and I'd also like to finish the two small-needle projects I have half-completed. I'm approaching a year on the @#$@$ pair of lace socks I started last February, so I'd be very happy to get those done. I also have a little monkey toy that's been on another set of needles since last spring that I would like to finish up. It's so hard for me to pick up old projects once I lose momentum on them, but if I'm eager to start a skirt, that might be enough to give me the discipline I need to finish up the lingering stuff. I've already decided to frog a mitten that I nearly finished before Christmas rather than finish. The problem was that even with the smallest pattern and the smallest needles I could use with that yarn, the yarn was still bulky enough that W wouldn't fit in those mittens until he was 4 or 5 years old. And rather than store mittens that long, I'll just frog the one and free up the yarn to use it for something else in the meantime. It's more of a yarn for a baby, anyway, than the little boy W will be in a few years.