So, since I promised you a post about the lace knitting class I took at the Black Sheep Gathering, here I am.
It was a six-hour course billed as “Essentials of Knitted Lace,” and as soon as I saw it in the catalogue I wanted to take it. Space was limited to 15 students, and seats would be given in order of registration… I had my check in the mail the very day registrations opened. I would have sent it priority overnight if I'd have thought it would make a difference.
Then came the fun of waiting several weeks for confirmation. I was in a bit of a tizzy, and the day I got the notification that I’d gotten in, I did a bit of a victory dance by the mailbox. Extensive YouTube searches have thankfully uncovered no video documentation of booty-shaking on my part, so at least I know my neighbors didn’t get me on tape.
Saturday 21 June, there I was checking in at 8 am, with a notebook, a bottle of water, and most every knitting needle I own. I was excited and nervous and absolutely ready to go.
I’ve been buying lace weight yarn as if I were afraid there was never going to be any more, and I took this class hoping for a good grounding in technique and methodology. Wow, did I ever get it.
The class was taught by Galina Alexandrovna Khmeleva of Skaska Designs, and one of the first things she told us was that she usually taught this material in a two-day session. We were liable to feel a little drained at the end of the day.
I learned a lot about Orenburg lace knitting that day. There is no purling in the Orenburg tradition, and no SSK decreases either. It’s all knit stitch, yarn-over, k2tog and k3tog. I’ve never really had the “purling hate” I hear about so much, but it is a little comforting to not have to keep track of directional decreases.
Galina had brought enough yarn samples of Jaggerspun Zephyr that we all got to take several with us. I picked these:
She got us right to work, doing the long-tail cast-on over two needles and starting in on some motif charts. One of the first personal lessons I got was about gauge. I was working with US 4 needles, and she pointed out that the holes in my sample were large enough to get the tips of my fingers through. Granted, I have small hands, but she advised me to switch to US 3’s instead.
And here’s the difference:
The bottom pattern, called Strawberry, was knit on the 4’s, and the top one, called Honeycomb, was done on 3’s. It’s easy to forget what a difference 0.25 mm can make, but there it was right in front of me.
After our lunch break, we cast on seven stitches and started working on an edging pattern. I got three points done and hope to finish the rest of a practice piece soon.
Orenburg shawls all begin with an edging, and when it’s the proper length you work some short rows to miter the corner and then pick up the slip stitches along the edge. After that, you pick up stitches along the cast-on edge, miter that corner, and carry on knitting your shawl. You work the border along with the body, and then knit the top border along with the top of the body. In the end, you graft the last corner, and there you have it.
It sounds more complicated than it really is, but it does demand a certain amount of attention, as well as a good eye for charts.
Galina was right; I felt drained at the end of they day, but I was also elated to have taken the class. I was so excited that I went home and started working with some cheap baby yarn and US 6 needles. I knit for far too long that evening, but I just couldn’t seem to stop myself. I wanted to use all my new skills and get them into muscle memory before I forgot the sound of Galina’s voice.
I got tired of the baby yarn though, it just wasn’t as nice to knit with as the Zephyr. So I’ve been working my way through the charts Galina included in her handouts.
I couldn’t resist going to the Skaska Design booth and picking up copies of Galina’s books, Gossamer Webs and The Gossamer Webs Design Collection. The first book has many stories from individual knitters, as well as a description of spinning the goat down these shawls were originally made from. The second book is all about the patterns. I recommend both of them quite highly.
Also, for all the lace knitters out there, if you ever get the chance to take a class from Galina, run, do not walk, to get registered. You won’t regret it, and you won’t forget it.