July was a big month, as it turns out. I got the weekend holiday I needed so much, I worked more hours in the shop than usual, I caught and defeated a Death Cold, and I met one of the brightest stars in the knitting sky, Louisa Harding. If you’re a knitter, you may know her from yarn labels. You might have seen her books or compilations. You may have opinions about her distributor, or on her yarns, or the distinctly (possibly stereotypically) feminine slant of her designs. It’s tricky gauging someone by a yarn label, though, and I was extremely lucky to get the opportunity to meet and hang out with her when she came to the shop to give a workshop.
When we approached Louisa about the possibility of doing a workshop, she had things all figured out already. It would be a full day workshop, the fees would include yarn (always a plus!), and the project would allow people to explore creativity in wool and sample a bunch of yarns all at the same time. She arranged for sample garments to be sent to us ahead of time, so the students could try things on and see what the designs look like in person rather than having to guess from photos in the books. We also got a preview of the new books and yarns for autumn/winter, inspiring several of us in the shop to get started on new cardigans and tops.
I didn’t get to participate in the workshop, but the few bits I got to see were well planned and carefully thought out. She started by encouraging students to look at the sample garments, then followed that with yarn selection for the bag project. This required the students to wind some of the yarns into balls from the hanks they’re usually sold as, giving everyone the opportunity to chat and interact with each other. By the time everyone settled down to knit, people had gotten the jitters out and were ready to focus.
The workshop project is a simple bag using five different yarns. Louisa encouraged students to choose colour and gauge combinations outside of their comfort zones, resulting in beautiful little works of art.
I selected my yarns after everyone else, picking over the leftovers during lulls in the shop downstairs, so I didn’t get as adventurous as some. I did end up working with the new colours of Sari Ribbon and Willow Tweed, as well as a bit of the new autumn/winter yarn Rosetti that I ordinarily would have avoided. (I’m not really a fan of chunky yarns.) The bag was simple to knit and enjoyable as it gave me plenty of opportunity to sample the yarns and see how they worked up.
Also, I love the bag. Desperately.
I think the workshop encouraged students to think more ambitiously about colour and texture, and to experiment more boldly. It also gave us the opportunity to make something relatively impractical, simply for the joy of playing with colour and texture. Lots of us focus on practical projects which might be well crafted and beautiful, but not as recklessly fun as this little bag.
After the workshop, Louisa hosted a meet & greet and talk that was free to everyone. Lots of regulars in the shop and local S&B groups showed up, and despite the blistering heat people managed to enjoy themselves. Louisa talked about starting her own yarn line, how the process works, and the elements she highlights in her designs and yarn choices. She describes herself as “a woman designing for women,” and how this plays out in her choice of colour, yarn, shape, and size. For example, many of her designs feature 3/4 length sleeves. Why? Women wear bracelets and watches, and it’s nice to show them off. Simple as that.
The day made me think about the yarn industry, what moves and shakes it, and how the people involved make the choices they do. It inspired me to give certain yarns a chance where I previously would have dismissed them. And it gave me the opportunity, through an awesome sneak peek at some of Louisa’s new and currently unreleased books, to cast on for a new cardigan.
Using Willow Tweed.