Monday, December 01, 2008

Trip report: Olema knitting retreat with BBR

Two weeks ago, Bill and I spent a long weekend in Olema at the Olema Inn, from November 12-16. I was lured to the Inn by their knitting retreat -- a series of classes with Beth Brown-Reinsel. Bill spent the days out in beautiful Marin county fall landscapes, taking photos of birds. At night we dined together with the rest of the knitters on organic, free-range, and delicious comestibles at the Inn. Can you say, "perfect vacation"? I sure can.

Wednesday and Thursday, Beth taught a two-day class on Scottish Sanquhar gloves to seven knitters, all engaging and capable companions. Friday we had a day off for sight-seeing (well... birding, if the truth be told) in the Pt. Reyes area. Saturday the knitting was back on with Norwegian mittens and Sunday we learned techniques for designing and executing Seamless Arans.

Between the knitting, we were served breakfast, morning snack, lunch, an afternoon coffee break, and dinner by the Olema Inn. That was a *bunch* of delicious calories. I will call special attention to the green leaf salad with duck breast, the breakfast selection of fruits and cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery, and the grilled cheese of gruyere on brioche.

I've got a bunch of photos to show you, but first I have to spend a moment going goo-goo eyed over Beth Brown-Reinsel, who taught all 4 days of the retreat.

What I love most about Beth is her ability to turn any form of ethnic knitting into a set of building blocks (Legos?) so we lesser mortals can assemble edgings, motifs, knitting techniques, and color choices that are within a related ethnic context. If anyone has read her wonderful book Knitting Ganseys, you know that book is exactly like a toolkit for designing your own gansey through a series of lessons on a mini-sweater. That's her genius: breaking a knitting tradition down into learnable bits.

Of course, once you learn the techniques, you can assemble them however you want, but knowing what makes an Aran an Aran, or what makes a Norwegian mitten Norwegian, and not Latvian is hugely useful.

The handout for the two-day Sanquhar gloves class, for instance, tells how to knit a swatch on 3 needle sizes, cut it open, measure the gauge and determine your cast-on (divisible by 4, since the multiple ribbing options are all 4 st repeats). That was our homework. In class, we learned that most gloves have a salt & pepper band separating the rib from the hand, where you can insert initials or a date. Then we chose two pattern motifs from three sizes of boxes based on gauge and hand size. We learned the traditional counts of boxes for each row of the hand and how to make the cutest possible gusset for the thumb. By the end of the second day, we were knitting our three-sided fingers. (Or casting on the second mitt, for the one knitter who elected to make mitts instead of gloves. See the cute edging she added to finish off her maroon & grey Kauni mitt? Gorgeous!)

The point is: having gone through this class, I could make any number of gloves, or mitts or mittens, all different, all in the right sizes, all very traditional-looking... or I could use the same techniques one or two at a time to spice up an entirely different mitten. This is the kind of class I love - a toolbox completely focused on one aspect of knitting which can be unpacked and reused elsewhere. The handouts, the preparation, the way she led us down the path... these are the reasons I love taking classes with Beth Brown-Reinsel.

I hope any of you locals here in Santa Clara who get the chance will take some of Beth's classes at Stitches West (Feb 26 - March 1, 2009) where she will be teaching Norwegian Purl, Fair Isle Tams and 12 full hours on the Danish Skrå-trøjer.

And now... the rest of the photos. Except I can't find the Norwegian mitten.

Sanquhar glove in progress - check out the cute gusset for the thumb and the little pyramids for the finger tips. I'm itching to finish the last two fingers and wear these for real:

Sanquhar Glove

Seamless Aran mini sweater - a sampler of Aran stitches and seamless assembly techniques.

Seamless Aran class sampler

Door prize! I forgot to mention the door prizes - we all got to choose from a smorgasbord of prizes. I elected to play the role of yarn ho and grabbed this basket of hand-dyed yarn from the Coastal Artisans shop in Bolinas.

Olema Door Prize

And here's a question for the audience. What *is* this? This weird carving was on all three pieces of the bedroom set at the Olema Inn. I have given this shape a name... I'd love to know in the comments what you would name this, if you found it over your head at night.

Name that decorative motif

The only thing that would have made the weekend better was knowing one of my knitting companions. I'm really hoping somebody from the south bay knitting contingent will come with me next year to the 2009 retreat. Pleeeease?


Blogger Alison said...

That sounds like a wonderful weekend. I don't know what I'd call that shape - but I'm not sure I'd like to sleep under it - looks like a freaky jack-in-the-box.

December 01, 2008 8:00 PM  
Blogger Emy said...

That does sound like a pretty cool class...

December 01, 2008 9:22 PM  
Blogger Cindy/Snid said...

Definitely a cool class! When is the workshop in 2009??

That motif almost looks like an Indian motif. Wish I could find an image of it for you!

December 02, 2008 2:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my god!That glove would take me ten years to complete. Sounds like your kind of weekend. Mom

December 03, 2008 9:42 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

What a great summary of the retreat. Sounds like lots of great knowledge was passed on.

December 03, 2008 1:49 PM  
Blogger BerkeleyBecca said...

It's nice to see a report from the Olema Knitting retreat this year. I attended two years ago, and it was definitely a treat.
Were there still migrants in Pt. Reyes in November?
(another birding knitter over in the East Bay...)

December 06, 2008 3:19 PM  

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