Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Madrona Fiber Arts Retreat

Dianne and I attended our first Madrona Fiber Arts Retreat over the weekend, and we're already looking forward to next year. It was weekend of classes and knitting, dining and a little shopping.

There were the Classes (after all, that's what it was all about)

A Stick and a Handful of Stones
I settled at a table with Yvonne, who was at the retreat to take the one class from Judith MacKenzie McCuin. Point of fact, the majority of the class were "groupies" and several were taking just the one class. Judith's goal was to get everyone to become weavers. After I signed up for the two-day class, I worried that it would too much—especially since I'd only ever woven the obligatory kindergarten pot holder, but it was exactly the opposite. Judith started with a history of weaving, set her goal—to convert everyone, especially knitters, to weaving, then got us started. We started by making weights with aquarium gravel, plastic wrap and yarn, then set to weaving. I wish I'd gotten pictures of other works in progress, but took a couple only of my own.

At the end of class, Yvonne, who was weaving with her own spun yarn, gifted me with a ball of her yarn. Lovely.

Stripes and Stripes that Aren’t
I can't say exactly how many classes I've taken from Sally Melville over the years, but I've taken more than a few. Sally likes stripes and taught us about matching (and not), color and contrast and a few skills (weaving the yarn in and weavers knot—both of which I learned in earlier classes with her.) But she really likes "stripes that aren't"—knitting in stripes, but adding a pattern or element that makes them appear to be something else—like slip stitch or modular knitting. And she showed us beautiful examples, most of which are in her Styles and Color books. Although, I was already familiar with the skills and patterns covered, Sally is an excellent and personable instructor, so it was all good.

Oh, and the really cool thing is that Sally complimented me on the Warm Orenburg lace shawl I knit last year.

Using your Stash
Sunday morning was spent with Ginger Luters. In retrospect, if I'd really read the class description, I probably wouldn't have taken it. Ginger was personable and her sense of color is great (she has a degree in fine arts), but the class seemed to lack focus. It was all about swatching, but I didn't come away with any specifics on what we were trying to accomplish with all but one of the swatch examples. The one was use of the three-needle bind off to connect two pieces. I did come away with one tip—in garter, Ginger slips the last stitch (YFWD), instead of the first, then knits in the back of the stitch to create a nice edge to join,

Two Colors, Two Hands
It was the end of the weekend, we'd had a not-so-good class in the morning and I was seriously considering blowing off my last class. But once in Sally Melville's last class, it was clear that I was going to end the weekend on an "up" note. The class about learning how to hold yarns in different ways and finding the one that was most comfortable to you. We learned knitting with one yarn in each hand, two yarns in the right, two yarns in the left and purling with the yarn over your neck (documented in Sally's Purl book.)—very cool.

Additionally, Sally showed us exercises to prevent injury to neck and hands and shared some great stories, including the one about her son who was at University in a quiet room, except for the person who began swearing. He turned around to see who was knitting.

And then there was the Dining
We ate very well, though I seemed to experience small issues at every restaurant we visited.

Indochine Seafood and Satay Bar
The food was excellent and the portions large—which is where I ran into problems. Not asking, and thinking I was ordering appetizer sizes, I ordered three starters. Wrong! I finished the six shrimp and took back a plateful of tofu and 5 potstickers—which I ate for breakfast. They were also good cold.

Walking back from the food fest that was Indochine, we spied Twokoi and settled on that for the next night's dinner. If your palatte doesn't take spicy-hot foods, please avoid the Spicy Pork, even if the waitress says it's only mildly spiced. Fortunately the miso and salad were generously sized and I did make it through about half of my pork, it was a bit on the hot side for me (Dianne really enjoyed hers, though.) I figured a little dairy would help, so I order a green tea ice cream, which the waitress gave me on the house.

Over the Moon
We found out that Tacoma is a 9-5 kind of town, when we headed out for lunch on Saturday and most of the places we passed on Broadway were closed. Intrepid Dianne headed into a jewelry store to get a recommendation, and we ended up at Over the Moon, "which was good even with the new décor." And it was.

Dianne's salmon salad was beautiful and I got to sample the grilled cheese sandwich while I awaited the chicken sandwich I'd ordered. The décor was a little cheesy, but the food was good. We were joined by Lissa from Sequim, WA.

Djembe Soul
Did you know that I was raised on okra, grits, and biscuits? So when a class mate said she'd enjoyed her meal at Djembe Soul (including the sweet tea) a southern food restaurant, I wanted to go. I think because it harkened back to the basic foods I ate growing up it was my favorite meal. Though everything was fried, which usually gives me trouble the next day, I think they must have used really hot, clean oil because nothing was greasy, and I was just fine. I didn't get to enjoy my first choice of Chicken and Dumplings (no dumplings), but I did get fried okra (my friend Mark—who drove down from Seattle to join us—tried one, Dianne had a few, and I ate the rest) and pork chops, with excellent red beans and rice and candied sweet potatoes. Yum.

And finally, there was the Shopping
On our way to find a restaurant the first night we happened on BKB and Company, self-described as the "Tacoma gallery of wearable and decorative art." Very nice shop, where both Dianne and I found hats and Dianne bought a very cool paper lamp.

Then there were my yarn acquisitions:
Fancy Image Hand-dyed Yarn had some great colorways, and it was hard to decide, but I came away with these—all merino fingering. I'm always thinking lace.

Linda's Knit 'n Stitch offered 20% off any purchase, so not being one to pass up a deal, and in awe of the Koigu collection, I brought home some skeins of this unusual colorway.

RainShadow Farm had some lovely soft yarns, including the merino/silk/cashmere "Ollala."

Toots LeBlanc & Co Angora/Rambouillet called to me, so I brought it home to make their shawl pattern.

Maybe we'll see you there next year.