Medomak Fiber Arts Retreat

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I went back to camp last week.

When I was thirteen, my parents sent me to Medokawanda Camp for Girls. It was a wonderful experience and I loved every minute. I learned a lot about who I was at summer camp, away from the control of my parents. I learned to smoke cigarettes behind our cabin (not necessarily a good thing) and I learned that I loved singing and theater and being outside in the woods and on the lakes. I loved waterskiing, too. It was a special place and remains so today. So when I found out that there was a Fiber Arts Retreat at my old camp, I jumped at the opportunity.

Who knew that forty-two years later that the place would be just as special and that the women I met would be as welcoming and wonderful. I’m pretty sure that some will be lifelong friends.

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On Sunday afternoon, we all checked in to our cabins. I was in a “dormitory” cabin with three other campers; two that I knew (alumnae from earlier years, one a counselor of mine) and one that I didn’t. The cabins are simple but comfortable. Linens, towels, blankets and pillows are supplied by the camp and we were very comfortable. Most importantly for women of a certain age, there is a full bathroom and shower in each cabin. (I did get an extra blanket after the first night because I wasn’t warm enough. I also brought a box fan which was a good suggestion from a multi-year camper!)

Sunday night, dinner was the first official event and the food was amazing. The kitchen staff is incredibly accommodating to those who are gluten-free or vegan or vegetarian or who have allergies to food. The food is fresh and fantastic, healthy and mostly local. And it was amazing. Fresh bread, fresh vegetables, wonderful desserts and even a lobster dinner the final night. We ate well!

There was a great diversity of choices for classes, too. Weaving, writing, knitting, dying, wet felting, spinning, needle felting, and more. I took a 4-class series of knitting classes with the indomitable Bristol Ivy. Knitting being my first real love, I HAD to take this class and it was absolutely packed full of useful information that will make me a better knitter and a better knitting teacher. I learned some new skills, too.

I learned about cleaning, carding and combing raw fiber from Rachel Bingham Kessler. This was a fabulous class, especially after having learned about all sorts of different yarn types, particularly worsted spun and woolen spun yarns. I learned that carding and combing fibers changes the way the fiber “organizes itself” and that’s how roving is made. I truly believe that I will be able to recognize the difference in the fiber I see and sell in the future.

IMG_3350I learned to use a drop-spindle and spin yarn! Casey Ryder from Portfiber in Portland, Maine was the spinning teacher and she made this experience so much fun. We were provided with a borrowed spindle and some fiber (two combed and two carded) and it was really fun to see how the fiber is manipulated into something you can knit or weave with! (I bought the spindle. I want to keep doing this!)

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I went to a yoga class at 7:30 in the morning, before coffee! I was so glad I did. It made me feel energized and ready to face a very hot day.

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The View

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The Studio

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The icon – with Bristol, an icon in the making

We went on two field trips. The first was to the studio of Katharine Cobey in Cushing, Maine. Katharine is a gem. A successful poet, Katharine chose to make knitting her career. Her husband built her a beautiful studio above a finger of the ocean. She has become an icon of knitting and knitting as art. She has studied the process of knitting and is perhaps one of the most wise and wonderful knitters that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Katharine held a mini-class describing the ONE stitch that there is in knitting – the knit stitch. The purl stitch is just a knit stitch viewed from the back. We swatched an i-cord that was knitted and a garter stitch i-cord. And we learned Portuguese Knitting at her feet. I fell in love that day with an 80-year-old woman. I’d like to study at her feet. She is my new knitting idol.

The second field trip was to a fiber farm and mill in Waldoboro. Only minutes from camp, New Aim Farm is a working mill. Nancy and her husband are raising pigs for meat (they’ll keep one and sell the others) and some sheep for fiber. Nancy runs the mill and takes fiber from other farms and she’s very busy! It was a fascinating time spent learning about the milling process (and buying some very pretty yarn!) Nancy also is the current president of the Maine Fiber Frolic, the only fiber fair in Maine and the first of the New England season.

IMG_3352One evening I learned to needle felt. It was a loonapalooza! Once again, Casey organized a wonderful class and we had some really good belly laughs. I laughed until I cried … mostly because my loon had a very large beak. But everyone succeeded in creating a loon and we all had fun. Emily named them Zebra, LooLoo and Kandoo.

This is a beautiful place, close to nature. At the top of the hill was our cabin, the yurt, a field full of wild Maine blueberries, free for the picking. The dining hall, the Lodge, the barn and the lawn were all places for classes. Surrounded by perennials and Morning Glories, bird song and pine trees. It’s still a very special place. A place that I have visited throughout my adult life, a place that has tugged at my heart since I was thirteen.

Some of the classes that I wasn’t able to take were weaving on a rigid hettle loom, weaving an amulet and a doll as part of the Weaving a Life program. I didn’t take the slow sewing class or the wet felting class or the lichen, safflower or indigo dying classes … all of which looked like lots of fun, too. Next year, I’ll try more classes and I can’t wait to go back to camp.

I’m so grateful to have been able to return as a camper, surrounded by creative women, wise and knowledgeable teachers, and a beautiful spot. It was the best vacation that I’ve taken since moving to Maine and I look forward to returning next year!

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I’m a happy camper!

PS- I haven’t written about everything here. I’d have written for days. So, suffice it to say that it was an amazing week … a life changing week … a life challenging week. I know I’ll be working on so many pieces of my life, enhancing and creating. Check out the details at the website for Medomak Retreat Center.

 

 

Life is Good!

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This is the view from my studio chair this evening. I love when the shore across the lake is all lit up in the afternoon. It really is magnificent.

Today was a good day. Good morning, good day at work, happy to be home and then this view when I looked out the window.

Our plants are blooming and most survived the winter and it feels good to be home. Here are a few pictures of the plants that I took today. I’m no photographer but I sure do love to see things grow!

Wild rose, “ever blooming” rose and yellow iris. The iris have been here forever and continue to spread all across the shore. The roses are both new. Rosa Rugosa (the wild rose) is a native plant and fully expected to live happily against the lakeshore. We shall see about my friend Janet’s gift from last year but I love these flowers. They are fragrant and low-maintenance and bloom all summer long.

How did we get so lucky?

Gone knitting.

Sunday Fun Day!

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Yesterday morning, we woke up to a little fog on the ice and more open water than we’ve seen in what seems forever! Knowing that it was going to be sunny, we figured that the fog would go away and we’d have less ice at the end of the day.

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Before we left to go take a Sunday drive, this is what it was looking like. There were a couple of times when the ice came right up to the land and sounded like crystals being rolled around. The sound was so unique! I tried to get a video of the sounds but I didn’t think any of the three were audible enough to translate. Suffice it to say, it was really great!

We wanted to head to Skowhegan today to see if the Maine Grains “cafe” was open and if we could get a bite to eat and buy some oatmeal. It was not open, but it was a pretty drive.

My husband heard about a sculpture at his volunteer job at Colby College Art Museum. Colby Art Museum has a few pieces by this artist. Apparently when he died, his widow spread his works around the state and two are found in Skowhegan!

The Indian statue is HUGE! He is easily the world’s tallest Indian. It’s sixty-two feet tall atop a 20 foot tall base, He was erected in 1969 and dedicated, as you can read in the picture above, to Maine’s Abenaki Indians. The play area, which they now ask you to stay off of, is a two-sided stair-step of farm animals. Please don’t climb on them! These sculptures are a little gem of art and Maine history along the way. You can find this guy on the northeast corner of Madison Avenue and High Street behind the Cumberland Farms food mart. It’s free and worth a detour!

When we got home (after a stop at Giffords for a bit of ice cream) the ice was moving by our house again. And before sunset, it was gone. Ice out!

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We heard our first loons on the lake, too. It brought tears to my eyes. I love living in this place and feel so fortunate to be here.

Gone knitting!

 

“Terror Towel” Quilted Throw

 

Delivery ... and first thoughts

Delivery … and first thoughts

Several months ago a high school classmate asked me if I would be willing to make a quilted throw for him. He and his wife had collected “terror towels” from various sports events that he and his wife had attended.

I am a new but eager maker of quilts but this didn’t sound impossible to me but for months I’ve been “worrying” about this quilt. The terry cloth fabric is a different entity than the traditional cotton fabric. I wasn’t sure what would happen to the towels when I cut them to size.

So I picked peoples’ brains. I was advised that I should use a stabilizer on the backs of the towels. I was also advised that I should not use cotton fabric as a frame between the towels. The thought was that the two weight of fabrics would cause uneven wear. This made sense. Stabilizer, not so much.

As you can see from the picture above, that’s one funky shaped quilt. I had to somehow figure out how to make it square or rectangular … which meant making all the towels the same size.

Deciding on the design and directionality

Deciding on the design and directionality

What I ended up doing was using little paper “towels” to lay out my plan. If I could make the towels to a size of 14.5 x 16.5 inches I could piece them together and make a throw. After many hours of thinking and measuring, I had a plan. A few of the towels were not going to work in the size that I had chosen – three were too small (way too small) and one was printed in such a way as to make cutting it to any size difficult. But the rest of the towels, 16 in all, were going to work!

Day 1: I “ripped” out the stitching around the edges of the towels to make them a little bit larger and then I cut the towels to size. Even cutting the towels is a challenge. They really aren’t square nor are they printed with the designs exactly in the middle. But I used my 12″ square template to center the design and then worked around it to cut the two lengths thus making a 14.5 x 16.5 inch rectangle of each towel.

Day 2: I zigzagged the four sides of the towels to keep them from fraying. Terry cloth is a messy, messy (did I say MESSY?) fabric. Yuck! My studio is a horrible mess and I’m not even done yet!

Day 3: This is the moment … all the towels are laid out on the floor and I decided on the design placement. There are four towels with a different directionality. I chose to have them all facing the same (but different from the other 12 towels) direction. Here is the design that I liked best … the four towels with different directionality are not diagonally down the middle but one in each row and “randomly” placed.

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My final design … I’m ready to make strips!

So, today I started sewing together the rectangles. I decided that because terry cloth is so bulky that I had to sew the pieces together and then “tack” down the extra fabric on the wrong size by sewing them down. I sewed a 3/8 seam and then positioned my needle to the left and ran another line down each side of the seam tacking the bulk to the pieces. So far, I am really pleased with the strips. Tomorrow I will sew the strips together and then it will be time to find a backing. I am thinking that I would like to use two layers of cotton flannel. One white in the middle and a sports-themed print as the backing fabric. I will sandwich them all together but I haven’t decided whether I will simply stitch in the ditch or if I will stitch diagonally across the rectangles, too. I want them to be stable so that the towels wear well.

I’ll let you know how it progresses! I am thrilled to be working on this rather than “worrying” about it. Gone … sewing? (Actually my book club is coming and I’d best go get ready to greet them!)

Crafting My Creative Space

In our new house, I knew that I needed some additional space to add the sewing machine, a cutting table and an ironing board for my new quilting “addiction”. My atelier in Florida was a 10 x10-foot bedroom and I was quite content with the way the space worked for me. BUT I didn’t sew there! Adding a quilting space was key to my creative space.

I have to be honest because that’s who I am … I hated the new space at first. I was unsettled and couldn’t figure out how to make it work. I should have known that it would take some time to get settled but I was impatient (and downright grumpy) about it.

And then today the lightbulb moment struck. I knew what I needed to do to make the space mine.

Yes, all the bins are full of yarn!

Yes, all the bins are full of yarn!

I unloaded the wonderful IKEA storage shelf of all the yarn and knitting books and we moved it to the other side of my atelier. And then I loaded it all up again. Now the knitting space is all in the front (lake side) of the house.

My desk is a slab of Maine wood!

My desk is a slab of Maine wood from Mr. Woodchuck!

And this afternoon, N. and his wonderful saw cut a few inches off my desk so that it fits in the little “alcove” where a bed would go if it were, indeed, a bedroom.

Quilting Corner

Quilting Corner

This leaves space in front of the window and along the back (driveway side) of the house for my sewing table and cutting table. The ironing board is in front of the window … gone are the days when I have to walk 30 miles to make eight quilt squares! Now all of my sewing stuff is in the back room and I am a happy Queen Bee.

It feels good to have my knitting and sewing space shape up and this house is feeling more like home every day. I know we’re going to have a long, happy, healthy, full life in this house.

Next I will add some window treatments and shelves on the wall over my desk.

Gone knitting.

It’s a Wonderful Life!

The View From Our Woodshed

The View From Our Woodshed

By now I hope you’ve realized (because I hope I’ve told you) that we’ve moved from Florida to Maine. We have torn down our beloved “camp” here to make way for a new house that honors the history and the old house but will afford us the luxury of living here full time … with heat!

When we arrived here in late April, I went to my regular Wednesday night knitting group and was asked to fill in while two of the “girls” who work there were off babysitting for their new grandchildren in June and July. So, I’ve been working 2 or 3 days a week at my LYS, the Yardgoods Center in Waterville.

The Pattern

The Pattern

I’ve been knitting there for eight summers and now that I’m a local, I’m working there. And I’ve been having a blast! “Like” Yardgoods- Yarns on Facebook and you’ll see why! Better yet, plan a visit to Maine, stay in the area and come visit me at work. We’re having a wonderful July Yarn Sale (until August 22) and all regular-price hand-knitting yarn is 20% off. I came home Friday with a full bag and a couple of balls of yarn for a Christmas gift for my nieces. More on that later.

 

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N, the boyfriend, proposed to me a few weeks ago and then, because his daughter insisted, he went to Walmart to buy me a ring. My real ring is being made in Portland and won’t be ready to wear until mid-August so this one is an adorable fill-in for the time being. And the sentiment is adorable. We are not even thinking about a wedding until our house is finished and we’re all moved in. We hope to be all moved in before the first snow!

I’ve been sewing with my buddy, Beverly, and have taken a quilting class in Bangor that was really fun. It was a flag throw quilt that I had hoped to complete before July 4th. Seeing as today is July 5th, I’ve failed miserably but I will be taking my machine out today to repair two head-lights for N and I’ll get some sewing in, too. I also am making a Christmas quilt which I’d love to have done before this Christmas. I’m told it’s a quick project. I guess I’m not spending “enough” time focused on sewing … but I have to make some progress before my wallet class on July 18 and then a beginning quilting series of classes in November.

I have plans to be at a class in Maine in November!!! We get to live here!!!

Driftwood Sweater … the green's a sleeve

Driftwood Sweater … the green’s a sleeve

I have been knitting, too. Lots of projects on the needles and not too much progress on any one project. But it’s all good … my Driftwood sweater is getting closer and closer. This yarn has been in my stash for years and I’m finally making a sweater that I think I’ll like. I’m knitting away on it in the oddest order. Shoulders, body, sleeve 1 to the cuff, body … you get my drift? I am a bit worried that I won’t have enough yarn to complete the sweater so I’m spit-joining the yarn so I can use every inch.

I bought a skein of Reggia Arne & Carlos sock yarn and I’ve cast on and completed most of the first sock’s cuff. I love that the self-patterning yarn that makes me look like a competent fair isle knitter when I’m not really. One more pair to add to my sock drawer.

IMG_4915I have a Shadow Shawl in process with some beautiful Manos del Uruguay Serena. Super simple pattern and wonderfully soft yarn. I will get a lot of wear out of this shawl up here in the fall. I originally started this shawl with the other colorway as the primary color and there was a time or two when I couldn’t count to four … so I frogged it and started again and changed my colorway order so that the “plainer” colorway was the primary color. I like it in its second iteration better and the ridge in the pattern stands out and the colors of the second (CC) colorway are sitting back and will get the attention when the shawl is finished and blocked.

I have a cowl/infinity cowl on the needles, too. This will be my older daughter’s Christmas gift. I’m using a really pretty green alpaca yarn and a seed stitch pattern with a cable along one edge. Since I have to knit about 60 inches of this, I got bored and haven’t looked at it this week. I have about 52 inches to go before joining the ends … I will get there.

One little bootie … for one little niece

One little bootie … for one little niece

Yesterday I cast on a new project just for giggles. Little bootie socks for my baby niece. I’ll plan to take them with me on my trip out to California in early August. I’m planning a bigger pair for the big sister, too. They knit up in about an hour or two, maybe, and they’re super cute. Just perfect for chilly Lake Tahoe mornings. I also bought two book panels to bring with me … they’re another sewing project … one with no words so the big sister can read to her little sister. I hope they’ll love them.

I started (again) a square that is part of the Great American Aran Afghan pattern. I love Aran knitting and I really REALLY want to make this afghan. I’ve had 24 balls of ivory wool in my stash for several years and it’s time to start making progress. The only problem is that I really need to be alone in a quiet room in order to be able to concentrate on the pattern … and while we’re living in 300 square feet of cabin, that’s not happening too often. So, I’m going to call this my long-term project and not put any pressure on myself.

I have finished two pairs of socks, and a Loopy Mango throw since I’ve been here. And a pair of peds, and slipper socks. Gee, in retrospect, that’s not very much. I must be having too much fun with life in general … see what I mean about the title of this post?

Gone knitting (or sewing)!

 

Three Cheers (for the Red, White and Blue)

Yesterday I spent a wonderful day learning something new.

The Class Sample … this is what my quilt will look like

The Class Sample … this is what my quilt will look like

I took a Flag Quilt class at the Cotton Cupboard in Bangor, Maine with a friend and we had a great time. It was my first ever quilt-making class and it was a positive experience for this  once-a-failure sewer!

I’ve made a few other quilts in my life. I made several Amish Tied Quilts back when my children were little. One for each of them and a few others interspersed. They are funny to look at today … my color choices “date” the quilts with the exception of the eldest daughter’s which is red, white and blue. My quilt already shows that I was into the black and yellow “bee colors”. I have all of them here in Maine and one day they’ll go to the kids homes … when they all have room for a quilt.

My Log Cabin Quilt …  finished and on our bed

My Log Cabin Quilt … finished and on our bed

The last two summers I worked on a Log Cabin quilt which I finished and had quilted at Quilt Divas in Rockland. I love it and it’s on our bed.

The quilt that I’m working on for this class is a throw quilt and it’s got several things going on. It’s straight piecing, some appliqué and some curved sewing. I’ve never sewn a curved seam in my life! I felt relatively adept at the cutting and straight sewing although one of my classmates gave me a couple of new tips that I really appreciated. The appliqué I had done once and that was alright. I have a lot more stars to appliqué so I’ll be a professional when they’re all done! The curved sewing will take me awhile … and is my biggest challenge.

Curved seams … I did pretty well. It just takes time

Curved seams … I did pretty well. It just takes time

When I was all done, I was sore and feeling successful … I had only screwed up one star square (and have to cut a few other pieces to be able to finish my quilt) because I hadn’t been warned about making sure the squares were not all facing the same way. Fortunately I have extra fabric!

I will keep plugging along at it and I will show the pictures of the final project …. whenever I get it done (and quilted.) Since it’s a throw, I’ll plan to quilt it myself.

Gone knitting!