Deb in Shetland
Photo by Mary Macgregor.

In February/March and in November, I facilitate four-day fiber retreats in the San Juan Islands of Washington state. Each is a relatively small gathering for which I spend a year or two planning, and then collecting and preparing fibers. These are retreats: they are structured to include a bounty of information and fiber within a daily plan that allows everyone (including me) time to relax. We have structured time in the morning; afternoons are flexible (spin, knit, hike, nap, shop in town, get a massage), and evenings are low-key, sometimes with a program and sometimes just visiting and sharing inspiration.

Each of the retreats takes place at the fabulous Lakedale Resort in Friday Harbor, Washington, and each is catered by an outstanding island chef, using fresh, local ingredients. The format for each retreat is unique, but the atmosphere remains the same: a gathering of fiber-loving folks, excited to learn more and unwind for a week of exploration and fellowship.

Deb Robson

Covid-19 notes

Due to my own vulnerabilities and those of some regular participants, for the time being all retreats have the following covid parameters:

  • All participants, facilitators, and lodging and catering staff, must be fully vaccinated and boosted. If you are not fully vaccinated, please wait for a future, safer-for-all time to register for a retreat.
  • Masking when indoors with others, with a mask that covers both mouth and nose.
  • As much physical distancing as is possible; our options here are somewhat limited, but so far we’ve done really well at spacing ourselves out.

Note: I know some people cannot be vaccinated and/or have conditions that mean vaccination does not evoke a strong protective response. I look forward to a time when enough of us have been vaccinated that more moderate practices, like simply masking and physical distancing as needed, will be adequate to bring us all back together freely.

Are you ready to explore more?

Each of the retreats I facilitate takes on a different theme.

As always, if you can independently (1) spin a singles yarn that holds together (lumpy is okay!) and (2) make a two-ply you have the necessary skills for my retreats or workshops. Some participants are newbies and some have been spinning proficiently for decades. We can all learn something by encountering new fibers in new ways.

For registration information, see “What next?” We do keep waiting lists as needed.

Spring 2022 – March 21–24

Explore 4 Fiber Retreat – Gotlands from All Angles

Arrive Sunday, March 20, depart Friday, March 25.

I’ll be co-facilitating with Faith Hagenhofer. Overall, this will be a varied adventure with a versatile breed’s wool, facilitated by two long-time fiber folk who have different and complementary skills and aesthetics. (If you’re here, you probably know about my work, including The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook and The Field Guide to Fleece, but here are a couple of interviews about what I’ve been up to. I’ve linked to several pages with information about Faith’s work throughout this description.)

We’ll be looking at fleeces from flocks around the world (Sweden, U.S., Australia), and will be spinning, dyeing, and felting. While the breed’s basic color is gray, it makes beautiful dyed colors and we plan to explore both natural and easy synthetic dyeing. Gotland felts—that’s one of Faith’s fortes (I felt a little; Faith is amazing at it). She’s also a shepherd and brings that perspective to us. With luck on the logistics, we’ll also do some group washing of wool (we had it worked out in 2020, when this gathering was first scheduled; it was bumped to 2021, and now is finally happening).

We’ll all be experiencing this single breed from all sorts of angles: as fleece direct from the sheep, and from several sources (the genetics are interesting); in a couple of commercially processed forms; we’ll felt a bit, and do some dyeing. We’ll definitely spin. Among other things, you’ll discover the advantages and disadvantages of both working from a whole fleece and buying prepared top or roving. Of course all sorts of questions and experiments will arise.

And as usual for Explore 4, we’ll be meeting at Lakedale Resort at Three Lakes (with special off-season rates), have a balanced schedule of structured, informative and flexible, restorative time, and enjoy a visit from Island Fibers one afternoon (with freshly shorn fleeces from the region’s sheep, hand-dyed yarns, great buttons, and more).

Friends or partners are welcome to come explore the island while you’re enjoying the retreat, and may join us for meals as long as we get them in the count two weeks ahead of the gathering.

As of early March, there are both a few open spaces in the retreat and available rooms in the Lodge at Lakedale. If you would like to participate, please e-mail my assistant, Jess (, and she will get back to you as soon as she can. If you are interested, you don’t need to wait to hear from Jess to call Lakedale about lodging; if there is a Lodge room available for you, then there will also be a retreat space to match.

To reserve a room at Lakedale, call the facility directly at 800-617-2267 and tell them you’re with Explore 4. If you try to make a reservation online, it will look like there are no rooms open because they’re all reserved for us.

Complete counts for the optional (but exquisite and very convenient) lunch/dinner catering need to be submitted by Sunday, March 6, 2022; gluten-free and vegetarian/vegan options are readily available. Catering is provided by the San Juan Island Inn Collection, which operates the Coho Restaurant among other excellent island resources, and features fresh, seasonal meals. If you do not participate in the meal plan, Lakedale is about four miles from the town of Friday Harbor.

Costs: $600 for retreat fee and materials; meals—breakfast is included with Lakedale lodging, lunch and dinner for all four days $240 plus optional tip on the final day (accompanying friends or family can choose lunch-only or dinner-only); lodging costs vary depending on chosen accommodations (Lodge is least expensive; sharing cabins works well to economize if you come with a group; dogs can be with you in cabins but not in the Lodge). For information on getting to and from the retreat and other details, see the boldface link below that leads to a series of pages of additional details.

Fall 2022 – November 7–10

Explore 4 Fiber Retreat – “Wild Card” Retreat: Crossbreds

Arrive November 6, depart November 11.

In 2017, I facilitated a retreat on crossbred wools. Some folks who were there asked that we revisit the topic, so we will, although from a different perspective. I’m working on the precise way that will happen, but at present I’m thinking (again by request) that we will have a few crossbred wools and representatives of the contributing purebreds. 

Click here to register for Explore 4 Fall 2022.

If you’re not sure if Explore 4 is you, or you’d just like to learn more about these events (including inspiration, history, location, and cost), click here for all the details you’ll ever need about Explore 4 or get in touch through the contact page.

Before you go…

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