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.

 

 

10th Annual Florida Fiber In

Today was spa day for my two little dogs and I decided, despite a not-so-good sleeping last night that I’d zip on down to the I-drive (aka tourist) area to see what the Florida Fiber In was all about. I’ve been here for seven of their ten years and haven’t made the event yet.

I made it just in time to catch the important particulars on Cool-Aid dying fibers.

Dying Yarn with Cool Aid

Dying Yarn with Cool Aid

I wish that I had thought, at the end of my time there, to take a picture of the finished yarn. It was amazingly colorful (and so were the hands of the dyer!) and I can’t wait to give this a try! She was working with a Brown Sheep natural wool yarn but you can use any natural fiber yarn.

The rest of my time was spent shopping and gabbing since I forgot to bring my knitting bag. Mostly because I left before having my coffee and my head wasn’t all together yet! Regardless, I loved seeing our Florida fiber truck!

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Four Purls Yarn Truck

Four Purls has been in business for several years and Laura decided to add the yarn truck to make it possible to take her business out to local events, fairs, etc. What she didn’t realize was that she couldn’t be everywhere at the same time. The truck is sleek and a really great way to spread the love of fiber! Four Purls was one of the vendors this year inside the event space and the truck was outside. I did, I must confess, buy a little yarn and a new project bag … seems I can help myself!

The vendors were great. There were multiple people demonstrating carding, spinning, and weaving on a giant triangular loom.

Seven Foot Triangular Loom

Seven Foot Triangular Loom

The Orlando spinners were in full force as they are at all fiber events in our area.

Spinners!

Spinners!

I still am waffling about whether I want to learn to spin … or not. And until then my mother’s reproduction spinning wheel (which is still broken from my move to Florida seven years ago) sits idle. And I buy yarn rather than roving! The same woman who did the class on dying gave me the name of a woman who might be able to fix my wheel for me … and that would be super cool. Even if I don’t choose to spin right now.

And, as I said before, despite saying that I wasn’t going to buy any yarn, I did manage to buy some fun things including a lovely Atenti project bag. I just loved the colors so much and the size is perfect for small projects to carry around with me!

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My bag – outside!

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My bag inside … dontcha just love the leopard fabric?

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My haul!

I got away with the Unofficial Downton Abbey book, two patterns, four hanks of Cascade’s Souk (color 5 colorway) and the Groovy shawl pattern by Annie Lee to knit with it. Swallow Hill Creations’ April (a skinny scarf with beads) and the necessary supplies to knit it up. And a Christmas present or two will be coming from my purchases so it’s not all selfish buying!

I had a great time at the Florida Fiber In! What a great start to my day!

Gone knitting!