The Longest Day … in memory of my mother

Just before sunrise on the longest day of the year

The Longest Day (summer solstice and the Alzheimer’s Association fundraising day) was June 20th this year. I participated for the first time as a member of Ann Budd’s team. Ann has been doing this for years (and I’m sorry I didn’t know about it sooner!) One of my co-workers was participating and I thought it was a wonderful way to remember my mother who died from Alzheimer’s in 2008 at the age of 76.

The day started with a wonderful sunrise and coffee on the porch. It quickly got too hot to sit on the front porch in the sun so I moved to location number two, the screened porch.

Location #2 on the longest day where I finished my June socks

My goal for the day, in addition to remembering my mom, was to finish projects or at least work to that end. I finished my June socks first. I had knitted them to the toe so it wasn’t a stretch! This yarn is another One the Round Signature Sock, fingering weight wool and nylon. I love knitting with it and I love wearing it. As you can see, I don’t worry about “matchy-matchy” and there’s a funny spot at the ankle of one and a little less funny spot at the ankle of the other. (Can you see me hunching my shoulders? I really don’t mind; they’re socks.)

Classic Socks for the Family by Yankee Knitter in On the Round Signature Sock

My next project was either my Humulus sweater or my The Shape of a Bay shawl. I chose the shawl because it’s been languishing in time out for nearly two years. I bought this kit at my fiber camp not last summer but the summer before. It’s two skeins of Cashmere People Fingering yarn and the pattern. The yarn is super yummy. I just finished a shawl test knit for Lori Versaci (VersaciKnits) for her pattern Campfire. ( blogged about it here.) This yarn is very special and the colors are so beautiful. Oddly enough, one of the colors in my Campfire shawl is the same color, albeit in a different weight, as my Shape of a Bay shawl. Go figure.

Location #3, inside with a view of my sweet hubby in one of his favorite spots

The Shape of A Bay is by Bristol Ivy. It is a half-pi shape shawl with double sided lace. I have learned that some lace is different than others. Some lace, typically more simple, is knitted with the lace-y stitches on one side only, usually the right side, and knits/purls on the wrong side. This pattern has those lace-y stitches on both sides, right and wrong side. When I am knitting a project that requires lace concentration, I like to do them earlier in the day, post coffee and pre-tired end-of-day eyes and/or cocktails. I love knitting this pattern and working with this yarn. It’s a treat. Two years ago I had worked into the pebbles section. (Lucky for me I had marked my pattern so I knew where I had stopped and I was able to start up without any trouble.) On the Longest Day, I got through the end of the pebbles section and finished most of the first repeat of the ripples section.

The Shape of A Bay by Bristol Ivy

In the photo above, I’m through the pebbles section and starting the ripples. I had a lot of interruptions from the Littles who are getting old and have to be let out frequently … and who don’t always make it outside quite fast enough. I might have gotten further but I am grateful to be home with them when they’re really in need of their humans.

My end-of-day view was in my atelier, Littles at my feet, working on something mindless until the sun set. I took a break for dinner and a cocktail with my wonderful hubby and then we retreated to the air conditioning and a little bit of “stupid TV”. I have been working on using up some of the odds and ends of my fingering weight/sock yarns in a crochet blanket project called the Battenberg Blanket. Mine is not likely to look as “orderly” as the pattern is intended but I will have the pleasure of remembering all of the socks, shawls and other projects that I made. I am planning to use a solid color to put them all together but I’d like to make a big (queen-size perhaps) blanket so I’ll be making squares deep into my 90s. Ha! Ha!

My friends and family helped me to surpass my fundraising goal and together we will donate over $1,700.00 to fight the good fight against Alzheimer’s Disease. I don’t ever want another family member to experience the ravages of this disease that stole my mother from me and their beloved GranJan from my children and nephews. Thank you to Ann Budd and Glenda for making it so easy to participate. It was a privilege to knit on the Longest Day and I look forward to knitting again next year.

Gone knitting.

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.