Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Meeting Miss Meg

Hi Knitters,
I had an experience last night that I have to tell you about.

First though I have to tell a really quick and funny related story before I dive in. I swear the weirdest things happen to me. I was recently contacted by a Milwaukee yarn shop that was working with the Brewers baseball organization to organize the upcoming Stitch-n-Pitch event for this coming summer. The yarn shop asked if I would be interested in throwing out the opening pitch for this game. I said sure! My family thought that was about the funniest thing ever. Anyway, I hadn't thought much about it or heard anything about it since then but just last week I was contacted and told that another knitter was given the opportunity as other names were put on the list for consideration.

Meg Swansen was nominated to throw out the first pitch at the Stitch-n-Pitch Brewers game! I had to laugh. I had no idea Meg's name was in consideration along with mine and I would have withdrawn my name immediately had I known. Seriously. The fact that my name was even in the same hat with Meg is just plain funny. I would have easily picked Meg over me any day of the week, hands down! I don't know if she has accepted or not but I love that she is possibly going to throw out the first pitch so much. That is beyond excellent and I hope that lots of you are able to attend if she does in fact throw out the first pitch. The game is on June 21st, 2011.

And then a mere week later this happened....
Meg Swansen actually adjusted one of her ma's unpublished hat designs while it was sitting on my head. (See about the weird things happening?)

In the photo next to me is the one and only Meg Swansen. Meg was the featured speaker at the always wonderful Madison Knitters' Guild. The guild hosted their monthly meeting last night and once again it was standing room only. Hundreds of knitters filled the large banquet room to the brim. This group of dedicated knitters is like none other. Really. I know this for a fact. Last night the meeting with Meg Swansen was nothing short of magical.

Meg Swansen is a knitting legend and she is the daughter of the revered and legendary Elizabeth Zimmermann. Meg has this phenomenal pedigree plus she is a knitting force of nature all on her own. What a combination. To hear her speak was one of the biggest treats I have ever had. Her dexterity with the English language was wonderful. Her vocabulary and word usage is charming and articulate. Her speaking voice, intelligence and her obvious love of her "ma" and of knitting was nothing less than mesmerizing. My face hurt from smiling and my ears and eyes were tired from trying to soak up her every last word and knitted sample. It was simply a wonderful experience.

Much to my surprise, I got asked to jump up on stage with Meg to model an Elizabeth Zimmermann garter stitch hat that will be featured in an upcoming Schoolhouse Press book. Who would say no to that? A kind knitter grabbed my camera while I was on the stage next to Meg and took these photos for me. When I returned to my seat she told me I looked really proud while I was up there. That made me laugh. I was like a little kid selected from the audience to help out. Actually I was more honored than proud. I couldn't believe my good fortune.

This new book, with the hat, is full of unpublished patterns from Elizabeth all solely using garter stitch. I can't wait! The title of the new book from Elizabeth was, Knit One, Purl None, (as EZ despised the purl stitch) but Meg likes the more inclusive or positive, Knit One, Knit All. It is coming out in May 2011. You can pre-order Knit One, Knit All and check out Schoolhouse Press's other new books by clicking right here. Recognize that hat on the cover of the book? I am ordering my copy today and I am ordering a bunch of other stuff, too, including the dvds. Here is Meg's description of the new book quoted from her site:

"In 2011, Schoolhouse Press is looking forward to the publication of Knit One, Knit All--a book of Elizabeth Zimmermann's Garter Stitch Designs. It has been a thrilling process to comb EZs journals and archives for previously unpublished designs and to put together a book of little known or unknown patterns."

Meg had a large suitcase filled with samples. She would pull out the samples one at a time and talk about the construction and features of each piece. She modeled the gorgeous cardigan above which featured a clever construction, a lovely cable down the sleeve, I-cord finishing and hidden button loops and an overall elegance. I want to make this one for sure. I would wear that thing right out!

Meg talked about how she likes to challenge herself to not break the wool at all as she is knitting a garment, one thread continuously throughout the garment. She also talked about Elizabeth's afterthought pocket technique. I have seen the afterthought pocket used but I didn't know EZ had "unvented" this technique as well as countless others. I loved hearing that.

Amy Detjen (who knit the purple cardigan on Meg above) joined Meg on stage to help her out. Amy and Meg are quite a team and have been for a long time. Amy is funny, smart and beloved. The crowd loves her. On top of that she is an extremely talented knitter. Here is a description of her on the Schoolhouse Press site:

Amy Detjen is one of Meg’s invaluable teaching assistants at Knitting Camp. Here’s what she says about herself:

Although I’ve had designs published in “A Gathering of Lace” and “Sweaters from Camp”, I don’t actually think of myself as a designer, but as a technician. I love to teach and talk and write about knitting most of all, as shown by my past experience as the moderator of the Knit List and Knit U (7 years combined). I love to teach, especially tips and tricks that I’ve learned over my 18 years at Meg Swansen’s Knitting Camp.

Now about the Knitting Camp. Meg asked who in the audience had been to Knitting Camp. A large number of people raised their hands. Then she asked who hadn't been to camp but would like to go. An even larger number of people raised their hands, including me. I would love to attend Knitting Camp someday and I plan on making that happen in the future. What a treat that would be. I think you can get in but it can be difficult and there is a waiting list. At least that is what I've heard. People really do get in though so don't shy away from applying to go if you are interested. It would be a dream come true to attend.

In the photo above you can see my friend Sara McGregor, the one holding the books. She has been going to camp for 15 years and even attended with her mother for a time. Sara knows Meg and introduced me for which I am grateful. Thank you, Sara, and thanks for saving me a seat.

Meg took so much time to answer questions, extra time. She was so earnest and charming when answering question after question. What a role model. I can't say enough good things about her. She is elegant, beautiful, down-to-earth and funny. Her keen sense of humor about knitting and everything else was apparent throughout the night.

In the photo above, I was taken with Meg when a knitter came and sat next to her with a question about her knitting right before the program began. Meg kindly took her project in her lap and intently listened and looked to find the problem. Before long she was ripping back the garment for the knitter to get to the perfect spot to start again. She told the knitter exactly how to proceed and the woman looked like she felt so good about it. It was a comforting moment to watch.
Meg happily signed books and chatted with the knitters as they approached her seat before the meeting. She was just lovely.
Here Meg is holding up the Heart Hat Elizabeth actually knitted. The back of the hat, which is bonnet style, is actually a heart. It is adorable. Meg talked about how clever the construction is and how the shaping of the brim makes the hat fit so well. Meg referred to her ma as a sculptor throughout the night.

Well, it was a moment in time, the world stood still, and I can't stop thinking about it. If you ever get the chance to hear Meg speak, run! She says that she isn't a keynote speaker so I don't know how often she does this kind of thing.

It was an inspiring evening. I am heading to my bookshelves today today to pull out and pour over all of my Elizabeth Zimmermann and Meg Swansen books. I feel like starting from page 1 and plowing through from scratch.
best, susie