July 14, 2010

i’m finding it difficult to understand, much less describe, my experience at the knot hysteria silk retreat.
living up to its name,
i learned loads about silk
and was given the time to withdraw from the everyday.

i can’t remember i time when i focused so intensely on one thing, or when i heard so much laughter in such a small space of time. i met some crazy amazing women who were both everyday people and unbelievable artists. i was stunned at the level of skill, creativity, and expertise that surrounded me, not only from our teachers, but from my fellow students. it was humbling really to recognize that, while i can effectively execute a knitting pattern at a fairly high level, my knowledge of fiber arts is minimal.

i learned that i know nothing.

but i suppose a more detailed approach would make for a better read, so here i go.

i was in group three,
which meant i spent my first day of class with the depraved dyer herself, tina newton.

we learned about the chemical makeup of silk in order to understand why it behaves the way it does in relation to dying.
and then we got to go to town.

we dyed a skein each of silk thread,
silkie socks that rock,
some silk top,
and three silk hankies.

it’s hard to pick just one,
but i think hers was my favorite class.
it gave me the chance to access a creative part of my brain that doesn’t get much action. dying the various forms of silk,
and thinking about color in general,
was like eating a perfectly cooked steak,
or that feeling you have when someone rubs your shoulders,
releasing a tension you never knew you had.

dying filled up a space in me,

and a pretty big space in my stash.
(i also increased my stash at the little store they had. there’s no photo cuz knitters know where i live, and there’d be a yarn related b&e in pittsburgh)

later in the day, the dying continued.
we all got to paint silk scarves with tina and stephanie,

and dye silk noil skeins in indigo with judith.

some people even dyed their hair.

day two was spent with judith mackenzie.

i was one of the people who learned to spin to come to the retreat.
i took lesssons, and practiced every chance i got.
and while i wasn’t in the financial position to purchase a wheel,
judith let me use one of hers.

of course, everything i learned went right out the window.

let me explain.

according to judith, spinners have one of two souls.
either you’re naturally a woolen spinner or worsted
for those of you who don’t spin,
think of it as english vs. continental
or being right or left handed.
you’re brain just likes one or the other.

apparently, i’m a woolen spinner.
with some crossed wires since i use my left hand to control twist
even though i’m right handed.
which meant i was at a disadvantage since silk “should” be spun worsted.

so i was at square one all over again.


but i came to learn and learn i did.
i can’t even begin to collate everything i learned about spinning.

but this i know for sure;
after extensive observation,
i’m convinced judith is some sort of witch.
good or bad, she’s the witch of pacific northwest
i’d bet my life she’s the one who taught rumplstiltskin how to spin straw into gold.

just sayin’

my last day was knitting with stephanie
this was the class i felt most prepared for;
knitting was supposed to be my strong point.
it turned out to be the most frustrating of all my classes.
she kept throwing sample after sample of different yarn blends at us to knit, and my hands couldn’t keep up with the pace at which my mind was moving.

i mean,
have you ever tried to knit a lace swatch with silk thread?
i almost cried!

and knitting with silk hankies??
really pretty effect
but not so easy.

(here’s one hanky layer stretched to the max)

i probably learned more about knitting from stephanie in a few hours than i think i have in the past 6 months.

for instance!
have you ever heard that casting on over a larger needle (or two needles) will help if your cast on is too tight?
that is only true if you’re doing a single strand cast on!
such as knitted, cable, or crochet cast on.

if you do some form of the long tail cast on,
casting on over larger needles will not make your cast on edge looser!

i know what you’re all saying.


i said the same thing pretties.
i don’t have the ability to draw the picture necessary to prove it to you.
here’s what I’ll say: only one of your strands of a long tail cast on goes over needle itself, making a loop. the other only wraps around that loop underneath the needle and is therefore unaffected by the size of the needle. while the loop itself may be larger because you’re using more yarn, the edge will not be because you use the same amount.

the test?
do it yourself.

seriously, it’s true.
this is the face of experience

that evening after dinner was show and tell.
people brought some stunning things that they had made.
i orginally planned on giving stephaine the juneberry triangle then,
but upon further consideration,
it seemed really gauche.

so i gave it to her earlier, when no one was looking.
it was a moment i’ll remember,
and i’m glad it wasn’t public.

i’m home now,

and i haven’t been this happy in forever.

i’ll miss you port ludlow.

18 Responses to “retreat”

  1. V. Says:

    Amazing post. Glad to have you back.

  2. Sally at RivendaleFarms Says:

    I totally get it, your words are perfect. Thank you for sharing it.

  3. Sally at RivendaleFarms Says:

    Crap, hit “submit” too fast. Meant to add, did you dye the bottom skein in the 4th picture down? It’s unbelievably gorgeous.

  4. Yvonne Says:

    I hope that you are bringing your pretties to the shop tomorrow??

  5. Stephanie Says:

    Still owe you a beer.

    Dude, I know you were challenged in places, and really that’s the spot where our minds learn most, and above all else you should really, really be proud of yourself. You’re the best kind of student. A good learner who’s interested in learning.

    (Also. I love my gift. More than I can say.)

  6. Kim Says:

    What Yvonne said. I can’t wait to hear all about it.

  7. Lynae Says:

    Again so glad I was in your group! I’ll just send everyone to your blog to describe the weekend!

  8. Andrea Y-Jones Says:

    Where was this held? This place looks beautiful! 🙂

  9. Gretchen Says:

    Lynae has the right idea – your description is perfection. What a time it was. It improves with each memory. How about a mile’s worth of silk fiber from just one cocoon? How about knitting started in the middle east – where else do we make something opposite the way we read (Stephanie describes this better, but I had a huge light bulb snap on with that one). Lovely, lovely time. Glad to have met you Mr. A!

  10. Juliet in Grand Rapids Says:

    Thanks for sharing your amazing silky experience. You had a wonderful time for many who could not attend. We appreciate that.

    I knew Stephanie would love her Juneberry. I knew it was for her, because I know how much you like to knit (for her)!

  11. Carol Says:

    Glad you had a great time. But then again, I KNEW you’d love Judith, she’s so inspiring.

  12. Michelle Says:

    I’m so glad you had an incredible experience!!! And, I remain, J.E.A.L.O.U.S.!!!

  13. Pam Says:

    Very jealous. But what a wonderful experience. Thanks for sharing.

  14. […] so i’ve been unbelievably unfaithful to it. i’ve worked on it off and on, but with little joy. i cast it aside heartlessly for the juneberry for stephanie, and knit only one row when i was on my retreat. […]

  15. Karen C Says:

    I learn something new every time i read your blog! thank you!

  16. […] *sigh* it’s like i’m working with chimps. it’s the silkie socks that rock that i dyed a year and half ago at the knot hysteria silk retreat […]

  17. […] i’ve been enjoy my summer hermitage, i discovered lynae and adrienne, dear friends of the knot hysteria variety, were coming to my state for the michigan fiber festival. lynae undertook quite a twitter campaign […]

  18. […] made some life-long friends at my first retreat i learned to spin, just so i could go, and now i’m a spinner. and now it’s all […]

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