Craft Snippets: Knitting with Ethan Barclay-Ennew

Sally reports back from the last Craft Snippets event at Upper Riccarton Library. The next event on Wednesday 31 March 2021 will feature sustainable crafter, Amy Hewgill, chatting about all things recycling, upcycling, sustainability and mending.

Last month we were fortunate to hear from Ethan Barclay-Ennew from Outlaw Yarn HQ as our featured Craft Snippets speaker. Ethan has knitted since he was four years old, taught by his great grandmother, grandmother, mother and librarians at school. He loves librarians. Yay for that. Ethan grew up in Canada and has lived in four different countries finishing up here in New Zealand where they are thrilled to be and doesn’t intend on going anywhere else.

Past careers have including chefing, both parents were chefs, ballet, dance and choreography to name only a few. Ethan has a cultural studies background and financial accounting which means they don’t not like maths, which is a good thing for a knitter. They were president of the school knitting group and school librarian group and mushed them together. The group made squares, the perfect start to teach the basics of knitting.

Everyone can knit - start simple

Ethan imparted many of words of wisdom along the way and one of them was about the basics of knitting – knit and purl stitch. Once you can do knit stitch consistently there is nothing you can’t do. Ethan spent 12 years knitting squares for blankets. They couldn’t knit round till 10 years ago.

More "purls" of wisdom

  • Everyone can knit. Ethan loves that with two sticks and string we can work magic - it is alchemy.
  • Ask yourself why are you knitting? What is the end goal? And why?
  • You should knit what brings you joy and knit for yourself. We are always knitting for others first. Think about why and what you are knitting and pick up a new idea and run with it and have fun. There is no valid reason to knit something you are not enjoying, no point at all, life is too short. If you don’t like yellow, don’t knit with yellow.
  • Use projects to progress your knitting, perfect your techniques, and learn new stuff. Ethan is mistake averse and 30% of their knits get ripped up to fix, or changed if no longer serving the purpose that was initially intended.

Catalogue record for First time knitsCatalogue record for The Complete Beginner's Guide to KnittingCatalogue record for The Chicks With Sticks Guide to Knitting

Hats, patterns and casting on

Ethan also designs knitting patterns and talked about some of their designs including some hats which they brought along to show. The designs range from simple to, in Ethan’s own words ‘neurotically complex’. You can find Ethan’s designs, including two of the hats, on Ravelry. The ‘Patch it Up’ hat is the perfect one for any patches you have waiting to be displayed. Another of the hats Ethan calls the Swatch hat and it is just that - a swatch for another project. Why make a boring old swatch when you can make something useful like a hat?

Ethan refers to the cast on of any work as the foundation and just like a house if the foundation is no good the project will fall over. The finishing work of any project is the roof. If you start well and finish well then in between should be all good. More words of wisdom.

Ethan chatted a lot about casting on and they are running a seminar series at Outlaw Yarn HQ all about how to cast on including the long tail cast on, cable cast on, tubular cast on, iCord cast on and provisional cast on.

From squares, to shawls, to jerseys

Ethan’s move away from just knitting squares started when they visited a shop Needles in the Hay with their sister and they saw a shawl. Their sister wanted Ethan to knit it, but they were like ‘no, couldn’t knit that’. The woman in the shop convinced them that they could. They did, knitting one for their sister and then realising that they liked it so much they wanted one for themselves.

Ethan talked about some of the jerseys they have knitted and brought some along to talk about.

Waist shaping is everyone’s friend whether you are male or female, and yes even men have waists. And jerseys with yoke constructions are very flattering.

Ethan talked about some of the colour work they have done and that for some there are no short cuts but they have been super fun knits. One involved four strands of yarn simultaneously. This was a super advanced colour work project and if you fancied doing it Ethan said ‘order the kit’ don’t try and work it out. And remember anything like this is a journey and the garment will be with you forever.

Another of the jerseys Ethan said was knitted like a puddle, you started at the sides, then bottom up, then back to the sides and so on. And then repeated it all over again for the back. The Stag’s head pullover was what got Ethan the job at Outlaw Yarn HQ by wearing it when they went into the shop. A cardigan Ethan showed was in their words ‘perfect’. It was complicated and used every technique in the every knitters' handbook and best of all it feels good when you put it on. This is what Ethan refers to as being a ‘finished object knitter’ – you feel empowered to have finished the project and it feels good when you put it on. Many of their works were met with oos and ahhs from people and it was wonderful to see the pieces up close. Some of them are on display in the Outlaw Yarn shop and Ethan is always happy to chat about their works and show you at the shop.

Knitting inspirations

Ethan loves the designs of Jared Flood and his creation Brooklyn Tweed. These pieces are timeless and modern. Another word of wisdom that came through a lot in Ethan’s talk - step away from the ups and downs of trends in knitting and step towards longevity.

A knitting obsession of Ethan’s is designer Norah Gaughan (whose books you'll find in the library). Norah is arguably the most published designer of our generation, the undisputed queen of cabling, and edits for Vogue Knitting. Her works are beautiful, architectural, and enjoyable to knit. They know each other well and Norah calls Ethan the greatest living knitter.

Catalogue record for Twisted stitch sourcebookCatalogue record for Norah Gaughan 40 timeless knitsNorah Gaughan's knitted cable sourcebook

Tips for sewing up

There were some questions at the end including about sewing up. Ethan said there were 8 main ways to sew up and said the mattress stitch is the best. He suggested adding an extra stitch to your knitting to create a selvedge so you can see where the seams are for easy sewing. Another tip is to add a marker every 20 rows and match up your makers when sewing up. Outlaw Yarn sells magic clips which are great for this.

Outlaw Yarn

Ethan is always willing to demo and help people at Outlaw Yarn and refers to himself as a human Ravelry, they may not remember your name but they will always remember the pattern you are working on. Do pop along to Outlaw Yarn if you can and check out their fabulous selection of yarn.

You can also tune in to their live Breakfast Bourbon Facebook video sessions on Saturday morning and see what Ethan and Deb have on the needles and find out about new yarns.

More craft resources

Angela talked about some of the latest crafty books and magazines new to the library (see list below). You can put a hold on any of these. Ethan is a technical editor for one of the featured magazines, PomPom. Remember many of these are available online and you can get the latest issues direct to your email. If you would like to know how to do this, pop into the library, give us a call, or check out our website advice for eMagazines and eBooks.

There are also numerous books about knitting, and books of knitting pattterns you can get from the library.

Craft Snippets January 2021

List created by CraftSnippets

New items shared during our January gathering

View Full List

I also did a round up of upcoming crafty events. Excitingly we have our next Great Stash Swap on Sunday 21 February,  11am-2pm.

Our next Craft Snippets event will be on Wednesday 31 March 2021 with sustainable crafter, Amy Hewgill, chatting about all things recycling, upcycling, sustainability and mending.

We welcome your respectful and on-topic comments and questions in this limited public forum. To find out more, please see Appropriate Use When Posting Content. Community-contributed content represents the views of the user, not those of Christchurch City Libraries