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The Future of Knitting
by Ellene Warren, Designer



Five years ago I was knitting for relaxation, but earning money by designing and fabricating custom clothing, one of a kind pieces, costumes, whatever interested me. I was also teaching children and accepting an occasional interior design or graphics job. I wandered into a LYS and came out with more yarn than I knew what to do with, so I started researching knitting machines on the internet and was sucked into the cyber-knitting vortex, a place where I am quite joyful to dwell and have no plans to exit.

As my skills in both hand and machine knitting increased, I found myself devoting more and more time to knitting and unwilling to take on other types of work. My last interior design job was a complete remodel of my own house and all my sewing paraphernalia except what I need for knitwear, plus all my huge fabric stash, except what I need for handbag linings, went into storage. I created a wonderful knitting studio (too small now, as my stash has probably tripled in the last 3 years) with skylights, and here I sit, knitting, designing, and writing patterns, all day, every day, 7 days a week. When I am not at the gym or being mom or wife, here I am. I never go anywhere without my knitting - one of the things I love is its portability. I never watch tv without knitting. I listen to podcasts and audio books and netfilx dvds while knitting if I don't have to concentrate too hard, so I feel like I am multi-learning!

It used to be I was the only one at a meeting who was knitting. Now I always see several others. People are always coming up to me to inquire or comment or talk about their own passion. I used to save my samples so they would be nice for my classes, but I have stopped teaching now and enjoy wearing them when I go out. My little vinyl boots with the handmade socks showing through, scarves, totes, sweaters, jackets. At home, I wear mostly jeans and t-shirts, but I really love wearing my creations and many people have told me they were inspired to knit by seeing what I've made. So many have told me they want to go beyond the scarf. So many have also confessed to being obsessed. "All I want to do is knit!" Recently the cantor at our temple started knitting and every week we have a little knitting discussion while I wait for my son at religious school. I don't bother going home during his session. It would be a waste of time driving back and forth when all I would be doing once I got home was knitting anyway.

As for the future: knitting is so satisfying, challenging, and stimulating on so many levels. I do believe that a percentage of those who came into knitting because of the novelty yarns and garter stitch scarves will pursue the challenge of developing their skills and find themselves to be knitters for the rest of their lives. Probably more people will drop out of knitting, or already have, as the novelty of novelty yarns grows un-novel. They will move on to the next hobby, or more likely, the next thing they can shop for. So many hobbiests have told me they enjoy purchasing the supplies and dreaming of the projects more than the actual process of creating.

I think yarn companies that have grown huge quickly because of their expensive novelty yarns will find themselves with a lot of unwanted inventory. Likewise, LYS's and webstores that have not cultivated real knitters from their clientele who came to make scarves will close their doors. Many designers will move onto other forms of creative expression. Magazines and book publishing will fall back as well.

But I think that after things level off again, the plateau will be higher than it was before the spike. If we look at Knitting as an entity that is evolving, we can see that a tremendous thrust forward can result in a permanent expansion. As for me, right now I am a Knitter with a capital K. As I sit amidst all my yarns and books and accessories, I still feel an incredible rush of creative juice flowing through me. I will continue to knit and design knitting as long as I feel this.

But first and foremost, I am a creative entity who is evolving. Wherever my future leads me, I will always be a person who seeks to create beauty as I define it. So even if someday I set aside my pointy sticks and move onto whatever, I will have evolved creatively from my passion with knitting, and also I will know that my creative efforts joined synergistically with those of many other creative spirits and together we helped Knitting evolve!

Why Should We Continue Our (Knitting) Education
by Ellene Warren, Designer



           "But I already know how to knit (crochet). What do I need a class for?" Many of you might be thinking.

There are a number of reasons why it's a good thing to continue our education and over the next few issues of our newsletter, I will outline the most important ones.

Some people compare the mind to a muscle. If you don't use it, you lose it. As many of us enter 'those' years, anything we can do to keep our synapses firing away helps remedy the dreaded 'brain flab'.

I prefer to think of the mind as a beautiful mansion. When we are young and in school, our minds are open and flexible. The possibilities seem limitless. When we finish with school, we become more set in our ways, more boxed in. Unless we continue to seek new knowledge and experience, we start living in one room, mentally speaking.

Why live in just one room? "But it's comfortable here and I have everything I need," some of you might respond. To which I say, "Why not take advantage of what is rightfully yours?"

Sure, it's hard to open a door that has been almost welded shut after years (or decades) of neglect. Cleaning up the cobwebs and clearing the rust off the hinges sometimes seems too great an effort. I remember when I started learning to use a computer my brain actually hurt. But I persisted and now have creative abilities that have changed my life beyond measure.

So start throwing off the dust of complacency and begin to explore the the rest of the mansion of your mind. Have you always loved lace? Does entrelac call out to you? Cables? Fairisle? Pick a technique that intrigues you and get a book, try a pattern in a magazine, take a class. Alternate your knitting between the relaxing and mindless kind and the new and challenging. See for yourself the rewards it will bring.

Why Should We Continue Our (Knitting) Education, Part 2
by Ellene Warren, Designer



        In the last issue, I discussed the benefits of keeping our minds active and open by learning something new. In this issue I will discuss what is perhaps the number one reason many people like to take knitting classes.

Socialization! I know for me, this is the main reason I teach. Working at home on projects I share only with my family and a few friends, I begin to feel isolated and alone. And let's face it, my friends and family can only appreciate my work to a certain degree, and that is mainly if they are the recipient of said item. They could care less about the difference between a right slanting and left slanting decrease!

My husband, bless his heart, takes interest in my new yarns and patterns for a few moments when I direct his attention to them. My son just moans at the sight of another bag of yarn coming in the doorway in my arms. As soon as he ascertains that what is in the bag is not edible, his interest evaporates.

At one point he insisted that he be allowed to have a new pet every time I acquired a new knitting machine. So far the count is: knitting machines - 5, pets - 1.

But fellow students in a knitting (or crochet) class have instant rapport. Endless discussions on yarns, magazines, patterns, events, products and designs are welcome, encouraged and supported. In a classroom setting or an informal gathering of fiber enthusiasts at the table in your LYS (local yarn shop) you will find like-minded individuals who share your interest, fascination and obsession!

Not only will fibers be discussed, many women (and a few men) find that a gathering of like minded knitting and crochet enthusiasts offers the type of camaraderie similar to that in the sitcom 'Cheers'. Personal lives are discussed. Children, relationships, life and death issues. Politics, entertainment, you name it. Yarn instead of beer - that sounds good to me!

Not only have I expanded my knowledge and techniques, I have made dozens of new friends, a few of whom have become more than 'knitting buddies".

So - expand your circle of friends! Expand your knowledge! "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name..."

by Ellene Warren, Designer

By now I hope to have convinced you to try a new knitting or crochet class. Here are some tips on how to get the most from your class.
  1. Be prepared! Just like the scout motto, being prepared will ensure a positive and complete experience in your class. Many instructors post supply lists on their websites. Others leave lists at the store where the class will meet. Don't expect the clerk at the store to automatically inform you of the needed supplies. Sometimes they are too busy or unfamiliar with the list. Take it upon yourself to find out what you will need.

    Most other students won't mind loaning you their scissors if you forgot one, but not having the correct needles or yarn might make your project impossible to begin, and you will waste time gathering up and purchasing supplies after the class has already started. Whenever possible, purchase your supplies from the store where you are taking the class. Many stores give the entire class fee to the instructor, planning on making their profit from the sale of supplies. It is simple economics that if offering classes is not profitable to the store, the store will not be offering more classes. If there is homework, make sure you have completed it prior to arriving. You could waste a good portion of the class knitting that gauge swatch or putting beads on the yarn before you can begin the project.

  2. Make sure your skills correspond to the level recommended for the class. If you are an intermediate knitter, you will be bored if the class includes basics such as long-tail cast on or right and left slanting decreases. Conversely, if the class is not for beginners and all you have ever made are garter stitch scarves, it is unrealistic to expect the instructor to take time from the class to teach you how to purl.
    If you're not sure from the class description what skill level is recommended, most instructors would be glad to talk to you prior to signing up to make sure you have found a good match for your skill level.
  3. Arrive on time. Other students who did arrive on time shouldn't have to wait while the teacher gives what would essentially be a private lesson so the late-comer can catch up.
  4. Listen. This seems obvious, but there are some who are off doing their own thing while the instructor is explaining something, and then need it to be repeated for their singular benefit.
  5. Pick your seat with thought. If you are left handed and the instructor is right handed, seating directly across from the instructor enables you to mirror (his) her movements. Not everyone can sit next to the instructor, who under normal circumstances, only has two sides. But if you have a learning disability, a hearing disability, or any other special reason why you need to be next to the instructor, be sure you discuss this with (him) her prior to class.
    If the class is being held in a busy store with a lot of distracting activity taking place that makes it hard for you to hear or concentrate, be sure to let the teacher know so your seat can be moved. I have taught classes with one student on either side of me and two others sitting behind us, between me and the students next to me.
  6. Ask questions. It is your class. If something is not clear, let the teacher know. You might not be the only one who didn't get it. Stay with the class. Don't work ahead on the hand-out and then expect the teacher to jump ahead to answer your question, but if you are confused, you have the right to politely request clarification. Teachers have been known to misspeak or make mistakes when printing hand-outs, and you may have found one.
  7. Ask for more if you need it. If at the end of the class, you feel you have not learned what you need to know to complete the project or use the technique on your own, and you were in a class that was suitable to your skill level, be sure to let the teacher know. I believe that most teachers sincerely want you to have success with their classes, and are willing to work out an arrangement to ensure that end. I am always willing to meet again with a student who needs a little more help, and I also offer any student who wants to repeat a class a 50% discount on the second time around. Perhaps your instructor would do the same.
And now for a few suggestions for student classroom etiquette. Many of these things apply to teachers, too.
  1. Cut idle chit-chat as much as possible. Some people can not concentrate on working with their hands when their mouths are moving. You might not be one of those, but the student next to you might be. If you're taking a class with a friend who wants to talk to you continuously, you might consider changing seats.
  2. Don't bring drinks or food to the table. The project you drown might not be your own. Then again, it might be. I was in a huge classroom at a national event. A man had his venti Starbucks on the table in front of him. A woman with an enormous knitting bag was passing through the isle in front of him to take her seat and guess what happened? Not only did he have coffee colored yarn, his clothing was soaked. I hope the coffee had a chance to cool down before it happened.
  3. If someone offers you a breath mint or a piece of gum, take it. They might be trying to tell you something.
  4. If you enjoyed the class, let people know. If you can, share pictures of the completed project with your instructor.
  5. If you have a complaint or a problem, discuss it privately and directly with the person involved.

This article was published in the Spring issue of the Stitches Gazette. To get information on becoming a subscriber, go to the Stitches From the Heart website.
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Copyright 2007 Ellene Warren