Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Joy of Gay Knitting

For over 10 years now, I've been denying that the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat is a gay event, but truth be's pretty gay...and it's pretty joyous.

Correcting the Record

There was an amazing amount of joy generated at the most recent Men's Spring Knitting Retreat.  There were 41 guys at the retreat, with the vast majority of them identifying as gay.

To be honest, when most of us find out about a man who knits, our first assumption is that he is gay.

Don't get me wrong...straight and bi guys are allowed to attend the fact, they're quite welcome.  And we never "out" the straight guys at my retreat.  They're welcome to pass as gay if they prefer.

And also know that it takes a lot of balls to knit when you're a straight man...and even more so to attend an event where you're a minority.

But honestly, a big part of the appeal of the community at the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat is meeting up with other guys who are already a minority because of their chosen craft/art/hobby.  It's an amazing experience to sit down with a group of guys without having to worry about how onlookers will fawning, no disdain, no being ignored...just encouragement, support and learning.

I know there are some knitter-men (and some knitter-men's wives) who find the idea of a mostly gay event to be off-putting (or worse).  Trust me, I have received some pretty hatefully, ignorant e-mails asking why our events are "so gay."  But truth be told, some of the most courageous guys who attend the men's knitting retreats are the ones that attend with the understanding that we're all a minority in general society and can relax in the confidence that they know who they are and attending a retreat isn't going to change who they are.

So if you'd like to go back through the photos of the guys at the retreat this year and try and pick out the straight ones, I'd tell you that it's not worth the effort.  But at least in my eyes, they get kudos for their confidence, understanding and courage.

Drag Photo

The photo above was taken of me during the latest Men's Spring Knitting Retreat.  I had been pondering aloud to some of the participants what would happen to the retreat if I decided to transition to being a woman (because I would no longer be allowed to attend, never mind coordinate the event).  Shortly after that conversation, there was a lull in activity at the retreat (a large group of guys had gone to a local sheep farm for yarn purchase and a dyeing workshop), so I decided to check out the "drag closet" at Easton Mountain (named "The Candy Store" - Candy is the closet creator's drag name).  It was chock-full of wigs, dresses, shoes, make-up, jewelry, and other accessories, and I decided to see what it would be like.

Funny I was walking upstairs into the main room, one of the retreat participants saw me walking up the stairs (in heels) and politely acknowledged me, clearly trying to look as non-plussed as possible so he didn't offend the ugly drag queen.  I laughed at his reaction, and only then did he recognize it was me.  It was an amusing half hour of my life and I have to say, wearing a wig, wearing stockings, walking in heels, and sitting in a short dress without flashing others are all enormously uncomfortable.  Dressing in drag is not all glamour...let me tell you.

Guys looking at the photo on my phone of me dressed up (safely back in my Hot Dog Johnnies t-shirt)

Current Knitting

I ended up purchasing some of the handpainted yarns that Michael Ross dyed at the tag sale at the retreat and thought they would make awesome baby booties.

I was  These beauties will adorn a baby blanket gift for one of my nieces who is expecting.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

MSKR 2018 - Final Post - The Men

Yes, the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat is held in a beautiful place each year.  Yes, we have amazing fiber-talent willing to donate their time and expertise to lead workshops.  But what really makes the event amazing...

The Men

Photos don't do this group of guys justice since they don't convey the support, the enthusiasm and the passion that our group displays...but they're the best I can do.  At least the photos will remind the participants about how awesome it was.

Chris, Dave and Steven

Matt and Veryl
Jack and Jack

John, Sam and Greg

Joe, Colin and Sam
Greg, Steve and Franz-Josef

Mac and Franklin

Mac and John
Steve and his Sockmatician Scarf

Kirk Greg and Mac

John, Chet, Steve and Franz-Josef

Brady, Bob, Steve, Jim and Kirk

Bob, Steve, Kirk, Franklin, John, Rob, John and Tom

Brady, John, Bob, Chris, Aaron, Rob, John and Tom

Bill and Minh

Sun Deck Knitting
As I fondly look back through all my photos, I'll look forward to seeing what the September East Coast Retreat at Easton Mountain will be like and get exciting about being in on the ground floor of what might be the new "most awesome."

Current Knitting

I worked diligently over the holiday weekend to finish The Brethren Sock (which was designed for one of the Men's Knitting Retreats).

I couldn't be more pleased with how they turned out.  Late-night knitting and watching television required me to rip back to fix an error in one of the cabling rows, but the rhythm of this design got more and more comfortable as I progressed.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Growing Pains - Men's Knitting Retreats

With the somewhat informal beginnings of the Men's Knitting Retreat, we've run into some growing pains as the retreats expand and get more popular.

Just Knitting?

Initially, Ted and I never expected these events to be anything really significant. Now that some of the more well-established retreats sell out quickly, we've been trying to expand the number of retreats so we can accommodate as many guys as we can.

We also just got a question from a MMK (mostly machine knitter) if the retreats were just for HK (hand knitters).

First of all the retreats are definitely not just for hand fact, despite their name, they're not even just for knitters at all.  The retreats are open to knitters, crocheters, weavers, spinners, tatters and any other fiber enthusiasts.  In fact, we've even had the random non-fiber guy attend a retreat.  I'm not sure what URL domain name I would have chosen to encompass all that we are, but I would have tried to choose a web site name that didn't restrict the notion to knitting.

As an example, here is the list of workshops that guys at the retreat this year offered to the attendees:

  • Introduction to Weaving - Rigid Heddle Weaving with Dave Sledesky
  • Embellished Knitting with Charles Gandy
  • Fleece to Yarn: Hands On with John Crane
  • Intro to Circular Sock Knitting Machines with Joe Wilcox
  • Indigo Dyeing Workshop at Foster's Sheep Farm/Store with Dave Sledesky and Carole Foster
  • Become a Hooker with Bruce Glassford
  • Double-Knitting In-the-Round with Lars Rains
  • Getting Off with Casting On with Kirk Hochstetler

So, as you can see, we're much more diverse than just knitting...any good suggestions for changing our branding at this point?

Here are some photos of the various workshops:

Fleece to Yarn display

Cast Ons

Circular Sock Knitting Machine Demo


Double-Knitting In-The-Round

Weaving and Weavers
Indigo Dyeing and Shoppers

Current Knitting

I finished knitting the remainder of the first Brethren Sock and made quite a bit of progress on the complex section of the second sock.

Reading Mill's words and taking his direction on how to move stitches along my needles has been comforting in so many ways.  One small part of the legacy he left us with.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

What Makes a Retreat Successful?

This was my 11th year producing the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat and I'm still pretty certain I don't know why they are so successful.

Components of a Retreat

We start off with a wine and hors d'oeuvres reception for the guys.  We started this last year for out 10th anniversary and it was so popular, we decided to continue it.

We also have workshops volunteer-led by the participants.

We have good food and a beautiful location and we usually have a road trip to a local farm or fiber producers.

There is a tag sale table and project bags with some fiber-related give-aways.

I could go on...but honestly, the sum of it all doesn't add up to the whole of it.

So here are some photos of the initial reception.  You tell me if you see anything extraordinary that I've missed in my inventory.

Current Knitting

I went back to The Brethren Sock project I had started before the retreat.

This project required way more attention than I could have allotted at the retreat, although a couple of guys had this as one of the projects they worked on whilst there.  And to be honest, the foot section of the sock is a LOT easier to keep track of.