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!