UK Knit Camp

Here's a somewhat metaphoric treatment of my experiences at UK Knit Camp, held in Stirling, Scotland, during the second week in August. When I'm teaching, I go into it with all my attention, so I have no documentation of the six classes I taught, but one of the participants (who also helped me enormously with advance preparations) can prove that I was there (thanks many times over, J!). . . .

My schedule included the following classes and workshops:

  •  Introduction to spinning on the handspindle
  •  Introduction to spinning on the wheel
  •  Introduction to spinning on whatever tool anybody shows up with
  •  Rare-breed fibers (for spinners)
  •  Breed-specific yarns (for knitters)
  •  Rare-breed yarns (for knitters)

Because of the complications in getting the correct stamps on the appropriate paperwork to allow the U.S. instructors to teach (we heard that last-minute paperwork glitches are a common occurrence for artistic and cultural events) and the resulting shift in class timing, I taught the final two groups simultaneously (and fortunately in the same room). This was an interesting challenge, made possible through some swift re-apportioning of materials and the kind flexibility of the attendees.

Most of the fibers and yarns were generously provided by Sue Blacker of Blacker Designs. It's a testament to the quality of Sue's products that after the workshops the participants who had been working with these materials made beelines for her booth in the marketplace and bought much of the stock she'd brought with her.

So, moving to my visual metaphors. . . . The event was like a castle on a hill that we could see but initially had some trouble getting to:

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(That's Stirling Castle, sitting high on its volcanic plug. The front-and-center structure in the compound, the Great Hall, has been coated in an ochre-colored limewash that the whole complex would have been dressed in at one time. From a distance, it glows.)

While the journey was fraught with detours and frustrations, the details offered many delights.

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When we did get there, I found good companions and fine experiences:

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I met many people, both other instructors and participants, with whom I would like to stay in touch over many years. The end result being sort of like this:

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Mostly good, with some prickly bits to dodge around.

Because of the difficulties, the workshop I would have taught on Tuesday was rescheduled to Friday. I was disappointed that one participant couldn't make her calendar move around so she could join us at the altered time, and I was relieved that everyone else could make the necessary adjustments. It was a lot to have to adapt to, for everyone.

I may not remember ALL the breeds' fleeces and yarns we played with during the sessions, many provided by Sue Blacker (with supplements offered by generous participants and volunteers for the delight and edification of everyone present), but here's what I recall off the top of my head:

  • Balwen*
  • Bluefaced Leicester
  • Black Welsh Mountain
  • Border Leicester
  • Castlemilk Moorit*
  • Cotswold*
  • Devon & Cornwall Longwool* (for the knitters, this one was handspun and carried in my luggage by me, because although I love this type of wool and wanted to show people what it's like, I knew it wasn't likely to be obtainable—without more effort than there was time to invest—in commercially prepared yarn)
  • Galway
  • Gotland
  • Hebridean
  • Herdwick(*)
  • Jacob
  • Manx Loaghtan*
  • Norfolk Horn*
  • North Ronaldsay*
  • Portland*
  • Ryeland
  • Soay*
  • Southdown
  • Teeswater*
  • Wensleydale*
  • Whitefaced Woodland*
  • Zwartbles

* Listed as rare by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. (*) Listed as geographically vulnerable by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

To cover all this, we kept moving swiftly through the time we had together! There were just enough hours to give people an introduction to the array of possibilities. I love this stuff, and I had a wonderful time sharing it with the fantastic people who joined me on this adventure. . . .

None of the fleece samples came home with me; all the spinnable fiber was distributed to workshop participants. Because yardage on the yarns didn't come out evenly, I did have a number of ends-of-skeins left over, with which I'm going to be making demonstration swatches. Sorry they're in plastic; I'll post snapshots of the swatches as I make them up. Meanwhile, I'm rushing. . . .

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Here's a final image about the event. There are still a number of loose ends to tie up in the administrative department. When they've been settled, the near view will dominate and the surrounding challenges will turn into a slightly out-of-focus backdrop.

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6 Responses

  1. Thank you so much for coming to the UK and persevering through all the nonsense to teach your classes. I took the rare breeds for spinners lesson and it was fantastic! A real eye-opener and the highlight of my week.

  2. I'm grateful you were there. Thanks for the feedback–I've been doing and researching these fibers for years, but I've never had the opportunity to facilitate a workshop. I look forward to hearing about your explorations!

  3. thoroughly enjoyed my class with you, and i know my friend did too – very good to meet you

  4. Thank you so much for letting me know that you enjoyed the class. I enjoyed having you both there!

  5. You are being rather too charitable in your treatment of Knit Camp organization. I am aware that hardly anyone has been paid a cent for the hard work they did.
    Please post something in your blog as to how we may support you by buying something that will give you some income to help you defray your losses: if enough of us take this route, it could work!

  6. Thanks, Corrie.

    I'm waiting just a bit to talk about some of the issues relating to UK Knit Camp. Partly I have been hoping there would be good news. Partly I want to focus personally on the positive things that did happen as a result of my trip to the UK; there were many. And partly I am doing damage control in the financial areas of my life, which need a lot of it right now.

    At this very moment, though, I'm in a photo studio working on the book that's in progress and has deadlines (but will not provide income for quite a while). Next week I'll be in Cleveland to tape two segments for Knitting Daily TV. I've never done this before, and I'm not ready (although I have to have the segments planned within the next 48 hours or so). I don't even have the clothes they're asking me to bring! (I checked Salvation Army yesterday, without luck.) I wear t-shirts, jeans, and no makeup. They need me to wear shirts with button fronts . . . NOT white, black, or red, with 3/4 or long sleeves . . . so I can change outfits at their request without messing up the required, and fortunately supplied, makeup.

    What this comes down to is: I can't think about anything else right now {wry grin}.

    I am not a designer, so I don't have patterns or other items to sell. I do publish books on traditional and ethnic knitting and on handspinning, listed at http://www.nomad-press.com. They're available through many yarn shops and bookstores. I sell them directly through the website as well, but (1) they are not discounted on the site, in order to maintain equal pricing with independent stores that can't afford to discount (plus every penny coming in here counts), and (2) I'm working on the road, so there may be a delay in the shipping of web-placed orders.

    All of the tutors deeply appreciate your awareness of our situation and your support.

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