Monday, January 30, 2017

Birds Of A Feather

Birds of a feather...that's what we were. (See the birds we made from our yarn scraps?) Knitters from several states who came together for a few days to be with others who share a passion for creating with yarn. We unloaded our cars and hauled our suitcases and knitting bags into the lodge at the lakeside camp. A camp where there were no meals to cook and no dishes to do for a whole weekend. We could put on makeup or not. It was fine to linger the morning in our pajamas with an extra cup of coffee and visit with friends while the fire cracked and popped gently in the fireplace. The friends might be ones we had known for many years or ones we had just met. But there were hugs all around when it was time to head home.

There were knitters who were masters of the art. There were knitters who were just moving out of the beginner category. There was always someone to respond when a knitter shrieked "Oh no! Something's wrong! Help!!!" Thankfully, the conversation was typically less dramatic. It was usually more like, "Oh, that's gorgeous! What pattern is that?" Or, "I've never used that yarn. Do you like it?"

At the end of every day, I read this sign that hung on the wall over my bed. And what a reminder it was each morning. For me, this is what a retreat is about. It's about being in community. Being together with those who share a common interest. Being with women who encourage each other. In their knitting journey. In life's journey. There were stories told in the mornings that had us rolling in laughter before we'd brushed our teeth. There were gentle voices to say, "I understand" as the conversation turned toward more serious topics late at night.

And yes, there IS knitting at a knitting retreat! So let's talk about some practical considerations. I have been to enough of these retreats over the years to know that successful "retreat knitting" means choosing a pattern that can be worked on while talking and listening. It also helps to use a lighter colored yarn. Dark yarns are always harder to see. (I tried that once. Lesson learned.) And you may not know if good lighting will be available.

It helps to have a system to keep up with where you are. I know, I think you'll remember where you were when you laid the knitting down to go check out the snack table or go see a beautiful shawl that someone pulled out of a knitting bag. But the odds are not in your favor. A tracking system helps.

My own system of keeping up is just a simple piece a graph paper stuck on the side of my pattern. I check off each row as I finish. But as simple as it is, I didn't think of doing this until I saw a photo of someone else who uses this method. There are wonderful apps available, like knitCompanion, if you are a tech lover. (Debbie, I'm looking at you!) There are plastic click counters and row counter bead bracelets and digital ring counters and magnetic boards to try if you like gadgets. I think I've tried them all. Just find what works for you.

For social knitting (that's what you call knitting in a group where there is lots of chatter) I go even one step further than I might at home.  This time you can see that I wrote the stitch count out on the right side of the graph paper. Every repeat added 18 stitches, so it was easy to calculate the changing totals. And sure enough, when I counted stitches at repeat #9, I was off a few stitches. You can see a section where I didn't bother to count the stitches. I marked the places where the count was correct. I don't count every time, but at least and now-and-then count lets me make a correction before I've gone too far.

You might also notice the red lines marking off row 4 in the pattern. Row 4 is the single row of purl stitches in the repeat. The red lines are there because a couple of times near the beginning I forgot to purl on that row. A red marker took care of that problem. I'm by no means telling you "my way is best," but after lots of experiments, this IS best for me. We all need to find our own way.

Now, this morning I'm happy to be back doing laundry, unloading the dishwasher, and making a grocery list. A break was good. If your life doesn't allow a weekend get-away, maybe take a few minutes to give yourself a recharge. Play one song on the piano every day. Go outside and walk around your house one time. That might take less than three minutes. But you'll feel the difference.


  1. Well now, yesterday I worked real hard at leaving a comment about those cute birds and your fun knitting retreat. I wonder if I actually finished the whole process of submitting it. Hmm, oh well. They bird are so fun to see and I really enjoyed reading about your knitting retreat, but your sweet advice to anyone who can't get away for a weekend retreat was very thoughtful and caring. BTW: the chili sauce w/cranberries was a hit with GN last night. I made ribs with it. Yum! (and there are leftovers)

    1. Oh, so glad you liked the recipe1 Sometimes even in our own house we disagree on whether it's good or not. It's absolutely one of the easiest ones. Getting a weekend away is a luxury I didn't have years ago. Bigger trips still don't happen for me. But I am a believer in self-care. It's that old "put on your own oxygen mask first" thing they tell you on airplanes.

  2. Love those darling birds. And your knitting retreat sounds like it was fantastic -- as it should be. I use a stitch counter but sometimes, like when I begin a sock and each row changes (one is knit across; the other is an increase row, then repeat), that's when I find it much easier to tick off which one I've just done. Otherwise I forget and can't seem to remember which I was doing -- not Alzheimer's just a very poor memory. :-)

    1. Same here. I use a click counter for tracking plain rows. But graph paper works better for me to keep up with a changing repeat. I claim my lack of memory is because it's too full of other things!


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