Saturday, January 9, 2016

the joy of tedium

I was going on a long trip and needed knitting--something that could keep me engaged for the 10 day trip I was taking. I was visiting knitting friends, we would spend lots of time at our needles, so--as you know--this is a serious issue for someone who can finish a scarf in 2 days or a sweater in a week!

In addition, I needed something that would not take a lot of space in my luggage but would keep me engaged for many hours of knitting. Okay, lots of time, not a lot of space. You suggest fine yarn? You would be right! And while the obvious solution is lace-weight shawl, that is not my style. Nor does its chart-checking suit the amount of time I would spend in serious conversation. What to do?

Well, I had seen a pillow made by a friend--modular, garter stitch, sock yarn--and thought, okay, that works. Fine yarn, easy stitch pattern. But I have 10 days, so let's make a sweater!

I first gathered my sock yarns, made a pile of colours that seemed to work (greens, browns, grays), knit a swatch . . . so far so good. But I did not want to travel with--let alone knit with--piles of tangly balls of sock yarn, so then I unravelled my swatch (after measuring it for gauge) to see how much yarn each square took. Eight yards! How many butterfly wraps in 8 yards? Thirty two! (Am I the only one intrigued by this four-to-one relationship???)

Okay, so now I know how much yarn each square takes. And I also know I need a whole lotta squares . . . which translates to a lot of time making butterflies! Where and when shall I do this rather tedious, advance task? At the car dealership! Perfect!

And so yes, after a couple of hours waiting at the dealership I had approx one hundred and twenty butterflies. (I was sitting in front of the service desk, wrapping, listening to an audiobook, totally in my happy place. But I know the man behind that desk was not intrigued by my wrapping nor my four-to-one relationship. He likely thought I was the most boring woman on the planet . . . as he turned back to his video game.)

The knitting of the sweater took two months! Wow! Yup, that's a long time! So much more than those 10 days. And it is one of the few garments to which I can answer that completely and totally inane question, "HOW LONG DID THAT TAKE TO KNIT???"

But you wanna know something?  The first thing I did when I finished was start another! Why did I do that? Well, those who know me know that's just what I do. But another answer is that I was soon going on an even longer trip--a month through S America, with Craft Cruises. All through that month-long trip, I worked through my (this time) red and orange butterflies, often enough wearing the original garment. (So when people asked that other most common question, "WHAT ARE YOU MAKING?" I could show them!)

I have to say that this garment is the most admired I have ever worn. The knitters of S America studied it, the Europeans on the cruise exclaimed over it, the young knitter-protographer on the cruise took its picture!  

And never did any knitter to whom I said "BUT IT TOOK TWO MONTHS TO KNIT!"  look in the least intimidated!  Aren't we amazing, that we can appreciate the beauty and joy of tedium?!?! I am so impressed with knitters who do not care how long something worth making and owning and wearing took to execute. In fact, the only question they ever asked was "When can I have the pattern?!!"
 




And so I wish you, for 2016, a tedious project of your own that gives you even a portion of the joy this one did me.

(Oh yes, in case you would like to see more photos, you can find it on Craftsy or Ravelry as the Memories Sweater--because I can remember every pair of socks that was made from each yarn!)

Friday, September 4, 2015

a half-price offer on my new CRAFTSY class

To get right to the point, I have a new Craftsy class--WEAR WHAT YOU KNIT: perfect sweater fit and style. It is based upon a few of my most popular workshops, including my true favourite--KNIT TO FLATTER AND FIT.

The class  had just launched. And what follows here is a half-price link. (You might have to copy and paste, but it will work.) Please feel free to pass along--to your knitting group, your yarn shop, your knitters' guild!

www.craftsy.com/ext/SallyMelville_5231_H
    Okay, so now I can give you a little information about the class subject?
    • It starts with a lesson in which we look at yarn as fabric so we can pick the right ones. And then you are given the information you need so you can re-gauge an existing pattern (because sometimes that perfect yarn does not match the gauge of the pattern we love).
    • Next there is a lesson in which we look at different styles and shapes to determine what you already know looks good on you. Included is information on how to modify existing patterns so they reflect this information. (An added bonus is what-you-need to make a lovely set-in sleeve that is both easy and that fits!!! No more cursing the set-in sleeve!)
    • Following that is a lesson that clarifies size and ease. This answers those questions: a) what size do I knit and b) is ease included? (Additional info in this class is what to do when you can't get the size you need or fall between sizes.)
    • Next is a lesson (that is probably the most enlightening) in which we get your relevant measurements. (The measurements-you-need are not scary but incredibly important. And mundane as this all sounds, it is huge and supported by visuals that show how important length is for different styles of sweaters.) 
    • Once you have those measurements, you need to know how to use them! So there is material on how and where to change a pattern so the garment fits you perfectly.
    • And finally,  we close with a wonderful lesson on STYLING--in which you see how important it is to wear your perfect sweater with the right style of pant or skirt. (For this, you are invited to play paper dolls, and how much fun is that!)
    Again, please check it out, and pass the half-price link along to anyone who might be interested. Spread the word! It's really important stuff! The bottom line of this class--and a line I repeat often--is that this work allows us to knit what we wear and wear what we knit. And when we do so, we honour our craft. How wonderful!

    Saturday, February 14, 2015

    If you know someone who needs to learn how to knit . . .

    And don't we all? Know someone who could benefit from the patience and relaxation and optimism and calm and general well-being that knitting brings us?

    I thought my daughter would forever be one of these. I did try to teach her as a child, but--my bad--I failed. My biggest mistake was to say "And so, you have 24 stitches: just try to maintain 24 stitches." She was too much of a perfectionist for that! Of course a 7 or 9 or 11 yr-old could not maintain 24 stitches!

    And so I thought knitting would do that skip-a-generation thing. After all, my grandmother knit and my mother did not. Maybe my grandchildren would? I'd just have to be patient.

    But then, the most amazing thing happened! One night, waiting for her to come home, I was teaching her artist/carpenter boyfriend (now her husband) to knit. She came home, looked at what he was doing, said (and I will never forget this) "I can do that," took his needles from him . . . and has been knitting ever since.

    What some of you already know is that we wrote two books together. What most of you do not know is that she has been teaching beginners for 10 years! And she is amazing at it--probably because she learned relatively recently so could relate.

    To my ever-lasting pleasure and pride, Craftsy has hired her to teach beginner classes. And they are wonderful! I am amazed ('though not sure why I would be) that her charm and intelligence and competence come through the camera. I am completely impressed at what she has taught herself and what she is able to teach others.

    Here are half price links for the first two (of three) of her classes. Please pass them along to anyone who needs to learn how to knit! (I do not have good luck with these links, so you might need to copy and paste them into your browser?)

    www.craftsy.com/ext/CaddyMelville-Ledbetter_4965_H






    www.craftsy.com/ext/CaddyMelville-Ledbetter_4964_H











    I never would have imagined this day and am so happy to share it with you!

    Saturday, December 20, 2014

    holiday discount + retirement project



    There is a very serious discount link at the end of this post!

     So, I turned 65 a short time ago, and--as I mentioned in my last post--this means I am "of an age" to call myself "retired." And truly, my life will be different . . . no more books (and the deadlines they produce) plus much less travelling to teach.

    And for my retirement, I bought myself a spinning wheel. I realized, at a fibre event last year, that this is what I wanted for my retirement. Along with the wheel, I bought some roving in a nice colour.

    And then I did pretty much everything wrong.

    I did not take a class.
    I did not read a book.
    I did not watch a video.

    I decided to just spin. If you had asked me what I knew about spinning, I would have said "Ask me what I don't know! The answer would be pretty much everything."

    Even so, yarn moved through my fingers, my feet moved, the bobbin filled up with . . . something: see photo at left.  Did it look like anything I could knit with? Absolutely not! Was it pleasant? Yes. Was I obsessed? I'd say not. I put it aside for a bit.

    Then it turned cold here--really cold. I was walking downtown and realized I needed one of those thick, soft cowls to pull up around my face. I thought I could spin one! I don't care how well spun it is: I could at least make enough for a cowl."


    So back to the wheel. I filled two bobbins with more of what you see to above. Then I realized (DUH!) that I needed to ply the two together. So I watched PLY TO KNIT on Craftsy (highly recommended) and proceeded.
     
    The resultant 2-ply was something I could knit.

    Did I have enough for a cowl? No idea! But I decided to knit and see.

    So I cast on with waste yarn.
    I knit until I ran out.
    I flipped it (to create a mobius).
    I grafted the cast-on to the last row.

     And here is the result!

    OMG, it is perfectly gorgeous!
    It is exactly the size, colour, texture, thickness, and comfiness I wanted. 
    I am smitten, hooked, obsessed!

    Do you remember your first finished project? Do you remember wearing this new thing and telling everyone "I made it myself!!!" Do you remember being SOOOO proud!!!!


    This is how I feel about my cowl! I am 12 years old again and so happy with what I have wrought!

    I would wish each of you to have this wonderfully enthusiastic I-made-it-myself-isn't-it-beautiful experience. But I think it's something that can only come when it is a new-to-you skill? I am not sure we can be as enthusiastic when we have mastery over our craft?

    Is there something you can give yourself to learn in the New Year that will take you to that place? If so, I would wish it or you.

    And to help you in that regard, here is a link to very much discounted Craftsy classes.

    : http://www.craftsy.com/ext/SallyMelville_holiday 

    Without Craftsy, I might not have finished my cowl, would not have had the same success, would not be so thrilled with all I have yet to learn!

    I wish the same for you! Have fun!!!

    Tuesday, July 29, 2014

    I think it's time . . .

    Warning: this post is mostly personal stuff, but there is a knitting offering at the end.

    You know how there are thoughts that occur to you as you get older--the ones that you previously thought unthinkable? Moving out of your home (into a retirement home or in with one of your kids)? Cutting your hair really really short? Getting rid of your car? Retiring? You see people around you doing these things, but you don't feel ready--and don't suppose you ever will be?

    And then . . . the thing kinda sneaks up on you . . . and you give it a little more thought . . . and before you know it, you start thinking it's time to do this! And once that thought occurs, you can't go back! It actually becomes something you look forward to!

    So, I did the first of these (the house thing) a year ago: I now share a renovated home with my daughter.

    And I did the second two things a month ago: I both cut my hair (pixie cut) and got rid of my car. (Doing the first contributed to the second. How, you might ask? If you have really short hair, you can take off a bike helmet and still feel presentable. So biking it--spring, summer, fall--makes giving up the car possible. Mind you, the winter is a whole other matter. Do you remember last winter???? Might have to re-think the car thing then.)

    And so, now, for the third: yes, I am preparing to retire. Not from knitting, not from writing patterns. But I have definitely retired from writing books. And I am preparing to retire from travelling to teach. 

    About the books . . . I am primarily a teacher, and everything I know about knitting has appeared in one book or another--especially the last one. If I simply want to publish patterns, I will do so on Ravelry. Besides, I am a grandmother three times over, and that is incompatible with book deadlines.


    About the travelling to teach . . . I was stuck in Little Rock, Arkansas, for 3 days of freezing rain, over my 64th birthday. I have nothing against Little Rock: the people are lovely (offered birthday cupcakes at the yarn shop, took me out to dinner, took me to see the Clinton Library which was so impressive I cried). But I have really bad luck with travel--delays, cancellations, missed connections, delayed luggage, weather--and I think I am getting too old to deal with it all.

    Talking to my family from the Holiday Inn in Little Rock, I realized that one year from that day I could retire. And once the thought occurred, I was hooked!

    Well, not completely: I would miss the students and the yarn shops and the events. But I will not miss the airports and hotel beds and the few days at home between. So my plan is to do maybe 6 gigs a year? Mostly the biggies--like Vogue Live, and Madrona--plus trips to wonderful places, plus whatever else comes my way. But again, no more than 6 gigs a year. My fall is still pretty full, but after that . . . we shall see. There is not much on my calendar for 2015.

    And--here's why this particular post today--I will continue to teach for Craftsy! I have had one class (Intarsia) available for 6 months, and I am very grateful for the nearly 1400 students who have signed up. (Who knew so many would want to learn this relatively demanding technique!)

    And now my second class is about to launch: Essential Techniques Every Knitter Should Know. This is based upon my, arguably, most popular class (Essential Skills), and I am thrilled they asked me to put it on their platform.

    As long as this class is out there, I feel that my best work is available. And I feel like I can stop all that travelling. You can get the information from the comfort of your home, and I can sleep in my own bed!

    So, for any of you interested, here is a coupon you can click for a really big discount. I hope you will check it out! And I hope to see you at some of the gigs I will still be doing. (I think you have to copy and paste the following line to get to the class and use the discount.)

    www.craftsy.com/ext/SallyMelville_3997_H

    Sunday, June 29, 2014

    I have a theory . . .


    . . . and not much to support it. But when I propose this theory in my classes, lots of students nod in agreement. So I think it’s valid. (Having said that, most of my students are women: I have not experienced what a man in the room might say?)

    So here is my theory—gleaned from many years of studying math, of teaching Study Skills plus knitting, . . . and of just hanging around women.

    When I teach a pattern drafting class, a large number of students love it. These women tend to be the doctors and engineers and nurses and math teachers—of which there are surprisingly many in our world. Knitting, for many good reasons, attracts women with these interests.

    But many of my female students do not love working with numbers—even when I insist that it is arithmetic we are doing and not, strictly, math! Even so, many profess to not love numbers. I myself like numbers and so have puzzled why women would say they don’t “do” numbers. Hence the following, unsupported theory.

    I believe that men are the romantics while women are more practical.

    A man wants to show his affection, so he brings home flowers. The woman might prefer he take out the garbage.

    The man suggests dinner out? (A truly practical man would have arranged a babysitter. But how rare is that?) The woman might love the idea of a night out with no cooking—but—truth be told—she might have already planned dinner so might prefer that he watch the children while she cooks it? Or better yet, how much would she love the man who watches the children and cooks dinner while she knits?!

    So back to the math. I believe that numbers, arithmetic, and math are taught in ways that appeal to the male of the species—and in a way that leaves some (and maybe many) of the girls behind. Algebra, as I remember it, was not taught with any application: it was just lines and theories. And the boys, being the more idealistic gender, ate it up. The girls might have asked how this was going to help them figure anything out??? But when, in my teaching of the set-in-sleeve, I show how Pythagorean Theorem explains why we don’t need pins when we sew in the sleeve cap, there’s a collective sigh in the room: so that’s what that was all about!

    I have not been in a public classroom for a long time, but I can only hope that things have changed since I went to school? That numbers, arithmetic, and math are taught in a way that excites the more practical members of the species?

    And speaking of the classroom, please consider using this link for a Craftsy class--at a reduced price. (One of the classes offered is mine, and I would be thrilled if you would join me. I can also tell you that teaching this class was one of the most professional and pleasant experiences of my life—in case you wondered.)


    Happy holidays to everyone! (July 1, Canada Day, for the Canadians. And, of course, July 4 for the Americans.)

    Thursday, May 8, 2014

    lessons from a movie

    I saw a wonderful movie on a plane the other day--a movie that my son recommended: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. This movie was beautifully done but also reminded me of two lessons I already knew while also teaching me another.

    Life is good if you have a supportive parent .(This one I knew.)
    Walter had a mom who had his back. This is a fabulous way to go through life. (In that exercise of dividing people into two types, I often divide life by those who have this and those who don't.) It's not essential, but it surely helps.

    My parents did not "have my back." (This was not altogether unusual in the 50's, a time I think of as cruel to children. This was certainly not everyone's experience, but it was mine.)  But I have learned that if you didn't have it, you can do your best to become it. That's a lesson I am most happy to have learned. And that's pretty cool.

    If you do what you love, and do it well, life is good. (This one I knew.)
    Not all of us get to "do what we love" for a living. And those who do are not always able to make a good living. But as we age, I think we learn to measure success differently. And finding a way to do what we love in the best way possible makes a life we can look back on with pride.

    The beauty of travel is in doing ordinary things in extraordinary places. (This one I did not know.)
    I think I, like everyone, go a little nuts when I travel--trying to do extraordinary things in the extraordinary places I are lucky to visit. But watching Walter play soccer in the Himalayas made me think of travel differently. How wonderful to watch him do this simple thing in that extraordinary place!

    In this vein, I am reminded that when I do knitting cruises (which I usually do once a year and which I highly recommend), I land at a port and . . . look for a yarn shop! Why have I often felt a little guilty about this??? As if there was something extraordinary I should be doing instead? What could be more special than shopping for yarn?! And what joy it brings--to me, to the shop owners, to the others on the cruise when we share our purchases . . plus ever afterwards when I remember "I bought this yarn in the Shetland Islands!"

    In future, I will put less pressure on myself when I travel--less pressure to do anything else but just walk down a street, smell the trees, have a coffee in a sidewalk cafe . . and buy yarn!