The 2008 Knitter's Review Retreat
November 21-23, 2008
A rolling retreat gathers no moss. At least that's how the saying could go, as our seventh annual Knitter's Review Retreat moved yet again—this time just up the road to Williamstown, Massachusetts. The good news is that we've found a home at the Williams Inn and will return there November 20-22, 2009.
We added a third workshop to our Saturday morning line-up and two new vendors for the marketplace, we had a record-breaking 98 people join us, we collected 111 beautiful knitted caps for chemo patients, we indulged in a full Thanksgiving feast, and we enjoyed our first dusting of snow. Could the weekend have been any better?
Skacel also sent along a final sample of their much-anticipated new Addi Turbo Click interchangeable needle sets, which I'll talk about in more detail next week. But I can tell you that competition for the Clicks was fierce.
Once everybody arrived and we'd had our dinner, we migrated to our private meeting room, pulled out our knitting, and started swapping stories. For many people this was a reunion weekend to get caught up with old friends.
Oh, and the dress code for Thursday night? Bunny-slipper casual.
Friday Morning: Lace
Show and Tell
Friday night kicks off with introductions and show and tell. This year I asked everybody to focus on one question: What's your knitting philosophy? Over the next two hours we managed to hear the stories and see projects that reflected the philosophies of 98 people. Some of the nuggets were just too fun not to write down.
"Things aren't always perfect," said one woman, holding up a blanket her husband felted by mistake. "But you just go with it."
Adrienne Martini showed us the Alice Starmore sweater that inspired her forthcoming book Sweater Quest. "Right now," she added, "it may be just a very complicated pillowcase."
Another woman confessed, "I knit so I don't kill people." (The scary part was how many of us nodded our heads in agreement.)
"I knit to make memories," said another attendee, rendering us speechless as she modestly detailed the 100 yarmulkes she knits for each grandson's Bar Mitzvah.
"This probably isn't the best example of what I knit, because it's done," said another woman, and again we nodded our heads.
Speaking of completion issues, one woman showed us a stunning shawl that she finished several years ago but still hadn't blocked. Offers to help came pouring in, as well as an exclamation from across the room, "You'll never finish it! Send it to me!"
The heckling continued when another attendee told of how she likes to buy local yarns when possible, and that she found one source that even includes pictures of the sheep whose fibers were used for each skein. "Who ate the sheep?" came the cry, again, from across the room.
Other quotables: "Knitting is all about finding a different way to solve problems." "Who says lace has to be in fine yarn? I say you can do it in chunky, you can do it in bulky, it doesn't matter!" "I'm so brand new that the only thing I've mastered is ripping out." "Never have a lifecycle event without a knitting component." And my favorite, "Knitting is disaster in slow motion." Who knew one simple question could elicit such insight?
My favorite moment came later, after I'd said goodnight and was heading back up to my room. Walking down the long hallway I could hear the happy voices of knitters in their guest rooms. At one point a group of women exclaimed, "Yaaaaay!" I couldn't have said it better.
Of course some did not believe this was possible.
But we prevailed and we succeeded. Introducing the KR Retreat Class of 2008!
Melissa Morgan Oakes led folks on a whirlwind journey into the land of knitting two socks at a time on two circular needles—based on her book. We knew it was ambitious to try and teach this technique in just three hours (Melissa likened it to speed-dating), and many students ended up rejoining her after lunch for a continued tutorial.
Making the Market
People emerged from their workshops to discover that it had begun snowing outside. Stoked with fresh knitterly ideas and a belly full of lunch, folks once again sprawled about in happy, cozy groups inside.
But at 2pm sharp, the marketplace opened and a new adventure began.
The rest of the afternoon we were free to relax, nap, peek at the stash lounge, and sprawl with new friends. Since the retreat was just one week before Thanksgiving, I decided we should rush the season and have a full Thanksgiving banquet that evening. On the menu were turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, roasted root vegetables, cranberry sauce, and last but not least, a slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream.
I knew we'd be too blitzed on the tryptophan to do any serious thinking after dinner, so everybody gathered in the main meeting room to knit and talk. Kristopher's swift and turbocharged ball winder saw nearly nonstop use as he and other attendees wound hank after hank of yarn for their Sunday New Beginnings projects. (In the photo at right, Susan is actually being serenaded by friends as she nervously begins winding 2,400 yards of laceweight yarn.)
Sunday Morning Come-Together
The fact that the retreat falls so late in the year makes it a convenient bookend of sorts, a time when we can evaluate the past 12 months and recalibrate our compasses for the year ahead. The Sunday morning New Beginnings program was created with this in mind.
What's really fun is to return the next year and find your letter patiently waiting for you on Sunday morning. Those who can't attend the next year are treated to a surprise in the mail instead.
Next, I ask everybody to bring yarn, needles, and patterns for a project expressly for them—something that will challenge them in whatever way they choose. For me, the challenge was simply to start a project I knew I'd complete. Some found the mere idea of knitting for themselves a challenge, while others chose projects that would push their skills to the next level.
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