Sunday, January 25, 2009

I Had Tea with Louisa Harding!

Tea & Conversation with Louisa Harding

What a treat to sit down and have tea and conversation with Louisa Harding!

After our Juliet Scarf class our classroom was transported into a lovely setting for afternoon tea with Louisa Harding. We enjoyed a traditional English tea complete with Earl Grey tea, scones and traditional finger sandwiches. The tea was lovely but the best part was the conversation that flowed more than the tea!

Louisa began with her knitting story.

Louisa attributes three important women in her life for influencing the designer she has become. These women are: her Grandmother, her Mother and her Step Mother.

Like many of us, Louisa learned to knit as a young girl from her Grandmother. As a young girl she was introduced to fashion by her Mum. She fondly remembers following the clicks of her Mum's high heels and her Mum's Vogue Fashion magazines. It was her Step Mother who taught her how to sew and gave her love of dress making.

Louisa grew up in London and spent many hours browsing the nearby markets and museums always with an interest in fashion. Her father had hoped that she would be a banker but instead she enrolled at Fashion College. Her mother was her biggest supporter of her fashion career.

At Fashion College Louisa set out to be a textile designer. A knitting course at college...changed all that! She hadn't knit since she was a young girl and the next thing you know she was knitting up a storm of knit pattern samples in her college knitting course. Shortly after, a student intern opportunity at Rowan Yarns came her way and the rest is history!

During her career of 12 years with Rowan she also fell in love and started a family. Also at this time she was feeling a bit burned out as a designer since she was having to crank out commercial type patterns for the Jaegar and Paton's UK brands. Like any talented designer, I am sure she yearned to do design work that was true to her heart and the designer within her. With her husband's support, she took the leap of faith and became a freelance knit designer.

In 2005 she received a telephone call to come to New York to meet with Knitting Fever and the Louisa Harding line was born! She had only a few months to select her yarns and write two pattern books for her introduction line. To this day, her first two books Gathering Roses (The Design Collection and The Accessories Collection) are two of my favorite books.

Louisa's new book Nouveau

Louisa's story is more than just about knitting. It is a story about following your dreams, being proud to be a woman and keeping your creative genes alive.

Louisa talked about her new Spring/Summer 2009 books called Nouveau and Deco and how they were influenced by her Grandmother's era.

Our group also talked about how knitting is different in America and England. I asked her why the British knit items flat while Americans prefer to knit them in the round. She explained to me that knitting patterns began that way and due to her dress making background she prefers to knit items flat like fabric. The designer can see the drape and design of the pattern better as it is being knitted flat. Louisa also prefers to knit everything on long straight needles.

We talked about the big resurgence of knitting. Perhaps it is these difficult economic times that bring us back to simpler things in life like knitting. Our Grandmothers and Great Grandmothers mended and knit out of necessity to makes end meet. Today it is certainly more expensive to knit a hand-made garment than to purchase a ready made one. There is something wonderful though about making something beautiful yourself and the sense of pride that comes with it!

Our afternoon tea was followed with a wonderful trunk show and book signing with Louisa.

Green Planet Yarn
368 E. Campbell Ave
Campbell, Ca 95008
(408) 871-9196

I would like to thank the owner Beth and her staff at Green Planet Yarn for hosting this special day and trunk show with Louisa Harding!

Louisa Harding

Lastly, a special thank you to Louisa for coming to northern California.

Thank you for inspiring me with your gorgeous patterns and books!

Thank you for sharing your story with us.

It was an honor and a true delight to spend the day with you!

Louisa Harding Juliet Scarf Class

Juliet Scarf Class with Louisa Harding

I have always hoped to take a workshop with my favorite designer Louisa Harding.

I love her Cameo Shawl from the book Pretty Knits. I was so excited about a year ago when I read that she was teaching a Cameo Shawl workshop at Loop in London. Oh, how I wanted to hop on a plane to London to take that class!
I was even more excited when I found out that she was the (week long) guest instructor last September in the South of France with Kristeen Griffin-Grimes of French Girl Knits. This would have been a dream come true but I couldn't pull this trip off either.
So you can imagine my delight, when I emailed Louisa Harding's company in England and found out from Louisa, herself, that she was doing a workshop event right here in northern California. I called Green Planet Yarn in Campbell, Ca immediately and signed up for all the Louisa Harding events.

Louisa Harding Day

I was still reeling with excitement of meeting Louisa Harding the day before at the book signing event at Babetta's Yarn & Gifts. You can imagine how excited I was to be spending the entire day with Louisa at Green Planet Yarn. This was an occasion meant to be shared so I invited my knitting friend Pamela to join me. She has been knitting all her life and has followed Louisa's career since her early days at Rowan. Pamela was just as excited as me!

Louisa Harding
Juliet Scarf Workshop

I have wanted to make the Juliet Scarf for quite some time. I remember the first time I saw Louisa's book Knitting Little Luxuries at my local Borders Books. I fell in love with all the pretty patterns but didn't think I could knit them.

Not much later though, I purchased the book, started a wish list of what patterns to knit and signed up for knitting classes.

Now it is about a year later and I am taking the Juliet Scarf class from Louisa herself. Wow!

To begin our workshop, Louisa tells us about her concept for the Juliet Scarf. She designed it in her luxurious Kimono Angora yarn. The pattern only requires one skein for both the rosette pin and the scarf so it is a perfect little luxury gift to knit and give away or keep yourself. (We are keeping ours!)

The one thing I am most struck with about Louisa, is how beautiful her patterns are. She tells us that she designs all her patterns to be simple and not hard to knit.

Juliet Rosette

For my scarf, I selected a new color of Kimono Angora in # 18 Aqua. This is my first time knitting with this yarn. It is very luxurious and feels wonderful to knit with. I am using Clover bamboo needles.

Our first step in making our Juliette Scarf is to make the Rosette pin for the scarf. Louisa guided us perfectly. This was the first time that I have done short rows. I loved making the flower rosette. It was magical how it became a flower.

The interesting part, is that the rosette looks as if it could be crocheted but it is all made with knitting. Louisa told us that she knits and doesn't' crochet. So many of her garments have lacy trims and they are all achieved by knitting. Since I a more of a knitter myself, I love that!

There were eight students in our class. We were all pretty serious and entrenched in our knitting. Now and then we would fess up about a mistake and ask Louisa for help. Louisa graciously fixed our mistakes and made it look effortless. I loved it when she said to us (in her lovely British accent) "ladies it is just a scarf"! That lightened up our moods, relaxed us a bit and made the class fun!

I remember my friend Pamela being nervous about knitting in front of Louisa. She was worried about forgetting everything. Neither of us forget how to knit (thank goodness) and Louisa really put us at ease. Louisa made the class a special we wont' forget!

Louisa is an impressive knitter. I have never seen anyone knit so fast! She also has her Juliet scarf pattern memorized. No matter where one of us was stuck in the pattern, she had us back on track in no time!

Pamela, Louisa and Lisette
Juliet Scarf Workshop

Dreams do come true! 
My wish to take a workshop from my knitting idol Louisa Harding came true! 
I didn't even have to hop a plane to London to meet her. I do hope one day that I can take more workshops from Louisa. It would really be a dream come true to take a workshop in England or France with her!
I am a very expressive person so Louisa certainly knows how much I admire her. I really attribute her work as the reason I am knitting today.

Louisa's beautiful books and fashion-forward patterns are what made me want to learn more about knitting and move beyond the garter and purl stitch.

Next, it's time for tea with Louisa Harding.
Read about tea and conversation with my favorite designer next!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I met Louisa Harding!

Designer Louisa Harding
Book Signing and Trunk Show

My local yarn store Babetta's Yarn & Gifts hosted a book signing event with Louisa Harding on January 21, 2009.  Since Louisa is my favorite designer, I was pretty excited to meet her. It really is because of her that I am so excited about knitting. Her beautiful books and patterns were inspiration for me a year ago to take knitting lessons and become a better knitter.

When Louisa walked into Babetta's, I clapped. It may sound silly but I did. I was just very excited (okay, maybe a little giddy) that she was visiting my local yarn store.  After their arrival, Louisa and her yarn rep Cindy set up a trunk show of her gorgeous garments for us to see and even try on.

I wore my Louisa Harding Scala Wrap that I frantically finished to wear to the book signing. I made a comment to Louisa, that I don't knit sweaters due to my size. (Yes, I have gained some weight.) The next thing I know, Louisa has me trying on one of her sweaters. I just knew it would be,too, small. She insisted and said "knits are meant to stretch and that she designs for all types of women".

She also said "wear your knits with confidence". I love that!

This was the first designer trunk show that I had ever been to. Oh, how I loved seeing all the patterns actually knit into garments and accessories. It was wonderful to feel the yarns knit into fabrics. Now, I can't wait to knit even more of Louisa's beautiful patterns.

Here is a glimpse of the trunk show:

Abertay Wrap from the Wildspur book

Knitted in Grace Hand Dyed yarn.

(Louisa is wearing the Abertay Scarf version,
knitted in La Salute, sh. 10 grey.)

Tyrone Gloves from the Wildspur book
Knitted in Grace Hand Dyed, shade 3 Aqua.
These felt so wonderful when I tried them on!
Yes, I had to buy the yarn to make them!

Udipur from Rajasthan book

Knitted in Castello yarn with sequin details.
I loved seeing the sequin details in person.
(I already have the yarn to knit this shawl!)

Nouveau and Deco New Spring/Summer Books

Nouveau and Deco are the names of Louisa's new Spring/Summer 2009 books. Lucky for us, we were able to peak at the mock up pattern books. They are filled with pretty patterns inspired from the early 1900's Nouveau period along with Deco inspired patterns from the 1920's and 1930's. I can't wait to buy them both. They should be hitting the stores sometime in March.

Maya, Louisa, Babetta and Cindy
(and Maya's cute kids)

Thank you so much to Babetta and Maya for hosting the Louisa Harding book signing and trunk show at Babetta's Yarn & Gifts.

Babetta's Yarn and Gifts
4400 San Juan Ave
Fair Oaks, CA 95628
(916) 965-6043

Thank you to Louisa and her yarn rep Cindy for making the whirl wind trip to Fair Oaks Ca. They flew up from the TNNA show in San Diego to SFO, drove to Fair Oaks for the book signing and then drove back to San Francisco to another yarn store event that afternoon.

Mostly I would like to say thank you to Louisa Harding herself.
Louisa certainly was everything and more that I had hoped she would be in person. She was gracious to me and all her fans. She took the time for each and every one of us to sign our books, listen to our admiration for her, listen to our knitting stories and take photographs with her.
She is an incredibly talented woman and designer who has remained very humble, genuine and real.

I admire her even more now that I have met her and have a glimpse of the designer and person, Louisa Harding is.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I'm having tea with Louisa Harding!

I'm having tea with Louisa Harding!

Pinch me. I must be dreaming!

I am so excited. I am going to meet my favorite British knitting designer, Louisa Harding this week!

My LYS Babetta's Yarn & Gifts is hosting a book signing with, the one and only, Louisa Harding on Wednesday 1/21/09 at 10:00AM. I telephoned Babetta to thank her for bringing Louisa to her shop. Babetta said that she thought of me right away since she knows how much I love Louisa!

Once I found out that Louisa is visiting Northern California from England, I emailed her company LouisaHarding to see if she was doing any other events in our area. I had an immediate response from Louisa herself! She wrote that she is doing a workshop at Green Planet Yarn. She said "I am a Brit, so I have no idea if this is close to you or not".

I immediately got on the Internet and found out that Green Planet Yarn is in Campbell near San Jose. It is 142 miles and about a 3 hour drive for me to get there but a lot closer than going to England. I always imagined I would need to travel to England to meet her!

For Louisa's visit, Green Planet Yarn is having a Juliet scarf class from Knitting Little Luxuries, a British style tea party, concluding with a trunk show on Thursday 1/22/09. I telephoned the store immediately and kept my fingers crossed that it wasn't already sold out. I am a lucky lady because they had room for me in all the events.

I am not sure which I am most excited about...the knitting workshop with Louisa or having tea with her? just might be the tea!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My Knitting Story, Part 3

Knitting Lessons

My goal was to become a proper knitter. I had a gorgeous stash of yarn from England of which I was oblivious to the exchange rate when I bought it. I needed to get knitting and I was still paralyzed.

I spent the greater part of 2007 leisurely exploring yarn stores within a 50 mile radius of where I live in the Sacramento region. I soon discovered that becoming a better knitter is not as easy as it sounds.

For me, British comedian Tracey Ullman sums it up best in her book Knit 2 Together. Tracy tells her knitting story something like this "that being British, everyone just expects that you know how to knit properly because you learned it from your Mum". For years Tracey only knit simple scarves. I was the same way. And although I am not British, I was struck with that same feeling as Tracey when you walk into a yarn shop, they presume you already know how to knit and it is rather embarrassing if you don't. I call this a bit of "knitting snobbery" if you will.

In 2007, I summoned up the courage to take a knitting class at a nearby LYS (local yarn store). I was excited. I felt I was finally on my way to becoming a better knitter! I remember signing up for the class. I told the yarn store clerk that I was a pretty good basic knitter. Peering at me from behind the counter, she piped up and asked me if I knew how to purl? I admitted I wasn't sure or perhaps I had forgotten. She curtly told me "then you are not knitter if you don't know how to purl". Boy, was I deflated!

I paid for the class and quickly called my friend Pamela who has been knitting since she was a teenager. Pamela gave me a quick refresher course on purling so I would be ready for my knitting class.

I survived the knitting class and learned how to make a simple roll brim hat in the round. I was so excited to finally knit something other than a garter stitch scarf. I went on to take another class on lace knitting and learned how to do the "feather and fan" stitch. I was building new skills but I was still hoping to find a fun shop more like Loop.

Knitique, Elk Grove, CA
My Favorite LYS
(Local Yarn Store)

I finally found that shop like Loop.

In January 2008 I stopped in Knitique in Elk Grove, CA. The store was adorable. Not, too, big of a shop. Cozy describes it best. It had a cheerful "girlie" pink color theme that just made you feel good when you walked in.

I was welcomed by a friendly woman that told me all about the shop and it's owner, Danielle. There was a big knitting table in the back where ladies were chatting...I mean knitting. I left the shop, anxious to come back to take a class or two. It wasn't the closest knitting store to my home but I had a feeling this was the LYS for me!

I remember the moment I met Knitique's owner Danielle, I knew I found my shop! She is adorable just like her shop. Now that I know her, I like to say that she is warm and fuzzy just like the yarn she sells. She is the best knitter and teacher I know. She has been knitting her entire life and loves knitting. Her love for yarn and knitting is contagious. She also loves England and Paris, just like me. Now I just have to get her to plan a London/Paris knitting tour!

So thanks to Danielle and Knitique I now can do more now than just knit and purl.

For the record, I am slowly knitting up that gorgeous yarn that I brought back from England. I am no longer a paralyzed knitter.

The best part of my knitting story is that I have become a better knitter! My Great Grandmother G.G. and my Grandma Margaret would be so proud of me. Their knitting legacies live on through me and my love for knitting!
...more to come!

My Knitting Story, Part 2

I learned to knit in the late 1960's!

My knitting story has about a 30 year hiatus. (I wish it didn't!)

I did not pick up knitting needles again until Christmas of 2004 when I was 44yrs old. There was a tremendous resurgence in knitting and fabulous yarn choices were available.

Back then fancy fur scarves were all the rage. My Mother admired them and I decided that I could knit her one. I was also house bound with an ankle injury so knitting proved to be perfect therapy. I joined the fancy fur scarf craze and knit my scarves with Lion Brand Fancy Fur from my local Michaels craft store. My Mother was thrilled with her frilly, fluffy scarves!

I soon gave up the Fancy Fur scarf trend and was ready to move on to nicer quality yarns. Before I knew it, I was researching yarn companies on the Internet. I was naturally drawn to English yarn companies like Rowan and Colinette.

In 2006 my real passion for yarn and knitting began. My husband and I had been married in Scotland in 2001 and were vacationing in England every year. On our 2006 trip, I was armed with a list of stores and a shopping list for yarn and patterns. And yes, I brought an empty suitcase along for this shopping spree!

Loop, Islington, England
My favorite London yarn shop!

2006 is also a very significant date in my knitting story. That is the year that I started my ever-growing yarn stash. (Back then I didn't even know what a yarn stash was!)

Loop in Islington (a suburb of London) really hooked me back into knitting. I found out about Loop in a British magazine called Homes & Antiques. There was a wonderful article on the shop and it's owner Susan Cropper (author of Pretty Knits) who just happens to be an American! Thanks to that article, I found Loop.
Loop is a darling, quaint shop on a narrow curvy side street in Islington. We had been to Islington before to it's Camden Market for it's antique flea market on Wednesdays. For this journey, my husband brought a book (thank goodness) along with him to read. He sat out front of Loop reading while I spent hours inside shopping!
At Loop I felt like a kid in a candy store. There were yummy colors and flavors of yarn squeezed in every nook and cranny in this tiny little shop. I fell in love with Colinette Point Five wool yarn, (hand dyed from Wales) in variegated turquoise blue shades. I had never been to a yarn store like this. This was not your English grandmother's knitting shop. Loop was cheery, colorful and had a very "hip" vibe. I was energized about knitting!
It was also at Loop that I discovered Be Sweet Yarns by Nadine Curtis, also a fellow American. Draped around the store were colorful Be Sweet Magic Scarves made from just one Magic Ball of yarn. With a Magic Ball, big needles and the simple garter stitch, one could produce a designer-style scarf with little effort. This was my kind of knitting! Buy gorgeous yarn and let the yarn do all the work. I loved this magical ball of yarn!
I also bought yarn at London's famous Liberty Department Store. (For the record... I also have a thing for Liberty's famous print scarves!) At Liberty, I discovered the Haberdashery Department filled with best selection of Rowan yarns that I had ever seen!
I returned home from that London trip with a suitcase full of wonderful yarn, along with Rowan and Colinette pattern books. I also returned home, as what I call, a paralyzed knitter. I couldn't bring myself to knit with my new yarns until I became a better knitter.
My goal now was to find a shop like Loop in America where I could learn to be a better knitter. That quest took longer than I thought it would. I finally found that store in early 2008. More about that to come.
...To be continued.

My Knitting Story, Part 1

I Learned to Knit from my Great Grandmother

My name is Lisette. I am a 49 year old American woman. I knit English style and I am a thrower. This is my knitting story.

Most young girls learn knitting from a Grandmother. My knitting story is similar except I learned to knit from my maternal Great Grandmother Murl (1894-1971). To all her family, she was lovingly known as G.G. (Great Grandmother).

I presume my G.G. learned to knit from her Mother and so on and so on. It was my G.G.'s Great Grandmother Lady Elizabeth (1813-1874) that came from Yorkshire England to America in 1838. My G.G. is my link to my love for England and British wool. I knit today to honor my G.G. and my English heritage.

G.G. taught me to knit and introduced me to tea when I was probably about 8 or 9 years old. I don't remember much from those days except I do remember that I liked both. I remember that G.G. was always knitting slippers (with a pom pom on them). I am sure she knit many other things but those slippers stand out most in my childhood memory. I also remember that she drank Lipton tea.

As a young girl, I remember knitting easy garter stitch headbands. I am wearing a thin white one in my 4th grade school photograph in the photo collage above.

I also remember going to Woolworth's with G.G.. I remember the colorful tall rack yarn display there. Woolworth's was close to her home so she probably bought all her yarn there. I also remember the mod 1960's jewelry at Woolworth's, too!

My G.G. passed away when I was about 11 years old. I don't remember knitting much after that. I wish that I would have learned more from her about knitting. I am so grateful that she taught me and my sister to knit when we were little girls.

My paternal Grandmother Margaret (1910- 1988) was also a knitter. I think she helped me with knitting in my early teen years. I remember when I was about 13 years old (1973) I knit a bikini. I remember I found the pattern in a magazine. It was probably in a Woman's Day magazine? It was in pastel colors, stockinette stitch and probably in Red Heart acrylic yarn. I don't think I would have undertaken such a project on my own so I am sure my Grandma Margaret was my next knitting teacher.

Grandma Margaret was a perfectionist and an accomplished knitter. She and her mother (whom I am named after) were fabulous dressmakers. They even had their own dress shop in Waynesburg, PA. Grandma Margaret made me lots of ponchos and ski hats growing up. I remember she knit gorgeous shawls, floral afghans and even had a knitting machine. When I was a teenager, I requested a knit beret from her. She knit me a gorgeous cream angora beret. Sadly it was,too, small for me but I saved it and I still have it. To this day, berets are still my favorite hat!

I don't remember knitting much after my bikini project in 1973 so there is a long pause in my knitting story.

....To be continued.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Vintage French Post Card

Bonne Annee
(Happy New Year)

A New Year begins....

Wishing you a year filled with,
health, happiness
yummy yarns
and many knitting projects!