So Nice We’re Doing it Twice

Back in July, Tina and I took a crazy run at a neat idea.  We’ll have a retreat, we thought.  We’d done one in November and it was pretty awesome, so we thought we’d up the ante and do another one, three days long, with an extra teacher for spinning.   (Judith MacKenzie . Love. Her.) We planned it for July, and we thought that if it wasn’t fun, we just wouldn’t do it again. 

That weekend turned out to be so wonderful, so completely beyond what we were hoping for, such a great gathering of like-minded awesome craftspeople, that by the time we left Port Ludlow, we’d already booked the resort for November.  (We’d also already ordered more silk cocoons and fun stuff…but that was a moment of weakness and glee.) That’s how awesome it was. We are happy then, to announce that we’re doing it again.

The retreat is November 12-15th, 2010 at the really beautiful Resort at Port Ludlow in Washington, and once again, our focus for the weekend will be working with silk.  We’ll dye, spin,  knit and play with silk of many kinds in many ways- the dyeing teacher is Tina (you knew that) the knitting teacher is me (you suspected that as well, I’m sure) and the spinning teacher is once again, the one and only Judith MacKenzie. (We were hers forever when she showed up to the retreat with an indigo dyebath in the backseat of her car.  Who does that?)

If you’d like to think about coming, the level for this retreat is “established”. Not tremendously experienced, but a little bit. You’ll need to be able to cast on and off, knit, purl, increase and decrease easily, and you should be comfortable with most basic knitting instructions. For the spinning part, you have to be able to spin a continuous thread. (Note that we didn’t say that you should be able to knit well, or spin well. An basic beginner would be comfortable.)

The weekend begins when you check in on Friday night, and we all have an opportunity to talk, hang out (maybe have a drink) get to know each other and us, and you’re assigned to one of three small groups.

Saturday, Group one goes with Tina, to a big room with a floor covered in plastic and loaded with dye and silk, where you will explore every single nuance of colour in relationship to silk and its luxurious self. You’ll explore the qualities of silk as they pertain to dyeing, and play with it in various forms. Cocoons, yarn, carrier rods…You’ll play with it all.

Meanwhile, group two goes with me for an all day exploration of knitting silk. We’ll look at the structure of silk, how it behaves, what it does and doesn’t do, what types of yarn you find made from silk and how to best use and knit them. We’ll talk about blocking and caring for silk, and we’ll explore knitting with unspun mawata (silk hankies). (It’s seriously cool.) You’ll need your knitting needles with you and you’ll walk out of there with a cool project underway and lots of experience with silk yarns.  (I’m sure there’s a few people in the comments who want to talk about their experience with the true silk thread.)

Over in the pretty room overlooking the water, group three sets up their spinning wheels (or spindles – if you don’t have a wheel you can do most of the class on a spindle and borrow a wheel for a while to do the bits that demand it- you must  know how to spin a continuous thread on a wheel) to spend a day with Judith. (We would take a class from Judith on how to boil water. She’s just that interesting all on her own.) Judith has this to say about her class: "Sumptuous, luxurious, mysterious – silk is a fiber that catches both our senses and our imagination. In this class, we’ll learn how to spin a wide range of silks and silk blends including silk and cashmere and silk and qiviut. We’ll make silk yarn that is both spider web fine and lusciously large. Silk is perfect for making novelty yarns; we’ll make boucles, knot yarns , frosted and beaded yarns that will be as beautiful as jewels. Please bring your wheel and all its parts. Bring along any high speed pulleys or bobbins that came with your wheel. Bring four bobbins if you have them."

That evening, we gather to play more dye and paint games with silk – this time exploring ways to make plain silk scarves beautiful. You’ll have fabric paint (wait until you see what you can do) and if we’re lucky, explore a coldwater indigo dye bath (again, it was so awesome last time.)

Sunday, the groups rotate places for the day classes, and in the evening we have an exploration of the history of silk, the silk road – and some of the funky things you can do with a silk cocoon.  We’ll try making mawata (easier than you think) and play with reeling cocoons.  It was tons of fun last time.

Monday we rotate for classes again, and Monday night we have a wonderful social gathering for Q&A and talking about all we’ve learned, and have a show and tell. We’ll show you some wonderful pieces, and if you’re so inclined, we’d love to see what you’ve done with silk too. Bring your best. After that, we bid you farewell, and the retreat ends that evening.

The price includes classes, fun, all materials (except wheels, spindles and needles), and breakfast, lunch and dinner Saturday, Sunday and Monday. (The food is fabulous, and we promise that there will be good vegetarian options. One of our favourite things about Port Ludlow is the great food Chef Dan turns out.) We’ll even have a little store on site with things that you might like.

Accommodations are separate and you will arrange those on your own. We have negotiated special prices with Port Ludlow, and there are some shared accommodations (condos and town-homes) if you’d like to come with your friends.

 Simply call Port Ludlow and tell them that you’re with Knot Hysteria and the knitters, and they will help you get sorted with the special knitter price. They are lovely and helpful people.

Price for the three day/three class intensive with meals:
 $735. (Credit card or paypal are fine) All Materials (except knitting needles and spinning wheels) included. (We are especially proud that even though we added and extra day of teaching, another teacher, three more meals, and way more expensive materials, that we have only had to up the price by $120 from the two day version. That took a lot of financial dancing, but we did it.)

To register, simply send an email to with “Silk Retreat” in the subject line, and include your name, address and daytime/nightime phone number, and we’ll be in touch. The first 45 knitters are in, and we can’t wait to see you. It’s magic time!