Truth be told, Labor Day bums me out a little. It signals the impending end of summer, fewer sunlit hours in the day, and reminds me that winter lurks not far away. It all just gets me a bit melancholy. Perhaps its the vestiges of a childhood-dread for back-to-school. Unlike summer autumn and winter feel so dutiful. A time full of preparing for the dark and cold, not at all like the carefree spirit and light of summer. Now, I live in California so I can hardly call the my winters cold and dark, but I did grown up in New England and these things get engrained in a person. You'd think that as a knitter I'd be excited about winter but honestly, not so much. Its rarely too warm to wear knits in San Francisco. Given my bleak perspective wouldn't it make sense to squeeze out the last sweet juices of summer by doing something big and fun for Labor Day? You'd think. But somehow, at least for the last few years, my Labor Day weekends have not been spent with any fanfare.
My friend and former neighbor Tom, however, has taken a different approach to the long weekend. For six years he's been attending the West Coast Men's Fall Knitting Retreat, held these last seven years at the Dumas Bay Centre on the Puget Sound in Washington. Tom would return from the retreat each year to regale me with stories of how beautiful the location is, telling me how much fun I'd missed and encouraging me to join him the next year. So enthusiastic were his reports that last year even his partner, who is not a yarniac at all, went with him to see what all the commotion was about. Tom wasn't the only one coaxing me. Mike Wade, a.k.a. WonderMike of Fiber Beat fame and also a pal of mine, has organized this event for years. Whenever I'd see Mike (which isn't often enough despite living across the bay from each other) we'd decide that this was the year. But when fall rolled around it always seemed like there was a competing priority. You know how it goes. The combination of a continent between me and Tom, and Mike's announcement that he would no longer be organizing the event made me realize that this year I had to go.
And so I did! And of course, these guys were right. Where to begin?
Walking into the meeting room we were greeted by a wall of beautiful pottery created by one of our fellows, Charan Sachar, of Creative With Clay. Charan takes his inspiration from embroidered Indian fabric and his work is simply beautiful. I labored (no pun intended) over the weekend to decide which piece I'd take home. Of course that meant four pieces ended up in my bag, one of which now sits with me at my desk when I'm writing. Did I mention Charan makes yarn bowls, too? Its all over my holiday list.
The retreat location is just gorgeous. The Dumas Bay Centre is literally on the Puget Sound and the gathering room overlooks it with full windowed walls. The cost of the retreat includes all your meals which brought delight to the palate and woe to the waist line. Each day had planned activities for those who wanted to attend and if you didn't, no problem. This was truly a retreat- an amazingly peaceful time to be off the grid and spend time knitting - with men.
Now, dear Female Reader, please don't be offended by my enthusiasm about this. I love knitting with my gal pals and I always will. But believe it or not I've never done it before with guys. At least not with this many at one time. Knit, I mean. What were you thinking? There were 30-plus guys from all over the country and Canada in attendance. All with amazing projects on their needles and a willingness to share skills and talents. Everything from Niebling to double knitting; mosaic to shadow knitting. And there was more than just knitting, too. You'd have seen men crocheting, tatting, card weaving and spinning. It was inspiring and affirming. And when we weren't knitting or eating you might have found us at Skacel's Marker's Mercantile. If you haven't been to the Mercantile its a must-do the next time you're in the Seattle area. If the yarn doesn't get you the gluten-free pastries will. Karin and her staff will surely greet you with a great big smile and a wealth of knowledge. We were there to buy fiber for our indigo dipping extravaganza which happened on Saturday of the retreat.
Kathy Hattori of Botanical Colors was on hand to give us a lesson in Shibori and prepare vats of indigo for yarn and tee shirt dyeing.
Saturday was a drizzly, grey day which set a perfect atmosphere for our drying hanks of yarn.
I am so smitten with this yarn! I carry it around the house with me just to look at it. It likes to go for car rides. It's allowed at work and in public buildings and I take it there. It will be great to have a garment made of it but I don't think I'll get tired of just looking at it any time soon. I also dyed a skein of lace weight 100% Merino (equally gorgeous) which I'll knit up first. I'd love to have it done for the Knitter's Review Retreat but there's lots to do before then so no promises.
There's lots of tradition among the MFKR community and I love this bit especially - there is an Ashford Traditional wheel that comes to the retreat with the sole purpose of seducing some unsuspecting (or not) man into the web of spinning. The wheel goes home with that person or persons, as was the case this year, so they can learn more about spinning before buying their first wheel. How cool is that! The wheel bit hard this year. Two naturals were in our midst and by the end of the weekend they were hooked. Fortunately, they're a couple so the wheel went home to two spinners this time. I can hardly wait to see what they learn this year and what they will bring to next year's retreat.
How fortunate for them, and indeed all of us, that we were visited by Judith Mackenzie! Judith gave a talk on this history of textiles as well as a spinning demonstration. She didn't need to persuade these guys to become spinners, but she certainly sealed the deal. And in Judith's ever gracious manner she gave them a lesson. What an entree into spinning, lucky ducks.
It was sad to say good-bye on Sunday morning but alas, life beckons and there's lots to do. And that's a good thing, even in the absence of long sunny days. I have an amazing fall in store! Have you checked my teaching schedule? Pretty sweet. Kind of like summer.
Men's Knitting Retreats are held in other areas of the country and throughout the year. Check out their website to see if there's one handy to you.
Knitting teaches male knitters to be true to themselves, to challenge fear and convention. Ergo, I knit.