Today we have with us Karen Ratto-Whooley of KRW Knitwear. Karen is here to talk about her brand new Craftsy class Fair Isle Crochet: Demystifying Colorwork
If you haven’t heard of Craftsy before… where have you been?!? Seriously, you need to head over to their About page HERE and join the rest of us who are obsessed with this FAB teaching site. But come right back here after you go over there… because, if you're like me, you'll just start down the Craftsy rabbit hole of FAB classes and not be seen again for days…
SD: Hey there Karen! Thank you for joining us today to chat about your exciting new Craftsy class.
KRW: It’s always a pleasure to chat with you guyz! I never know what’s going to happen!
SD: We understand this is your first class on Craftsy but by no means is this your first time teaching. Can you tell us a little about your teaching background?
KRW: Well, I guess I really started teaching group classes back in 1999. <cue up Prince> First it was small guild groups. Then in 2000 my family moved from California to Washington State. I joined the local guild right as one of the members was retiring from teaching at Pacific Fabrics and Crafts. She asked me if I was willing to take over for her, and I did. From there I started teaching at several of the PFC stores. In 2004, I was asked to teach at the Chain Link Conference of the Crochet Guild of America about Self-Publishing patterns at their Professional Development Day. Along with that whole day class, I taught 5 classes during the main event and was I ever hooked on teaching on a national level! <Yes – pun intended!>
From there I started teaching at other events such as Sock Summit, Stitches West, The Dallas /Fort Worth Fiber Fest along with teaching at shops and guilds around the country.
SD: This Craftsy class is specifically about Fair Isle colorwork. Do people often get Fair Isle confused with other techniques like Intarsia? What is the difference?
KRW: I am so glad you asked that. Many crocheters (and knitters too!) use Fair Isle, Stranded Colorwork and Intarsia interchangeably.
True Fair Isle is actually a form of stranded knitting that utilizes the motifs that are indicative of Fair Isle, an island in the Shetland Islands area off the north coast of Scotland. So when you say “Fair Isle” for any other type of color work, you are actually incorrect. Fair Isle is the motif and not the technique.
That being said, there are things about Fair Isle Knitting that I wanted to achieve in Crochet such as having the stitches sitting on top of each other like stockinette does in knitting. Because of the way crochet stitches are made, if you look closely, you will see that the top of the stitches are usually offset to the left or right depending on which hand you use. This causes the stitches to lean one way or the other. So then your motif leans as well. True Fair Isle motifs don’t lean! Because I have loved the Fair Isle motifs since I was a child and had a Fair Isle sweater that I adored, I developed this technique in crochet with those motifs, though you can use the technique in other colorwork to prevent the stitches from leaning.
SD: Now… I’m looking at the photos from your class and the patterns in the colorwork are just FAB! That said… talk to me about the dreaded weaving in ends (insert dramatic music here). Aren’t there a lot of ends to weave in when you are changing colors so often?
KRW: <grin> Well, yes, there are. There is no denying that. However, true Fair Isle only has 2 colors per row. So you don’t need to have all those bobbins to work with that leave a million ends in the center of the work. This is what allows you to literally only have 2 tails at either end of the row. In the class I first will teach you a way to weave in the ends (the way I learned at my grandmother’s knee at 7 years old!) that prevents you from having bulk yet secures them. And once you learn this technique, you will find that you could sit in front of the TV and weave them in quickly and efficiently.
In a later lesson, I will show you how to enclose the ends in a casing, which works really well for a lot of applications… blankets, potholders, anything really. And the best part? NO WEAVING!
SD: I think we can all agree that Fair Isle is gorgeous… but most folks think of fussy or bulky or hard fabrics when they think of colorwork because of all of the floating strands or covered floats. Are there real-world applications for this technique that don’t involve ONLY heavy or thick fabrics?
KRW: You don’t have to have bulky fabrics that stand up like Kevlar! The key to this is keeping things loose. If you look at my Poet Shawl for example, the pockets have movement. They were worked in the stranded fashion with floats in the back. Keeping the floats loose enough for stretch but not so loose that there are loops that catch everything allows for the drape that you see in the photo. I will teach you how to do that in this project, and how to do it also in the Fair Isle Hat as well. With the Hat we will be actually working over the tops of the floats in the round. Keeping stretch in the round can be tricky with floats involved, but it can be done... and I will show you how!
SD: This is the golden age of information. All we need to do is open a browser window or an app on our mobile devices and we can be instantly connected to an endless parade of free tutorials. With all of those tutorials available for free, why should someone buy a class online?
KRW: Honestly, I grew up with the cliché, “You get what you pay for.” And I find that this is true even today especially in this world of technology.
I don’t know if you knew this, but in my former life I was a computer programmer. I wrote some of the very first electronic insurance submission software for Dental Offices, so I know a little about how much work goes into software like Craftsy has. Craftsy has high-definition video with features such as 30 second rewind, pause, and note taking right in the video! And the notes stay there forever! It’s like having a virtual notebook as well.
How may free tutorials do you know about that were there 10 years ago and are still there today? There are a couple of really great sites I wish I had the forethought to print out instead of bookmark! Or what about the free class that you have access to for only a limited time?
Craftsy gives you the class forever. You can buy it once and take the class over and over as many times as you like. Or you can just go back and review something you may have forgotten. You also have access to the instructor. I will be checking in 2-3 times a week to answer questions or leave hints. How many YouTube videos have instructors committing to help?
As a teacher who teaches live classes, I have had hundreds of students tell me that they tried to teach themselves the same thing I might be teaching in my class online with a free tutorial but they never could get it and they didn’t have anyone to ask for help. And that is why they are taking the class. With Craftsy, I am actually in your living room, office or even next to you on the couch, coaching you through learning the Fair Isle technique. And with my 50% off link, my class is only $15. That’s a bargain when my live class is anywhere from $60-85! And instead of having access to me for 3-4 hours only during a live class, you have access to ask me a question anytime you want and I will always be sure to answer!
SD: Thank you for joining us today on the blog, Karen. It is always a pleasure to chat with you. And congratulations again on your new Craftsy class!!
KRW: Anytime! Thanks for having me! I’m sure I’ll see you and your readers over at Craftsy! Be sure to take advantage of the 50% off on the class using this link!
Thanks to Karen for taking time to sit and chat with us. Be sure to check out her Craftsy class and also be sure to check out Karen on her website at: www.karenwhooley.com
This has been another in our series of interviews with the people who influence the fiber and design industry. Subscribe to our RSS feed and sign up for the Shibaguyz newsletter so you don't miss out on future interviews as well as all the news from the studios of Shibaguyz Designz.
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talk to you soon…
Shannon and Jason
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