porch chairs ready for rocking
Report from the 2003 Knitter's Review Retreat

Graves' Mountain Lodge
Syria, Virginia
November 7-9, 2003


A few years ago, several forum members proposed a casual weekend of knitting with their new online friends. Because the majority of the knitters lived in the Virginia area, this was chosen as our destination state. More recommendations and emails later, Graves' Mountain Lodge was chosen as the venue, and soon was born the Knitter's Review Retreat. (Read more about the first retreat.)

This year marked the second-annual such gathering of KR friends. Our attendee list grew from 49 to 65 guests, about 40% of whom were repeat attendees. The educational focus this year was on color, both its theory and hands-on implementation, but the underlying intent remained the same: finding community among like-spirited people.

the view of the lodge
Graves' Mountain Lodge is marketed as a rustic country retreat, but its proximity to the nation's capital makes it popular with groups. For example, the Federal Reserve was in our meeting room the day I arrived.

Guest rooms are located in two separate buildings halfway up the hillside behind the lodge.

the fireplace

While the leaves were long gone when I arrived at the lodge a day early, the temperature was a balmy 68 degrees. Would we get to use the much-lauded stone fireplace in our meeting room, I wondered?





the short-lived clean roomOur rapidly expanding group challenged the confines of our once-large meeting room, but the staff and I managed to find enough chairs to seat everybody. See how tidy it looked?





a room with a valley view


The rooms themselves are comfortable, though certainly not luxury. But here's the real draw: the view.






Friday
getting reacquainted
On Friday afternoon, one by one, people began to arrive. There were hugs and happy yelps of recognition as we put names to faces, often for the first time.

The afternoon was reserved for unpacking, relaxing, and getting to know one another. People quickly set up shop around the room, turning our once-tidy space into a delightfully haphazard fiber playroom.

Let the Gluttony Begin family-style dining
Dinner at Graves' is nothing short of gluttony. Those of us already familiar with the experience tried to pace ourselves. Newcomers watched in shocked astonishment as bowl after bowl of food was brought to each table—fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, beets, corn casserole, three-bean salad, pan-fried trout, pickled carrots, steamed broccoli, all this and more was on the menu throughout the weekend.


Show and Tell
the healthful throw, completed!


After dinner we adjourned in the meeting room for show and tell. Before we began, I presented one forum member with a very special "healthful" throw composed of squares knitted for her by other members of the forums.



talk about a bad hair day
As it did last year, the show and tell portion lasted until well past 11pm. Some tired souls left early, while the rest of us persevered—some knitting, some spinning—through tale after tale of knitterly triumph (and tragedy). Here you see Annie Modesitt modeling an entertaining hat of hers.



Insight from the evening:
  • Many of us have trained co-workers and bosses to wait until we've finished a row before asking us to do something.
  • Un-darned tails in your work (i.e. "design features") will bring you good luck.
  • When offering to knit an item for someone, never let him or her pick the pattern. More often than not, it will involve seed stitch and a blindingly fine gauge.
  • Think outside the box when something doesn't turn out quite the way you'd hoped. As Edie Beck showed us in her PG-13 demonstration, this garment could become the only item you'll need to pack for a weekend.

Saturday Workshop: Part I

here we are!
Before we began the morning workshop, we convened on the front slope for a group picture. Not bad for a casual gathering of knitters, eh?


Then we launched into our workshops. Bess Haile began with an overview of color principles, symbolism, and theory.

Bess holds courtWe learned such interesting facts as that blue depresses one's appetite, so if you want to lose weight simply paint your kitchen and dining room blue. On the other hand, if you want to gain weight, paint your kitchen orange, red, or yellow.

Meanwhile, blue/green is the most universally popular color, combining calm and refreshing elements with trustworthy and natural energy. She showed us how we can use color wheels when choosing colors for our projects, how any two colors can be blended through gray scale, and how to create our own color palettes using paint chips, embroidery floss, leftover yarn, etc.

Saturday Workshop: Part II
Annie holds forthThen Annie Modesitt took over for the hands-on portion, presenting a class entitled "Creative Colorwork & Interesting Intarsias: The Power of Pigment." Her presentation began with easy multicolored motifs (horizontal stripes, slipped stitches, vertical stripes, etc.), then stranded work (Fair Isle, floats, managing strands, working in the round versus flat, etc.), and finally intarsia.

Her class ended with three projects of varying difficulty, a garter-striped scarf, a short-row colorblock scarf, and—the project most of us chose—an ingenious little plaid bag just big enough to hold your favorite paperback book.

Market Mayhem
Spirit Trail FiberworksMeanwhile, the vendors were hard at work setting up shop in a separate meeting room. Carodan Farm and Stony Mountain Fibers both brought loads of merchandise, giving us a full choice of fibers, yarns, tools, and patterns.

I represented Knitter's Review with many of our notecards and holiday cards, T-shirts, pins, and assorted extras on hand. Potter and attendee Lissa Hurwitz had hand-thrown knitting-themed vases and bowls for knitting needles, drop spindles, yarns, and any other item that could use a container.

Jen Heverly took her new business, Spirit Trail Fiberworks, on a maiden voyage, filling an entire corner of the room with her exquisite undyed and dyed fibers and hand-dyed yarns. Although I was busy with my own booth, I did manage to sneak over and acquire several skeins and bags of fiber for my own enjoyment.

Saturday Evening
Fiberly appetites satiated, we adjourned in the meeting room to admire our findings and continue working on our colorwork projects. Before you could say "grits," it was time to go back upstairs for another meal.

our new recruitCulinary appetites satiated even more than our fiberly ones, we returned downstairs for a casual evening of knitting and spinning.

At one point we were joined by a mother and her two sons—all guests at the inn—who wanted to see what we were doing. One of the sons quickly took to a spinning wheel and stayed with us for almost half an hour.

Barbara demonstrates carding fibers with a drum carderIn another corner, Barbara Gentry demonstrated how to use a drum carder to blend different colors and types of fibers. It's an amazing process rather like grinding your own grain for flour for your own home-baked bread. I was so smitten that I acquired a drum carder identical to the one shown here.

At around 9pm we all gathered on the front lawn, where we had a perfect view of the lunar eclipse. She wasn't on my list of attendees, but Mother Nature had joined us after all.

Sunday
time for a hayride!By Sunday morning the temperatures had dropped to freezing, so most folks stayed by the fire in our meeting room. But a few brave souls (myself included) ventured out for a hayride through the hills and orchards surrounding the lodge.

Just as quickly as they'd arrived, it was time for people to leave. Planes had to be caught, freeways conquered, buses boarded.

it's a veritable trunk show!As people headed out, they discovered that Jen had opened her car and was helping one attendee pick some last-minute yarns for the ride home. Soon her car was swarmed with people for what we termed the first true trunk show.

Jen was assisted by Martha, who we see here using a car hood as a makeshift table for commerce.


Where'd They Go?
knitting and thinking by the fireAnd then I found myself alone again, sitting by the fire, knitting and trying to absorb the magnitude of what had happened during the weekend.

So much of it had nothing to do with lessons and workshops and everything to do with human interaction, the pleasure of spending time with old and new friends, taking two and a half days just for ourselves.

I learned new techniques, gathered new ideas, and realized just how much more I want to learn.

And best of all, I planned the agenda for next year's retreat. Be prepared: You'll have homework, handouts, hands-on knitting, and a finished product by the time you leave!
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