some porch-knitting at the 2005 Knitter's Review Retreat

2007 Gatherings and Getaways

Last week I walked you through some highlights of the 2007 fiber festival season. We talked about sheep and wool festivals, which are places where you could see, touch, smell, hear, learn about, and—in the case of sheep and goats—eat your favorite fiber-bearing animals.

But for some knitters, the idea of fairgrounds, fried dough, and the incessant blatting of sheep does not sound all that appealing. Sometimes we want a little more—perhaps a knitting retreat, seminar, or even tour—even if it costs more than a festival entry and requires at least one overnight stay.

This week I'll show you some of the other ways you can gather with your peers and celebrate your love of knitting. This is just a small sampling of what's going on—you can find more in our Upcoming Events calendar.

La Vigneronne from Chez French Girl Tour
Guided Trips: La Belle France
Picture this. It's late morning in early September, and you're seated on a sunny terrace outside a restored winemaker's house in the south of France. You've just finished your pain-au-chocolat and café crème. Pulling out your knitting, you turn to Annie Modesitt, who begins to speak. "Today's lesson will be...."

No, this is not a dream, you're on a Chez French Girl Tour of France, with knitting instructor Annie Modesitt. The tours take place September 3-9 and September 10-16 in the small town of Faugeres. In the morning you get to learn new things from Annie, and then in the afternoons you visit nearby villages and sites.

Off to Tuscany
If Italy is more your speed, you'll have to choose between one of the two tours happening the following week. First, September 15-26, Lily in Chianti takes you to Tuscany where you'll stay in Villa Pitiana and enjoy wine tastings, castle tours, a visit to a working cashmere farm, cooking demonstrations, museum tours, and several days relaxation—not to mention instruction by the tour's famous namesake, Lily Chin, who will be on hand for five days. The trip is organized by Seed Stitch Fine Yarn of Salem, Massachusetts, and attendance is capped at 13 participants.

Meanwhile, in the medieval hill town of Cortona (setting of the film "Under the Tuscan Sun"), Toscana Americana Workshops is hosting Stitch 'n Bitch Tuscany with Debbie Stoller on September 15-27. The tour includes a cooking class, wine tastings, and visits to museums and Florence yarn stores, plus many hours of knitting instruction as Stoller walks you through designing your very own custom sweater.

A little later in the fall—October 8-17—Jane Thornley is leading her Knitaly: A Knitting Travel Adventure. Enjoy two days in Florence before heading up into the hills to the village of Gargonza. When not learning color blendings and other "free-range" techniques from Thornley, you'll enjoy day trips to historic nearby villages, plus wine tastings, shopping, afternoon strolls, and museum visits.

Inside Ireland
If the Emerald Isles are more to your taste, from October 19 to November 4 you can take the Handcrafted Holidays Fiber & Food Lovers Circle Tour of Ireland. The trip—more sightseeing than intensive workshopping—includes a visit to the Knitting and Stitching Show in Dublin, plus visits with local lace makers, craft centers, regional markets, and even a cooking school.

Culture of Peru
Seeking something a little more intensive? Perhaps the 22-day Puchka Peru Cultural Tour from October 12 to November 2 is more your style. The tour includes hands-on workshops with tapestry and backstrap weavers, knitters, spinners, embroiderers, braiders and gourd engravers. Part of the focus is also on meeting artisans and supporting their work through commerce.

Ahoy Matey!
If you need to stay a little closer to home (and "home" happens to be North America), I have two cruises for you this fall. First, departing from New York on September 3 for five nights at sea is the Fall Fiber Frenzy. Enjoy knitting and spinning with instruction from Kate Gilbert, Amie Glasgow, and Mama E.

The next cruise goes from Seattle to Alaska on September 16-23 on the It's Just Yarn cruise with teachers Nancy McDaniel and Lori Arden. The teachers—self-described as "two slightly irreverent women who believe's just yarn!"—will teach the ins-and-outs of the basics, cheats, and how to read a pattern.

Relaxing Retreats

rocking on the porch at the 2003 Knitter's Review Retreat
The basic concept of a knitting retreat is this: You get to leave behind your daily grind and have someone cook, do your housekeeping, and even offer you a second dessert without so much as a raised eyebrow. You spend your time with people who love knitting as deeply as you do. Friendships are forged, and even outside the workshops you tend to learn all sorts of things just by watching other people knit. Larger retreats also usually have some sort of marketplace set up so you can feed your consumer cravings.

Not all retreats are created equal. Some are intimate weekends with a handful of people. Others span more days and can include 100 or more people. I recommend you do your homework before registering to make sure you've picked the most suitable one for your desires. Things to consider: who is running the event, where is it held, what the daily agenda is (busy, relaxed, loose, structured, etc.), how many others will be there, and what previous attendees have said. If you already know others who are attending, you'll likely have fun no matter what. But especially when you know nobody, the price is high, and this is your first time, do your research.

In the Beginning...
The mother of all knitting retreats would have to be Knitting Camp, which Elizabeth Zimmermann began in 1974 and which has been faithfully nurtured by her equally gifted daughter Meg Swansen. Several sessions take place in July, each serving a different skill level and including two Retreat sessions. Registration fills up almost instantly, so it'll come as no surprise that the 2007 camp sessions are all full. Keep an eye out in February or March 2008 for next year's registration.

a silly moment during the 2004 SOAR
Next we have the Spin-Off Autumn Retreat (or SOAR), which is sponsored by Spin-Off magazine. This year's SOAR takes place at the Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire, Michigan, October 7-14. If retreats were universities, SOAR would have to be MIT—you're surrounded by incredibly smart and inspiring people who are seriously dedicated to the fiber arts.

Camp Stitches
A third in the retreat trilogy would have to be Camp Stitches, a relatively new and more intimate addition to the larger Stitches events brought to us by Knitter's Magazine. The first camp of the year has already taken place in North Carolina; the second is at Asilomar in California on June 14-18. Camp Stitches is the ideal antidote for anyone who finds the Stitches shows too large or intimidating—which they can be at times, although in a good way.

the 2006 Knitter's Review Retreat group
The Knitter's Review Retreat
I can't mention retreats without noting that Knitter's Review has its own annual retreat that takes place each November—you can read all about the previous five retreats here. It's a lovely chance to nurture friendships and your love of knitting, learn new things and teach others what you know, and of course relax, laugh, stay up late, and enjoy someone else's cooking. This year's retreat takes place November 9-11 at the beautiful Seven Hills Inn located in the Berkshires region of Western Massachusetts, three hours from Boston and New York City. Attendance is limited to 70 participants, with a smaller group for the November 8th extension. I'm still fine-tuning this year's program and hope to open up registration at the beginning of June. Registration fills up very quickly, so keep an eye out for the announcement in your weekly email newsletter. I hope to see you there!

Rip Van Winkle
Knitters in the Hudson River Valley area may already be familiar with Claudia Krisniski's weekend knitting retreats. This year's remaining retreats all take place at the Winter Clove Inn in the Catskills. She calls them the Rip Van Winkle retreats, and upcoming topics include circular knitting (May 18-20), computer pattern writing (September 28-30), and Faroese sweaters and hats (November 2-4). You can find details on Claudia's business Web site, Countrywool. Registration is limited.

IwannaKnit ReTreat
Hand- and machine-knitters in the Midwest rave about the IwannaKnit ReTreat 2007, now in its ninth successful year. The event takes place at the Farmstead Inn in Shipshewana, Indiana, June 8-10. A busy schedule includes four to five classes each morning and afternoon covering everything from intarsia and entrelac to buttonholes, dyeing, shawls, and socks, as well as topics for machine-knitters.

Knitter's Connection
Every June, knitting industry bigwigs gather in either Columbus or Cincinnati for the National NeedleArts Association's semiannual market. It's an industry-only affair that's closed to the general public, but this year a smart Columbus yarn shop has scheduled its own event immediately after TNNA, while so many writers, designers, and teachers are still in town. It's called Knitter's Connection, and it takes place June 6-10. The schedule lists 34 classes for all skill levels, many taught by teachers who were in town for TNNA, and it also features a market with 24 vendors. I wish I could stay over after TNNA this year because Knitter's Connection looks like great fun.

Maine Retreat
If you're looking for an authentic summer camp-style retreat, complete with squeaky screen doors, cabins, and nightly campfires, I urge you to consider the Knitter's Retreat at Medomak Retreat Center in Washington, Maine. The gathering—now in its third year—takes place August 11-17 and is led by Bill Huntington of Hope Spinnery (a wind-powered fiber-processing mill not too far from Medomak) and shearer/spinner/dyer Geri Valentine. Just three hours up the coast from Boston, Medomak is one of those genuine, old-fashioned summer camp places you wish you'd attended as a child. Now you can attend as an adult, this time playing with yarn instead of learning to sail and make lanyards.

Granite State Knit-In
Knitting retreats don't always take place over an entire week or weekend, either. Here's one that only lasts one day: The 16th annual Granite State Knit-In at Loon Mountain in Lincoln, New Hampshire on June 2nd. This year's gathering will feature special guest Anna Zilboorg. (For details, call 603-898-6931.)

road trip!
Self-Guided Tours
Not so keen on the whole "group" thing? Check out these fiber-related collective open-houses. The idea is that you get a map of all the farms and studios that will be open to the public that weekend. Then you can travel at your leisure from site to site.

The first weekend in August is the Maine Fiberarts Studios and Farms Tour. August is the perfect time to visit Maine—the black flies are gone, the mosquitoes are slowing down, and the gardens are at their very peak. The tour map lists a whopping 144 sites you can visit throughout the entire state of Maine. Talk about a yarn-lover's driving trip!

In October, the more intimate Wool Arts Tour takes place in southern New Hampshire around the Antrim area. Last year's tour had five venues, this year's site hasn't been updated yet but we know it's October 6-7.

And finally, on Saturday October 27, we have the Franklin County Fiber Twist—part self-guided open-farms tour and part marketplace. Throughout the day you can tour open farms and studios throughout Franklin County, or focus on the marketplace and workshops taking place in Old Deerfield. If this year's vendor line-up is anything like last year, I may have to schedule a road trip of my own.

Strike One... Strike Two...
Take your knitting to the ballpark throughout the summer! Stitch 'n' Pitch is a new collaboration between The National NeedleArts Association and individual major league baseball clubs across the country.

Starting May 6th at Arizona Diamondbacks, Cincinnati Reds, and Texas Rangers games and going all the way through the season to September 23rd with the Florida Marlins, you can sit with your friends and knit or crochet during ballgames. This is no small matter: A Seattle game attracted some 2,500 knitting and needlearts fans.

I should note that what you see here is just the wee tip of the iceberg in terms of knitting-related conferences, retreats, and events. Many, many more are scheduled to take place this year. I urge you to peruse the entire Upcoming Events calendar on Knitter's Review for more—and to contact us if you know of an event that isn't listed.

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