Since 2012, following a suggestion offered by Cat Bordhi, I’ve been putting together fiber retreats at Lakedale Resort, in the San Juan Islands northwest of Seattle, Washington.
In our four full days in this special place, the group of wonderful folks who gather there enjoy an opportunity to relax and explore themed and diverse sets of fibers.
While each retreat is four days long and follows the same basic format, the spring and fall events have different conceptual designs.
- The Spring retreat follows a consistent plan: over the four days, we meet four fiber types, selected for their variety and contrasting qualities. This is an opportunity to explore in some depth the history, fiber qualities, and characteristics of the four types. There may be four wool types, or three wools and one other animal fiber. My goal is not to repeat a breed or type covered in a previous Spring session. (Fibers covered in a Spring retreat may, however, show up in a Fall retreat, examined from a different perspective.) In 2015, for example, we experienced California Red, Finnsheep, North Ronaldsay, and llama.
- The Fall retreat is called a “wild card” event, because the four days cohere around a theme, instead of being a compare/contrast collection like the Spring.
- The first Fall retreats took place in 2014, with two four-day sessions dedicated to Shetland wools, in their amazing and delightful variety.
- 2015’s theme was “primitive” sheep and wools. The word primitive frequently appears in descriptions of sheep and fibers, without being clearly defined. With fibers in our hands, we’ll consider what primitive means. Is it the same for sheep as for fibers? What aspects of a breed or of a fiber type elicit the use of the word? What does that mean for us as spinners?
- For future retreats, there are nifty plans afoot! To be among the first to be notified, sign up for my newsletter.
I spend a year or two contemplating and developing the themes and gathering the materials for each retreat. In summer 2016 I drove quite a distance to see if I could obtain some fibers I wanted to feature in fall 2017. This is normal.
The idea of the retreats is that we come together in good company and with interesting fibers and each of us does, and learns, what we need to in the moment. The retreats balance structured information with unscheduled time and the opportunity to explore ideas that give our fiber work meaning and context.
The retreats are low-key but experience- and information-rich events, during which I can go into much greater depth than I can in other teaching environments. I love seeing what fibers can do, and I’m especially fond of learning about the history and science that deepen my understanding of what these materials mean for our craft and for the world around us. We talk about these things while we experiment with tools and techniques.
When I’m preparing the materials for each day, I consider what the chosen fibers can best teach us that will also illuminate all the other fibers we work with, whether here or elsewhere. I choose the fibers that I present in a given retreat with the goal of offering contrasting experiences and providing lots of opportunities for learning. I also want them to work as a group to amplify the experience as a whole. You will have time and encouragement and support to explore their potential (and your own).
I hope to spin and visit with you in the great room at the lodge!
Special note: I’m allergic to tobacco smoke. If you smoke, you are welcome at the retreat, 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. Lakedale is smoke-free on all its inside spaces, so you will need to smoke outside and at some distance from the buildings.