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!

111 thoughts on “So Nice We’re Doing it Twice

  1. Sounds like the folks in Port Ludlow are the ones who Get It about the knitters. What a relief.

  2. Dye bath in the back of the car? XD
    Kinda funny, I just looked at your blog, and for whatever reason checked it again a hour later… it turned out my intuitiveness is right on track, as I caught a new post! (and that’s probably not a word.)

    I was there in July and loved every minute of it. It’s a fantastic experience, Stephanie, Tina, and Judith are even better in person than they are on your computer screen, the beer is cold (as are the martinis), the Resort is amazing, etc, etc, etc.

  4. Hi Stephanie:
    how about a resort experience in Ontario? I bet there would be lots of people who cant travel that far who would be interested??

  5. Dear readers, if you can at all make this event….DO IT! I was there in July also (Hiya Val!) and it was too amazing. This time I will be at my niece’s wedding in Vegas, so I will have to wait until the next one. Cheers!

  6. Okay, no whining. What we have to do is consider our alternatives, folks. (You on the West Coast, go talk among yourselves.)
    A) Kidnap Tina and keep her in a series of Midwest safehouses, with the retreat following the safehouses. I’d volunteer my Kalamazoo basement for the first one but I’d have to find it first.
    B) Find some compelling reason for Tina to move to the midwest. I hear Oprah’s slot is going to be open.
    C) Persuade the Macarthur Foundation to give their first grant ever to a dyer, said money to be contingent on her moving east of the Mississippi. Again, Kalamazoo is preferable, but we could be persuaded to, oh, Ann Arbor. Madison at a pinch.
    D) … We’re taking suggestions. Come on troops, a concerted effort — Operation ConcerTina.

  7. That sounds SO AWESOME. I wish I could stand working with silk. Dratted fiber that snags in every teeeensy bit of dry skin on my fingers. Hateses it, we do.
    I hope your retreat is delightful in every way!

  8. If you have the chance to attend this event – take it. I attended in July and it seriously was a lot of fun.
    I’m pretty sure that my boss will not look kindly on a request from me for this one as I will only have been back a short time from a week at SOAR.
    go for it – it was magical

  9. I was there in July, and I want to do it again. Yes, even if Stephanie gives me more Silk Thread to knit with.
    I’ve just got to see if I can make it happen. 🙂

  10. Appending to Rams:
    e) Pillage Stephanie’s home, removing all dpn’s (I think someone has already tried this, she seems to have some difficulty finding the ones she is looking for). Hold ransom at my house (Dalton, Pennsylvania… it’s really pretty here in the fall). Will not release dpns until EastCoast is visited. Tina’s sales will fall, due to Stephanie not being able to knit socks.

  11. Ok – don’t ding me for the odd comment but it just dawned on me that Port Ludlow is the city they mention in the Twilight books. Maybe some people could take a field trip to Forks if they are fans. 🙂
    And I wish I could go but I swore to my DH I would not take up spinning.

  12. I’ll be there in spirit – a very envious spirit! All hail silk!
    Oooh, what if it actually DID hail silk!?! 😀

  13. DO IT!!!!!!
    I was there in July, and at one moment during dinner on Saturday night I actually had to excuse myself to the ladies room so no one would see me tear up.
    The prior week, I literally had the week from hell. As I sat there at the table with all those amazing women (and one super amazing guy), I thought to myself that I hadn’t felt that truly at peace and happy as I had since holding my newborn daughter 10 years prior.
    It is 3 days of heaven for anyone who loves the fiber arts. And Judith? If I didn’t have children and responsilibities, I’d sell everything to be her groupie.
    If I didn’t have a 12 yr old in a full leg cast, you’d be hard-pressed to keep me away from this retreat. But alas, kid trumps silk.

  14. Hmmm…I’d love to do the dyeing and knitting parts. Wonder if I can hire/bring a pinch spinner like they’ve got pinch hitters in baseball. Think that’ll work? 🙂

  15. I agree with all my compatriots (Hi Val, Barbara, Gwen!) that this was a FANTASTIC weekend.
    I’ve finally gotten around to spinning up the hankies we dyed and Barbara and I have been plotting about weaving with the rest of the output of Tina’s class.
    Totally worth it. And if I did this again, I’d absolutely FedEx us more wine.

  16. I was there in July. I want to go agaaaaaaaaaain. *pouts and stomps off to the corner to glare at boss*

  17. oh shoot, I can’t spin at all. And while I sorta want to learn, I do not need another hobby that takes up SPACE!! How about a knitting retreat in Toronto? I love Toronto.
    (did you like how we toss those things out there like they take no work at to pull off? Welcome!)

  18. SO Exciting! Over the past two months, I learned to spin reading Judith Mackenzie’s books. They were so helpful and enjoyable, and I’m spinning really well for a beginner, (I think anyway). I’m not even that far from Port Ludlow…who knows, maybe I’ll be able to join!

  19. I’m with Syne. My husband’s birthday is earlier that week, so I won’t be able to sign up (umm, and I cannot spin continuous thread on my spindle. It and I do not even have a love-hate relationship much less a tolerate-tolerate relationship). I will be there in spirit!

  20. ~~~ sigh~~~~ sniff, sniff. Whine. Whimper. Envyenvyenvy.
    Oh well.
    I’m with you Rams – count me in! Let’s get these coastal people to the Midwest. I want to play too.

  21. My birthday is right in the middle of this too.*sigh* I wish I could go as this would be the best birthday gift ever.

  22. I’m in, Rams.
    I can provide a nicely furnished basement in Ann Arbor and a working knowledge of how to get to Steph’s house. And also? The Beer Vault is still drive-thru.

  23. I have emailed and am hoping I’m in. Hoping my friend can go with me this time. I went in July and had such an incredible time that I just can’t pass it up!! I have to really think about the $$, but I think I’m going to be able to swing it! We’ll see!
    Anybody who’s on the fence……do it!!!! You will never regret it!

  24. Enjoy everyone. Sounds like an absolutely fantastic time. I won’t be able to join as airfare from Chicago and package price is a bit out of my league right now. Having lived in Seattle for 21 years, I have stayed at Port Ludlow a few times with DH and it is truly a lovely venue and beautiful sight. I look forward to hearing all the fantastic news once the event is complete. ;>)
    Peace and joy to you all…

  25. stephanie, i know this is your retreat and i don’t want to upset anyone or step on any toes so this is just to say… if you’d ever consider doing this with a different fiber, the vegetarians among us would be there! there’s nothing i’d love more than spending three days learning technique with such wonderful company, but silk’s a roadblock.
    (i can’t speak for the vegans. they have their own set of crazy rules; not necessarily crazier than my own.)

  26. Julie beat me to it. I couldn’t go anyway, this time, because I thought our house was finally done eating our money, but I was wrong (not that you would know anything about such issues), so this time you could hold the retreat in Canberra, for all of me. And I probably couldn’t go anywhere for four days, unless it were within commuting distance of my house. And I know from the pix what a gorgeous place Port Ludlow is. But if you could do this coast sometime, you’d make a lot of people very happy.

  27. Do it – why are you still here reading comments?!? Just go! I was also there in July and it was my best fiber experience ever! (hey there Val, Lorinda, Lynae, Tamara…!)
    (Also, am now thinking about quitting my job and becoming a Judith-head – you know, like the Dead heads, who just followed them around from concert to concert? My husband calls it my “come to Judith experience”.)

  28. Promise me you’ll keep on doing these, at least every couple of years? I’ll have a brand-new baby then, and there’s just no. way. I can make it. Unless, of course, I’m overdue, and you’d like to brush up on your doula skills and such. This is #6, and I’m fine with delivering him myself. ;o)
    So please, please do more of these over the next couple of years!

  29. Someday, I too will be able to go to pretty places and just sit and talk to people who understand my knitting obsession. Until then, I can dream and wait for your awesome pictures. Jealous.

  30. Hey…if I only had a spindle…and knew what to do with the darn thing when I got ahold of it!
    Oh well, maybe someday. Since the last SockSummit
    I have gone from thinking that knitting socks is crazypants complicated, to knitting tons of them. I still don’t do complicated patterns, just plain vanilla socks from someone’s book, ahem, and yes, on noble dpn’s not circ’s. Just wait, I’ll probly be doing cabled knee-hi’s next.
    Knitting should come with a warning, but I never would have heeded it anyway, once the wooly bug bit me.

  31. I wish there was something similar to this closer to the east. I can’t justify the $$ in airfare for a weekend…don’t like flying that much anyway. Oh well, poor me…;o)

  32. although the area looks lovely (and if i could, i would totally be there!)… just wondering if in the future you might consider alernating between east and west coasts?

  33. Have you considered having just a knitter’s weekend? I do not spin or dye. I would love to go on one of these retreats, but would be woefully lost for 2/3s of it.
    However, it sounds like fun, and I hope that you all have a great time.

  34. Knitters sure know how to have fun and learn at the same time! I know everyone will have an experience to remember.

  35. Marri—seriously? Silk is a roadblock for vegetarians? Did you know Steph and Tina are both vegetarians? Enlighten me.
    Marilyn—You do not have to know how to dye to go to this retreat! Trust me……after the retreat, you will be a dyer!! It’s so much fun! Just learn to spindle spin a tad and you’re good to go. Honestly… will be the best experience of your life!!

  36. Rams and two could have your own retreat and then we’ll all come and drink beer and knit. Then those three will get super envious and plan the next one here. I think Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor would be just great!

  37. Would love to participate but these opportunities are always on the west coast and the additional cost of airfare and accommodation is too much for a week-end. Is there any chance of doing these workshops regionally so more folks can enjoy the opportunity?

  38. RATS! I have a conference in Hollywood, CA that same weekend….For those who are going for the first time: You are in for a really special treat. Stomping my foot like mad 5 year old.. (sad face)

  39. Part 2: For those able to go – take notes!! I forgot so much and the rich history of silk is just great. Aside from the fiber aspect of it all – it was kinda like a history lesson too! I am green with envy – my attendance, however is mandatory at my conference.. **sign** & bring ssomething to share too. I made a silk thong undie for my daughter’s bridal shower.. the prototype hid in my closet and did not come out until AFTER the retreat.. talk about being pee-ed off.

  40. All you east coasters should be ashamed of yourselves, campaigning for the retreat to move there. How can you complain, on the brink of Rhinebeck and all the other fiber opportunities up and down your coast?
    You midwesterners (of which I was one) have more right to think of kidnapping the principals, but I hope you wait til after the retreat. If you’re successful, remember, I’m born and raised in Peoria, and you can’t get a lot more miswestern than that. Flat, settled, and not a lot to do. So send me a heads-up and I’ll be there for the party.

  41. I am enjoying all these eastern North American rumblings of rebellion. I live in the same province as Ms. YH and would love to spend a weekend knitting with her without the expense of jetting to the left coast. And yes, I’ll cross the Canada/U.S. border if Rams and Presbytera spearhead an abduction.

  42. Something to dream about doing someday…
    What would it take to get you guys to do a retreat on the East Coast?

  43. I was there in July and if I could go again in November I would do the same retreat in a heart beat. It was so. much. fun!

  44. Sigh. My baby is due (I mean a literal baby, gestating in my uterus) on November 12.
    Have fun without me. I’ll think of you while I’m in the labor tub.

  45. So looking forward to it! Now, if I could just convince the husband to buy one of those nice townhomes right there on the water, I could just walk out the backdoor and be at the retreat 😉

  46. I was on the retreat in July, and it was an amazing experience! So much fun, so much to learn, such a beautiful location. I wish I could justify a repeat visit.
    A few things to consider for those thinking about coming:
    1) Many of the people on the July retreat only learned to spin for the retreat. Don’t let a lack of spinning ability stop you.
    2) The only pre-req necessary for the dying class is the ability to squeeze a dye bottle.
    3) To make things more economical, the rooms at the inn are easily shared. Though they list as Queen size beds, the one in our room was a large King bed. And you don’t spend much time in your room anyway!

  47. How exciting – sounds like it will be so much fun! If you ever end up doing one in Toronto, or somewhere on the east coast – I’ll be there in a heart-beat – even if I have to raid the bank. 😀

  48. OH! Just read Rams’ post and the responses. I’m in for that!! I have a 10 acre sheep farm in central Ohio. We could so do this!! 😀

  49. HMMMPPPFFFFHHHHHHHH!!!! I am miffed. I am peeved. I am annoyed. I’ve been discriminated against. I feel….unincluded. There goes your Christmas card, Stephanie.
    One has to know how to spin to do this. Rats, Can’t I admiringly watch and BUY what someone else spins? Seems only fair….

  50. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend this event in July and had the most wonderful time!! The teachers were of course wonderful and the classes were fantastic but the other attendees really put this even over the top! Thank you all for such wonderful memories. It is taking every fiber of my being not to sign up and go again.

  51. I’d love to go, but am committed to the first Squam by the Sea (yea!!!) in October, and have another trip planned over Thanksgiving.
    My two cents? I need more lead time to plan for time away from the job and saving the $$$ to do an event like this. Any chance that the next one could be announced about 6 months out?
    Consolation prize–I’m signed up for Stephanie’s class at the Vogue Knitting event in January. So I’ll at least get a taste of what this silk cocoon stuff is all about!

  52. If I switch from learning to knit jewelry and try to learn spinning basics hmmm – sounds incredible! I could get roving at the New York Sheep and Wool festival.

  53. Port Ludlow is so close to where I grew up!
    If you do it next year I’m there. I’d love to learn all about silk (and especially indigo dyeing!) and I could combine it with a trip to see my family.

  54. I hope you are still doing these retreats when my daughter is old enough for me to leave for a whole weekend. And after I graduate and am (hopefully) earning decent money.

  55. Can I start chanting a suggested location?
    Okay, I’m done. Have fun whoever goes, it sounds fantastic!

  56. *sigh*
    @Rams, I suggest a train for the kidnapping. Easier to keep Tina under wraps. I suspect Toni at The Fold would be happy to have Tina come visit. That makes the connections in Chicago that much easier.

  57. The lucky few……
    So looking forward to when you do some workshops in Toronto / Ottawa / Montreal / somewhere I could actually get to!

  58. Another one wishing it didn’t always have to be a west cost affair. How about something for the East cost US/Eastern Canada folks, considering that’s where you’re from?

  59. If the spinning and dyeing has anybody on the fence, let me put some thoughts out there:
    (a) in my “section” there were two spinners who did not want to spin, so they attended class, but did not spin. Who would be able to tell if you were a non-spinning spinner, or a non-spinner
    (b) the squeeze bottle comment is right. Tina and the BlueMooners do all the complicated dye prep (and setting and rinsing) work, we just get to do the design (pick what colors you want on your fiber, and where on your fiber) and later put our name on the beautiful project that comes back a few hours later.
    These are some intense and long days. I missed a number of the night events in July because I had other obligations, and also had got bad eyestrain on the first day so was running with a huge headache the whole weekend. There is nothing wrong with working (or “auditing”) at your own pace. Stephanie said we are all adults and can do (or not do) anything and everything we want with our time at the retreat. There was so much to learn in Judith’s class that I stopped spinning periodically just to listen, watch, and look at what others were doing. Tina’s class was like a roomful of kids who get to fingerpaint–very nearly as freeform and design based as you can possibly get, although she certainly offered technical details for anybody who wanted them.
    I feel very lucky to be able to attend west coast events with Tina, Judith, and Stephanie. There are heaps of other things/people/classes I’d like to do and buy/meet/attend, but can’t. I think it all evens out in the end, since we can’t take it with us!

  60. Ahem…I got in! Yay! So, does anyone want to split a room? I’m Booa on Ravelry if folks want to contact me. Thanks in advance!

  61. Oh wow, that sounds like so. much. fun.
    Someday, when I do not have an enormous belly or nursing infant, I’m going to attend.
    This is so many degrees of awesome that it’s pointless to try to come up with…anything to describe how bad I want to go!

  62. Darn. Too bad I’m still in school, and can’t afford that amount of money to play with silk! (I just ordered some silk yarn to play with too…)
    Okay, I must save up for the next time you host this…Mrs. Pearl-McPhee.

  63. Washington is so very close to Montana-hmmmmmm…. I’m a skilled knitter, but have never dyed or spun before. I know what would happen-I’d get seriously hooked on the spinning and then I’d have another addiction! Oh my, it does sound like fun, though.

  64. Oh my goodness, I wish! I would LOVE to go, but that’s unaffordable for so many reasons for me. One day! As it is I’m eyeing that cozy but dirty orange yarn lustily. mmmmorange.

  65. I went in July and it was fantastic. I have wonderful memories and an empty pocketbook. Between the room, tuition, airfare and insanely expensive “taxi ride” from the resort to the ferry, I spent about $2000 for a once in a lifetime opportunity. The folks were so wonderful, the instructors so knowledgeable and warm, the days so packed with all things fiber-y. If you are worried about snagging your hands on silk, Steph has you covered. If you are worried about spinning-sit in the class and soak up the accumulated knowledge of all the others (I wasn’t a wheel spinner, but a newbie spindle spinner-now I want a wheel). If you can afford it, go. It was worth every penny. I just can’t emphasize enough how fulfilling it was. I can’t swing another one-and like others, wish a plane ticket and rental car or taxi weren’t involved. BUT-it was fantastic. Truly wonderful. As for us midwesterners and easterners, Tina doesn’t fly and it’s an awful long way for her to drive considering the amount of gear her class requires. She is the queen of all things colorful and we must come to her to pay homage. Oh, and yes, the folks at Port Ludlow definitely “get” knitters. If you can go, then go! You will have no regrets.

  66. I wish I knew the basics of spinning, but I will by next time. I’m taking a week’s vacation with a newly retired friend who is going to teach me to spin. I can’t wait! Wonder how long it’ll take me to actually get an unbroken strand? Have fun!!

  67. OMG. I was delighted to be able to go in July. To anybody who is considering it, GO! It was such a joy, and there was so much to learn. The teachers are simply the best! And the food. . . WOW!
    I met some of the most fun people, too. Three of us from the July workshop re-connected at Franklin Habit’s lace knitting class at Weaving Works in Seattle. 🙂 It was so great to see them last night!

  68. Dear Stephanie: Can you exercise your considerable influence to encourage knitters to support MSF (through KWB) in Pakistan, please. It just seems they’ve (the Pakistanies)been forgotten. Heather

  69. If you have a retreat on the east coast, or in Toronto I will be there! Perhaps summer in the east and fall in the west?

  70. I’m going, and I’m totally excited about it! I hope I can keep up with the spinners, and figure out if I can/should take apart my (second hand, purchased assembled) wheel to bring, or if a spindle will do…

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