It’s finally happening. I’ve run away from home. Sort of.
I’ve run off to a little knitting retreat just for the weekend – all by myself, no husband, no children. This is the first time I’ve been away from my children overnight ever. The only time I’ve been away from Julie is when I gave birth to Sophie. Until now, that is.
Joe came home from work early on Friday so that I could head south to Villa Maria in Frontenac Minnesota to join about 40 other knit-crazed women for a weekend of hanging out in a conference room eating junk food (in between really bad cafeteria meals), learning about lace shawls from the rockin’ Candace Eisner-Strick, buying yarn from each other and from Ann Bosch from Blackberry Ridge mill, and showing off and admiring each others’ knits. But there I go getting ahead of myself.
As soon as Joe arrived, I was ready to pack the car and get the hell out of the house. It only takes about an hour and a half to get down here, and I had about four hours before my check-in time, five hours before Friday’s dinner. So I ran off to the mall and did just a little bit of shopping by myself. I can’t remember the last time I got to just wander around the mall by myself without specific purpose, but on Friday I did take my time looking around at clothes, and I had an actual conversation with a lady at the makeup counter about skin products without feeling rushed.
I headed out of town with plenty of time yet to spare, and blindly followed the Google Maps directions I’d printed out the night before. In the past I’ve found Google’s maps to be pretty darn reliable, but Friday I found myself driving around in eastern Wisconsin, on the opposite side of Lake Pepin from where I needed to be. It’s a good thing it was a nice day, with pretty leaves to look at and plenty of time to get here. I didn’t even really get stressed out about it – I just turned around and got back on track and arrived still in plenty of time for dinner. Hell, I was driving around alone! By myself! With no Raffi on the stereo or children asking me to fetch things they’d thrown onto the car floor.
Here’s a picture of Lake Pepin from the wayside overlook I stopped at to figure out where I was and how to get to where I needed to be.
And here’s a picture of the other side of the road – a big cliff, of the kind I used to see all the time in Missouri, but not so much in Minnesota.
The trees are definitely changing, but I saw a lot of brown and yellow and not as much vibrant orange as I’d have liked.
Finally, I arrived and lugged my giant bags up to my tiny room. Joe was a bit shocked and perhaps horrified by my needing both of our biggest suitcases for my two days away. But honestly, I had to bring a lot of different yarns for my class supplies (which were kind of vague), my entire set of knitting needles, a bunch of yarn I wanted to sell at the rummage sale, plus a few books and magazines just in case I found myself with a block of quiet time.
Oh, and my show-and-tell items, plus a different sweater to wear each day. Not to mention the regular clothes and toiletries.
This place is a decent retreat center, with a nice sunny conference room, and a lovely setting. But it also freaks me out just a bit. It used to be a Catholic girls’ school, and there are still nuns in residence here. There are religious icons and symbols covering most of the surfaces around here, and there is also a church retreat going on this weekend – so lots of loud praying going on at meals and other times. I’m not against any of that, but it is causing me a bit of culture shock.
So dinner last night was abysmal – the worst lasagna I think I’ve ever eaten. Note to self: Bring peanut butter and jelly next time! But we had a fun evening with a gift swap and lots of chatting last night, and this morning dawned to a mostly edible breakfast and on to the great Candace’s class. Here she is showing one of her shawls, and sporting one of her beautiful sweaters.
She has lots of awesome shawl designs.
I love how most of her designs are meant to stay on the shoulders, and are knit with pretty easy shaping from the top down.
Not this one, but it’s beautiful just the same.
In my experience, these retreats are usually all about the socialization and hoping to pick up some good tips along the way. The projects are usually good vehicles for learning these tips, but not ones that I finish up after the class is over. I came to this class expecting more of the same, but I was pleasantly surprised, and I’ve started a shawl that I’m pretty sure I’ll go ahead and crank out till it’s done.
And Candace! My gods, but she is hilarious. She is fun to listen to, but smart and with good ideas. Why have I not known more about this woman before now? I do not know.
Well, we got started on our shawls, and that involved much yarn-winding. Luckily, I’d brought along my swift and winder (I couldn’t decide in advance which yarn I might want to use for a shawl, and I didn’t want to wind up five different giant skeins of yarn that I wasn’t going to use right away). I wasn’t the only one, though, and little ducky had to have been quite dizzy after his morning’s work.
I love these classes, but because I am a little ADD, I had to have two projects in my lap – the class sample piece and a sock to work on while I waited for everyone else to catch up and the instructions to move on.
I’m kind of liking the way my Noro socks are turning out, although I don’t think they are as pretty as the ones from Ravelry that inspired me.
I snagged a picture of the cafeteria right before today’s lunch. Here’s the churchies having their little pre-meal prayer meeting. Again, not judging, but it really made me uncomfortable witnessing this.
I’m a little embarrassed about that level of discomfort. I mean, I’m the one in the Catholic-nun-run retreat center. Still, I found it a little scary for some reason – kind of like I was an interloper and really didn’t have a place here. hm.
But look! This is the view out the front door of the place, and there is a lovely maple straight outside. That’s the fall color I’m looking for.
And here’s a picture of the building. Kind of like a castle.
Candace agreed to pose for a picture with me, and it took about ten shots for both of us to look halfway decent in one. I am horribly unphotogenic, and I find that I have to look away from the camera unless I want to look like a deer in the headlights. So in this picture we are pretending to examine one of her shawls. Really, Candace is grimmacing and wondering when I’m going to be satisfied so we can head off for dinner.
After tonight’s dinner, we had a show-and-tell session, with many fascinating projects shown by all. My new friend Ursula stunned me more than anyone else with this giant coat she knit.
And she happens to be wearing a skirt she knit as well…Here’s the back of that jacket.
It makes my crazy sock yarn blanket look almost sane!
Well, it’s now getting late. A day of knitting can really tire a girl out, and I’m determined to get a second good nights’ sleep, uninterrupted by waking children, and without anyone to steal my covers. Tomorrow there will be a little more knitting before the drive back to the city. Hopefully straight through Minnesota this time.
I’ll have to do a followup post and show you some of the fiber I bought from Ann – lovely handpainted silk! I’ll show you my shawl too, once I’ve knit a bit more of it. Amazing how unproductive knitting time can be when you’re trying to knit lace and carry on three conversations at the same time.
In case you’re wondering, Joe is at home with the girls this weekend, and I think his brother is hanging out with them too. I’m sure they’re eating out every meal and surviving just fine without me. I only wish I could have another day or two away. Maybe next year I can go to SOAR.