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.
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.
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.)
This is in a needlework sampler book from Ireland. Let’s look a little closer:
Some knitted lace edgings, and a tiny baby bootie made for a china doll.
A 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.
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.
We knit samplers while we listened. My first nupps! Not scary at all.
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:
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!)
She had a lot of samples, which we passed around the room. Look at the toe on this one!
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!
Embroidery can make already beautiful textures really sing.
Here’s my 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.
What a weekend! On top of that, I met friends old and new in person.
Donna and Mich
And I won a boatload of door prizes, too.
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.
More yarn, and doily patterns.
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.
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.
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!