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.

 

 

“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!)

I am Good (Enough)!

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Yes, that’s me at the piano in my preppy sweater!

A million years ago I stood at a piano in rehearsal for a high school theater production. I was singing “Midnight at the Oasis” (among other things) and it was quite the challenge for me to be sexy and sing at the same time. No, really, it was. My teacher, Frank Best, worked with me a lot. How to walk, how to hold the mic, how to get off the side of the grand piano gracefully …

A couple of weekends ago I attended my 40th high school reunion. I’m not sure how 40 years have passed that quickly, how it’s been 30 years since I stepped foot on the campus. How it’s been 40 years since I’ve seen classmates who meant so much to me. It’s funny how life gets in the way of friendships. And it’s wonderful to pick up where we left off. My theater besties and I returned to the theater all these years later and remembered our shows together and others who didn’t come to reunion this time. It was magical.

Brian back at the old grand piano (that I slid of gracefully.)

Brian back at the old grand piano (that I slid of gracefully.)

Reunited. I wish Sharon had been in this picture, too!

Reunited. I wish Sharon had been in this picture, too!

One classmate shared the picture above and others from the school newspaper on Facebook prior to the reunion. What a good memory this brings forward along with some emotional baggage that I’m ready to discard. A couple of friends commented on how they remembered that show and my song. My number one fan commented that my singing “was one of the true wonders I have witnessed in my life. No lie.” This made me smile. (And blush a little bit.)

It’s difficult for me to accept compliments although I’ve gotten much more adept as I get older. I have come to realize that I really am smart and talented. Back then I certainly could sing. (If I tried, I might still be able to sing today!) “Midnight at the Oasis” was a big hit with the audience. I felt very proud of the performance and yet my father could only say that I’d done “pretty good, Monk”. Falling short of a resounding compliment and making me feel like I’d fallen short of making him proud. So, today I’m dumping that old weight that said I wasn’t quite up to snuff. I did a really good job. If people are still remembering my performance 40 years later, I did a really good job. I can be proud of my performance and know that it was truly a special moment in time. My father’s reaction was more about him coming up short than me.

I did an excellent (memorable) job. I am good! I am smart. I am enough!

Gone Knitting.

New Friends

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You’ve all probably seen these photographs on Facebook and Pinterest. The other day at the Yardgoods Center Yarn Shop I made three new friends. Three ladies came into the shop and it was clear that they had all the time in the world to shop. One spent a few minutes on the phone at the table in front making plans with family. The other two were checking out the free patterns. After awhile, and having checked on them all a couple of times and having showed them the color-changing “Abracadabra” yarn, they came to the cash register with a few patterns to purchase and a question.

Turns out they’ve been friends since early childhood and were together again for three weeks more. When one lady said they had a question, the other two ladies giggled. (It’s funny to see elderly ladies giggle like girls!) They’d spent hours (HOURS!) over the past couple of days trying to figure out what it meant to cast on stitches without a slip knot in the backward loop method. They were all beaming, eyes bright, smiling widely with the memory. I had a left-over ball of yarn and one needle left behind by a customer and I showed them what to do. They were delighted. “You made our day!”

Such a simple thing made a big impact. They made their purchases and left for lunch. Giggling that they only had a two hour ride. I smiled at them behind their backs. What a treasure their friendship is.

Old friends are the best friends!

Old friends are the best friends! We are being sharks … at 50-something.

I am so fortunate to have some old friends, too. Not that we are old, we have been friends for a long, long time. We don’t get to see each other very often, but we make an effort to meet once a year. Each time we pick up where we left. We may not party like we used to and we’re often in bed by ten but the reunion is always sweet.

I’m going to be missing the reunion this year and am so sad about it but  I am coming to realize that I can’t do it all – and that saves my sanity. Only two of us will be at the beach next weekend. I’ll be there in spirit but not in body. I commit to 2016, though. I need the girl time to recharge and renew. Old friends are the best friends. I love my girls!

Gone knitting.

A Wonderful Gift

I taught my next-to-last last knitting class on Saturday and at the end of the class, Anne, the owner of The Black Sheep in Orlando wanted to give me a gift. A beautiful “little” skein of big yarn.

What a Wonderful Gift!

What a Wonderful Gift!

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to teach knitting in this wonderful shop and for the friendship that we’ve enjoyed. Who knew I’d meet such a great friend in a puppy training class?

I can’t wait until you come to Maine!

Gone knitting.

Getting Projects Finished! (And Sewing, too!)

Sunrise over Messalonskee

Sunrise over Messalonskee

Well, my time in my happy place is coming quickly to an end. Last Wednesday I said, “good-bye for now” and “see you next summer” to my knitting friends. It’s always sad for me to say good-bye to my knitting friends both here and in Florida.

I had my last day sewing with my friends Beverly and Lorry yesterday. We finished a project for Lorry to take to her friend in France and I made another great bag (with a lot of help.) It’s fabulous and I love it. I love it because it’s a team effort and that my friends found three of the five fabrics for me when they were on a road trip to a quilting shop in New Hampshire. Four fabrics with bees and one with flowers and a lot of patience and I have a bag that I will carry in the winter months. Full of the love of my friends here in Maine.

My Wonderful Wallaby is almost done. I’m just knitting the hood which is simple  stockinette stitch all the way to the Kitchener stitch at the top. I took a break when I got to the neck to try it on and it fits perfectly. I’m so pleased that I have lost a little weight because now it’s perfect. Just the way I like it. Now my sweet man thinks he’d like to have one, too.

IMG_3465I finished the darling striped baby cardigan and the booties for my niece-to-be. I even bought the buttons. I’ll have to sew them on tonight so I can post a picture here. The booties are Sue’s Bootie’s and the pattern was begged for (by me) at my knitting class. They no longer had it at the shop and I couldn’t find it on the internet. They are adorable and super easy to knit. I loved the combination of colorways that my friends were using and I followed their lead using two different colors of Fixation. Fixation, if you don’t know, is slightly elastic and makes great baby booties and socks and it’s difficult for the baby to kick them off … well, relatively difficult anyway.

I’m ignoring the fingerless mitts that I dragged all the way from Florida to Maine … and will drag all the way back, too.

"Lobster On the Rocks" Hat designed by Donna Frost Ritchie

“Lobster On the Rocks” Hat designed by Donna Frost Ritchie

I’m slowly making progress on a lobster hat for my daughter. It was going to be for her birthday but it will be a late gift … thank heavens I have another couple of months until it gets cold in New York. I’m thinking that perhaps color work is not my thing. But I’ll keep trying.

I have a wonderful stash of yarn to take back to Florida with me and work with over the next ten months until I can be back here again. With any luck, my whole atelier will be coming with me then because we’re moving here permanently. This is where my heart lives.

Gone knitting.

 

A Secret Surprise Project

I have a friend who has a husband who we all love. He’s the sweetest, most thoughtful, most attentive husband that we’ve ever met. And he is totally in love with his wife.

He is also in the retail “restaurant quality” food business and has recently been promoted to Manager of his own store. The store opens in about ten days and I wanted to make him a present … for his “bow tie Wednesdays”.

Rodney's Bow Tie Wednesday Tie

Rodney’s Bow Tie Wednesday Tie

The pattern is free on the Web. (Click here to be magically transported!)

What I love about this pattern is that it’s quick … it took me about an hour and a half to knit from beginning to end. Well, it may have taken a bit longer for the i-cord, but I did it while I was watching TV so it hardly counts. I used some scraps of Noro yarn that I had in my stash, knowing that he’d want something a little bit “wild”.

I love that within the instructions there are two videos to help you with a new stitch (the lateral braid) and how to knit an i-cord. I-cord is such a fun thing to knit and can be used for so many applications … good to know!

This pattern is made for a dog but can easily be made for a human, too. I didn’t swatch (I know, don’t judge me!) but I decided if it was “awful” that I’d just pitch it. It was a bit too wide so I stuffed the ends into the middle until the tie was the size I thought was appropriate. I finished it according to the instructions and made my i-cord neck piece long enough to go over my head and so he can make it tighten to fit his neck.

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It will also come untied but I hope it’s easy enough to fix … and he knows where I live! 🙂

Don’t tell Rodney if you see him!

Gone knitting.