When Knitters Gather:
Knitter's Review Retreat
November 8-11, 2012

Every November for the last 11 years, a group of knitters and I have gathered together for the Knitter's Review Retreat. The group has grown over time from 49 to 116. The number of instructors and vendors and scheduled activities has, likewise, expanded over the years. But the bottom line remains the same: We gather for a weekend of relaxation, inspiration, and friendship, erasing the outside world and indulging in our mutual love of yarn and needles.

We've gathered in a lot of places. First in rural Virginia, in the shadows of the Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Then at a family-run retreat center in Walker Valley, New York. Next, we hit the Berkshires of Massachusetts, first at an allegedly haunted inn in Lenox, and then up the road in Williamstown.

knitting by the lake
Last year we moved yet again (I'm a firm believer in shaking things up) to the Finger Lakes region of New York. That's where we gathered this year for the 11th annual Knitter's Review Retreat. Our home was the Inn on the Lake in Canandaigua.

While most of the people have been to the retreat before, 20% of the spots are always reserved for newcomers. They may plunk themselves tentatively at the corner of a group, only to be quickly pulled in.

We have an unspoken pact of approachability that makes us strangers only briefly. "Which yarn is that?" someone asks, touching a shawl. "How'd you do that?" asks another person, now pointing to a sleeve before sitting down to get a better look. By the next morning, friendships have been formed, connections forged.

friends Ann and Linda

yarn and wine A relaxing newcomer

friends Aunt Judy and Cousin Kathy

The days leading up to the retreat can be a frenzy of activity. Some of us work overtime to finish special projects (one person even blocked hers in the car on the way up). Others bake cookies, or make chocolate truffles, or pour sheet upon sheet of our special homemade toffee. We may even bring a six-pack of our favorite beer for after-dinner knitting by the fire.

cookies? prepared with the essentials

the stash lounge

People come prepared. They've gone through their stashes and weeded out those yarns they no longer believe will ever become a project. They bring them for the stash lounge, where they are promptly (and appreciatively) snatched up by someone else. People even retrieve things for others, wandering through the hotel with a skein (or two, or a bag of yarn) to show a friend in the dining room.

Yarns come and go and come back again—and go again—throughout the course of the weekend. Remaining yarns are hand-delivered to Interim House, while the books and magazines go to the local library.

show and tell
During introductions and a loosely formed show-and-tell, we ooh and aah over majestic knitterly creations. One by one, these confident, bright, lovely people peel away their layers, revealing the various joys and failures and losses that may have punctuated their year. People hear their own story come out of someone else's mouth. We come away with a profound feeling of not being alone.

hundreds of hats
When asked to knit preemie hats and blankets, we respond with hundreds of darling little things. And when we ask WEBS to send us more yarns to make yet more hats and blankies during the retreat, they respond with a huge box of yarn.

Our goody bags are stuffed with gifts of yet more yarn and books and gadgets from Berroco, Classic Elite Yarns, Westminster Fibers, Tahki Stacy Charles, Lorna's Laces, Among Friends, Spirit Trail Fiberworks, Peace Love Yarn, Harper Collins, and The Kangaroo Dyer.

students learn colorwork Amy Herzog teaches

Over the course of the weekend, we learn from gifted teachers like Ann Budd, Sivia Harding, Amy Herzog, and Mary Scott Huff. They teach us about things like fixing mistakes, creating our own lace shawls, working with multiple colors, or designing garments that truly flatter our figures—things every knitter ultimately longs to know.

Katherine Alexander's colors
On Saturday, the marketplace opens. It's a magical room where some of our favorite artisan yarn and accessory vendors have set up temporary shop for the weekend—people like Spirit Trail Fiberworks, Briar Rose Fibers, String Theory Yarn, Kathryn Alexander, Peace Love Yarn, and Three Bags Full.

Peace Love Yarn Karen

In the marketplace we indulge in hours of uninterrupted yarn-touching, enjoying the luxury of really being able to think about each yarn's ideal use. Not only that but we can walk over to Ann Budd for confirmation that such-and-such yarn would be right for a top-down sweater. Or tap Sivia Harding on the shoulder to see if a yarn would be good for lace, or run a colorwork palette by Mary Scott Huff, or show Amy Herzog a sweater in a book and ask, "Would this be right for me?"

Mary Scott Huff succumbs to Spirit Trail Fiberworks yarn Martha falls prey to Briar Rose

Everyone, teachers and students alike, falls prey to the lure of the yarn.

silly smiles More goofy

And everywhere else? More knitters. Talking, laughing, being silly or sincere.

happy group hug

Knitters enjoying a quiet moment, or grabbing a group hug.

winding and winding and winding
A swift and ballwinder see constant use, transforming ball-winding into a competitive sport. Some people step in for tag-team ball winding.

the fireplace
Folks take turns camping out in the big comfy chairs in front of the fire, or in clusters on the couches and chairs in the lounge, and pretty soon they begin to sprawl into the hallways. You hear laughter and conversation as you walk past other guest rooms toward your own.

Martha and Eva

It's almost like we've created our own parallel universe in which knitting is the complete norm—where there are no hurricanes or super storms or nor'easters, and where someone prepares our food and makes our beds and plumps our pillows every night, while all we do is relax. A universe that's populated with kind, smart, funny, interesting people from all walks of life, all of whom are quite happy to be with one another, even if they've only just met.

The Class of 2012

It's a hard world to leave on Sunday. We begin the day by recalibrating our compasses for the coming year. First, a moment of writerly reflection.

letters letters

letters letters

Jen and Beth swap stitches

We end with a group cast-on designed to capture the goodwill of the weekend within our stitches. Some people swap stitches for good luck.

casting on casting on

A farewell hug
One by one, we say our goodbyes and venture back out into the world.

The next Knitter's Review Retreat will take place November 7-10, 2013, at the Inn on the Lake in Canandaigua, NY. If you'd like to be notified when event and registration details are available, simply subscribe to our retreat notification list by filling out the fields below.

Thank you! I hope to see in 2013.

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