Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Knitter's Review Retreat ~ There and Back

Hi, Knitters,
Last weekend I had the fine opportunity to teach at the 13th annual Knitter's Review Retreat. Clara Parkes is the host and organizer of the retreat and she does a stellar job. Every detail is thoughtfully taken care of by Clara. Clara offers the perfect amount of organized knitting and gathering time, and free time for the attendees. The entire retreat was a dream come true for me.

Click here for the Knitter's Review website! I have subscribed to Clara's newsletter for years and you should, too!

Clara is the author of these must-have books! I own and love all of Clara's books.

 I'd like to take you on the journey to Canandaigua, New York and back because it was a good one. 

I had a good feeling when I boarded the plane on the first leg of my trip from Madison to Detroit because I had an aisle seat and the two seats next to me remained empty. What kind of rare and good luck is that? I was pretty sure it was a sign of things to come. 

I carried with me a pair of socks I was knitting for my son's birthday which is at the end of November and a new shawl design I'm working on. I ended up plugging away on the socks during the flights. I made good progress on the foot of the first sock on the way to the retreat. The yarn is Patons Kroy in the Grey Brown Marl #55048 colorway. I wonder why the red is not mentioned in the name of the colorway? It's all about the red in my eyes.

It was gray and cloudy on the ground but once the plane was above the clouds it was so beautiful from the window. The world is an amazingly mysterious place.

The flights were short and on time, no troubles at all. On the second flight from Detroit to Rochester I heard some people sitting behind me talking about fingerless mitts and whatnot. I peeked around my seat and one of the knitters recognized me and started laughing. It was Chris from the very famous and beautiful Briar Rose Fibers and her knitting buddy Dawn. It was so nice to meet them along the way. 

I noticed as I flew in that there was still a lot of remaining colorful fall foliage and green in the area. Here in Madison we are already heading into winter so that was nice to see. Canandaigua is in the Finger Lakes Region of New York and we stayed at The Inn on the Lake hotel. The hotel sat right on a lakefront and in fact my first floor room had a door that opened directly to a scenic lakeshore area. The weather wasn't ideal but I still made it outside everyday to explore and get a feel for the area. I was rained on a bit but it was worth it.

The first day, Thursday, I had a bit of time before the kick off dinner and meeting so I went for a short run in the rain. I went straight down Main Street to check out the little shops and restaurants. I snapped a quick photo of the Court House. Every building seemed old and charming and with purpose. It is an adorable main street area that was busy and bustling even in the cold and rainy weather.

The Inn on the Lake was the perfect spot for the retreat. All of the meals were included and they were quite good with a nice variety of options. The convenient meeting rooms, casual knitting areas and classrooms were wonderful and roomy. My room was clean and comfortable. It was really good all-around.

We had a kick-off meeting where Clara got everyone excited and even happier to be there if this is  possible. The vibe of the retreat was really interesting to me. Since it is a long-running annual retreat there were only a small number of new attendees. So as you could imagine there was this instant feeling of camaraderie and joy for the reuniting of people with these longstanding friendships. The group was so welcoming and warm as is Clara. I suspect this is no accident. Clara fosters the environment and it really works. The event has a kind of joyous and comforting feeling running along with every moment. I really loved the feeling of acceptance and warmth from this group of knitters.

Friday started with my Sock Yarn Bunny Workshop. I had an enthusiastic group of bunny makers. We worked so hard and the class had an extended time after the lunch break. I wish all of my classes had that extra couple of hours. You can get so much more done with that amount of time and it is more relaxed. This group had the best time together! I was glad we took a photo. I don't want to forget this day of bunny knitting with this group. 

There were so many bunnies that popped up during the retreat. Some finished their bunnies from head to toe and others made great progress almost finishing. I hope everyone does finish and I'd love to see them when they are done!

This was the view from my room. Not too bad.

I found a couple of good running paths. One circled the lake and another circled a series of lagoons. 

It was so tranquil. The entire event had such a cozy feeling.

During my first workshop it started snowing. It added to the magical feel of the retreat. The snow didn't stick but with the rain and drizzle I was glad that I threw a waterproof coat and some of my warm sweaters and woolens in my suitcase before leaving. I am always thrilled to get the chance to wear the Peerie Flooers Hat by Kate Davies. I think this is a must-knit pattern. Canandaigua was the debut wearing for the cold season ahead.

The second workshop I taught was a Wee Sheep knitting workshop. This one went really fast. I recently designed these tiny sheep (about 2.5 inches tall) with several different stitch pattern options to create the woolly coat. It is a seamless bottom-up toy with a clever neck design to make it all one piece. I love this new class and several people finished the toy during the class and several others almost finished. It was fun to see their success. I had a several repeat students from the bunny workshop from the day before and the group was again warm and fun. What a pleasure.

The pattern for these tiny sheep isn't available for purchase yet. I am teaching this new workshop amongst others in New York City at Vogue Knitting Live in January 2015. I hope to see you there!

I brought a lot of toys to share with the knitters during the workshops. One of the most popular was the Quince & Co. doll set I recently released called Mary, Millie & Morgan. These dolls are top-down and seamless, knit completely in one-piece and there are clothing pieces and accessories for the dolls. The knitters in my workshops loved seeing the set of dolls all together. They also really loved all of the reversible/topsy-turvy toys I brought along, too. Those got a huge fun reaction.

Click here for the Mary, Millie & Morgan ravelry download eBook and Ben & Buddy patterns!

I am teaching this Seamless Doll Workshop at Vogue Knitting Live in NYC, too! Can't wait!

The retreat is steeped in tradition and many of the traditions or planned activities seem sort of sacred so I won't say too much. However, I will say that Saturday night of the retreat was possibly my most favorite retreat moment ever (coming in a close second was Sunday morning of the retreat). Saturday night was hilarious and fun. I haven't laughed so hard and had so much fun in a long time. It was just amazing.

This photo (I know it isn't the best photo of everyone but I had to share anyway) was taken right after the Saturday night festivities and you can see we are all a little bit flushed. We really shook it hard (yes, we moved it!) and I loved every minute of it. Some of my "shaking it" partners in crime are from left to right, me, Julie Weisenberger, Carson Demers (he teaches the ergonomics of knitting) and Linda Pratt. Julie and Carson were instructors at the retreat and Linda Pratt is with Westminster Fibers but she was an attendee of the retreat, not working. 

Along these same lines of having fun I just had the best time with the talented and extraordinarily smart Julie Weisenberger, the designer behind Coco Knits, and her trusty and every bit as talented assistant Tracy. 

Trust me, these two are fun, funny and just about perfect. Julie is so down-to-earth and honest and fun. I loved getting to meet and know her a bit. You know I have used her Knitters Block for years. She is an inventor of useful things for knitters as well as a designer. Her sweater and accessory designs are so well-known and beautiful. The entire theory behind her garment design revolves around flattering a woman's body with fit and drape and lines. I can't say enough good things about Tracy and Julie. Tracy is a long-time knitter and former yarn shop owner. The two met in college and have remained fast friends who live on either side of the country. It was fun to get to witness such a long term friendship with years of history. I was lucky they let me dine with them for just about every meal. They really made the retreat for me. Thank you Julie and Tracy.

I was struck by the many weeping willow trees in the Canandaigua area. We have these in my neighborhood/area but they are not hearty trees so many have been lost through the years. It is one of my favorite trees and I enjoyed seeing so many of them in one spot.

The lagoon paths featured wooden bridges and I went across every one I saw.

Sunday morning of the retreat was another favorite, cozy time. Again, I feel like much of the retreat should stay at the retreat so I'll just share a little bit. There was a final meeting before everyone began going their separate ways. Clara, if you don't know, is a wonderful speaker and although she certainly didn't spend too much time speaking the time she did I thoroughly enjoyed. I knew she was witty and clever and an extremely good writer but what I didn't know is that she is really adorable and downright funny. My sides hurt. She is a bundle of energy and quick wit. Another thing I noticed about Clara is that she is a really good listener even when she is in the midst of being busy. When you are talking to her she stops and focuses and soaks in what you are saying. I love this about her.

Clara shared some of her upcoming projects and yarn with the group. Clara has started a fascinating journey in the milling of select fibers from across the country to create her very own Clara Yarn. 

These yarns come and go from her shop. She develops them in small batches with different mills and wool breeds and when they are to her liking she sells the yarns. When the yarns are gone they are gone and she is off to create more and different yarn. It is one of the most inspiring and earnest yarn development projects I have ever seen.

Clara gave each of the knitters in the large group on Sunday morning a tiny wound ball of her newest Clara Yarn, a sampling that is yet to be available, and a little notebook with Clara Yarn on the cover. While Clara talked and read a moving and beautiful piece she wrote she asked us if we would swatch a little square of our liking with her newest yarn. I had somehow missed that we were to bring needles with us to the gathering. Although Clara suggested a US 4 for the swatch the only needles I had with me were US 1s from the sock in my bag. I quickly pulled out the US 1 dpns from my sock stitches so I could partake in this magical time with the knitters. I swatched a tiny 2x2 inch square with garter stitch borders and a stockinette center while I listened to Clara's calm, pleasant voice reading a lovely ode to an extraordinary fiber artist and friend who recently passed away.

~my tiny swatch knit on two US 1 dpns~

I was completely moved. The feelings of being exhausted from a full and fun weekend, meeting one of my favorite fiber industry people, Clara, having her hand-selected and developed yarn running through my fingers and onto my needles, and the swirling enthusiasm, warmth and love of knitting emanating from the knitters around me was overwhelming. I breathed it all in.

I felt so fortunate and thankful for this moment in my life. 

I'll keep this little golden swatch to remember.

And then there was Yarn Church. All I can say is that you have to be there for this one. It is like nothing I have ever experienced before. It is a time of hope, good will and encouragement for all knitting projects and their knitters.

So to Clara, I thank you for a life-changing retreat. The weekend was a gift. I hope I get to return someday. Thank you.

With that I was off toward home. Flying at night was the perfect way to end things. It was quiet and beautiful.

And when I got home I realized that I had finished the pair of men's socks for my son's upcoming birthday. I didn't feel like I got much knitting done but in the end I guess I did.

It was like magic, sort of like the entire weekend.

Thanks for coming along today. I hope all of you get to attend a beautiful knitting retreat someday. It is an amazing journey that restores and nourishes your knitting life.

xo ~ susan