The Braintrust

This last weekend, I did something I don’t get to do a lot.  I went away with some people for the sole purpose of knitting.  Knitting is pretty much the thing I’m most interested in, and I believe certainly and fully that to keep the creative well full, I need to spend time with other knitters.  Most of the time this has me in the role of teacher, and I get lots of creative input and ideas from my students – and you can ask around, I bet most teachers would say the same thing. The bounceback that happens when I teach you something, and you have an idea based on what I’ve told you, and I end up learning? It happens all the time.  This though, this was a little different. It was like an informal mini-retreat. A bunch of knitters gathered in the woods, and all we did for two days was talk, and knit, and talk, and spin and knit, which made total sense, because outside it still looked like this.

outside1 2014-04-09

Winter is loosening, but it’s not gone.

outside2 2014-04-09

One thing I noticed was that everyone brought their A-game. Without the distractions of family, kids and jobs, everyone had loaded up their best knitting, their best spinning, their best ideas.  We all brought questions, and concepts and I’m pretty sure that everyone left with more of both.  These women are some of the best textile artists I know, so I brought up a complex plan for modifying  Sweet Dreams (the pattern I settled on for that gorgeous silk and bison) and asked simply “Would this work?” The braintrust settled in on it, and three conversations and a little bit of googling and mathematics later, the braintrust had checked my work, and improved my idea. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

sweetdreamsstart 2014-04-09I’d be nowhere as good a knitter without these times. The times that I gather with the people who care about what I do all in one place – without distraction, without concern, without competing forces.  (There was excellent wine and good food too, because… well. These people care about the same things I do.)

knittersbyfire 2014-04-09There was also something amazing, which is that wonderful thing that happens when you don’t get to hand pick who you’re with. When new people turn up, with new ideas and new ways of doing things and you see them execute something a way you never have, or put forth an idea that your brain wouldn’t have ever, ever come up with on its own.

yarnhandsball 2014-04-09

(Because someone will ask, that yarn is this.)

spinningsupported 2014-04-09

Often when I teach, I remind students to have an open mind. “Your ideas have gotten you this far” I say. “You need someone else’s to really go to the next level.”  I took my own advice this weekend.  Every person there had an idea or way of thinking to offer me – if I was listening. (Actually, this crowd is a bunch of strong, opinionated women. You don’t have to listen very hard.) They all brought their A-Game.  By the way, if one of the textile artists who brings their A-Game is Kim? It looks like this.

kimsbesteffort 2014-04-09

It was a freakin’ mosh pit of yarn. It was amazing.

I’m home now, and packing like a fiend, because this weekend is Strung Along’s April Retreat at Port Ludlow, and I find that after this weekend, and remembering what it is that retreats are for? I’m so, so looking forward to it.  Amazing things happen at retreats, and they’re an amazing treat, and a leap for the soul.

By the way, in case you’re feeling bad you can’t be with us this weekend? We’re doing it again.  We’re having another retreat in June, and by popular demand, this one is just for the knitters. (We heard that not everyone is or even wants to be a spinner, and while we don’t understand that, we sure do respect it.)  Textile artists are creative makers, so this time we’re inviting another special kind of maker to be with us.  We’ve named our theme for the three things we’ll be doing.  Knit (That’s me) Play (that’s CAT BORDHI) and Cook – and that my friend, is Chef Dan, executive Chef at The Resort at Port Ludlow – and we’re so excited that Cat and Dan will be with us.  There will be a day of knitting – where I’ll teach you some finesse and special techniques to customize your knitting and make it more  beautiful, and take a look at (and sample) some amazing yarns. Cat Bordhi will have another day of teaching, and well. It’s hard to describe what Cat’s going to do, but she’s turning her inestimable brain towards a class called “The Joy of Cooking up a Design From Scratch” where she’ll talk not just about designing garments you’ll love, but stitch patterns you’ll love – and take your knitting to a deeply personal place. Her class is all about making what YOU love, and figuring out how to express it.  Finally, Chef Dan will teach a gourmet cooking class – along with a few other wonderful bonuses.  You’ll learn about selecting ingredients, creating a menu, prep, cooking – serving and choosing wine to go with it. You need absolutely no experience in the kitchen for the cooking class, and only solid beginner skills for the knitting.  The retreat will run from the evening of Friday June the 20th, and finishes the evening of Monday, June the 24th.   If you’d like more information about this special treat – email me at  I’ll send you out details.

In the meantime, I’m going to figure out what I can sell to get myself to a few more of these retreats as a student.  I need the braintrust.