Monday, September 26, 2011

Fall Knitting Retreat with Annie Modesitt

A lovely group of knitters representing Minnesota, Idaho, Ohio, West Virginia, New York and North Dakota descended upon a bee themed resort in rural Minnesota this past weekend. The reason for our gathering was a knitting retreat organized and hosted by the warm and witty Annie Modesitt.

The cabins and the retreat center were right on the lake shore and were super clean and spacious. We were spread between two cabins but were able to gather in one for meals and socializing and the other for the classes.

Annie's friend Kathleen, who was formerly a catering assistant, prepared the delicious meals and snacks that kept us fueled for a weekend packed with knitting.

There was plenty of socializing, project sharing, knitting book perusing and a fair amount of wine consumed. All wonderful things, in my world.

Our first morning, I took a cup of tea out to the dock that was covered in dew and drank it in the bright, early sun while the waves gently lapped at the dock. It was a good thing that I seized the opportunity that morning, as the crew came and removed the dock for the season just a few hours later.

Like clockwork: the first official weekend of fall...the wool was out and the dock was in!

The two classes included in the weekend's retreat schedule were a colorwork class and an entrelac class. I've heard great things about Annie's teaching so I was excited to be able to take classes from her. I've done a bit of colorwork and a bit of entrelac but do not feel like a master of either. It was really helpful to go through the content with Annie.

Annie lived up to the hype! She is a great teacher. Her colorwork class was so much more than I had hoped for. We went over stranding, intarsia, twining and plaid techniques, but what I really loved were the little tips and tricks Annie threw in. I came away with some ideas for joining new colors, weaving in ends more effectively and embellishing with crochet and duplicate stitch. As if that wasn't enough, Annie also gave me some tips about how to better control my gauge when I mentioned always needing to go down 2 or 3 needle sizes to get gauge. Being in control is a good thing!

The afternoon class covered the basics of entrelac. It was a helpful that I had a little background in entrelac because it is mind bending. Annie teaches entrelac using charts, which makes great sense, if you ask me. Plus, charts free the knitter up to customize the heck out of their entrelac. Once you understand the construction, you can add cables, lace, ribs, colorwork or whatever else you want to throw into those little angled grids. It really helps to knit forwards AND backwards when doing entrelac, which is what Elizabeth is practicing in the photo above while Annie watches and encourages.

During our entrelac break, we received a special delivery from Kathleen: warm, homemade apple crisp and vanilla ice cream. Delicious.

Here are my class swatches. The color craziness at the top left was intentional. We were instructed to swap bits of yarn with those around us to make some crazy looking plaid. Well, the color craziness minus the errant row of orange that happened when I forgot to change back to pink. Oops! According the Annie's request, when we make mistakes in class, we are supposed to leave them there so we can learn from them and so we can keep pace with the class. It was hard to leave it! I am a bit of a rule follower AND a perfectionist, which meant I either had to follow the rules and leave it or break the rule to satisfy my inner knitting perfectionist. Discord! You can see which side won.

Also with us this weekend was Becca. She is the super cute and smart service dog of Heather. This dog is so smart that she knows when Heather's blood sugar drops too low or, get this, is ABOUT to drop too low. Those are some skills. Becca uses her stare down skills for good while Tchazo uses his stare down skills to persuade us to let him on the bed or open the door for him.

The weather was perfectly fall-like, with a bit of chill, blue skies and crunchy leaves below my feet. It was way too nice to spend the whole weekend inside, so I headed out for walks at least once each day. My hands are a little out of practice from the lack of knitting this summer, so the walks gave my hands a chance to rest and my eyes a chance to take in some beautiful Minnesota views.

Big thanks to Kathleen, Heather and London for taking care of our needs before, during and after the retreat and for being great company this weekend. Thanks to the other retreat-goers for sharing your projects, your stories and your excitement for knitting. It is a wonderful thing to be amidst a group of competent and confident knitters. More than once this weekend, I heard one knitter tell another, "You can totally make this! It isn't too hard! It is just one stitch at a time!"

And, of course, a big, big thanks to Annie for organizing a great retreat that increased our skills and our connections to other knitters. If you ever have a chance to take a class from Annie or go on a retreat with her, do it!

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