porch chairs ready for rocking
Report from the 2004 Knitter's Review Retreat

Graves' Mountain Lodge
Syria, Virginia
November 5-7, 2004

Many of us can only dream of spending an entire weekend playing with yarn. But for more than 60 knitters, the dream became a reality last weekend as they attended the third-annual Knitter's Review Retreat.

the view from the lodgeFor the past three years, the event has been hosted at the Graves' Mountain Lodge, a rustic country getaway nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Meals are served family-style and simple guest rooms are devoid of telephones and televisions.

Here we could escape the clamor of the outside world for some 48 precious hours of relaxation, laughter, inspiration, and uninterrupted fiber play. It's a chance to make new friends and transform our online friendships into real ones for two special days.

Thursday Arrivals
an intimate gathering
This year we expanded the retreat with an optional dye workshop. People arrived (15 in all) on Thursday afternoon. Introductions were made and we relaxed by the fire enjoying wine, cheese, and snacks brought by a handful of especially thoughtful attendees.

Jen teaching
The next morning we migrated uphill to the small cabin where the dye workshop would take place. After explaining some of the fundamentals of dyeing to us and providing an encyclopedic handout, our teacher Jennifer Heverly set us loose on our yarn.

people dyeing
We each were given an 8-ounce skein of superwash merino yarn, providing approximately 600 yards for our dyeing (and knitting) pleasure. How fascinating to see the varying colors and dye patterns each person chose, often in stark contrast to one another.

setting the dye

Then we wrapped up our skeins tightly and put them in a giant pot for steaming.

the dye group

We had time for a quick group photo before heading back down to the main lodge for lunch and to greet the weekend arrivals.

Guests traveled from as far as Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Nebraska, Ohio, Illinois, Florida, New York, Massachusetts, Michigan, and even California for the weekend.

The next few hours were occupied with hugs and squeals of delight as names were put to new faces and familiar faces returned from previous years. After dinner—a gluttonous feast of comfort foods lacking in spice but made up for in quantity—we regrouped in our meeting room to get to know one another through show and tell.

Helene's masterful knitted skirtFor many, this was an opportunity to take up where they left off last year. "You may recall last year I was struggling with the shawl from hell," one person would begin, before pulling out the finished project.

Meanwhile, new attendees often began, "My name is so-and-so, or X in the forums," only to be interrupted with several "oh that's you!" exclamations.

Saturday morning after breakfast we gathered on the lawn for our annual group photo...

the gang's all here!

Annie teaching...before beginning our workshop class. Annie Modesitt showed us how to navigate charted knitting patterns, providing helpful tips on how to stay calm when swimming in a sea of charted symbols. As an added bonus, she also showed us how to turn a cable without a cable needle.

sunny afternoon on the lawn

In the afternoon, everybody had free time to relax and knit while the vendors set up their mobile shops. Several people pulled their rocking chairs out into the sun, while others stayed on the front porch. Another group snuck away to visit an area winery.

the marketplace
At 2:30pm sharp, I rang the bell marking the opening of the vendor marketplace. Both rooms were quickly packed with eager and excited people, several of whom actually managed to stick to their original budgets. Others of us were not so lucky.

Barbara Gentry demonstrates needle felting

In the evening after dinner, we regrouped in our meeting room. Barbara Gentry gave a needle-felting demonstration.

Sweet dreams, Kendra!

After we finished taunting one another with the frightening faces she brought as samples...

now that's what I call a pumpkin - good job, Leslie!

...we got to work making little felted pumpkins of our own.

relaxing with new friends
Those who didn't participate in the tutorial sat in loose circles knitting and talking. I frequently saw people approach others to admire what they were doing—and these encounters often resulted in impromptu mini-workshops.

For me, this generous sharing of knowledge is the true gift of the retreat. We had more than 60 talented people in one room, each with something to share and something to learn, and best of all, each person was willing to do both.

A little later in the evening, Jennifer Heverly unveiled the finished skeins from the dye workshop (shown in the composite image below).

The next morning, some 10 brave souls arose early for a chair yoga session led by attendee and certified yoga instructor Lisa Cristantiello.

Bess teachingAfter consuming yet more food at breakfast, we resumed our learning sessions with Bess Haile showing how to seam together garments.

Not only did she show us how to create invisible seams, but also how to enhance your borders with crochet, three-needle bindoffs, and i-cord three-needle bindoffs. Bess also demystified the process of adding zippers to knitted garments, something many of us have avoided up to now.

a special guest

We were joined by a special guest who immediately became the retreat mascot.

fiber, anyone?After lunch, Jennifer Heverly pulled her trailer up for a repeat performance of last year's trunk show, giving people a last chance to stock up on materials. Several people had learned to spin last night and were buying unspun fibers where only yesterday they were limited to yarn.

And then we had to say goodbye. One by one, people began their reluctant departures. Baby-sitters needed to be relieved back home, planes caught, dogs walked, and bags unpacked before we all descended back into our regular earthly orbits for another year.

The porch chairs were once again empty as the last car pulled away. To all who joined us, thank you. And to those who couldn't, you were with us in spirit.
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