Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Men's Fall Knitting Retreat 2008 (Conclusion)

You know what they say about all good things.... The Men's Fall Knitting Retreat was no different.

The last day was a fairly sad one for lots of folks. It really did seem much, much too short and, yet, so exhausting (for me... perhaps not for others).

Our final day was filled with two more classes. Harry taught the Mosaic Knitting class. I was in the class and I must say that it's a pretty nifty technique for dipping your toe in the color work pool. Its a method the requires manipulating only one color at a time, but creates lovely "tiled" or "tessellating" patterns that are so kewl. Harry had an cool pillow (which sadly, I didn't photograph) that showed the technique off to perfection.

The final class was Magic Loop taught by David. I think lots of folks came away from the weekend with this technique in their arsenal of fiber skills.

I did some final administrative work on the feedback forms and on paperwork for the Y. Stephen and I recorded audio for the next episode of Yknit. We took our requisite group shots. I even took a hike over to see the Point Bonita lighthouse.

Then came the daunting task of packing up my car. I thought that I'd come home much lighter but somehow, I still had a full car of stuff. The magic of fiber mitosis and the out of control generosity of my new buddies.

From the feedback, I'd say the event was a RESOUNDING success. The only real issue was with the sleeping arrangements and I believe that we can ameliorate that for future retreats. At the moment, I can't even THINK about another retreat might look like, but I'll be riding the high from this one for quite some time.

I made LOTS of new wonderful guy fiber friends. I'm excited about the possibilities of publishing, of spinning and of knitting. But, most of all, I'm just so happy to see the seeds of these crafts planted so firmly in the souls of my brother men.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Men's Fall Knitting Retreat 2008 (Instruction)

Friday night, I finally got to sleep around 2am, but bolted awake at 6am due to the need to visit the loo. You see, when you become an old man, you make many trips to the bathroom throughout the night. But, when you sleep on the top level of a bunkbed, making the trek up and down the ladder, in the dark, in a perfectly quiet room, is a huge drag. So, once I got up, I was staying up.

It was just as well, because I was a little anxious about the day as it was the first real fiber class I had ever taught. I had 7 people signed up for my Intro to Drop Spindle class and I was a wreck. Only a few weeks before I had offered to give some advice/tutorials to a co-worker's husband who had taken a class, but I think I confused him more than helping. So, it was with great trepidation that I prepared for my students.

We had a series of classes on Saturday, two at a time in the early morning and then again early afternoon. The first two were Freeform Knitting/Crochet taught by Kyle and Drop Spindling by yours truly. Kyle had some stunning examples of his technique and I think his students walked away sufficiently inspired. My group was so eager and enthusiastic. A great class. I feel like I gave them a good foundation on which to build up their skills. We had some wonderful breakthroughs and I saw some pretty fab yarn being created. An added bonus was being able to share fellow Raveler Fuzzed's super cool and unique Tilt-A-Whorl spindles, especially created for the retreat.

The afternoon set of classes were Entrelac/Knitting Back Backwards taught by our resident industry professional, Brian (from Skacel) and Sock Design (pictured above right) taught by Stephen. I took the Entrelac class, but wanted to be able to split myself in two and sit in on Stephen's group. Fortunately, Stephen made an excellent handout that is tucked away in my retreat binder.

Brian was an excellent instructor and I picked up some great entrelac techniques working on a groovy scarf pattern design by Brian himself. It uses a gorgeous "vintage" yarn made by Skacel called Unikat or a newer version called Loft Color. They are both felted yarns that have long color changes which knit up beautifully as entrelac. Those guys that took the class, got the pattern and enough yarn to make a full scarf. Thanks, Skacel!!!

Stephen's class was more of a design and brainstorming class with examples of how to work with existing patterns and make them your own. One of his impressive accomplishments was sharing some ideas that will hopefully be published in the near future. Another milestone: one of his students started his first sock (Go Rob!).

After dinner, we all gathered around (we kept calling this the group therapy set-up) for the much anticipated, Twined Knitting demo. Ivar (who came all the way from Sweden) led our group in this fascinating old-world technique that uses two strands of z-plied yarn and twists it every time you make a new stitch. Just learning the cast on was enough to send some boys over the edge. But, it was a super cool presentation and Ivar really took his classroom prep very seriously. He had a sweater, a hat and some amazing mittens.

Next on the agenda was a brainstorm led by Darrel about an E-zine about men's fiber culture, men's design and men's themes. Darrel is the mastermind behind Men Who Knit and has been talking for a while about getting a online publication off the ground. It was a spirited and lively discussion about the relevance and importance of having a masculine voice in the sea of feminine design. If the amount of time spent discussing is any indication, I think Darrel's work is cut out for him.

Our last activity was show & tell. Since we had spent quite a bit of time on the E-zine, we didn't start our show & tell until almost 10pm. But, I knew this was going to the coolest part of the retreat. Such friggin' fabulous pieces were shared. David's unbelievable lace. Ted's handspun lace scarf. Brian's sampler shawl/sarong. Doug's ginormous afghan. Michael C.'s unbelievable jacquard sweater. Ivar's twined knitting masterstrokes. Harry's sweet sweater for his son. Andy's convertible gloves. Stephen's cycling aran. On and one it went into the wee hours of the morning.

After everyone went to bed, Stephen and I stayed up and refined our questions for the Yknit interview the following day. Man, did I tumble into slumberland like a boulder.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Men's Fall Knitting Retreat 2008 (Reception)

On Friday, November 7, I got up early after a restless night of "sleep". I was nervous because it was the first day of the Men's Fall Knitting Retreat 2008. Adding to the stress was the fact that I had never done anything like this before (retreat, knitting or otherwise) and the fact that most of the attendees did not each other beyond Ravelry or Men Who Knit online communities.

Ted (seen here checking out the amazing swag table) came all the way from Owen Sound, Ontario, CANADA to be with us. He and Stephen (seen here replicating the groovy artwork created by Franklin Habit) were my first arrivals on that sunny and warm day. There was very little haze and the temperature was perfect. It seemed to bode well for the weekend.

I was "greeted" by a gathering of quail just in front of the Kiwanis room and I quickly snapped some pics in case our presence was going to spook them (and it did). I made contact with Rochelle (our YMCA rep) and set to unpacking the MOUNTAIN of raffle prizes and goodie bags. While I was doing my merchandising of the goodies, I heard what I thought was Y staffer behind our classroom/meeting room, but it just turned out to be one of the locals.

One by one, the gentlemen arrived and I finally started to feel like the retreat was real. Andy arrived sporting a cute Xmas hat, in spite of the heat... that's a dedicated fiber fiend for you!. The next to show up were Brian (from Seattle and Skacel), Ivar (all the way from Sweden) and Doug (all the way from WeHoSoCal). Then came Michael, Harry, John, and Kenny (MSKR 2008 almnus and token Southern Boy) Chuck and David. After that it was a bit of a blur... literally.

The sun set early and the fog rolled in BIG TIME. I started to get worried because several folks hadn't arrived. But a call from Steve let us know that he was at a "No on Prop 8" protest in downtown SF. Kyle, Darrel and Jonathan showed up a bit later and we were all in.

Our first dinner (cafeteria style) reassured me that we were going to be taken care of. The preparations are simple yet hearty. The Y tries to shop local and organic when possible. We also had coffee and tea service ALL DAY LONG. Believe me, I drank my weight in coffee that first day. It's a miracle I made it to sleep that night. Oh wait, that was due to temazapam. :-)

Our first get to know each other activity was supposed to be a bingo game that used cards containing surprising facts about each attendee. But, since we got off to a late start and since we had a LOT of swag, we did a "lightning round" of group Q&A wherein everyone had a chance to win and then select one of the prizes from our booty table.

Everyone had a chance to check out the Swag from our generous donors:
Article Pract, A Verb for Keeping Warm, Briar Rose Fibers, BrooklynTweed, Danny Oulette Designs, Hansigurumi, HelloYarn, KnitSonya, Knotty Naomi, Oceanwind Knits, Perchance to Knit, Schoolhouse Press, Shelridge Farms, Spinning Loft, Tactile Fiber Arts, Unique Sheep, Wild Geese Fibers, and Yarn Nerd. We're so not worthy!!!

I busted out the two cakes that I brought from Sweet Adeline's, a chocolate ganache devil's food cake, and a lemon curd cheesecake (which Kenny heard me say as "lemon curry cheesecake"... he was in desperate need of an antihistamine). I think they were both a big hit. Jennifer at Sweet A's is a confectionary goddess.

We rounded out the first day by doing a bit of knitting, a bit of spinning and a whole lot of laughing.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Yknit episode 016 is LIVE...

Originally uploaded by mikewade
... and wild, apparently. Our guest is Linda Cortright, publisher and editor of Wild Fibers magazine.

We have a contest for a FREE YEAR SUBSCRIPTION to Wild Fibers. Entry details in the show notes and in the podcast.

And, a special bonus for Yknit listeners, Linda is offering a 10% on all subscriptions and back issues ordered before December 1, 2008. Special promo code revealed in the podcast and on show notes!

Go Wild!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Men's Fall Knitting Retreat 2008 (Anticipation)

The Men's Knitting Retreat is an umbrella organization dedicated to the promotion fiber crafts within the male community. Ted Myatt (KnitterGuy) and Joe Wilcox (QueerJoe) created the first event this past Spring at Easton Mountains, NY and it was a resounding success. The Men's Spring Knitting Retreat had over 30 attendees who practically declared the event to be life-changing.

Building on that success, hizKNITS and I were inspired to bring some of that manly magic to the West Coast and thus, the Men's Fall Knitting Retreat 2008 was born. With only a short time to research possible venues and get the word out, we, as a group, ended up choosing the picturesque and budget-friendly YMCA Point Bonita Conference Center. It is located just minutes over the Golden Gate Bridge in the Marin Headlands overlooking San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

There were 19 folks who attended the retreat and we had a wonderfully varied crew. One of our group hailed from Sweden, one from Canada, one from the Mid-West with the remaining guys from the West Coast states.

These past few weeks have been filled with last minute photocopying, organizing donations, and making sure that the classes, handouts and binders were in working order.

This is what the goodie bag table looked like before our guests arrived. You see here Article Pract tape measures, Spinning Loft writing pens, Crystal Palace yarns, Tactile Fiber Arts sampler bags and..... *drum roll please* Skacel project bags containing (1) a sock pattern, (2) Fortissima yarn for said pattern, and (3) one of a kind Addi Turbo Needles with 40" join for magic looping those socks.

And that's not counting the Raffle/Contest Prizing!!! More on that later.