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



Where's my time machine?

By Blogger Amie, at 8:14 AM  

I thank you for introducing me to crocheting steeks. I've engineered many a steek in my day, but had not yet done a crocheted one. This leftie had a great time in your class!

By Blogger Wendy, at 1:30 PM  

Is there room for me, Amie?

Thank you Bess. Thank you for everything, for sharing your energy, and for all the hugs, and for gathering me in.

By Blogger Jane, at 3:54 PM  

Beautiful words worth a thousand pictures. Thank you Bess.

By Anonymous Clara, at 3:56 PM  

What a splendid love-letter to the Retreat, Clara & the Retreatees.
Thank you for taking us back through it - the memories are still feeling sweet.

By Blogger Martha, at 6:25 PM  

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005  

No Photos!

I’m sorry for that. But I have no photos of the retreat. I took the camera. But it had 200 speed film in it and I haven’t a flash. Yes yes. I am still clicking with an ancient Nikon manual and using the 1-hour place for my photos. I have photos, mind, of BD in his glory, being the Most Favorite Person To Sit Beside Or Shake Hands With last Friday, up in Chestertown. All that stuff was outdoors. But somehow, I just didn’t seem to have the wits to pull out my camera on Saturday afternoon and snap away up at Graves. Fortunately, many others had both wit and camera and there will be lovely pictures posted on the Knitters Review website as well.

Of course, I have my word paintbrush and will try to make lavish strokes with that. But where to begin. Due to the festivals on Friday I missed the first third of the Retreat, but what a day Friday was. It dawned deliciously golden, with sunshine beams slanting through the forest on golden autumn. We were on the road by 8 and tooling across the Potomac by 9. It’s been a very long time since I was on the Eastern Shore. My sister lived in Delaware and I used to have to really brave my Bridge Issues to visit her, but so long as BD is driving I can handle the Bay Bridge. This time across, though, marine activity offered delights guaranteed to distract the most fearsome bridge traveler: 2 regattas, 2 naval vessels and a container ship on its way to Baltimore. One boat race was at the thrilling stage of rounding the buoy so half the boats were scudding behind colorful billowing spinnakers and the other half were hauling them in.

Chestertown is one of those darling little water villages dotting Maryland’s many harbors - pull out a map and take a look. You begin to leave the plantation dock society of the south when you get into Maryland, and there is a lot of mercantile and urban history still clustered around the kayside. I always imagine $ when I’m in these little stone and brick hamlets. Mini-Annapolises they are. In Chestertown there is the Sultana boatyard, recrafting maritime history with skilled volunteers, both the boatswains and the financial development types. Friendly people enthusiastic about the life of the waterman, be he a sailor, a crabber, a fisherman, an oysterman or a chandler.

They had built a shallop, a copy of the one brought to the Chesapeake by the London Company to use in exploring the new English colony. Capt. John Smith took 14 men with him in the summer of 1607, and rowed 3,000 miles around the bay, exploring, seeking trading partners, and mapping the territory. It’s the dream of the many organizations involved: National Parks, National Geographic, Md, Del, and VA tourism councils, Chesapeake Bay foundation .... to create a National Water Trail, something like the Appalachian Trail, for boaters, canoers and kayakers. An opportunity to indulge in water fun, travel fun and history fun. Let us wish them all well. It’s an exciting idea.

My role in all this? Trophy wife, of course, of Mr. Jamestown, man with the knowledge of Jamestown life as written by those who were there at the time. BD’s encyclopedic memory of facts, events, dates and other historical tidbits has won the admiration of all and since he’s unaffiliated with any organization, with no institutional agenda, he’s often turned to as the arbiter of truth. I merely beamed and nodded and smiled and proudly pointed to the very Big Darling whenever anybody wanted to know who I was. It turned out to be an open door to lengthy praise of a man I’ve been proud of for 34 years. There is nothing so much fun as hearing lots and lots and lots of people say how wonderful your husband is.

We got home at a reasonable evening hour and I tried to do a little packing. The ubiquitous hair dryer, 2 pair of shoes - all those stupid things I haul with me and often never use. One of these days I will develop the confidence to travel sans hair dryer but that day was not Saturday. I was out of the house by 7 and at Graves by 9, in time to grab a little coffee and some bread with apple butter. Graves offers two things that I don’t believe can be beat anywhere. A view from your motel room door of the most gloriously checkered mountain side and apple butter to die for.

It was wonderful to see those animated faces, the familiar room full of wheels and knitting bags and more knitting bags. It was fabulous to hug long missed friends, not so long missed ones, and brand new ones. It was super to meet folk I’ve only spoken to via the net. It was a little sad to miss some longed for faces, but it was just great to be in the rewarding company of the knitting women.

But since I had missed the Friday night introduction session, there was a different sort of feel for me this year. I was more rested, since I hadn’t stayed up till half past too late the night before. But there were a lot of new faces that I was curious about. In a way I felt a little floaty, a little calmer, a little more invisible. The calmer was the best thing about this different feeling, because I’m usually pretty cranked up by Saturday morning. Clara’s wonderful lecture about yarn properties was even more calming. It was not only packed with information and well organized - she provided us with a little booklet where you could put in samples and write down comments about the different types of yarn - but it reminded me again how much I love this craft - I love its materials, I love its tools, I love its process and I love its practitioners. I really didn’t have to worry about trying to share some of my knowledge with them. I was already preaching to the choir.

This is retreat # 4 for me and I have always taught at the retreats, so for me, they are a different sort of experience than for those who come with no responsibilities. Mind now, I love to teach. I’m telling the truth when I say I am an info-conduit addict. In part I believe it is because I am so excited that someone else had the brilliance to come up with new ideas, ways, techniques. That Someone - book author, teacher, lecturer - was generous enough to share with me is such an inspiration I simply must turn around and share it with someone else.

But knowing that I am going to be on stage - that I’ve promised to deliver - that people have expectations of me, and rightfully so, means that my retreat experience is different from most of the others’. There is always a little bit of a question in my brain till after my class - a sort of “who did I think I was?” type of question. If I come across as relaxed or confident or in control, it’s sort of true - but not completely. Perhaps nobody ever moves with utter confidence through the classroom. So much depends upon the attitude, skill, and interest of the students. And the quality of the classroom.

Alas - our room was a little dark - and a lot stuffy. After the first hour, we moved outside to the porch, where the light was better, the air was fresher and having everyone in a line meant it was easier for me to walk up and down the narrow isle to see that folk got a handle on what I hoped they were learning. I know I never teach a class without learning more about teaching! Had I to do it over again, not only would we have begun the class on the porch, but I would have asked the students who had some crochet experience to sit among those who were utterly new to it. I would have spent a little more time preparing for left handed students, as well. I’d been so intent on putting together a project one might actually complete in this class I had not prepared enough for teaching lefties. To those I failed, I offer heart felt apologies.

Where I was successful, though, was in bringing the mysteries of the crocheted steek to so many knitters. Cutting knitting is such a horrifying idea, but it is such a useful skill. I was delighted to see the surprised delight on so many knitters faces as they snipped their swatch in two. I believe the provisional crocheted cast on was also a big hit with the students. All of them were kind and complimentary and I appreciated their encouraging words so much. We never did put together the 4 swatches into a little notebook cover, but we finished up in time to hit the vendors and by then, we were ready to shop anyway. Enough work - it was time for play.

4 vendors were set up in the main room that afternoon: Knitters Review Boutique, Spirit Trail Fiberworks, Stony Mt. Fibers and My Favorite Yarn Shop. As usual, there were temptations to make the mouth water, the fingers stretch and the imagination whir. Alas for me, $ have been scarce this fall so I was on a strict and limited budget, but I still found delights to keep me happy through the winter. Spirit Trail had some Shetland roving so soft I barely felt it when it slid into a bag for me and tugged my feet over to the cashier - booth babe Martha. And Stony Mt. had merino/tencil in that rich butterscotch color - the only earth tone I’ve ever seen in that particular blend. I love spinning m/t - and now I can get up off that vivid blue stuff, pack it up and send it to someone who will look lovely in it, and spin a color I can actually wear.

By dinner time I was beginning to get a feel for who was who and what was where. Particularly who was that adorable waiter - Nathan - with the huge blue eyes and broad shoulders. 20 years of just about the cutest thing I ever saw, by the end of the weekend there wasn’t a woman present who wasn’t making a mental list of daughters, nieces, and neighbor’s children who needed to be fixed up with this cutie. He was utterly fascinated by all the fiber activity - purchased his own set of needles and a copy of The Knit Stitch, and brought in two quilts made by Nannie Paine (ubiquitous family throughout these parts) with questions on how to take care of them. He captured my heart forever when, after the last meal of the retreat, J the PC gave him a pair of socks she’d knitted for him. “They’re like a symphony for my toes” he cried. Who wouldn’t fall for that line?

After dinner we returned to the main room for spinning, knitting and chatting. I love to snare new victims into the spinning web and had suggested to Clara that I just go ahead and make it official, this year. With Barbara Gentry and her spinning wheels at one end of the room and me at the other, we lured many an innocent thing over to the dark side. There were about a dozen women with spindles in hand, some with a little skill behind them, others brand spanking new. This was the first time I’d taught spinning to a group. Usually it’s 2 or 3 individuals and it’s amazing how quickly they see the magic of twist and catch on to the rhythm of the spindle. In a bigger group, though, one needs to be more systematic and specific. Since I’ll be teaching spinning to two large groups this coming spring, I’m glad I had a rehearsal as a group teacher. Though new spinners, like new knitters, really want to Get Going on Something, I’ll actually start the group spinners out with drafting the fiber, because I noticed that’s where there will be the widest difference between one spinner and another. Some folk are grabbers, some are clutchers, some will get hot wet hands, others will have dry slippery ones. Starting out with a pin drafted roving they created themselves will give their hands a confidence that’s sorely needed in those early stages. After that - why - the magic of twist is enough to capture every hopeful spinner.

A special thanks goes to Edie, who reminded me to have everyone wet set her plied yarn - the final magical step that takes them to the moment when all their contortions bear the blossom of fiber magic - beautiful handspun yarn.

I got several other good ideas on how to teach spinning to a group - but there came a time when I really had to shut down. My personal energy level has been low for a long time now and even the excitement of seeing a dozen new spinners wasn’t enough to buoy me up. I’m a lark anyway, not a night owl, and any time after 10 p.m. is late for me. I have no idea when I began my traipse up the mountain, but it was after 1 before roomie and I finally turned off the lights and went to sleep.

Sunday I slept in - so heavily that J didn’t even wake me as she got up to gather up the skeins from the dye workshop she’d taught on Friday. I managed to make it down the hill in time for breakfast, though. The morning program was a contemplative opportunity to set some fiber goals for the coming year. Clara handed everyone a sheet of paper and an envelope. We were asked to write down our hopes and dreams for the next 12 months and to address the envelopes to ourselves. Those who make it to next year’s retreats will receive their letters in person. The others get them in the mail. I was feeling particularly silly, and I had spent the greater part of this session working out on the front porch, with a future spinner who had not been able to take in the technique while in a group setting. So my goals were a bit on the goofy side, but there is some serious thought on that piece of paper too.

Back inside it was time to cast on our New Beginnings project. I, of course, had cast on already, at least, I’d cast on a swatch that would be a real cast on if it worked out okay. It didn’t turn out to be a real cast on - I had to Begin Again, but that time turned out to be a Real Cast-on. This is the baby diaper poo colored yarn that Wonderful A pointed out was actually an Alice Starmore Scottish (Scottttttttttissssssh) northern light color. As proof, she flipped open her copy of The Celtic Collection and what do you know - there it was, in a Real Alice Starmore Sweater. So. There.

Although the BW stitch pattern I’m using around cuff and hem tried hard to defeat me, particularly when it hid row 12 in row 10, I prevailed at the last, joined the stitches on the side, marked the underarm stitch and began motoring up the sleeve. I’m getting 5.5 st. per inch - exactly the ball band gauge! - and by now, I’m up to 71 stitches. only 3 more inches of sleeve to knit before I put it aside and begin the next one. I’ll devote a real post to this project sometime soon, for I’m enjoying it a lot.

My energy level was really at rock bottom by lunch time, so of course I dragged my bloated form up the stairs for a final retreat repast. It was at this meal that JtPC gave Nathan his socks, so we were all weepy and tender and sad to say good-bye throughout lunch. Those who didn’t have to meet public transport schedules lingered for a final trunk show from Spirit Trail’s trailer. I knew I was sans $ so I reclined, semi-somnambulant, in the main room, showing off Hey Baby’s paces to future wheel buyers. As the afternoon ripened, we peeled off, one by two, hugging, tearful, happy, relaxed, and probably all of us wishing it were a week ago with all this fun to look forward to - or next year, with another retreat just days away.

It was a softer retreat for me this year. Softer, quieter, as I said, more floaty. I’m not sure if the energy level was different because of a different mix of folk, or because I’ve had such indifferent health for so long, but it was less frenzied and more gentle for me and that was enormously healing. This was a real retreat for me and I am home now, refreshed and nostalgic at the same time. Thank you Missy Knitters Review. Thank you and thank you and thank you again.

posted by Bess | 7:13 AM