Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.


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Tuesday, November 11, 2003  


What do you call it when you step from tension, frozen creativity, that bleak sense of futility, into the golden glow of warmth, friendship renewed and begun, artistic energy, boundless resources, giddy joy and a sort of primal gastronomic excess?

Oh, yeah, Knitters Review Retreat, of course.

I’m back from the second one and still somewhat amazed that the second retreat could reach levels of inspiration and pleasure greater than the first one. I’m all those remarkable things one is, when the sloughing process occurs; the old tired dead skin peels off and healthy fresh supple skin is revealed. There’s tremendous pride that I am a part of something so fine; the fiber world - Clara’s fiber world, self-selecting artists who want to dip into a communal pool. There’s deep, thankful joy that beautiful souls could come back to touch my life again. There’s thrilling joy that new souls have embraced mine - and that an ancient bond has been revealed. There is the surging energy in my own creativity, unleashed by the presence, the demonstration, the artistic sharing of 70 diverse women.

Even the heavens cooperated with this retreat, and not only because of the lunar display presented that night. Virginia’s Novembers can be very iffy - wet or hot or gloomy. Instead, we traveled on a crisp Friday, to Madison County, (Not the one with the bridges, the one with the apples.), with folk arriving pretty much from mid-day on. I got there about 4 and the room was already filling up with smiling happy faces. Hugs, laughter, sparkling eyes were everywhere. Martha was helping with registration again, still quite, still gentle, but I believe a little more confident this year. It helps to know the routine. I expected Jen to be there already, with her happy mischief grins - She always looks like she’s got something cool to tell you and she does. We were roomies, already plotting our attack on the gals next door. I had a message for Lissa from BD - “When is she coming back?”.

Tables were set up around the room so folk could drop off their 10 balls of different colored yarns. 6 of them - for the primary and secondary colors plus one for the neutrals. And a table for people to put out swap stuff. I forget who it was who got the gorgeous rustygoldenbrown stuff (Amie? Was it you, wicked lady?) but it was providential, since Jen had some romeldale of the same color that I was supposed to buy anyway.

It was interesting that this year a number of us were coming to the retreat after some tough personal issues. Serious illness, major losses, professional blows, personal crises. This is likely to be the case in any gathering of widely flung folk, but since I was one of these LifeEvents escapees, perhaps I sensed it more. It was glorious that we could heal ourselves in our passion for fiber.

Of course, no stay at Graves Mt. can be seen outside the world of eating and we were seated at the long tables Friday night and plied with heaped platters of Virginia ethnic food - buttery vegetables, hot bread and fried fish. Old hands were not surprised, had already given up their nutritional limits, and laughingly indulged in the apple accompaniment offered by the GMT kitchen. New members were a little more silent about their stomach shock since the second termers took it so philosophically. 100% of us are back on our personal version of Weight Watchers today. (written on Monday a.m.)

The Friday session was a chance to get to Introduce Ourselves - round the big oval of chairs - and to show off our best, worst, favorite and first knitterly babies. New this year were the spinning wheels twirling, along with the gently flicking knitting needles.

Last year we were up till past 11, which, for this Cinderella, is 2 hours into sleepy time. I swore I’d sneak out at 10 and get some Zs because I was pretty keyed up about teaching something for the first time. (I do this to guests at my house too - cook them something I’ve never made before) Of course, I found I couldn’t leave. Jokes were fast, furious and a wee bit ribald. Edie’s weekend wardrobe was a hoot. I had to linger to oooo and aaaahh over each luscious item. Mary’s Thanksgiving Sweater, an Alice Starmore in infinitesimal perfect stitches, is what pops into my mind today (which is Tuesday), but you can be sure there were dozens and dozens of beauties traveling around the room.

It was in the midnight range when I actually shut my eyes up in my hillside aerie and it was 6 when the alarm went off. I was already awake. The dim gray of dawn gave me enough light to dress by so that Jen could sleep a little longer, but I was up and out the door for a brisk walk in the fr-fr-freezing morning air. I figured if I was going to way-overeat this weekend, the least I could do was get in a bit of exercise. Be sure, that walk was the last truly physical thing I did all weekend. I couldn’t bear to be away from the group after that.

But the fresh air did help me calm myself a bit and there was plenty of time to set up for the Color Theory workshop. Everyone was very kind and complimentary and if I had only been more organized I could have displayed the stained glass vest to show the power of complimentary colors, instead of pulling it out later when people were busy with other stuff. All I can say was that every one was extremely sweet about it and I still think just looking at a vibrant color wheel is something that excites people - so I’m mighty glad I had prepared that. And of course - there is nothing like a good bibliography.

There was a good 45 minutes of chaos while people took their turns selecting from the color tables - and I must confess - I love that sort of hubbub chaos, but just this moment I am realizing what a rotten thing that was to do to Annie - because she had to pull them all back into order so she could teach her fabulous plaid technique. So here is my official apology to her - Annie - I promise never to do that to you again!!.

And it was a fabulous technique - a combination of slip stitches and vertical stripes - too cool for words and, of course, like all knitting, such a surprisingly sensible way to do something elaborate. I swear - that juxtaposition of easy and fancy is one of knitting’s most appealing components.

Lunch was a haul, and I began trashing all my Weight Watcher’s resolutions - with desert and I forget what else we had - barbecue? something delicious.

And then there was Light - er... no - Shopping. Oh the shopping. OOOOOOO the shopping. Ahhhhh the shopping. Bracelets from Annie. Hey - Amie - didn’t you get my bracelet too? Well, Annie had the real Bess-bracelet, probably set aside for me. Gorgeous polished rusty agates knit onto copper wire. And Lissa had my Sheep Happens pin plus a beautiful blue porcelain pot with gently flaring sides, exactly the color to go in the den, to hold my knitting needles. Of course Carodan Farms had heaps and piles of Noro and sock yarn and Barbara Gentry of Stony Mt. Farms brought Interlacements gorgeous colors. Clara let me sneak in a wee bit early to snag a Take Back the Needles T-shirt - but see, I’d e-mailed her earlier with the request. And I finally got one of her knitting lady pins. No photograph does them justice, dearies. In spite of their whimsy and polymer clay construction, they are absolutely jewelry-quality items.

But the big excitement was Spirit Trail Fiberworks. You are not going to believe a woman who took her first dye class in May could put together such a collection of colors, fibers, and superbly professional displays. But she did. I know how hard she’s worked, I’ve been to her house, which is run with clever precision. I’ve even seen in her closet, guys - where everything is in order. Awe is way too modest a word to describe my response to Jen’s organizational skills. But combine that with an eye for color and you have a recipe for a fiber shop of divine beauty. I watched the colors disappear off the racks so fast I got a little worried there wouldn’t be anything for me. But there was plenty and Jen’s rare sheep wool, cleverly packaged so that a tuft of the fiber poked out of the top of the bag - allowing you to feel them without having to open their bags - ahhh well - that was my real playground. I’ve already spun up a bit of the Romeldale and e-mailed her to save me two bags more. I simply must make a sweater out of this stuff. I’ll knit a swatch today and post a picture of it tomorrow.

The real danger of shopping with 70 fellow fiber enthusiasts is that, caught up in their energy, you spend more money than you can afford. I did - too - but ... well ... it’s a long time to another Retreat. The energy was pulsating. The voices were excited. The room got hot! It was sensory overload to the max and so much fun. Wickedly I encouraged this one, and she encouraged that one, and that one encouraged me, to spend.

After a while we staggered out of the shopping room and found seats in the main meeting room, pulling out our purchases and casting on, talking in groups here and there. ( Yes, wise Clara had reserved both rooms, one for meeting in and one for shopping. It allowed you to take a breather and come back for more.) I’ll confess, I never can do much of a complicated nature when I am cranked up and energized by people. A true E in the Myers briggs scale, eventually my only response is to talk. Talktalktalktalktalktalktalk. I talk till my voice gives out. It’s irritating to many and even a little, to me - but in a big group you can move from one cluster to another and spread the itch around.

Annie had brought her swift and ball winder and was also teaching Wire & Bead knitting - which I wanted desperately to learn - but was too cranked up to sit still that long. Still - beautiful necklaces were made by the calmer folk. And I got my chance on Sunday morning.

The dinner bell rang at 6:30 and we piled upstairs for more sustaining nourishment. I suppose it’s possible I ate smaller portions than I would have pre-WW, but otherwise, I just packed it in - and drank coffee to boot, because, not only did I intend to be the one to put out the lights this night, I had an evil plot in mind for the quiet dark hours.

The evening was given over to spinning and knitting - and Barbara Gentry of Stony Mt. pulled out her drum carders. She made at least 2 sales that weekend - and I am sick with jealousy. I want a Fricke Drum Carder sooooooooooooo badly. Prices go up January 1 and I had really better see how I can squeeze the pennies out of my budget. This may require a serious Christmas time talk with Ed. I don’t need a drum carder, mind you. But I reeeeeeeeeealy want one. Barbara helped me blend some lovely orange wool with some turquoise and yellow silk. But most of the evening was spent luring innocents into the spinning fold. It’s such a thrill for me to teach spinning - even more so than knitting. I think I could teach spinning pretty much forever - I certainly taught till my voice suddenly gave out about midnight.

Lurking back in my room, which was conveniently located next door to Clara’s, I waited behind the slightly opened motel room door with pillows in hand. Ambush! occurred at 12:10 a.m. Sunday the 9th, and not only was our fearless leader caught, but cousin Katy and Aunt Judy.

Jen and I talked a lot longer Saturday night. No classes to teach, no shops to set up, we were ready to hash over the day - fondle our purchases, count up the receipts. But eventually, Morpheus took us in his arms and it required true dawn to awaken us.

Starved for sustenance, of course, we were at the table at 8:30 on the dot - eggs, bacon, apple cake, biscuits, chipped beef & gravy, cereal, juice, fruit, apple butter - just your usual tossed together Sunday breakfast. By now, talk was really intense. People were starting to confess secrets and personal things and connecting with even more intimacy. Some few had to peel off to make planes or meet schedules so there was a good bit of hopping up from the table to hug. This only increased at lunchtime.

Afterwards, the intrepid went on a hay ride, but my throat was still a wee bit achy, fortunately it did not turn into a cold, and elected to stay in. And when I found Annie still had her necklace kits out and had the time to get me going - well ... would you have passed up the opportunity to learn to knit with wire?

Lunch was actually an exercise in punishment - I did quite well at it, thank you, even ate a wee bit of the cake, just to prove I could still pig out like a teenager. And then it was time to go home. We’d checked out of the rooms right before breakfast and packed our cars before driving down to the lodge. It was just too hard to pull ourselves away from the place. Jen succumbed to pressure and pulled out her fibers once again - A real Trunk Show. And I did. Yes. I bought another cashmere/merino hank. Well. there was still some money in my wallet. What could I do?

But at 2 o’clock I gave a few weepy hugs to Clara, Jen, Amie, and a few others still standing wistfully about and got in my car. Met up with Lindsey-Brooke (yea!!! A Richmond gal - does this mean a shopping trip ahead? at the new yarn store in Richmond?!? Can we drag in Julie the purple lady?) at the Graves Mt. shop where they sell apple cider - the kind that goes hard!

It was a difficult drive home - although I remember being a lot sadder last year and a lot more specifically happy this year. I could really explain to BD what a magical experience it all was. Picked up Texas Chili for the guys in Fredericksburg - and they’d both forgotten I was going to bring it home so LD wasn’t there and BD had eaten a big lunch. It’s chili every day this week, I’m afraid.

Lawsee what a weekend. What an experience. All the wonderful women I can’t even begin to remember now. Libby - I was so glad to hug you again. Jo - you know we’re soul sisters. Barbara? Babs? Edie? Catherine? Vicky? Dawn? Margaret? Julie? Shawn? Amy? .... I am not able to name everyone - and not because I don’t have specific memories of each of them - but because when I begin to look at the roster in my memory I begin to drift away and I’m sitting with you again, watching, sharing, learning. But I want to post this thing today - not next April. So here is where - heart full, mind whirling, but lips closed - I finally shut up.

posted by Bess | 8:38 AM