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Knot Hysteria on the Silk Road.

Back in November, Steph and I hosted the first of what we hoped would become a series of friendly, intimate, intensive fiber retreats. Whether or not it became a series had mostly to do with whether or not people liked it and whether or not we had as good a time teaching in that setting as we thought we would.  Turns out that it was just a lovely time (scroll down to Nov 18th), in about a thousand ways, and so we’re doing it again. We’ve mixed it up a bit to be interesting, this time bringing in another teacher (we’re so proud) and expanding the retreat for one extra day.

The retreat is July 9-12 2010 at the really beautiful Resort at Port Ludlow in Washington, we’ll host a long weekend retreat for knitters and spinners who are as interested in silk as we are. We’ll dye, spin and knit silk of many kinds in many ways, and we think it’s going to be fantastic.  Beyond fantastic actually, since the knitting teacher is Stephanie (you knew that) the dying teacher is me (you suspected that as well, I’m sure) and the spinning teacher is (be still our fibery hearts) the one and only Judith MacKenzie. (See? You’re as excited as us, right?)

If you’d like to think about coming, the level for this retreat is “established”.  Not tremendously experienced, but a little bit.  You’ll need to be able to cast on and off, knit, purl, increase and decrease easily, and you should be comfortable with most basic knitting instructions. For the spinning part, you should be able to spin a continuous thread.  (Note that we didn’t say that you should be able to knit well, or spin well. An advanced beginner would be comfortable.)

The weekend begins when you check in on Friday night, and we all have an opportunity to talk, hang out (maybe have a drink) get to know each other, and you’re assigned to one of three small groups.

Saturday, Group one goes with me, to a big room with a floor covered in plastic and loaded with dye and silk, where you will explore every single nuance of colour in relationship to silk and its luxurious self.  You’ll explore the qualities of silk as they pertain to dyeing, and play with it in various forms.  Cocoon to yarn, you’ll have a look at the fibre that is silk. 

Meanwhile, group two goes with Stephanie, for an all day exploration of knitting silk. We’ll look at the structure of silk, how it behaves, what it does and doesn’t do, what types of yarn you find made from silk and how to best use and knit them.  We’ll talk about blocking and caring for silk, and we’ll explore knitting with unspun mawata (silk hankies).  (It’s seriously cool.) You’ll need your knitting needles with you.

Over in the pretty room overlooking the water, group three sets up their spinning wheels (or spindles – if you don’t have a wheel you can do most of the class on a spindle and borrow a wheel for a while to do the bits that demand it) to spend a day with Judith. (We would take a class from Judith on how to boil water. She’s just that interesting all on her own.) Judith has this to say about her class: “Sumptuous, luxurious, mysterious – silk is a fiber that catches both our senses and our imagination. In this class, we’ll learn how to spin a wide range of silks and silk blends including silk and cashmere and silk and qiviut. We’ll make silk yarn that is both spider web fine and lusciously large. Silk is perfect for making novelty yarns; we’ll make boucles, knot yarns , frosted and beaded yarns that will be as beautiful as jewels. Please bring your wheel and all its parts. Bring along any high speed pulleys or bobbins that came with your wheel. Bring four bobbins if you have them.”

That evening, we gather to play more dye and paint games with silk – this time exploring ways to make plain silk scarves beautiful. You’ll have fabric paint (wait until you see what you can do) and if we’re lucky, explore a coldwater indigo dye bath and do a little silk reeling.

Sunday, the groups rotate places for the day classes, and then after dinner we’ll have a lecture and a show and tell.  The teachers will tell about the history of silk, the silk road – and show you some wonderful pieces, and if you’re so inclined, we’d love to see what you’ve done with silk too.  Bring your best.

Monday we rotate for classes again, and Monday night we have a wonderful social gathering for Q&A and talking about all we’ve learned, bid you farewell, and the retreat ends that evening.

The price includes classes, fun, all materials (except wheels, spindles and needles), and breakfast, lunch and dinner Saturday, Sunday and Monday. (The food is fabulous, and we promise that there will be good vegetarian options.) We’ll have a little store on site with things that you might like.

Accommodations are separate and you will arrange those on your own. We have negotiated special prices with Port Ludlow, and there are some shared accommodations (condos and town-homes) if you’d like to come with your friends.

Simply call Port Ludlow 1-360-437-7000 and tell them that you’re with Knot Hysteria and the knitters, and they will help you get sorted with the special knitter price. They are lovely and helpful people.

Price for the three day/three class intensive with meals:

$735. (Credit card or Paypal are fine) All Materials (except knitting needles and spinning wheels) included. (We are especially proud that even though we added and extra day of teaching, another teacher, three more meals, and way more expensive materials, that we have only had to up the price by $120 from the two day version.  That took a lot of financial dancing, but we did it.)

Gift bags, presents and surprises forthcoming.

(If you’re a vendor and you’d like to talk to us about putting something in the gift bags, just drop us a line. We’d love it.)

To register, simply send an email to with “Silk Retreat” in the subject line, and include your name, address and daytime/nightime phone number, and we’ll call you to arrange it. The first 45 knitters are in, and we can’t wait to see you. 

  1. I really wish I could swing this. Have fun for me!

    November 30, -0001
  2. Me too.. Wish I were independently wealthy and no one depended on me:( Sounds fabulous!

    November 30, -0001
  3. Susan #

    hehe. I’m going, and I don’t know if you realize what you are in for allowing me to come and play! I’m such a silk slut–and I already own 2lbs of undyed BFL/Silk fiber that I purchased before I knew about this retreat as practice fiber for dying–you know, before I move on to the silk and cashmere. I can’t wait for July!

    Knitting (the gateway drug)

    Spinning (I want JMM to adopt me)

    Dying (getting in deep)


    November 30, -0001
  4. Your site is great! Wish I lived a bit closer to Washington state, I’d be there.

    November 30, -0001

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