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.

 

 

Passage of Time

With the impending arrival of Father’s Day tomorrow and Mother’s Day in the past, I have done a lot of reflecting on my own experiences with my parents. How they raised me, their only daughter, in the late 50’s and early 60’s while keeping a deep and very dark (to them) secret.

Shortly after my mother passed away in October of 2008, we found out that she had given up a baby boy for adoption in May/June 1956. Had she given birth to that baby boy, she’d have been ostracized. She’d have been labeled a strumpet, a hussy, a tramp. She would not have been allowed to marry my father if anyone had known. My father, however, would have been left to continue his life as before.

Being the next child born, and a girl, I can only imagine that I was a disappointment and it explains a lot about how she raised me. She was disconnected, aloof, often angry, not encouraging or loving. She was always heavy … keeping a layer of protection around her. Please don’t get me wrong, she fed me, did my laundry, drove me everywhere. I didn’t want for anything. Except her love. None of this was my fault, of course, and I didn’t know that I was getting treatment that was different from my younger brothers or my peers. But it was different and I was scarred by it. (Thank God for therapy!)

I say this today because I realized recently that many of my friends on Facebook seem to miss their parents and were deeply loved by them. Sadly, I don’t have that same feeling. I’d love to have them back to ask them questions about why they did what they did. Why they kept the secret after we were adults. Why they never told me they loved me or were proud of me. (They really didn’t unless it was after a fight and then it would be, “of course we love you” said in anger and frustration.) My brothers had a different experience. Psychologically, I’m certain that it was because I was the first born “after the adoption” and I wasn’t a boy.

I was encouraged to find a husband and marry … that’s why a girl goes to college. I was born to have babies, that was where I would find happiness and fulfillment.  I was taught to iron and sew, to play the piano and guitar. I was given ballroom dancing lessons at Mary Jane Spencer’s. My peers were encouraged to pursue a career, told they could do anything that they set their mind to. I didn’t know that until I had children of my own … and had been in therapy for depression and a failing/failed marriage that lead to an ugly divorce.

img_0121.jpgToday I am happier. At nearly 60 I am feeling comfortable in my own skin. I am grateful for the life I was given and I know that my parents never meant to cause me harm. They did their best. Sadly, it wasn’t good enough to give me wings to fly. I had to find those for myself.

Today, one of the things that makes me happy is yarn. Everything around yarn. I love people who use yarn in their creative endeavors. I love the animals who provide the fibers and the process that leads to the yarn being available to buy. I love feeling it and working it into a garment. I love the shop keepers and the customers. I  am grateful for the shared wisdom of women and men who share my craft and the love of yarn. I love that I have found a wonderful man with whom to share my life. He loves me as I am even when I don’t.

Life hands you some bizarre twists and turns and I’ve learned that it’s all about what you do with them that makes you who you are. I am grateful for them all because I like where I am today. I wouldn’t be here without all those experiences. I’m strong and resilient and happy. I’ve started over many times and I’m sure I’ll start over again.

Speaking of starting over … I started something new yesterday.

IMG_3065Born out of frustration with the fit of my nearly-done Malabrigo sweater, and in an effort to use some of my stashed yarn, I cast on the Brambling Shawl.

The Brambling Shawl by Bristol Ivy was one of the projects in A Year of Techniques. It’s a study in Intarsia – the use of two colors in the same row. The yarn used in the pattern (and that I bought) is Fyberspates’ Cumulus. It’s a lovely blend of baby Suri alpaca and Mulberry silk. The project calls for five colors (camel, slate, plum, sea green and silver) and is worked from tip to tip with increases and decreases to make a triangular shawl. I’ve just gotten started and have yet to add the second color, but I love being able to learn a technique with practice.

So, tomorrow I will celebrate my husband who is a great father. Patient, loving and kind. I will also celebrate the fathers in my life, my brothers, uncle, cousins, and my own dad who did his best. He did teach me to love pistachios!

Gone knitting!

 

Ho! Ho! Ho! No More UFO!

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For Clark and Stephanie

I’ve just finished a long project (like any good knitter, I kept finding other projects to do) that was a true work of love. My college roommate, Mary Frances, aka Muffin, asked me to copy her lifetime Christmas stocking for her new grandson and daughter-in-love.

I had no pattern but assumed that I could copy just about anything. The stocking arrived at my house several months ago and I set about copying the stitches to make a chart. This part was pretty simple and straight forward. If you can count stitches, you can chart.

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My Chart

I knew I wanted to knit the top part of the giant sock flat so I could embellish with beard and sequins more easily. I also wanted to use the intarsia-style of knitting because stranding would be crazy wasteful. Once done with the chart, I took the original stocking to the Yardgoods Center in Waterville, Maine … where I happen to work … to find yarn colors that were as close as possible. Lucky me! I found Christmas Green, Red and Blue that matched in good old Cascade 220 100% wool. I knew I had a similar ivory/off white in my stash and some black, too.

When you’re knitting stockings, you’re knitting them upside down and it’s fun to watch the images develop stitch by stitch. The intarsia creates lots and lots of ends to weave in. I am so thankful for the invention of bobbins. I couldn’t have done this without them. The fact that I stitched them flat made the weaving of ends simpler, too!

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Once past the charted section, it was a super quick process to the bell at the tip of the toe. I joined the stocking at the ankle and knitted the rest of the “giant sock” in the round. At the toe, with the tail of the yarn, I attached a silver bell just like on the original stocking.

I knew that I would add the lettering, and the eyes and nose on Santa at the end in duplicate stitch. I believe that the original stocking had lettering that was stranded but with a couple of washings, the stocking has withered a bit and the lettering doesn’t stand out as well as I would like. I’m very happy with the results of the duplicate stitch lettering. Then it was time to give Santa a beard and a pom-pom on his hat. I used short pieces of wool that I looped around itself and then clipped short and steam blocked to that it “frizzed” up. I love the beards, especially!

I am so pleased with the way the Santas and the trees turned out. I sewed individual sequins on all of the Christmas trees. I am not the most graceful sewer, but the sequins add such a wonderful sparkle on the trees! A braided loop for hanging was the last addition after steam blocking and seaming the back of the stocking. The seam is a blessing in disguise – it gives some substance and stability to the back of the stocking and makes it sturdier since it will be stuffed and hung on the mantel!

I love that they’re finished … and just in the (Saint) Nick of time! Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas to you, my dear friend, Muffin! I know this will be a happy one at your house!

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All three stockings together, in public, for the first time! (LOL!)

Gone knitting!

A Year of Techniques

IMG_8391I joined a knitting challenge this year. It is called “A Year of Techniques” with Arnall-Culliford Knitwear and Mason-Dixon Knitting. Twelve months of technique-improving knitting projects. As a knitting teacher, it’s always fun to try something new. If I can master a new technique, I can share it with my students, too!

I am already way behind on these projects. (Too many projects and not enough time.) I told my husband, with tongue-in-cheek, that I will need to quit working to keep up with my knitting!

I knitted the first project (at least half of it) a pair of fingerless mitts called “Hyacinthus Armwarmers” and a technique for striping without a jog called “helical stripes”! I loved the technique but I didn’t love the yarn I pulled out of my stash for the mitts. I knit one mitt and put the rest aside!

I “skipped” (for the time being) a shawl project featuring color-blocking and intarsia. The pattern is designed my Maine’s own Bristol Ivy. I have five skeins of cumulus yarn for this project and I will probably get to it eventually.  I also “skipped” a little stuffed toy, a mouse, using a pinhole cast on. But you can see that the projects are diverse and fun. I am enjoying the process!

IMG_8391This month’s project is a hat, a cloche, actually, that also begins with the pinhole cast on and also works on knitting on an edging. The cloche was designed by Romi Hill. The Talmadge Cloche is a lovely piece and it’s been fun to knit. Although it’s not anything to knit while drinking an adult beverage or while at a knitting group as each stitch needs to be counted.

I’ve enjoyed seeing this piece come together and I love the Year of Techniques series, too. Each month there is a tutorial (click here to go to the knitted-on edging tutorial) that accompanies the project. You can purchase a yarn “kit” or not. I did and have enjoyed working with yarns that I may not have otherwise held in my hands.

Stay tuned … pictures coming soon!

Gone knitting.

Happy Mothers/Mother’s/Mothers’ Day!

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It’s hard to imagine that nearly a month has passed (again) since I’ve posted something about my knitting life – or anything about my life. I wish that I could say that I’ve been on an exotic trip to Africa or on a tour around Europe but I’ve been happily ensconced in my normal day-to-day life in Maine, USA.

Today is Mother’s Day. I heard from all five kids and have eaten my gift of Graeter’s Ice Cream (six flavors, all with chocolate chunks) twice a day since it arrived. I’ve been knitting less and resting my hands more. Sadly, I’ve got some arm aches that lead to thumb pain on Friday and that’s enough to make me slow down.

I took my Orange Peel quilt to the long arm machine yesterday and got it about half-quilted before something happened with the machine. Initially we thought it was a band slipping but as I worked, the noise got worse and it was bad enough to stop using it. With any luck, the repair man is coming on Thursday and maybe I can finish quilting on Friday after class.

I’ve been happy at work at the Yardgoods Center in Waterville. I’m in the store Tuesday and Thursday and I teach on Friday. I love our customers and I love working with creative people. We are participating in the first “Maine Yarn Cruise” this summer and we’ve been getting our planning done. Prizes, patterns, kits, etc. There is a lot of planning to do and 19 or so shops participating from around the state. I love teaching, too. I had 20 students last week – three of whom stayed all day – and I so enjoy helping my students conquer their knitting challenges and learn something new. I also enjoy stretching my own knitting knowledge. Each challenge that students bring to me are a new test of my skills as a knitter and I realize each time that I am really a good knitter, capable of figuring out just about anything that’s brought my way. Confidence building!

I am knitting and making progress.

I cast on for the Joji Locatelli “Starting Point MKAL” and have gotten about half-way through clue number 1. Trying to pace myself. More details will follow but you can also check me out in Ravelry (lindar). I’m nearly finished with a sweater for my sweetie. I’m knitting “Flax” by Tin Can Knits. What a great garment! I’ll have to make more. “Flax” is designed to be worked in worsted weight yarn. I’m using Ella Rae Classic Wool in a really pretty blue color. My husband will look wonderful in the blue! I’ve got most of one sleeve to complete and then the ribbing for two sleeves (after it’s tried on once more).

I have two pairs of socks on the needles – one cuff-down in a speckled yarn and a toe-up pair in Heritage Print by Cascade in Christmas colors. These are the socks that I taught in my adult ed class this past session. One class turned into two … two nights of teaching each week may be one of the reasons I haven’t been posting a whole lot! I also have started another pair of Miriam Felton’s “Footie Socks”. One down, one to go.

I’ve finished husband’s scarf and several “knitted knockers” (www.KnittedKnockers.org). Have also knitted a pair of socks for my new cousin. I’m in the process of making him a flannel quilt like I made for his big sister.

Image (1) knitting-002-199x300.jpg for post 1462My little dog, Lola, has had kennel cough and is now struggling with a goopy eye. Probably spring allergies. Both little dogs are heading to a new groomer on Wednesday and I’m sure that will help – we’re horribly over due for a hair cut! I’m working on finding a new hair dresser, too!

Moving to a new place is a challenge. I’m still working on finding all of the doctors, hair and nail people, groomers, veterinarians, stores to shop in, etc. But we are so glad that we moved to Maine. We are looking forward to more time on the front porch and summer visitors!

Gone knitting!

Back in the Saddle (again!)

Image (2) Tell-Yourself-253x300.jpg for post 1369Well, I’ve managed, with a lot of help from others, to get my blog back up and running. A HUGE thank you to Maureen C., my happiness engineer at WordPress.com, who was amazing! It’s really all to her credit that my blog is working again. Thanks, Maureen!

This has been a long and sometimes frustrating experience but it feels great to know that going back and forth between provider’s websites is now much more familiar to me.

Once again, in attempting to do something new, I have learned something valuable – stick with it. I can do it. I’m a “smart girl”. Too often I tend to talk to myself in a not-s0-positive way. If I can continue to remember that I wouldn’t say these things to my children and I won’t say them to myself, I’ll be happier and healthier!

Gone knitting.

2017! Happy New Year!

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I feel fortunate that 2016 was a wonderful year for me and for my family. One daughter bought a new home, another daughter became engaged, I married the love of my life and we had all of our children in our house at the same time (for the first time). Our children are gainfully employed, healthy and happy. We are both working at jobs we love and are paying the bills, we have food on our table, a warm home and we are healthy. What more can you ask for?

I am eager to see what 2017 brings and what opportunities in the fiber world I will become involved with. I am excited to continue teaching knitting and creating in my every-improving atelier! This year’s goal is to add some serious shelving to my studio for fabric and yarn storage. I am already realizing that my “cheap fix” is not going to work long-term … fabric and yarn multiply when packed into small spaces and despite working hard to knit from my stash, it’s only minimally smaller.

img_7778We had a quiet New Year’s Eve at our house. A summer camp (childhood) friend and his son joined us for a lobster feast and a glass or two of sparkling wine prior to midnight. The guys all stayed awake after the power went out but I claimed the black-out as an opportunity to go to bed “early”. This is our photograph, grainy though it may be, from around 10:30pm. I love selfies with this guy and can’t wait to see what 2017 brings to add to our life together.

My goals for the year are to attend and help with, perhaps, the fiber week at my old summer camp. I’m looking forward to Maryland Sheep & Wool, too. I want to do more in my community – attend events, help my neighbors, life my best life and speak from my heart (not usually a problem). I want to floss more often and remember to listen to myself and speak my truth. Having lost my voice a long time ago, it feels wonderful when I speak out and speak up and feel heard. I’ll keep working on that piece.

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Wishing you blessings in 2017. I’m hoping that it’s the best year yet for all of us!

Gone knitting.