History Unwound, the first

Earlier this month, I spent a weekend across the continent in Colonial Williamsburg, VA, for the very first History Unwound retreat. History and textiles? Definitely up my alley! It was an amazing weekend from start to finish. (Super long post, but worth it.)

It began with check in, and an incredible goodie bag.

history unwound goodie bag

I had an hour to make a quick zip through Colonial Williamsburg, so I went to see the textiles in the museum. They were having a special hour where you could look in the drawers at the textiles not usually on display. The sampler collection was in this room.

colonial sampler

I asked if they had any knitting, but alas, no. Lots of samplers and quilts. But lo and behold, look what I found in one of the drawers? Probably the only knitting in the museum! (The lights are kept very low in this room; sorry for the dark pictures.)

needlework sampler book

This is in a needlework sampler book from Ireland. Let’s look a little closer:

knitted lace edgingsSome knitted lace edgings, and a tiny baby bootie made for a china doll.

needlework sampler bookA tiny hat sample, and some double knitting and elastic knitting (ribbing). Cool!

Then it was time to head back for the opening dinner and lecture with Franklin Habit. His lecture was titled “B is for Purl: A Brief History of the Knitting Pattern.” Really interesting. Apparently knitting patterns as we know them didn’t really exist before the 1800’s. The talk was so engaging, I swapped my Saturday afternoon class. More on that later.

On Saturday my day started with brunch with Anna Zilboorg. I think more people had signed up than actually came, so it ended up like this.

breakfast with Anna Zilboorg

Sweet deal! She talked about the history of Women’s Work, and making the necessary beautiful.

My morning class was with Franklin Habit: History, Methods and Styles of Lace Knitting. He gave us a knitting tour of Russia, the Shetland Islands, and Estonia, and had many gorgeous samples, including this Estonian beauty.

Estonian Lace Shawl

We knit samplers while we listened. My first nupps! Not scary at all.

my first nupps

Rohn Strong talked about the role of knitting in the Civil War during a brown bag lunch. Good history, good knitting!

I was supposed to learn Double Knitting with Annie Modesitt in the afternoon, but I was so intrigued by Franklin’s presentation the night before, I asked if I could transfer to his Working with Antique and Vintage Knitting Patterns class. Yes! And it was great. Part lecture, part hands on, all perfect. There were only 7 students in class, and we worked in teams to try to figure out how several objects were made. This was my team’s puzzle:

pence jug

pence jug bottom

I won’t tell you where it starts and ends, in case you take this class yourself. But if you want to make this treasure from 1843, you can find instructions here. Franklin writes a column, Stitches in Time, for Knitty.com, and all the samples he brought have been in Knitty. I went back and read them all. He’s good!

The other class project was a mystery knit. We translated the instructions from 1870’s format to modern day, and knit. It turned out to be something recognizable, thankfully. No picture, so you can take this class and be surprised. I have an idea to make something with this little thing; we’ll see if it happens.

After class there was a lecture on Balkan socks by Donna Druchunas. (The fun never stops! So much activity. So much to learn!)

Balkan socks Donna Druchunas

She had a lot of samples, which we passed around the room. Look at the toe on this one!

toe detail balkan sock

Then it was time for the pizza and pajama party. I was too tired to go back to my room for pj’s, so I just winged it. That’s a lot of activity (six events) in one day after flying a red-eye the day before. And there was more to come on Sunday.

I started Sunday morning in a class with Anna Zilboorg, Embroidery Enhanced Sweaters. So much beauty in this pile. These are in her upcoming book, Splendid Apparel. We’ll be receiving copies of the book as a treat from History Unwound. Looking forward to it!

Anna Zilboorg sweaters

Embroidery can make already beautiful textures really sing.

Anna Zilboorg embroidered sweater

Anna Zilboorg embroidered sweater

Here’s my sampler:

knit embroidery sampler

I’m looking forward to embellishing some knits, but don’t know that I will be able to put it into design work. It would be a lot to explain…we’ll see.

After class was a brunch where Anna talked about Socks Throughout History. And in the afternoon I attended Franklin’s lecture, Impractical Oddities and Curiosities of Weldon’s Practical Needlework. Franklin is a wonderful lecturer and teacher, the best I’ve encountered. And I’ve taken a LOT of classes. Go see him if you ever have the opportunity. I took his photography class at Sock Summit II, and was very impressed. I took a class with Anna Zilboorg at a Stitches event in the 1990’s, and she changed my color knitting life. For these two teachers alone, I took this cross country jaunt. Everything else was a bonus.

But wait! It wasn’t over yet. Donna Druchunas gave the final closing lecture. She shared her collection of Lithuanian mittens. These are just a few.

Lithuanian Mittens

What a weekend! On top of that, I met friends old and new in person.

vtknitboy chris and pdxknitteratiChris

fibretown emilyEmily

Donna Druchunas and nekomichDonna and Mich


franklin habit pdxknitteratiFranklin

anna zilboorg pdxknitteratiAnna

And I won a boatload of door prizes, too.

Lion Yarn Book
Lion Brand Collection Silk Mohair, very similar to Kidsilk Haze. Yum. And this reprint of the 1916 Lion Yarn Book. Now I have vintage patterns to decipher, too. And I know how.

door prizeMore yarn, and doily patterns.

Ken McNeill art

Ken McNeill art

Original artwork from Ken McNeill. He was at the market, and was both talented and charming. Oh, I didn’t mention there was a market? Carefully curated, and full of temptation. I held myself to this pretty single ply fingering yarn from Knit Wits. It’s Periwinkle Sheep, color Stones Dancing in the Fog.

stones dancing in the fog

Also from Knit Wits, screw on buttons from Jul Designs. I’m thinking of using them for shawl pins, but I don’t know yet.

Jul button

A lot of activity packed into one weekend! History Unwound was developed by Kimberly and Christopher Villareal. It was delightful, if not restful. I loved every moment, and would do it again. Have I made you want to go on retreat? Or did I just make you tired? I’m guessing a little of both!

16 responses to “History Unwound, the first

  1. I want to go! And I love that sheep painting!!!

    • Next time, you should! The sheep painting is cool. Ken had some very lovely ones at the market. And when I was looking for his website, I noticed that one of his paintings was the catalog cover for Maryland Sheep and Wool last year. Nice!


  2. That all sounds amazing. I love reading Franklin’s blog and Knitty column, and definitely hope to have the opportunity to encounter him in the person sometime. He’s just so damn entertaining.

    And I’m normally not a huge fan of adding embroidery to most knits, but that thing you’re holding in the photo with Anna (which I assume is the same as one of the close-up shots up above) is really beautiful. Do you know if that will be in the book, or if the pattern is already available elsewhere?

    • I’m pretty sure that vest is in the book, but I don’t have the book yet to check. It’s not on Ravelry either, so I’m pretty sure it must be in the upcoming book.

      One interesting thing that Anna mentioned is that she knits for a bit, then embroiders, and then goes back to knitting. The two complement each other, and then you don’t have all of one or the other to do all at once. You can see if you like it before committing to the whole thing!


  3. Wow!!! What a weekend. Thanks for sharing

  4. It was great meeting you, Michele! Glad you like the painting and print. Thanks very much for the mention.

    • And the coffee mug full of chocolates! When I went looking for your web site so I could put a link in my post, I saw that your beautiful art was featured on the cover of the 2014 Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival catalog. Very nice. It was a pleasure to meet you!


  5. Leslie Fischgrund

    Beautiful way to relive the weekend, and it was nice to meet you.

  6. Hello.. I just found your blog.. I am a blogger that lives in Corbett, Oregon and knits and crochets.. nice to find you! Teresa 🙂

  7. This was a super report and yes! I want to go. I had my first class with Franklin at Madrona. I agree, of the zillions of knitting teachers I’ve known, he is top notch.

    • I had two reasons for not initially signing up for Franklin’s antique & vintage patterns class: I didn’t think I’d use the info, and I didn’t want the weekend to be all Franklin, all the time. But he did such a good job selling it at his opening lecture, when he said there was room in the class I had to transfer! Now I’m looking forward to deciphering my Mary Thomas Book of Knitting Patterns, and I have an idea for a cute little project because of the class. Useful!


  8. She is absolutely right. Great retreat especially for the first one. Teachers, classes, lectures and vendors were all fantastic. Tried to sign up for next year before we left. We will be back.

  9. What an awesome time! This is my kind of weekend of jam packed knitting! I think I might take a couple of my fiber friends to come on such a retreat. Thanks for sharing but not sharing lol the fun classes!!

  10. I really really wanted to go this year, but I had family commitments (a HS senior in his final Collage Concert, among other things). Next year!

  11. Looks like a great way to spend a weekend. 🙂

  12. I didn’t hear about this event until I saw people posting that they were attending. It sounds fabulous! I’ll have to go next time.