by Sharon Crowley


Aleen Caplan Yamasaki is a creative, independent knitter – and crocheter – and spinner, too! Her first foray into the fiber arts was inspired by a favorite art teacher, whose innovative spirit led her to constantly learn new crafts, which she then brought into her classroom. Aleen learned how to spin from this teacher—sort of. She explains, “Well actually a boy I was interested in learned from her and then I had him teach me.” Not a bad motivation. :-)

Along with spinning, Aleen also learned how to work with natural dyes. At a certain point, she decided it was time to do something with all of the yarn she was making, so she took up crochet. “I could follow patterns,” she says, “but soon started doing more freeform and making hats of my own design to sell at a gallery in Cannon Beach.” That, in a nutshell, encapsulates Aleen’s teaching philosophy: learn new techniques, learn to follow written instructions – but don’t be afraid to strike out on your own!

Aleen added knitting to her toolkit while attending graduate school in Seattle. She worked in a store called Rumplestiltskin, which sold supplies for knitting, crochet, embroidery, and sewing. The store owners offered their employees a sweet perk: free classes! Despite not yet knowing how to knit, Aleen had already been helping customers to navigate knitting patterns. She realized that it “was mainly an issue of being analytical.” From there, it was a natural next step for her to take a knitting class – and lo! a new obsession was born.

Much like her high school art teacher, Aleen's desire for knowledge led her to learn as many knitting techniques as she could. Before long, she was also teaching her own knitting classes at several Seattle-area yarn stores. Learning and teaching this craft have been endlessly rewarding. As she explained to me, “I have checked many knit techniques off of my ‘to learn’ list over the years but am always happy to add more and even happier to be able to teach them to others knitters so they can discover the joy, too.”

In addition to teaching, Aleen enjoys going on yarn crawls and “soaking in the atmosphere of different shops.” She doesn’t like putting information about her yarn stash in Ravelry, though, because “then I would somehow have to admit to myself and the knitting world how much yarn I have and I just not ready for that.” (Yep...I think many of us know how that feels.) In terms of her own knitting, Aleen loves to make vests - they are wearable, and the lack of sleeves allows her to finish faster so she can move on to the next one! She laments the shortage of good vest patterns, but rather than feeling discouraged, she has simply set herself the goal of writing some new vest patterns.

I got to take Aleen’s “Burp and Bark through Brioche” class at last year’s Knit Fit, and had a great time. She has a lively teaching style, and she encourages her students to learn the fundamentals of each technique so they can start experimenting with them in their knitting.

Aleen’s classes are perennial favorites at Knit Fit! This year, she’s bringing back her popular brioche and double-knitting classes, along with a 1-hour midday class on the basics of Navajo knitting. I’m particularly intrigued by “Advanced Double-Knitting: Adding Texture.” I never realized it was possible to add texture to double-knitting – much less in so many different ways! Check out her class offerings below – and register today!

Teacher Feature: Meet Lisa Ellis!

by Sharon Crowley

Lisa Ellis is a prolific knitwear designer, and we are so excited that she's back to teach at Knit Fit this year! Lisa has had two books published by Leisure Arts, as sole designer/author: Wardrobe Favorites, and Fun Time Sweaters. She has also published designs in several other books and magazines, and she sells individual patterns in her Ravelry store.

Browsing through her designs on Ravelry gives an immediate sense of her excitement and versatility. She has designed for all ages, everything from sweaters, socks, and other accessories to decorative items for the home. Throughout, her work shows a flair for the visual, with pops of color and texture that keep things both useful and interesting.

Lisa learned to knit through the Camp Fire Girls - her mom was the leader. But her interest really took off in college, while she was studying overseas. First, her Spanish host mother made her a cashmere cardigan using neither a pattern nor measuring tape. Lisa says, “She would just put the pieces up against me and physically gauge when to start the armhole decreases and so on.  It turned out gorgeous!”

Later, while studying in France, Lisa saw a young Norwegian woman making sweaters in one of her classes. Not only did this young woman knit without a pattern, she also did color work without looking. Says Lisa, “I was mesmerized and intrigued!  This opened up my world of knitting without a pattern.  To knit without relying on a pattern is truly invigorating and liberating.”

These days, Lisa has shifted her focus away from her design business. She is enjoying the freedom to knit without deadline pressures, along with the opportunity to spend more time exploring the craft. She gravitates toward unusual fibers (bison, mink, yak, and possum, for example), and loves that she has more time to knit herself and her family. Her knitting passion now, she says, is "bar none, teaching."

Lisa’s sense of adventure is a prominent strand that runs through all of her classes. Read through the descriptions, below. You’ll notice a few key themes: techniques for adding color, new tools to try, and different ways to achieve more professional results. Lisa emphasizes patience in her teaching, creating space for people to learn at their own pace. At the same time, she encourages students to try new things and to keep their knitting fresh. “Like I say in my classes, if you become complacent with your knitting, you will move on to another craft form.  My goal is to teach new techniques, finesse the practice and bring new excitement to knitting.”

Check out Lisa’s classes, below – and register here!

Connect with Lisa online: Website, Ravelry

Knitting Techniques

This year, we have a great set of classes to help you expand your bag of tricks! Maybe you'd like to have more options: cast-ons, bind-offs, ways to create crisper cables. Maybe you have a few knits that you've loved a little too much, and want to learn how to mend them so they look even better than before.  Learn how to "pick" your knits if you're a "thrower" - which opens the door to stranded color work. Learn to knit Portuguese style - which is simply ingenious and cool - but also might help if you're experiencing hand strain.

Here's a handy array of classes that cover these topics and more - or you can check out the Classes page to see everything!