Last weekend I was at the Jolie's kitchen knitting retreat. There is so much to say about it, I don't know where to start, even a week later. Karie Westermann's take on it is here if you're interested.
My train on Friday night was delayed by 20 minutes. Yes, 90 minutes. I had to telephone the hotel to confirm that I was still coming, for fear of giving my room to somebody else. Apparently some of the other ladies who were attending the retreat had been in the bar earlier knitting. Sadly I missed them, and hoped to catch up with them the next day. On the plus side, I did manage to get through a decent chunk of my knitting project.
This was the first time I had ever been to a knitting event, and realised afterwards that I did not take enough photographs. It was lovely to be in an environment where everybody was knitting, it wasn't considered weird to grab somebody's clothing and ask about the use of colour, or to admire the stitch work. In fact it was positively encouraged. Of the projects that stood out were Fiona's fair isle sweater (Ravelry link) and Catherine's beautifully colourful cardigan.
The event opened with Kate Atherley talking about her life as a knitter. She was born in a local hospital and not Toronto born and bred as I had always thought. My second favourite part of her talk was her discussion of how people seem afraid to get their knitting wet. Apparently she has been in classes where she has grabbed people's knitting and stuck it in a glass of water, just to prove that you can get knitting wet, without the universe imploding or similar. As she quite rightly asked have you seen the places where these sheep live? They're places where it rains. Apparently Herdyshepherd has quite good photos to prove this.
My favourite story was on the subject of gauge. Apparently there are many women in New York who are rich. One of these women came into a knitting shop complaining that her knitting hadn't worked. When the shopkeeper asked her if she had made a gauge swatch, she replied that her maid had done it. Yes, the maid had made the knitting swatch.
Over the course of the weekend I took two classes. The first was with Kate Atherley on sizing and fit. I will admit, that she was pretty much the reason I went the retreat. I think this is a separate blog post in itself, but it was a class worth taking, partly for the knitting, partly because I got to draw pictures of boobs and partly because it confirmed some of the things I already sort of knew.
After pizza for dinner (the Northern Quarter has really come up in status since I lived in Manchester), we met back up for a talk on British wool and the raffle. Louise from Knit British talked about British yarn, and how it's packaged and marketed. Apparently if something is labelled as British, there's no guarantee that it's bred, sheared, spun, dyed or packaged in Britain. She mentioned the woolsack webpage, which lists British yarns available for sale. She passed around samples, and the ones which took my fancy were:
Falkland Merino (turquoise), Teeswater (white), and Wensleydale (brown):
Chilla Valley alpaca (brown, top left), Jacob aran (top right, beige) and more Teeswater (bottom, beige)
The raffle prizes were scrumptious (and all won by other people)
Kate and Karie took over Joeli's Periscope.
At some point in the evening, I went back to my hotel, properly looked at the goodie bag which we'd been given (which was amazing) and went to bed far too late.
Sunday started with a class on hap shawl construction (which has three parts), and making our own mini version of the Mahy shawl.
The class was good fun, with a lot of laughing and some crude comments - which may have come from me. If you describe lace knitting to me as 'strategically placed holes' what sort of a reaction do you expect?! There was also discussion about how Japanese people are wild for Shetland lace (it was the only useful book I could find in Tokyo). I mentioned this article in Knitty, and why chart knitting therefore is something that transcends linguistic boundaries.
Somewhere along the line, mine went wrong, so had to be ripped back by a few rows. Now, I know I'm not the most proficient knitter, but even I could see what was wrong when I put it back on the needles:
I didn't have enough time to complete what we were supposed to complete before the session ended, so I had the good idea of taking the needles out, threading a lifeline in and picking it up when I got home. Again, spot the problem:
This is what happens when you don't get enough sleep the night before!
The weekend ended with Kate Hepple talking about how she got involved in Knit Now magazine. (Basically, she was working for the NHS and was headhunted via Ravelry). She gave us an overview of the process - call for submissions, deciding which will be featured (only two garments per issue, all the rest are accessories), tech editing and knitting samples, if I remember correctly. There's a vlog here which explains it. There was also a great discussion about the models used for knitwear shoots, and the discussion between 'real women' and size six models. I suspect this is a discussion the knitting community isn't going to solve in isolation.
There was also a swaps table and mini market place. Should my husband ask, I didn't spend a penny on new yarn. (I don't think he's noticed the new acquisitions however).
There is so much more I could have said about the weekend. It was very strange to be back in Manchester after about fourteen years; I hardly recognised it. It was brilliant to be among women who were funny, and creative and smart. And if you want an example of how welcoming the knitting community are, I turned up wearing a shop-bought acrylic sweater, which nobody commented on.