I’ve devoted most of my adult life to the exploration of sheep and their wool, and all the ways we can use these miraculous natural fibers to enrich our lives. Twice a year, I invite a small group of fiber enthusiasts to join me on this exploration—we spend four days digging deep into the world of animal fibers, mostly wools, while allowing ourselves plenty of time to relax and refresh. Each morning we enjoy a fabulous breakfast and then gather in the great room of the Lakedale Resort, where we talk about the fibers—their variety, their history, the science around their form and function, and their applications for knitting, spinning, weaving, and beyond to matters of ecological and cultural impact and of personal delight.

This is both talking and hands-on time: the fibers of the day are our companions in this journey. In spring, we investigate one type of animal fiber each day, with the four days balanced for variety; most are wools. In fall, which I call a “wild card” retreat, we consider a single spinning-related topic from multiple angles.

After the morning session, we break for lunch, catered for us using the best local ingredients, and then spend the afternoons enjoying our own individual explorations—nature walks around the island, trips to local points of interest, or more spinning and knitting time. Naps and massages can be located, too!

Each evening, after we gather again to enjoy a delicious dinner, we spin (or knit or crochet or weave) more together, and we review and I answer more questions about what we covered in the morning. We discover what sorts of insights the afternoon has offered (about fiber or about other activities), I offer as much one-on-one help as is needed or requested, and we share stories from the fiber world. Sometimes I have located unusual videos or readings related to some of the fibers in the collection, or to more general matters we may want to consider.

A few people stay up late spinning. Some take advantage of the opportunity to read a novel or go to bed early. Lakedale accommodates both solitude and companionship.

If you’d like to get away and immerse yourself in the craft you love and the fibers that make that craft possible, while in a richly restorative environment and community, join us on our next exploration.

This page and its links contain a lot of information on the retreats: how they began, how they’re set up, and what you need to know to participate. You need not be a proficient spinner: the ability to spin a singles and make a two-ply yarn is sufficient; each of us approaches the fibers from wherever we are on our fiber journey. While most people use spinning wheels, some people prefer to bring handspindles.

There are two types of retreats that follow the same basic format, yet they are conceptually different. The “Four-by-fours” are compare/contrast events featuring one fiber type each day, while special topic and “Wild Card” events examine a specific topic in more depth.


Spring: March 25–28, 2019. Explore 4 Fiber Retreat Four-by-four (four fibers in four days): Fibers to be determined, based on what I am successfully able to source in time that do not repeat fibers featured in previous spring events. Most likely possible candidates (but only four): Gotland, Manx Loaghtan, Polwarth, and Florida Cracker.



November 4–7, 2019.

Explore 4 “Wild Card” Fiber Retreat: Color Blending with a Limited Palette: By popular request, we’ll apply concepts from painting to the blending of fiber colors. As of current planning, we’ll experiment with two separate palettes, one a rainbow and one with six primary colors (three warm and three cool) plus white and a touch of black, to mix a wide variety of hues, shades, and tones: it’s a bunch of color games! And of course we will use two different fiber bases as well.


By the way, I’ve been asked if I’d be amenable to holding a similar event in another location. So far, the logistics and environment in the San Juans seem to be uniquely conducive to sheltering and supporting these gatherings.

Take a look around, and feel free to contact us with questions at jess@drobson.info. If you’d like to stay up-to-date with these retreats and the other news of my travels & teaching appointments, sign up here for my monthly newsletter.

Thanks to The Woolery for generous contributions to the Spring and Fall 2017 Explore 4 events and to Ashford Wheels and Looms for sponsoring the Spring 2018 Spin-to-Weave retreat.

1 – Background and philosophy

2 – Upcoming dates for Explore 4 events

3 – What fiber skills and tools do you need?

4 – What is the experience like?

5 – Location, lodging, and meals

6 – Budgeting

7 – What next?

8 – FAQs