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Occasional musings on "life, the universe, and everything" from a fiber junkie.

November 13, 2007

Yarn Overload


One of the best antidotes to everyday life is a good dose of Yarn Overload.  This was proven conclusively this past weekend, as ninety knitters converged on the Seven Hills Resort in Lenox, MA, for the Knitter’s Review Retreat.


My buddy Mmario and I headed out early on Friday, hoping to have time to visit Webs before checking in at the Retreat.  After only minor amounts of Splinter Ceremonial Circling, we found the store and started shopping.  Mmario had been pondering a particular shawl design for more than two years, but hadn’t found a suitable yarn for it yet.  Almost the first thing he saw when we entered the store was a tencel laceweight yarn in exactly the perfect colors.  Being no fool, he snagged a cone of it immediately, chortling happily.


After looking around a bit, I meandered into the “back room” of the shop, where all the closeout yarns are displayed.  Oh.  My.  Talk about overload!  There were tons of gorgeous things in there, at amazing prices.  After a bit of poking around, I happened across the Lavold Silky Tweed that had been calling to me from their web site, and, wonder of wonders, there it was!  One of the staff dug through a bunch of boxes and came up with enough hanks of the same dye lot to make me a sweater.  Needless to say, this went right into my basket. 


After more poking around,  I decided I’d had enough, checked out, and flopped, exhausted, into one of the cushy chairs they keep near the entrance.  Mmario was still shopping – when in the presence of yarn, he has waaaayyyy too much energy!  It boggles my mind a bit that when I left the store, the only things in my bag were things that had been on my “look for this” list when I entered.  How I got out of there without making purchases based on “ooh, pretty!” I have no idea.


Gotta back up a second – one of the things I had decided to wear that day was the infamous “Scarfittensock” that Mmario had designed and knit for me.  It’s a long scarf, with a mitten at each end, and a sock hanging off near the middle.  Every single staff member with whom I interacted at Webs was entranced with it, and when I told them that its creator was in the store, it seems that they all went looking for him, asking, “Did you make that great scarf?”  Heh, I do dearly love braggin’ on my friends!


Side note here:  I must mention the wonderful staff at Webs; each and every one of them went "beyond the call of duty" in helping me find the things I was seeking.  Pleasant, helpful, just a delight.


After successfully ravaging the stock at Webs, Mmario and I got back on the road to Seven Hills.  The directions we had received were very accurate, and we found ourselves there with no miscues.   The reception staff were very helpful, and we were soon unloading the car into our room.  Someone had apparently thought we needed to live in a sauna, so the first thing I did was to find the thermostat and turn it down to 70F, while leaving the door open to cool off.


The retreat tote bag was overloaded with goodies – yarns, books, notepaper, all kinds of lovely things.  Then we entered the ballroom, where knitters and spinners were already happily at work.  


Meeting all these lovely people was one of the best parts of the weekend; such a lively, friendly, welcoming bunch.  One thing I found intriguing was comparing the people’s real appearances with the mental images I had built up in corresponding with them on the forums.  Not one person looked like my mental image. 


The sound levels in the ballroom quickly got to the painful level – ninety knitters excitedly commenting on each other’s projects can get very loud very fast, but it was easy to step into another room for a few minutes to “decompress.” 


The Retreat’s swap lounge was amazing – participants had brought stuff from their own stashes that they didn’t want, and all of it was sorted by yarn type and (to some extent) fiber content, in a spot central to all of the function rooms we were using.  The adjacent hallway housed a table holding all the items that participants had made for donation to the Retreat’s chosen charities, so we could all admire each other’s work.


Those two areas proved to be quite bewildering to several groups of people touring the resort on Saturday to view the facilities.  Somehow they couldn’t wrap their minds around the idea that people had brought these things to give away to other participants, or to charities.  They were also rather taken aback to see a ballroom full of people happily knitting, spinning, chatting and laughing.


The meals we were served were downright yummy.  The chefs consistently managed to produce great meals that somehow didn’t get mangled by being served in chafing dishes on a buffet table.  Even the french toast stayed perfect – an extremely difficult feat.


Many of the retreat participants had brought handmade treats to share, all of which were delicious.  I think my favorite was the miniature pecan pies, which were utterly drool-worthy.


Two workshops were offered on Saturday, one by Shelia January on Bohus colorwork, the other by Pam Allen on lace.  Mmario and I both attended the lace workshop, which was somewhat more basic than we had hoped.  In spite of that, we both gained some understanding of how the relative placement of yarnovers and decreases could affect the appearance of a lace fabric.  The sampler we knit during the class will definitely help me in designing future projects.


The Marketplace included several vendors (sorry, brain is spazzing and I cannot for the life of me remember any of the companies’ names) who had gorgeous yarns and fleeces and rovings to tempt us.  Mmario found exactly the right yarn for yet another of his original creations, and I grabbed some luscious chocolatey brown laceweight, soft as cashmere but 100% wool.  My other important purchase was a copy of The Knitter’s Book of Yarn, by Clara Parkes.  This is a solid chunk of book just overflowing with fascinating information about fiber, its sources, processing and uses.  It will be a useful reference for years to come.


Sunday morning’s session was called New Beginnings; each of us was asked to write a letter to ourselves, to be read next year at the retreat, about our hopes and plans for the coming year, or anything else we wanted ourselves to remember a year down the road.  This was an interesting exercise, and the letters were sealed into envelopes, collected by Clara, and will be returned next November.  After that, each of us cast on a brand-new project.  The instruction was that it should be something for ourselves, perhaps something a bit challenging to our skill level.  People wandered around the room, asking others to knit a couple of stitches into their projects.  It’ll be nice to remember all those lovely people when I wear the Faroese shawl that I cast on during that time.


All too soon, the Retreat was over, and we scattered to the four winds.  Mmario and I made good time getting home – why is it that the trip back always seems to go faster than the trip out?


To all the others who were at the Retreat – it was great meeting you and having a chance to chat with you in person, and I hope we’ll all be able to go back again next year.  Now it’s back to the daily grind.





11:05 am est

November 1, 2007

November Miscellany
Yikes, this year is going by fast.  Funny thing is, many of the days seem to drag on forever.  Not, mind you, the ones that are full of knitting and other fun things, but rather the days when everyone who calls my office seems to have overdosed on "stupid pills."   They're not really that stupid, they just sometimes refuse to think before they panic.  However, 'nuff about That Place, going there five times a week pays for my fiber habit, so it must be endured.
Back to knitting -
The long-neglected Rose of England has seen the light of day this past week, gaining two whole rows.  Since each row is over 1300 stitches now, that's progress.  Perhaps it'll be done before the year is over. 
The Albatross, also known as the cotton top-down v-neck, lurks in its corner, sullenly daring me to pick it up so it can slide off my lap six times a minute.  Not this week.  Still, it would be nice to be able to wear it next summer. . .
Celtic Icon is coming along well; the back is done and I've embarked on the sleeve.  The pattern, however, has managed to croggle my mind a bit.  Lemme 'splain.  The pattern's stated gauge calls for 32 rows to 4 inches.  Unless mathematics has changed recently, that means 8 rows equals one inch.  Are we okay this far?  Good.   The total length of the sleeve from cast-on to armhole shaping is supposed to be 19 inches.  So, how in heck do I manage to increase at each end of every 8th row (or every inch) 25 times and still have the sleeve only 19 inches long?  Before you ask, no, there's nothing in the errata pages about this.  Beats the heck outta me.   Needless to say, the increase spacing has been rejigged to make a sleeve that will actually fit me, rather than hanging to my knees and engulfing my hands totally. 
The Knitter's Review Retreat planning continues, with still more changes of plan as to what knitting to pack.  My buddy Mmario has decided to toss just about everything he's currently working on into the trunk of his car, just in case.  The Celtic Icon will most likely go along with me, as will at least one of the pairs of socks in progress.  Show and tell and favorite yarn are still undecided, as is the "New Beginnings" project.  That might end up being the Granny Weatherwax shawl, or maybe the Faroese that Mmario keeps telling me I need to knit.  Then again, if we do manage to get to Webs on Friday, who knows what'll leap off the shelves and insist on coming home with me?  And let's not forget the Retreat's marketplace... that too could be a budget-buster.
Recent "discussions" with The Infernal DigiCam lead me to believe that it just may relent and permit photography sometime soon.  Not betting the pension on it, mind you, but there does seem to be some progress in the negotiations.
Happy All Saints' Day
10:25 am est

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