This is my kind of class setup.
When I went to Knit Nation in 2010, I only went to the marketplace. And don’t get me wrong, it was awesome. But I couldn’t help eyeing up all the people perched on benches scribbling in notebooks or walking busily past with a half-knitted sampler clutched in their hands and wonder what delights I was missing out on by not taking classes. This year, I was perched at the computer and ready as soon as registration opened. I signed up for two classes that both started at 9am, which meant I got up at five o’clock in the goddamn morning for two days running—including a weekend!—in order to be in London on time. That, dear readers, is a sign of just how much of a draw I suspected the classes would be.
I wasn’t wrong. My first class was History and Methods of Lace Knitting, with the Is Really Famous On The Internet Franklin Habit. This is how you know this guy is a true knitter: he gave us each our choice of two lace repeat patterns, so everyone could knit while he lectured. Smart, smart man. The class was a bit of a stomping overview of the hows and whys of lace knitting, focussed on three different schools of lace knitting: Orenburg, Shetland, and Estonian. In each case, Franklin went through how (and why) each style of knitting began, details of its construction and style, and whether it’s still kicking these days. I’m familiar with Shetland and Estonian lace knitting in the sense that I’ve done scarves and shawls of each, but a lot of the history was new to me, and I especially liked learning about the different ways shawls were constructed—for example, Shetland shawls were often knitted into the center in four separate wedges, so when one was damaged it could be repaired without undoing the other three (yes, the thought of redoing even one wedge of a Shetland shawl gave me the vapors). As a bonus, Franklin also had several examples of different methods of construction or stitch approaches in the form of his own work, including his latest pattern, Anna, that I was rather blasé about online but is just gorgeous in person—I’ll definitely be knitting it. Plus, not to fangirl out, but he was delightful in person—incredibly knowledgeable, funny, and with a slight inferiority complex about whether he was allowed to lecture about Shetland knitting to people who might have actually, y’know, been to the Shetland Isles, in a really adorable way. Oh, and he already has London escalator etiquette down, so I think he qualifies as a transplanted Brit as much as any of us expatriates do.
My second class was harder to get to—that second five a.m. wakeup call was a doozy, so much so that I found myself bouncing off walls as I attempted to bumble my way towards coffee—but seriously, I know this sounds insanely nerdy to say about knitting but I mean it, blew my mind. It was Vintage Fit and Finishing, with Susan Crawford. I’m not sure what I was expecting—tutorials on edgings, maybe? This is the class I learned to crochet for, and we didn’t crochet a damn thing in class, but it was so much better than what I was expecting I am totally fine with it. Susan is pretty much a genius on all things vintage knitting, and she could have easily stretched this class out to a full-dayer—as it was she stayed for an extra half hour to show us some seaming techniques. It started with an overview of vintage clothing silhouettes, which sounds really basic (1920s = dropped waists! 1940s = shoulderpads!), but she went into enough detail about things like where sleeve caps should hit and how clothing was designed to fit that I have a whole boatload of marginalia surrounding her already-exhaustive handouts. She then went into how to measure yourself correctly, and how to approach altering vintage patterns to compensate for your figure in a way that won’t screw with the overall look of the garment. Again, this sounds obvious, but vintage knitting patterns are tricky beasts—in no small part because there was an assumption of knowledge that even experienced modern knitters are unlikely to have—so this entire section was golden. Finally, she showed us some finishing techniques using samples from her next book as examples, and oh, man. Even ignoring the fact that mattress stitching now makes so much more sense, and the way Susan casually tossed out a method of knitting your own period shoulder pad—the way she showed us to set in a sleeve alone would have been well worth my class fee. Seriously, there was some gasping aloud. Mostly by me.
Anyway, if you can’t tell from the hysterical gushing, both of my classes were amazing, and I left wishing I’d signed up for even more. (The fact that getting to Franklin’s class meant walking through the lecture room where the all-day Bohus class was being held, right past a table chock-a-block with amazing samples, DID NOT HELP.) In the meantime, I’ve added several more projects to my knitting queue so I can try out what I’ve learned. You know, because that’s exactly what most knitters need—reasons to knit more!