the retreat paradigm....Slow Stitching

This post has been long coming. I took over a thousand images from the four days we spent up at Medomak camp in August during the Slow Stitching retreat. For some unexplained reason when I downloaded those images, Lightroom decided to duplicate them.... sigh. Editing was more than a little slower than I had anticipated. Umm Freudian slip....? Perhaps it was the universe's way of telling me to take my time with those pictures. Editing them was so bittersweet. It was delightful to be transported back to those lazy, creative days, but it gave me a pang of sadness that I won't be there again until next Summer. But be there, we will! I have already secured dates with Camp for next August. Chawne is on board. More details are being ironed out, so I will be leaving you hanging there for right now.

I am also hard at work planning other retreats for 2016. There are some names I can drop, noisily, who are committed to coming to Maine. Those names include: Jen Beeman; Jaime Jennings & Amber Corcoran from Fancy Tiger; Chawne Kimber (natch); and Heather Jones.  There are others with whom I am having feverish email exchanges about dates, and timing, and schedules. At the moment I will keep those names to myself, both to create suspense, and to protect the innocent.... But seriously, I had such a good time both planning and executing these retreats that I see many more of them in the future of A Gathering of Stitches. So if you want to join us, sign up for my email list on the bottom of the home page. I am hoping to announce the full line-up at the beginning of the year, sometime in January, when we all need a pick-me-up from the Winter blahs. I will delay the actual registrations for about a month so you can all have a chance to think about your schedules, look at your budgets, talk to your partners, and decide what works for you at a leisurely pace. Actual registration will probably happen around the beginning of February. I don't know about you, but I like having some time to think about big commitments like this, before whipping out the credit card....

Slow Stitching.  Deep breath.  Good grief, that was a fun weekend! Honestly, I don't know what it was about the combination of teachers, the location, and the time of year, but it made for a particularly delightful group of people.  Was it the description?  For those who are unfamiliar with the format, the long weekend unfolded at a former summer camp in Washington, ME, in early August. Chawne Kimber drove up from Pennsylvania and Carolyn Friedlander flew in from Florida. The group was small, just twelve people, but so blissfully cohesive. I broke them down into two groups, aptly named the Pinecones and the Chickadees, a conceit that was much more popular than I had anticipated. Each group spent a full day with Chawne and Carolyn, and then I did a little Boro demonstration on the last morning. There had been a third teacher booked for this retreat who had had to back out about a month out.  The lovely Rebecca Ringquist is expecting her first child this Fall and was moving across the country, somewhat unexpectedly, and so was unable to fit our Slow Stitching into her calendar. I was so disappointed, but those kinds of life events take precedence, always. We missed her, but we did not suffer from a lack of creative making!  

Chawne, teaching quilting for the first time (which kinda baffles me, why no one had invited her before, but whatever), led the stitchers through the ideas and techniques around stitching small. #gosmallorgohome!  I have been following Chawne on Instagram for a while, and even stalked her when she came to Boston about a year ago, getting a chance to spend an afternoon at Gather Here. I find her work expansive, evocative, and utterly mesmerizing. This opinion was formed primarily from screen view. That was until I saw her work at Quilt Festival last October, and then at QuiltCon in February. I'm pretty sure I stood in front of her In Hogtown quilt, for American Made Brand, for 15 solid minutes, and then circled back around to it, over and over, during Quilt Festival. I don't want to gush too much, I'll just embarrass her, but Chawne is an artist, and now, knowing her as I do, I feel honored to be able to work with her. 

Seeing Chawne's quilts in person, being able to touch them, to handle them, was a whole other level of amazing. All you had to do was look at the expressions of everyone's faces during the weekend, to see how much of an impact they made. She is such a good teacher, calm, even keeled, encouraging, wry, with just a touch of snarky. And I was mostly just observing, and taking pictures. The barn where she set-up, with it's raw wood and high ceiling, was transformed into a creative hive. This is what I am coming to learn can be so special about a retreat. If you find a supportive location, equip it properly, and set a creative group loose, magic happens!  That barn was kinda like the best late-night pizza party in your college dorm. Or the Arts & Crafts tent/cabin at Summer camp.  The only thing anyone had to worry about was which piece of fabric to play with next. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were taken care of.  Everyone's cabin was a short walk away, though the woods, and all the distractions of the outside world, and daily life, were put aside for a few days. Magical. Well, I thought so, but others have also told me...

 

While Chawne was rocking the barn, Carolyn's quiet energy, with the morning sunlight streaming through the windows, offered the sweet meditation of thread pulling slowly through fabric. If I could have created an image of a Slow Stitching retreat, it wouldn't have been any more perfect that the table full of stitchers, calmly, yet excitedly, bending over their seam allowance, with their needles tucking the fabric into the most lovely appliquéd shapes.  Sigh.  I get chills just thinking about it.... I first met Carolyn at Quilt Market in the Spring of '14, when I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of her book, Savor Each Stitch, and have her sign it for me.  Since then, each Market I am excited to see what beauty comes out of that woman's hands and gets built into her booth. Her fabric hits such a strong chord with me, I want to surround myself with it. Until I read her book, I was unaware of the practice of needle-turn appliqué. Perhaps it is the knitter in me, but when the expansive world of hand stitching was opened up to me, I fell, hard, down that rabbit hole. you mean I can take my sewing with me, the way I take my knitting? Yes, Please!!! If I am having a bad day, literally just thinking about stitching, turning under that seam allowance to the basting and taking those tiny, invisible stitches, can calm me down. Like many practitioners of the hand crafts, it is all about the tactile experience. I find it such a balm for the modern condition, it is the anti-cell phone experience. It appears that I am not the only one. Medomak has this fabulous (!) porch with a full array of rocking chairs, that we spent a lot of time on during that weekend. I would like to be back there right now. To be able to just live for a few days, with no cares or worries, to allow the concern for the external world to drift away and be replaced by the gentle rock of the chair, the soothing feeling of thread and fabric? Yeah, that was pretty magical. I don't know about you, but my daily life doesn't always go that smoothly, I mean I run my own business, you know?  So to be able to just let it all go, to trust in the moment and allow myself to slow down enough to hear what's thrumming in my heart.....?  Ok, I'll stop waxing poetic now. When the snow flies and the days are short, cold, and dark, I will re-visit these images and find that sweet spot again, even for just a moment.

Part of me wants to describe this weekend in intimate detail. So as to demonstrate how special it really was. But then most of me wants to hold it to myself, and to the wonderful group that was there, for our own, as a discreet moment when we were all very happy, very involved, very present. And very creative! Both with fabric, but also with ourselves, and with the clutch of humanity that we were at that moment. I am coming to see how important these retreats are. What a balm for the modern soul this type of escape can be. I know it is not an option for all, and for that I am sorry. But for those who can make it work, I am committed to providing the oasis, the respite, the safe space to unfold those creative wings and just be. Even if for only a few days...

 

 

 

 

I will leave you with a photo of happy people.  Happy people who seized an opportunity to unwind, stitch and connect. Perhaps next year your face can be among this happy gathering....