Report from the 2006 Knitter's Review Retreat
Walker Valley, NY
November 9-12, 2006
Although I love an adventure, I must confess I was a little nervous as I drove through pouring rain along winding country roads leading to a place I'd never been before—and where almost 80 people would be joining me for the weekend.
It was totally dark by the time Cat Bordhi and I arrived at Jeronimo's Resort, so we had to wait until morning to see exactly where we were. When I opened my curtains the next morning, I was greeted with a view that told me all would be well.
The Knitter's Review Retreat began five years ago when several forum members thought it'd be nice to get together in person. Although initially envisioned as a small gathering in a rented condo somewhere, interest was so high that we had 49 people at that very first retreat.
Time passed and our numbers swelled almost to 70, and it became clear that we'd outgrown our Virginia venue. This year I took a bold step and moved the retreat to a family-run retreat center in Walker Valley, New York.
We've always placed the focus on peers teaching peers, but this year I wanted to do something extra special in honor of the move. So I invited Cat Bordhi and Teva Durham to be guest teachers. The underlying spirit of the retreat, however, remains unchanged: to bring together like-spirited people of all skill levels for a weekend of community and creative inspiration.
Then we migrated into our meeting room and Cat began the hands-on portion of the moebius workshop. Cat uses wonderful stories to explain the cast-on, so we were joined by dolphins, hummingbirds, alligators, and even Slippy the Weasel. Total chaos gradually gave way to contented clicking of needles as, one by one, we got it.
Stash Swap Extravaganza
After lunch, the organizationally gifted folks in our group set about organizing the already-overflowing stash swap area. A retreat tradition, the stash swap started as a simple table where people could leave items from their stash that they no longer needed and perhaps find new goodies to take home.
Last year the table expanded to several tables, and this year it took up an entire room that we affectionately dubbed the Stash Lounge.
By the end of the weekend we'd collected a whopping 212 items: 122 hats, 9 pairs of socks, 2 sets of felted slippers, 6 dickeys, 16 sweaters, 2 vests, 3 blankets, 17 sets of mittens and gloves, and 35 scarves. If you didn't finish your project in time or would like to contribute, you can send it directly to Dulaan.
Show and Tell
After dinner, we all migrated to our large meeting room for introductions and show and tell. One by one, people told us their stories—funny, heartwarming, insightful—and showed us their knitterly creations. I asked people to bring an item of particular pride as well as their greatest failure.
And remember how I'd asked people to share their biggest failures? Here we see an elaborate cabled piece that had long frustrated its creator. After publicly declaring the project kaput, she pulled out the needle and began unraveling it.
After all the stories were told and projects shown, we relaxed with refreshments and delicious cakes that one guest brought from home. (Thank you, Amy!) When I finally headed up to my room, it was after 1:30am and people were still going strong.
Next morning after breakfast we converged on the front lawn for our group photograph. Luckily the inn's owner came out to help. "Green shirt, move to the left!" she expertly barked, and then, "You, the lady with the gray hair, I can't see you!" (This was answered with peals of laughter and a chorus of "Which one?")
Then we all migrated back indoors for the morning workshops. In one room, Cat Bordhi taught the mysteries of the moebius. In another room, Teva Durham led the group on an exploration of short-row shaping.
While the workshops took place, vendors set up for the marketplace. This year we were once again joined by Spirit Trail Fiberworks as well as Morehouse Merino and Katonah Yarn. Lela Nargi also came up from Brooklyn to sign copies of her book, Knitting Memories: Reflections on the Knitter's Life.
Our yarn appetites satisfied, we relaxed in various corners of the lodge until dinner—and then returned to our comfy corners to knit and spin and relax with our friends. I had the special pleasure of teaching my father—who'd driven down for the day—how to spin.
Sunday morning I passed out letters that people had written to themselves at last year's retreat. There were tears and laughter as people quietly read their letters. "I wrote that I'd get drunk at Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival!" one woman howled (and no, she hadn't).
Then we wrote ourselves new letters for this year, setting our creative courses for the next 363 days until we'd be together again.
I collected the letters and wrapped them up with yarn for safekeeping. We ended the official portion of the weekend by casting on new projects for the coming year, swapping stitches on others' cast-on rows for good luck.
And then one by one, people said their goodbyes and headed back out into the world for another year.
There's always a period of adjustment after everybody leaves and I'm all alone in an empty hotel. I returned to my room to gather my thoughts and splash water on my face. That's when I noticed the soap that had been placed in every room. Coincidence? I say not!