Y'all. I have been looking forward to this event since before I even got in! Yes, there's limited space available each year, and I have to admit that that's one of the reasons I loved it as much as I did. It's set in the beautiful Tennessee countryside on Lake Francis with simple cabins (but with bathrooms!), a cozy cafeteria, and LOTS of porch spaces for knitting, crocheting, spinning, and chatting. But there's also time and space to get away here and there, which is really great for those of us who get to feeling that overwhelm every now and again and just need to, as Dana (our fearless leader) put it, go "introvert" for a bit!
The schedule for the event is loosely packed with various fiber (and other things) swaps, a few classes, some just for fun events, and, of course, some (pretty awesome) door prizes. I was delighted to be teaching an Intro to Crochet class, but I was also excited about taking a couple classes myself, including Chair Yoga, and Spinning!
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Let's start at the beginning of this trip. On Wednesday morning, I got up and took the kid to preschool just like normal. Then I went back home and loaded up the car. Around 11:30, I went and picked him up because I was being all nervous nelly about leaving him for FIVE NIGHTS. The longest I'd been away from him before was two nights. He took it pretty well, though, and I knew he was in good hands with Grammy (my husband's mother) until I returned.
The drive the first day was long. About seven hours. But I played some loud music, sang my little heart out, and admired the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains as I drove westward. Watching the sun set over Tennessee was so inspiring that when I got to my room for the night, instead of going out to get a bite to eat, I pulled out my notebook and started feverishly sketching and making notes for a new design idea. I haven't started it yet, but I DO think I've found the yarn...
The rest of the night and the next morning was filled with peace and creativity. It was absolutely soul replenishing. In fact, I probably could have stayed right there for the next four days!
But then I wouldn't have met all the wonderful people at Into the Wool!
So I packed up again and hit the road for a short couple hours to Lake Francis and check in. Which was thwarted when I realized I'd forgotten a towel and had to head back into town to get one. But checked in I got and then it was on to the cabins to settle in!
I was staying in the Oak Cabin along with three other gals, only one of whom I'd previously met in person. We did get to visit a bit via email beforehand, though, and I even did a snail mail exchange with one of them - she knit me socks and I crocheted her a cowl! I still feel like I tricked her for some reason...
The welcome goody bag was pretty outstanding. It included yarn samples, stitch markers, bags, notions, coupons, a cup - I mean, just LOOK at this haul!
Sponsors included coordinators Dana of Unwind Yarn Company and Tiffany of The Project Bag, as well as Arkansas Yarn Company, Katrinkles, Daizie Knits, Leon Alexander Yarns, Miss Babs Yarns, and more - follow the link on the picture to my original Instagram post where I tagged as many as I could!
Day 2 was class day for me. I taught my biggest crochet class to date (ten students) and it went astonishingly well! Everyone seemed to pick it up and run with it despite previous difficulties and/or never having crocheted before. I brought some small swatches ready for them to pick up and dive right in with the single crochet and it seemed to work really well doing it that way. The class was only scheduled for an hour so I wanted to maximize the time as much as I could! We DID end up going over, but there wasn't another class scheduled immediately after ours, so that was nice. We covered all four basic stitches, too! It was a whirlwind of a class and unfortunately, I failed to take any pictures, but I'm telling you, there was some good classroom juju down in that Canteen!
My other class that day was also in the Canteen, but I got to be the student that time! Y'all. I learned to spin! Like, actual yarn. From fiber. Fluff. The stuff that you felt with. That pulls apart in your hands. It was pretty cool. Take a look:
BUT THAT WASN'T ALL.
I wanted to try a little bit more and well, they had the Iron Spinner Challenge going on... So I went to Tiffany (the other coordinator) with my mini skein of handspun and said, "Look, I made some yarn! Can I try?" So I got my Shampoo Accident fluff, dyed by Dana, and went to work!
It was really neat to see all the variations in the same fiber spun by different people! AND I was even able to deliberately make a Z twist yarn, which is better suited to crocheting! I still need to wash it and thwack it and whatever else you do with handspun before using it, and, of course, I have to come up with something TO do with it. But I'm sure I will! Maybe just the edging on a cowl or something since it's not very much, but I will certainly be commemorating the occasion one way or another!
Speaking of which, did I mention the market? No? Well. There's a market!
It's exclusive to the event and was only open for a collective three hours or so, which allowed the vendors the opportunity to mix and mingle and take classes just like everyone else! I think that's one of my favorite aspects of this event. The vendors might be there to sell their yarn and bags, but they're also there to just BE! To knit or crochet or spin. To just hang out and chat. To just be with their tribe. And I think that's pretty awesome. So many other events have all day markets that don't allow the vendors the opportunity to otherwise participate. It also creates some urgency for us to get in there and get our shopping done!
So when I walked through those gym doors it was with PURPOSE. I wish I had a picture of the market to show you, but I didn't think to take one. I DID, however, take a picture of what I purchased:
I bought two skeins of sock yarn (merino and nylon, slightly varying compositions) from each of the seven yarn vendors. My intention? A commemorative blanket!
Here's a list of what I chose:
V Yarn Hawk Fingering in Shores of the Lagoon
V Yarn Scops in Kalanchoe Tomentosa
Icemelon’s Stash Desmos Sock in Family Don’t End in Blood
BlueberryChickYarn Kiawah Fingering in Chestnut
Unwind Yarn Company Journey Sock in Merry Fallmas
Savvy Skeins Sensible Sock in Oxidation
Holly and Ivy Dyeworks Ivy Sock in Golden Autumn
And HERE is my preliminary layout!
I plan to do a marled Fibonacci fade in the same style as my Sweet Carolina Shawl, releasing soon. I *might* write up the blanket pattern, too. We'll see. But I'm pretty excited about it! I didn't originally intend for it to be a color fade, but I kind of love it now that I've juggled the colors around into this order.
I also really loved having a little bit of down time. I mean, I got to sit on the water and crochet.
I also got to sit on the beach and spin! No picture of that one, but that was fun, too.
But the funnest picture of all for me to share with you is this one!
It's an Into the Wool Critter! I made it for my son with yarn samples from our welcome bag plus stuffing, buttons for eyes, and fiber (that I also spun!) from the free-to-a-good-home table. Isn't he cute!? I just did random stripes and blocks of color in single crochet until it looked like a long enough rectangle for me to fold in half and sew up the sides. Arms and legs were just amigurumi tubes of six single crochet stitches with little "feet" balls on the end of each leg made with a round of increases. My husband says he looks like Towelie of South Park fame... Oops!
My last photo for you is the reason I even knew about this retreat. I am so glad to have gotten to spend some time with my friend Karen of Round Table Yarns. She was a wonderful roommate, crochet student, knitting teacher, spinning enabler, cafeteria date, and more! <3
I really hope to be able to do this again sometime. Taking time to just BE with other fiber enthusiasts was so fulfilling. It was a LOT in just a few days, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat - even with the downpour of rain that came on our last day as we were packing up our cars! I met so many wonderful new people, did some fun new things, and feel like I grew as a fiber artist and as a person from the experience. Until next year, ITW!
Oh, and I can't forget the more shareable souvenirs! ;) Stonehaus Winery is in the town near Lake Francis and their Orange Squeeze is like adult koolaid, ha ha. Very shareable! I also picked up some Tennessee Bourbon called Canebrake for my darling husband from the Tennessee Legend Distillery in Sevierville.
Oh!!! I almost forgot! THIS is the last picture: NICU hats.
I knit these nine, but they collected an incredible 700 hats from the less than 100 attendees. Isn't that amazing!? SEVEN HUNDRED, y'all! <3 <3 <3