welcome to Graves Mountain
Report from the 2005 Knitter's Review Retreat

Graves' Mountain Lodge
Syria, Virginia
November 4-6, 2005

I couldn't have imagined a more beautiful weekend for our fourth-annual Knitter's Review Retreat. Virginia's fall leaves were in full color, and the skies were intensely blue with temperatures in the balmy 70s.

For the past four years the retreat has been hosted at Graves' Mountain Lodge, a rustic family retreat in the foothills of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. Last weekend—uninterrupted by phone, television, or Internet—I and some 70 like-spirited women returned to Graves' for an entire weekend doing what we loved most: playing with yarn.

For those who were unable to attend in person, I invite you to join me for a virtual tour of the event.

Relaxing on the porchOn Thursday afternoon, the first participants arrived for our optional Thursday dye workshop extension, taught by Jennifer Heverly of Spirit Trail Fiberworks. Weather was too warm for a fire (usually roaring in the large fieldstone fireplace in our meeting room), so we sat on the front porch knitting and talking until dinnertime.

We regrouped after dinner for an overview of what we'd be doing the next day—then we returned to our needles and spinning wheels for the rest of the night.

playing with color
Friday morning, fortified with breakfast but already tired from a late night of talking, we trooped up the hill to the small cabin where the dye workshop took place. We played with three different types of yarn, each of which behaved differently with the dye.

Miraculously, the cottage furniture escaped without so much as a single drip of wayward color.

steaming the yarns

We wrapped up our skeins and put them in two giant pots for steaming. We did our best to feign patience as we left our beloved projects behind and headed down for another monumental Graves' meal and to await the afternoon arrival of the rest of the retreat participants.

Let the Real Retreat Begin
One by one, guests began streaming in from as far as Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, and even California for the weekend.

The next few hours were occupied with my very favorite part of the retreat—watching all these wonderful women come together, some for the very first time.

admiring the Dulaan pile as it grew

Every year we choose a charity project and encourage participants to knit something for it. This year's organization was the Dulaan Project, which collects and sends warm knitted items to Mongolia. The response this year was breathtaking—by the end of the retreat we had collected 60 hats, 17 scarves, 9 sweaters, 7 pairs of mittens, and 4 neck warmers. Thank you everybody!

After dinner we regrouped in our meeting room to get to know one another through show and tell, a retreat tradition that normally keeps us all up well past our bedtime. This year was no exception.

Maggie peeks in the window

We were joined again this year by our four-legged participant Maggie, who peered in the window to see if she could join in the fun.

Showing her cherished handknit stockings

I was especially moved when Doris Falkenberg (no relation to Hanne) held up a beautiful handknit stocking she had made for her baby daughter some 50 years ago... the same daughter who was sitting right next to her at the retreat.

Edie and her tie

Edie Beck, always an inspiration to me, showed off her snazzy new handknit tie.

LB and her sweater

Lindsey-Brooke Hessa shows off a stunning sweater that won first place at the Virginia State Fair this year.

Wendy and her lace

Wendy Johnson unveiled one of some eight lace shawls she knit this summer during her self-proclaimed Summer of Lace.

I saw many other inspiring items, including several knit with yarns from last year's door prizes and dye workshop. A common theme was lace, especially using the Charlotte's Web pattern from Koigu.

Fortified with yet another gargantuan breakfast, we gathered on the lawn for our annual group photo...

Wendy and her lace

Clara talking about her favorite subject...before beginning our morning class, a swatch-driven journey through the world of yarn taught by yours truly. I showed how to be smart about pairing the right yarn to the right project so that your yarn works with you, rather than against you.

Brains full of ideas, we broke for lunch and vacated our large meeting room so that the vendors could set up for the afternoon marketplace.

We all trekked up the hill to the two smaller meeting rooms for the afternoon breakout classes.

Bess teaches crochet

Bess Haile taught students how to complete and embellish their knitted garments with crochet.

Shelia teaches socks

Shelia January walked students through the process of knitting socks from the toe up.

a fiber feeding frenzy As the classes disbanded and the clock struck 3:30pm, the marketplace opened.

My Favorite Yarn Shop was our newest vendor, bringing lots of their signature handpainted alpaca yarns.

Stony Mountain Fibers, which has been with us since the beginning, had books, yarns, fibers, and other tools including several spinning wheels (one of which went home with an attendee).

Spirit Trail Fiberworks (founded by Jennifer Heverly after she attended the first Knitter's Review retreat) had loads of hand-dyed yarns and bag after bag of her specialty: spinning fibers from rare and endangered sheep breeds.

Our retail appetites satiated, it was time to head upstairs for another meal—this time a traditional repast of steak and baked potatoes with all the fixings, capped off with cake and ice cream. While we dreaded the gluttony, we were powerless to refuse it.

After dinner we all rolled back downstairs for the knit and spin-in.

a proud group of dyers

But first, the finished yarns from the dye workshop were returned to their creators, who posed here for a group picture.

Bess teaches spinning on a drop spindle

In one corner, Bess Haile taught people how to spin with a drop spindle.

Barbara Gentry teaches spinning on a wheel

In another corner, Barbara Gentry of Stony Mountain Fibers taught how to spin with a wheel.

And in the middle of the room, we had a sea of happy people talking and knitting and spinning and laughing. When I left at 10:30pm, people were still going strong.

By the next morning, everybody was noticeably more bleary from yet another late night. We assembled in the morning for breakfast and our New Beginnings workshop, where we each created miniature time capsules to be returned next year.

Then I led a group cast-on where we all began new projects together. Everyone was encouraged to go around the room and have any new friends knit a stitch in their new work for good luck.

Nathan receiving his socksAt lunch we had a surprise treat for Nathan, our 20-year-old dining room server. Earlier he'd waxed poetic about the cherished socks his grandma had handknit for him, and he came down to the marketplace to get materials so he could learn how to knit.

As a prize for his enthusiasm, two attendees furiously knitted away all weekend, proudly presenting him with a pair of handknit socks.

Nathan modeling his socks

He was so proud of the socks that he worked the rest of the meal with his pants rolled up to his knees so everybody could see them. As he walked around the dining hall, he exclaimed, "They feel so splendid... they're like a symphony for my toes!"

And so was this weekend a symphony for our souls. As Jennifer Heverly opened her trailer for her traditional end-of-retreat tailgate sale, one by one people packed up, said their goodbyes, and headed home for another year.

Goodbye until next year

Want to join us next year? I'll be announcing dates and the location in the newsletter. Keep reading and you won't miss it.

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