Last weekend the NSW Knitters' Guild held its biennial knitting camp at Stanwell Tops, just south of Sydney and not quite in Wollongong. It had just the right mix of organisation and informality for participants - which I know is the kind of organisation that takes a great deal of skill, thought, pre-planning and hard work to seem so informal and effortless. Huge kudos to Kris Howard and her team for all they achieved.
So, with the benefit of hindsight, why would I recommend Knit Camp?
1 Top of the list has to be the company of knitters. I'm sure I've written this many times in my blog, but I love being a part of knitting groups because they're so diverse. Such a range of ages, of backgrounds, of jobs, of passions, of interests. This time at Knit Camp we had a kind of trivia quiz about participants. We were given a list of 'hidden qualities' of participants and asked to match them with people we met. Amongst the descriptions were:
* I was the first female commander of a task group (Air Force) in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2008
* I write crime fiction
* My first career was in the film industry as a film camera assistant. I worked on Babe ll, Sirens and The Matrix, amongst others.
* I play the crumhorn.
See what I mean about diversity?
But within that diversity there's the pleasure that comes from sharing an intense interest. As my room-mate Kelly said, where else can you speak knitting without looks of puzzlement? 'Eye of partridge', 'Dutch heel', 'Judy's magic cast-on' - all can be uttered without embarrassment or explanation.
2 Escaping from your daily life. We were blessed by a weekend of sunny Spring weather - warm enough to sit and knit outside, but not yet too hot or humid. My camp experience was periods of intense concentration learning new techniques and skills interspersed with relaxation and chat.
The camp location was perfect. The centre we used is in the hills that rise steeply from the beaches and majestic cliffs of the coast just south of Sydney. It's surrounded by bush land with easy tracks for early morning walks - well, strolls in my case with lots of stops to admire the discreet Spring wildflowers:
3 You can learn so much! I attended a two-day workshop with Teresa Dair on knitted jewellery making. Teresa is very creative with her choice of materials and innovative designs. We worked with all sorts of fabrics and thread - rayon, wire, roughly spun wool, tubes of woollen fabric into which we inserted wool roving. I find it quite difficult to master new physical skills - such as arm knitting! - and I'm not a particularly fast knitter, so I really had to focus and concentrate to finish the six (yes, six) projects within the workshop. Evidence of my hard work was that I actually developed a knitting blister! Sadly, I was so focused I forgot to take photos of the wonderful outcomes produced by the workshop members.
4 Just in case you're feeling yarn deprivation, or yarn envy, you can buy yarn! A number of the retail members of the Knitters' Guild attended and had splendid displays. Maybe fortunately for my pocket, I was so busy with my workshop, and had to spend so much time to make progress on our projects that I had little time to browse or covet. But I did buy some of the unusual Dairing cords and threads. Lots of bling! I suspect some friends might be receiving knitted jewellery as Christmas gifts this year.
5 You have the opportunity to see the most wonderful knitting. Saturday evening was 'show and tell' with a parade of amazing and beautiful blankets, jackets, shawls, jumpers and accessories. There was colourwork, cables, fine lace, beaded knitting and every combination of knitting and crochet techniques that ingenuity and imagination might produce. I came away with so many ideas and so much to admire - much of it beyond any skill level I could ever hope to produce, but inspirational, nevertheless.
I've enjoyed the mixture of intense focus and relaxation; of fun and expertise. Most of all, I've enjoyed the company of knitters. It goes without saying that I'll be at the next camp in two years time.