3KCBWDAY6 In which meditations on my skills devolve into abject worship of Clara Parkes

We’ve arrived at day 6 of the third annual knitting and crochet blog week. Today’s task is to contemplate the status of my skills. Or, more properly, my “skillz,” because I think it’s important not to be too vain about your abilities. A “z” puts a pin in that one nicely.

Below is the description of today’s challenge from www.eskimimimakes.com:

Improving Your Skillset
How far down the road to learning your craft do you believe yourself to be? Are you comfortable with what you know or are you always striving to learn new skills and add to your knowledge base? Take a look at a few knitting or crochet books and have a look at some of the skills mentioned in the patterns. Can you start your amigurumi pieces with a magic circle, have you ever tried double knitting, how’s your intarsia? If you are feeling brave, make a list of some of the skills which you have not yet tried but would like to have a go at, and perhaps even set yourself a deadline of when you’d like to have tried them by.

Today, I’m attending my very first knitting convention, Yarnover, in the Twin Cities. I’m very excited. I’m taking two classes (blended intarsia and a sock lecture) and I hope to squeeze in a little shopping as well.

Fiber is so hawt.

What better place to meditate on the status of my skills than at a convention like this? I’ll be surrounded by amazing, inspiring knitters. There will be plenty of accomplished knitters there–higher life forms–whose knowledge and abilities will make mine look like childish fumbling. And there will also be beginners and intermediate knitters, like me.

These knitters are so advanced that their whole bodies have turned into wool.

Throughout the day, I plan to update this blog, twitter style, with my thoughts about my skill set. What do I experience that makes me feel proud? What do I see that makes me feel like a paramecium? It should be a fascinating study.

Blended Intarsia Class with Susan Newhall

9:15 am. I feel so privileged to be taking a class with the person who invented this knitting technique. And hey, at least I can be pretty sure that no one else in this class has done this before either.

9:47 am. I have finished the set up rows for the diamond scarf we’re knitting in class. Never has seed stitch made my hands shake so much. Performance anxiety.

10:22 am. For the first time I’m happy to be a thrower. Throwing is easier for blended intarsia. Go me.

10:58 am. During break classmate is showing off a project. “Details” scarf with flames like a hot rod. Zounds. And she designed it herself. Double Zounds. I wish I had gotten a picture of it.

My Blended Intarsia scarf... or at least the portion I finished in class.

11:40 am. Says Susan Newhall, who has just sketched a tree on the whiteboard: “that looks like a dead body.” Bwah hah hah.

12:00 pm.  I love this new technique. It’s so intuitive and very painterly. Just like working with water colors. I feel as though it would be very easy to sit down and experiment without feeling like I’m going to ruin my project. I can imagine a shape I want to make and how I could knit it. This is really empowering.

Socks from the Yarn Up, with Clara Parkes

2:00 pm. Deconstructing socks with Clara Parks. This lady is like a walking, talking encyclopedia of yarn knowledge. And we’re grilling her. I’m learning so much more about fiber than I ever thought there was to know. For instance:

  • Mercerized cotton is so strong because the fibers are longer.
  • “Cotton and wool are a happy blend because they compensate for each other’s weaknesses.” Wool has moisture management and elasticity going for it. Cotton has good strength, but is not so good on the other two.
  • “Bamboo likes to be abused. It has relationship issues.” Hoo boy.

2:11 pm “Wool is scrumtrulescent.” I had to look this up. It’s a word that appears to exist only on Urban Dictionary and Saturday Night Live. It means: So great that any other word employed would be woefully insufficient, and would serve only to limit the sheer magnitude of the greatness intended as a descriptor. 

2:19 pm. “Call me old-fashioned, but I like to knit with things I can make in my basement.” I can sympathize, but I would add other rooms of my house to this list, such as living room and kitchen. And specifically subtract anything that comes from a lab. Although I do sort of like to have a bit of nylon in my socks because it’s so strong.

2:21 pm. “Sheep breeders are the ultimate mad scientists. Crazy frankensheep.” I had no idea how carefully sheep breeders breed their sheep. They pay a lot of attention to which sheep are their best producers and make sure to breed the best together. Poor sheep. It’s all arranged marriages for them. Or rather, arranged assignations.

2:28 pm. “Try stranding kidsilk haze into your next pair of socks.” That sounds yummy. I must remember to try this.

2:33 pm. “The creepy thing about Angora is rabbit saliva. It’s a hollow fiber…” From the  Things I Wish I Didn’t Know Department.

2:42 pm. “Ravenwood cashmere. That’s it.” Thank you for pointing me to this cashmere producer. Anything Clara recommends this vehemently must be good.

2:52 pm. “Silk worms are born without a mouth. They lay eggs and they die. And we harvest their spit.” Yay. More things I wish I didn’t know.

3:10 pm. “Silk has no elasticity. Like a Pyrex tube.” But it’s very strong. And also great for insulation. I can vouch for this. I wear it when biking in cold weather. Still, when she says this I imagine dropping one of silk undershirts and shattering it all over the floor. Although Pyrex is supposed to be pretty tough, so maybe it would just bounce.

Clara gave us little tufts of each fiber as she lectured on it. The only one I can identify on sight is that little ball of brown cashmere. I took that one home. Oh so buttery and wonderful. And want to hear something gross? It feels a lot like my Maine Coon. Mom suggested I start saving his fur to spin with...yeah...not ready for that.

3:29 pm. Oh dear, this blog post has devolved into a series of Clara Parks quotes. Which by itself is totally awesome, but not what I set out to do at all. She’s so inspiring and so goofy. I guess I’ve learned that other knitters thrive on goofiness. Good lesson.

3:38pm. “Twist = energy. This is the law of yarn.” And it has so much impact on how the yarn behaves in what you knit. I need to buy her book, Knitters Book of Wool to learn more about this.

3:50 pm. “2 ply yarn. Here be dragons.” Sounds like each ply fights against the other. But  3 ply is more harmonious. They like to cluster together. But with 4-ply, there’s always an odd man out. Past 4-ply, I start to get pretty confused.

My Goals
I had a wonderful time at Yarnover.
Yep. I had fun. Here's my haul from the Yarnover market.


    • I have one more goal to add to my list. To add scrumtrulescent to my vocabulary and use it at least once a month. More than that, and I might be overusing the word.

  1. Yarnover sounds wonderful. I might have to make a point to drive the 5.5 hours to it next year!

  2. What a splendid and attentive student you were! I’m sorry if I traumatized you with a few of those factoids. But it’s for your own good. Really. 😉

    • I love traumatizing factoids. They lodge in your noodle help you remember other important, but less…visceral..factoids.

      I very much enjoyed your class and left wanting to learn more.

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