A cowl to start the season

March is the beginning of the knitting season around here. Yes, many people spend early winter knitting things for the holidays, which could be an argument for calling that the knitting season, but the holidays would go on even if knitting had never been invented. March is when knitting-centered events get going, starting with a knitting retreat.

This was another fine year for the Great Guild Getaway. The weather was unseasonably warm and there was no snow to speak of although the lakes were still frozen. Indeed, it was warm enough that some people sat outside on the deck on Saturday afternoon and knitted. I did think about joining them, but I was distracted by a massage (aaaaah…) and the temptation to take a walk.

Women knitting on a deck.
The few, the proud, the women knitting outdoors in March.

There was a drawback to the weather, though. Through most of the winter, the temperatures were in the fiercely cold range usual for this part of the state, but the diminished snow cover meant that the ground froze deeper and harder than usual. This impacted the plumbing at the camp. The running water was unaffected—yippee!—but there were signs up on all the buildings warning everyone that the drains might back up.

Warning sign about frozen drains.

I am proud to announce that I bought no yarn either at the retreat or in transit to or from it. I did win a ball of Cascade 220 Superwash Quatro, though. Even though my name was one of the last ones drawn, there was still this one nice ball of blue left among the browns, yellows, and a chartreuse. I see a cowl in its future as well.Cascade 220 Superwash Quatro (blue)

This year, I vowed to remember that this isn’t a very long retreat and that I didn’t need to bring enough knitting projects to last me for a month. That said, hours before we left for Crosslake, I started a cowl. The pattern is from the same person who’d designed the Brush Creek Cowlette that I’d recently finished, and since this pattern uses Aran-weight yarn, I figured it’d be a quick knit and a smidgen warmer to wear. I wanted to use a gradient yarn as the designer had, so I splurged on a cake of Catnip. As you may guess, it was fascinating watching the colors slowly change as the cowl grew. I’d brought along another project, a Daybreak shawlette in Mini Mochi. The Catnip yarn—half silk, half merino—was so soft to the touch that it made the Mini Mochi—all merino—feel coarse by comparison! (Which was another reason I got so much knitting time in on the Waterlily Cowl.) I got about 60% of the cowl knitted at Camp Knutson and finished it the next day at home, so it’s become a commemorative cowl of the retreat.

So, I’m back home now with a pretty new cowl and making plans for the knitting season ahead. I’m skipping Yarnover this year, but there’s still Shepherd’s Harvest in May, and hey, maybe I’ll tackle Knitting and Crochet Blog Week again. Or just enjoy the season by knitting—it’s not like there’s nothing in the queue…


Waterlily Cowl
Pattern: Zuzu’s Petals
Yarn: Twisted Fiber Art Catnip
Color: Waterlily Evolutions
Needles: 7 (4.5 mm)

Off to the north

It’s March, and once again I have gone to the Great Guild Getaway and returned to tell the tale.

  • Last year, my room was toasty. This year, I was in a different room which was decent enough except for the temperature: 56º F (13º C). This was the trip that convinced me that space heaters are a wonderful invention despite their reputation for starting fires.
  • I always think I’m going to get more done than I do. I brought three projects to work on, and one never made it out of my luggage. I did make progress on the other two, Viajante and the Harmonia’s Rings Cowl that I’m making for myself, but I’d harbored a secret hope that I’d be mostly finished with the HRC by the end of the retreat. Nope.
  • No walks or hikes this year. The sidewalks were mostly clear, but there were little patches of ice scattered everywhere, and it was colder than I’d expected. While I’m glad we’re having a winter that’s sort of like normal, I miss the unseasonable warmth that let me explore the whole peninsula.
  • While I didn’t sell all the yarn I brought, there was net stash loss, even counting the yarn I bought en route and the skein I won as a door prize. (We’ll ignore the package of yarn I’d ordered that arrived back home while I was away.)
  • This was the retreat of purple yarn for me. On our way up, we stopped in at Bonnie’s Spinning Wheel in St. Cloud, where I found this little treasure. It’s Cascade Heritage Silk Paints and the colorway is Violets.
  • The door prize yarn this year was a skein of Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sport. Originally, I drew a skein that was gray, burgundy, yellow-green, and orange. It was nicely done, but there was no way I would wear anything I might make from it, and I couldn’t think of anyone to give such an item to. Luckily, someone else had gotten this multi-purple colorway called Lorna’s Purple Mustang and felt the same way about it, so we traded. It’ll probably become a cowl, although I haven’t found a good pattern for it yet. I feel a bit limited by the yardage. There’s only 200 yards (183 m) in a single skein of Shepherd Sport and I don’t have any other sport yarn on hand to add to it. So we’ll see.shepherdsport_lornaspurplem

All in all, a fine weekend of knitting, talking, reading, and relaxing. I’m already looking forward to next year’s retreat. But hoping for a warmer room!

Late winter escape

The Minnesota Knitters’ Guild’s knitting retreat consistently falls in mid-March. The weather has yet to achieve consistency. Two years ago, I squelched through half-melted snow and mud, which is probably typical late winter weather for north-central Minnesota. Last year, the temperature soared into the 60ºs (F), the snow was gone, and I took frequent walks out to the end of the peninsula and admired the still-frozen lake. This year, it was true winter. The snow looked to be about 3 feet deep, and we gained another inch or two on Friday night. The temperatures started out in the 20ºs, but I woke up Sunday morning to -14º. But since nothing encourages staying in and knitting like winter itself, this was fine weather for a knitting retreat. The cold and snow kept everyone more or less close to home. I went out on Saturday and took a few photos before my fingers got too cold to feel the camera buttons, and the women I came with got to go cross-country skiing twice, but there were no group walks this year.

Early morning view from my cabin window. That's a lake back there behind the trees.
Early morning view from my cabin window. That’s a lake back there behind the trees.

I have the best intentions of someday taking a picture of people knitting during this retreat—you know, since this is a knitting retreat and all. But as I load a bag with my knitting projects, glasses, iPad, indoor shoes, flashlight, and knitting tools, taking the camera with me to the dining hall just feels like excess weight, so I end up going off on my own and taking pictures of the scenery instead. Last year’s photo was of mist rising off a frozen lake into warm air. This year, enjoy the sight of snow in trees.

The retreat is ever more popular, with 48 attendees this year. This may have to be the upper limit for registration in the future. I’m guessing there were still plenty of  beds available, since this place is a camp in the summer. But mostly what we do is gather in the dining hall, sit around in a circle, and knit* the day away. It was a double ring of chairs this year and there really isn’t room for a third ring, nor was there room for any more dining tables. In addition to the massages that have been offered in years past, there were also manicures and pedicures available, and the schedules for all three were full, with people being turned away.  I remember wondering after the first Great Guild Getaway if it had been successful enough that they’d go to the effort to put another one together. Five years in, it’s beginning to show a few signs of strain from its success. Congratulations are in order.

Stroll Fingering Hand Painted (Lullaby colorway)
Stroll Fingering Hand Painted (Lullaby colorway)

This year, I brought up some yarn to sell. They’ve had a silent auction for two or three years now, but this was the first year I’ve been organized enough to have some ready to take with me. Not entirely sure how this was going to work, I mostly stuck to small quantities, suitable for socks or a cowl, but I managed to sell a shawl’s worth of lace weight yarn as well (yay!). I also resisted buying any of the yarn that other people were offering, so the only new yarn that came home with me was my door prize: a skein of Stroll Fingering Hand Painted yarn from Knit Picks. It barely had time to see the stash: I brought it home yesterday and started knitting it up into a shawlette this morning. Net stash loss: woo-hoo!

So again, I had a good time, and again, I’m looking forward to next year’s retreat. It’s an excellent way to open the spring yarn season.


*Or crochet. Or spin. Or quilt. Or embroider. Over the years, knitting groups have become so much more open-minded towards the practice of other crafts. 😉

Knitting retreat 2012

It’s mid-March, and again, I was able to attend the Minnesota Knitters’ Guild’s annual knitting retreat. I dithered for days over what project(s) to bring in addition to the Aran wrap cardigan—surely I’d want to knit on more than one thing if I had nothing to do besides knit for a weekend—and then was monogamous with the cardigan the entire time. I’d show you my progress, but I’m having trouble getting good lighting for the photo, and anyway, it’ll look more impressive when I’ve finished the current piece. The next challenge: trying to figure out the sleeve instructions. Wish me luck.

Lake and fog
There's an entire house and dock over there, but you can't see them through the fog.

Crosslake is having the same fantastic and completely unnaturally warm weather that we’ve been enjoying in the Twin Cities. Crosslake is about 150 miles north of the Twin Cities, so it was slightly cooler, but that was more than adequate. This is the first time I’ve seen Camp Knutson without snow cover. It’s on a peninsula. It has paths. Who knew? Instead of being a little knitting couch potato all weekend, I kept slipping outside to take walks. I got most of nature to myself. My fellow knitters weren’t there to hike, although several did come out for a nature walk on Saturday morning and others were early-morning exercisers. So I was the solo audience for fog rising off the lake—still mostly frozen despite temperatures in the 60ºs—and a bald eagle taking off almost directly above me (very loud wings: WHOP, WHOP, WHOP). Sitting on a porch swing near the lake shore is just not the same when the frozen lake isn’t lapping at the shore, but just a few degrees warmer, and I could’ve taken my knitting out to the lake shore and knitted outside.

But how was the retreat? Quite fine. Again, mucho comfort food, not all of which I’m familiar with. My cultural background doesn’t include putting pickled herring out on a salad bar, but chocolate cupcakes, meatloaf, and French toast were familiar dishes. There were good conversations, knitting-themed jigsaw puzzles to work on, and a separate cabin to watch movies in while knitting. Massages were available, although I’m hoping that next year they find somewhere else for the massage therapist to set up besides in a cabin where people are staying. Confusing signage combined with a late evening schedule resulted in people showing up in my “bedroom” on Friday night looking for a massage.

A ball of Chroma Fingering yarn.
Chroma Fingering (Impressionist colorway)

I won cool yarn as a door prize: a ball of Chroma Fingering from Knit Picks. Perfect, since I’ve wanted to try Chroma ever since they came up with it. There are several patterns out there that just call for one ball, and I won’t even be forced to make a pair of socks out of it.

So yes, I had a great time, and I’ve already got it in my calendar for next year.

Getting away from it all

Last week, I got to go on a knitting retreat. I suppose this post would have more immediacy if I’d posted during the retreat itself (I did tweet occasionally), but the WiFi was limited, and anyway, most of the time I was knitting, not hanging out on the computer. That I can do at home. Okay, I can knit at home as well, but you know what I mean.

This is the third year that the Minnesota Knitters’ Guild has held their “Great Guild Getaway,”  a somewhat grandiose name for what is, deliberately, a quiet little event: go up north, knit for a weekend, go home. It is held in what would be lovely natural surroundings: a summer camp in northern Minnesota that in the off-season can be rented for retreats. I use the conditional because the natural surroundings are a little less lovely in March, mostly buried under half-melted snow, mud, and patches of deer droppings. It’d be nice to go up later in the spring, but there are already major knitting events in the Twin Cities in April and May, and scheduling conflicts kick in. Still, while it’s nice to have a view of the lake from your cabin window, it’s just not quite the same when the lake is frozen solid. Although Friday night, when the moon was approaching full (this was the full moon that was supposed to be closer to the earth than the moon has been for decades), it reflected gloriously off the ice.

The problem with making a fascinating blog post out of a quiet little event is all that quietness. Nothing earth-shattering happened in my knitting itself, although I’m pleased to report that I’m 25% further along on my lap blanket (Ravelry brings out the analyst in me). Plus, with repeated trips up north, I’m getting to know Guild members that I normally might never talk to, since it’s a completely different group that does this event than the people I usually talk to at meetings. And I lucked out in my housing this year. My roommate was assigned to two different rooms and chose the other one, so I ended up with a nice large room to myself. The mattresses are decent enough and I’ve finally hit on the right combination of bedding to be cozy.

The high point of the retreat may have been the massage. This year, the retreat committee invited two local masseuses to come over, and we could get 15- or 30-minute massages. I indulged in the half-hour massage; it seemed like otherwise, I’d barely have laid down before it was time to get up again. There was also a hike which I probably should’ve participated in (I should mention that the camp specializes in comfort food for meals), but the mud was off-putting.

I look forward to going again next year. Both this year and last, I’ve had to fit homework into the weekend somehow. I should be well and truly graduated by this time next May, I’ll probably need two massages to get through the weekend.