Explore 4 Fiber Retreats

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. Because I constantly play with topic concepts, there will be variations on those themes. For dates and topics of upcoming retreats, take a look here.

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.

Special note: I’m allergic to tobacco smoke. If you smoke, you are welcome at events where I’m teaching, including the Explore 4 retreats, but I need to know in advance and I apologize now for not being able to sit near you at meals or gatherings. Even residual smoke on clothing can put me in bed—i.e., out of teaching mode! We can talk and spin and relax together, just not side-by-side. The site where the Explore 4 retreats are held is smoke-free on all its inside spaces, so you will need to smoke outside and at some distance from the buildings.

Take a look around, and feel free to email us at Holly@independentstitch.com with questions. 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 irregularly issued newsletter.

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

If you came here from the list of current retreats, you can get back to it here.