Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Golden Days

Some days in one's memory are filled with golden light, and such was the retreat in Virginia City.

There actually was golden glow to the days: bright sun and breezes (and sometimes real wind), also a snowy day and some overcast. But the golden memory comes not just from the quality of light, it comes also from the quality of the experience, the quality of the people.

There were 17 of us, arriving and departing at various times. We were all there for the Friday evening meal, and the energy then was vibrating. But there were soft and quiet times too, and a slow and steady pace of work, hah! or what we call work when really it is what we do for fun.

First we arrived (after lunch in Truckee and a visit to Jimmy Beans in Reno). There were people to help unload (!) and help they did, with a dizzying speed. Our cars were empty and the suitcases, boxes, ice chests, looms and spinning wheels were stashed in the studio, kitchen and sleeping rooms.

St Mary's Art Center is a three story building, with a wide central staircase. The first floor is up a half-flight of stairs, (mostly sleeping rooms here) and the workroom is up another flight, along with sleeping rooms also. The kitchen was down a flight from the entry porch. The first few trips up and down the stairs were a dizzying game of re-orientation (where am I and where was I going?), but we soon became accustomed to the layout.

The workroom on the second floor has tall ceilings, tall windows and light. We worked on at least seven spinning wheels, 3 floor looms (packed in and carted up to the studio) and an upright rug loom (also packed in), two inkle looms, two copper pipe looms and a Mirrix, a takadai, several marudai, a large needlepoint rug, and a dyepot. There were porches to spin on, two other workspaces set up in a porch vestibule, and long wide halls with couches for knitting and conversation.

I think Lisa was the most prolific. She was doing Nuno felt on silk, and made at least two full garments and several hats (I stopped keeping track). She took these materials:

VC Lisa1

Wool and silk fabric, with the finished Nuno felt fabric on the left.

The wool roving is separated and arranged on the silk base fabric:

VC Lisa2

Here is the first shawl:

VC Lisa4

and a close up of both sides of the fabric (one side was silk, the other wool):

VC Lisa3

Gayle was no slouch though, she warped and wove 6 yards of singles linen, sett at 48 epi in an 8 harness block twill, for napkins:

VC Gayle

Jen worked on a pipe loom with a knotted pile sampler:

VC Jen

And Hazel worked on a beautiful Fireside upright loom, also knotted pile, a meditation rug:

VC Hazel

Julie brought a takadai:

VC Julie

her shirt and scarf match her ribbon :). There was a flurry of activity when Julie realized a necessary stick was missing for the takadai. Suggestions flowed, sticks were tried and found wanting, hands were rung. Undaunted, Julie improvised: she went up to the Chinese restaurant in town and brought back some chopsticks, which she filed down to size in a pencil sharpener, and was in business.

Susanne worked on a Navajo rug, in very fine wool. Each shot beat down to almost nothing, but the finished fabric is exquisite:

VC Susanne

Here is Susanne, modeling a Nuno felt top made by Lisa:

VC Susanne's top

Sue brought some wool to dye:

VC Sue's wool

The roving was the purple color still visible. It's not a good color for her, so we overdyed it with reds and golds, to get an Autumn blend of colors, which I think will be just stunning in a blanket or big cozy sweater.

Ginger worked on a man's sweater for the Winter issue of Knitters. Most of the body was done, so she finished it and knit the sleeves. Here is Sharon, taking a picture of Ginger holding up the sweater, which will also be part of a presentation on designing at an upcoming Stitches :

VC Sharon and Ginger

Ginger goes off again to teach this week at Asilomar, a busy knitter!

There were books to read, peanut brittle to eat, wine to consume and dinner prepared for us every night. Is that heaven? There was always more food than a sensible person should eat, but who said anything about being sensible?

VC brittle

There was help when you needed it:

VC Sue warping

Lindsey and Susanne worked with Sue to put her warp on the loom. And then she wove it off:

VC Sue weaving

A natural colored cotton table runner, on her brand new (second project) rigid heddle loom.

Sharon has more pictures on her blog here. I have no photos of Allison, or Nancy, or Eileen, Gloria, Nisha or Linda. Blame the photographer, I was apparently lazy. Or busy?

It was a grand week. We all want to do it again. It is not easy to describe the feeling and energy of 17 women, quietly working on their own projects, sometimes not so quietly, for days on end. No worries about time or driving, or what to wear or what to eat, no phones (well, OK, some cell phones), no interruptions except a few curious tourists (the building is open to the public during the day). Some moments cannot be adequately described; impromptu conversations while spinning, a late night exchange in the studio, morning coffee, tea and knitting, a few quiet moments with someone, unexpected but precious.

It was like a dream: working separately and together, far away from the hustle of daily life, in a golden light, where there is no time.


Blogger dragon knitter said...

all i can say is "wow."

12:07 PM  
Blogger Aubrey said...

May I come next year? (Would you accept an interloper from Oklahoma???) It sounds so marvelous...

Hugs, Aubrey

12:25 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Sigh - you make it sound so wonderful. Oh wait! It was and even better, there's next year :^) I keep remembering the laughter - there was so much of it, and all the storytelling... Yet so much "work" was accomplished.

1:38 PM  
Blogger Deanna said...


Thank you for sharing that lovely sense of all-time in no-time.

6:14 PM  
Blogger Jackie said...

Sounds like heaven to me!

4:32 AM  
Blogger Marcy said...


5:32 AM  
Blogger Angi said...

So much fun!!!!

Sara, I'm a beginning Inkle loom weaver. I used your tutorial for my first ribbon bag. I'm intrigued with your Kutij. I've been reading about pick up techniques and think I'm ready. The only thing I can't figure out from your post is the threading. I read your paragraph of explanation from 8/4/06, but I only know how to thread my loom with one of those charts. Is there one out there someplace you can point me to?

10:18 PM  

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