A Weekend of Knitting and Brotherhood

This past weekend I attended my fourth <a href=”http://www.mensknittingretreat.com/”&gt; Men’s Spring Knitting Retreat </a>. This retreat, now in its sixth year, has become the official start of my “fiber season”. There are other events that happen earlier like the Chancellor’s Sheep and Wool Showcase in Clermont, Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Festival, and even the Washington County Fiber Tour. I have yet to make it to any of those. From the time registration for the retreat opens around the beginning of the year, my focus is on one thing only, spending a weekend with the most amazing and talented men I have ever met.

Early morning in the great room of the lodge, our main gathering space.

We come from all over the country and even from Canada and the UK. We come from many different backgrounds, different professions, different levels of education, income, and even different levels of experience as knitters, spinners, weavers or other fiber related crafts. But when we come together, we are equal. We bring our passion for our crafts to the retreat and share it with each other freely. We encourage each other, support each other, teach each other, and learn from each other. It is brotherhood in the truest sense of the word.

My friend Dave trying out my newest spinning wheel while some guys knit and check out the sale table.

My weekend began at noon on Wednesday last week when I left work and headed to the airport to pick up my friend Kenny who was also attending the retreat. We stopped in at Trumpet Hill for a bit before heading back to my house and found a wonderful surprise waiting for me on my front steps. There will be more about that soon. Later on in the afternoon we picked up our friends Kyle and John at the train station, made another stop at Trumpet Hill, and then back to my house for dinner and an evening of knitting, spinning, and catching up with each other.

A pre-retreat road trip has become a regular thing since quite a few of the guys come early for the retreat. On Thursday morning my houseguests and I met some of the other guys at A Touch of Twist in Pattersonville. Visiting Steve’s shop is always a treat, and I always find something there that I didn’t know I needed. This time I had a list and at the top of that list was the bulky flyer head for my Lendrum. Also on that list, and something I wasn’t sure I would find, was a back issue of Handwoven magazine. I knew Steve keeps a lot of back issues of Handwoven, Spin-Off, and several other fiber related magazines. I was really pleased to find what I was looking for.

Really, how could I resist this?

The rest of Thursday afternoon and evening at the retreat was a flurry of catching up with everyone who has attended in the past, as well as introductions and getting to know the guys who had never been before. On Friday morning we had our official retreat road trip to Ensign Brook Farm in Greenwich. There we were treated to a peek at how a sheep farm is run, and the opportunity to get up close to some of the sheep which included Romney, Wensleydale, and a prize winning Merino.

Getting a tour of Ensign Brook Farm
Getting an up close visit with one of the lambs

Spinning has become a big activity at the retreat and I love seeing all of the spinning wheels lined up in the great room of the lodge building. Later on Friday I had the pleasure of leading one of my favorite workshops, teaching new spinners. On Saturday morning I lead a workshop on woolen drafting techniques for some of the guys who had only done worsted style drafting. Each year there are more and more spinners at the retreat and I’m honored to have had a hand in creating some of them and helping others to branch out and expand their skills.

One of the amazing lace projects being blocked in a workshop

Other workshops at the retreat included lace blocking, double knitting, brioche stitch, and even weaving. All of the workshops are offered freely in the spirit of sharing, support, and encouragement that has come to define this event and what I love so much about it. Leaving on Sunday was a little bit sad, but I left renewed, recharged, and inspired by everyone that I shared the weekend with. I consider each and every one of the 43 or so guys that attended the retreat as my brothers.

Even though this retreat has passed, it will happen again next year. There are also other Men’s Knitting Retreats that happen throughout the year and in various parts of the country. They truly are a magical experience and if you’ve ever considered attending one but haven’t yet, please do. You won’t be disappointed.

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