Explore 4 FAQs

Here are the most frequently asked questions about the Explore 4 Retreats:

Q: What changes are in place due to COVID-19?

A: As of 2024, I am asking that everyone who can wear a mask do so at all times in the workshops. It is best if we are all fully vaccinated and masked, but for some people that is not an option and at this point in the pandemic masks appear to be doing a good job of protecting both the wearer and other people.

So everyone who is able will wear a masks, we will physically distance as much as possible in interior spaces, and we will spread out for meals.

Retreats are subject to postponement depending on both local health guidelines and rules and predicted risk factors for people traveling to and from the event.

Q: What skills do I need to go on a retreat?

A: 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. More information can be found on our What fiber skills and tools do you need? page.

In short, what to bring:

Wheel or spindle; fiber-prep tools of choice (combs, carders, flicker, or any other OR dog-grooming combs or slickers); the ability to wind a small center-pull ball and ply from it (or skill at Andean plying, or a lazy kate and extra bobbins); sampling tools as convenient, like knitting needles, crochet hooks, or Weave-It or similar extra-simple loom; optional tape and/or hole-punch, for keeping track of fiber samples and yarns (record cards will be provided); a notepad and pen or pencil.

I will bring some combs, carders, and other tools, as well as small niddy-noddies, hole punches, and tape, for sharing, and record cards that you can use for taking notes. A few techniques work best on a spinning wheel (electric or treadle) rather than a spindle, but a number of people have participated using only spindles.

Q: Where do retreats take place? What do we do there?

A:  We meet at Lakedale Resort at Three Lakes (with special off-season rates), have a balanced schedule of structured, informative and flexible, restorative time, and (ferries permitting) enjoy a visit from Island Fibers one afternoon (with freshly shorn fleeces from the region’s sheep, hand-dyed yarns, great buttons, and more). Check out our Location, lodging, and meals page for more information.

Q: Do I need to rent a car to get to Explore 4 in the San Juan Islands?

A: No. At each gathering, there are some people who don’t. It’s possible to get to Friday Harbor by shuttle bus from the Seattle airport, or to fly into the local airport. Flights to the San Juans rarely but occasionally do get cancelled due to weather; that happened on the first week of a recent set. With close communication, the affected traveler got directed to backup alternatives and arrived safely and on time by other means (despite multiple issues from home to retreat!). We can arrange to pick up people at the ferry or the airport to get them to Lakedale, and there’s always someone either going to town or for a hike or on other island excursions who’s willing to take a passenger.

Q: How do the costs work?

A: Costs for the retreat elements are separate, so people can tailor to their needs. To factor in:

  • Getting to and from the island: Options include one of these or a combination—own car, catch a ride with another participant, rental car, shuttle, airplane, ferry.
  • Lodging: At Lakedale, with a variety of options, single or to share, some choices can accommodate dogs (not the Lodge); home (for locals); AirBnB if Lakedale is full and the retreat is not. Call Lakedale directly to book; if you try on the website, you will be informed that there are no vacancies.
  • Retreat fee: Includes instruction, fibers, and handouts.
  • Catering: Lunches and dinners for the four days. A number of special diets can be accommodated but for those with unusual needs it’s possible to cook for oneself at Lakedale in a cabin or the Lake House. If you are interested in the meal plan, we need a participant count and dietary concerns three weeks before the retreat; there’s a Google form for this. Contact Holly@independentstitch.com with questions.
  • Extras: We often have local suppliers visit in the lodge (almost always Island Fibers from Lopez Island—we’ve only missed once, due to ferry issues). Those who participate in the catered meals may make a voluntary contribution to a tip/thank you bag for the folks who feed us. There are good bookstores, an alpaca farm, massage therapists, and more, if you choose to explore the island further.
  • For more information, visit our Location, lodging, and meals page or our Budgeting page.

Note: YES, you can come with a friend or partner or any combination of allies. If extra people are not participating in the retreat, their expenses will be limited to lodging (if you’re sharing space, the accommodations cost the same even with extra occupants) and meals (it is possible to do lunches or dinners only) and any extras they may want to experience (like whale watching). There are lots of hiking and wildlife opportunities.

Payment in U.S. dollars. Canadian folks: Talk with us. U.S. funds drawn on a U.S. bank are fine. PayPal transfers from Canadian to U.S. dollars are very expensive. 

Q: How can I minimize lodging costs?

A: There are a number of ways to share space, some of them with more privacy and some with less. Of the ten Lodge rooms, three have two queen-size beds while the rest have single kings—those two-bed rooms are good for sharing, as long as you negotiate who does or doesn’t snore {grin}. For sharing with separate spaces, the cabins all have two queen beds in different spaces (one bedroom, one loft). The Lake House has two king bedrooms, one queen bedroom, a sleeper sofa in the loft, and a sleeper sofa in the living area (the latter best for short-term use due to its central location). We’re doing our best to get people involved in the Explore 4 group on Ravelry to set up sharing situations. This is how I first got to Lakedale! You can visit our Budgeting page for more ideas on how to minimize costs.

Q: Can you announce which fibers you’re going to feature in the Traditional Four-by Fours?

A: In short, for Fall yes and for Spring no. Some people have wanted to know for sure what will be there so they can sign up if they are interested in the specific breed(s). For the spring Traditional Four-by-fours, I live close to the edge. What I can feature depends on what fibers I can collect in time, in sufficient varieties and quantities. In two instances, I’ve had to make changes within the last few weeks (in one case, days) before the gathering because it turned out that the fleeces that I expected to have in my hands arrived too late (due to unforeseeable mail problems) or were unusable (due to bad shearing). I’d hate to have someone arrive at an Explore 4 with the expectation that X breed would be included and then discover that I’ve had to replace it. For predictability, the fall Four-by-fours will be more reliable than Spring. That said, people who have participated in previous Explore 4s say that they always learn more than they expected from the breeds they hadn’t known they might be interested in. The information and approaches are transferable, and each breed highlights a story that illuminates others.

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