Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New Friends are Sheeper Than Therapy

I had the great good fortune of spending last weekend as the featured teacher at the annual retreat of the Sheeper Than Therapy Guild of Fresno, California. Let me tell you about it.

The retreat was held at St. Anthony’s Retreat Center, in the Sierra Foothills just outside Sequoia National Park. We arrived for lunch on Friday, then headed into the town of Three Rivers for some yarn shopping. The guild provided each attendee with a $25 gift certificate for Creekside Yarns, a lovely yarn shop with a beautifully chosen collection of fibery delights.

See the stars hanging from the ceiling? The shop had arranged a special sale just for us. After choosing what we wanted to buy, we were invited to pull down a star. Each opened to reveal our discount percentage, ranging from 20-100%! Many skeins of yarn found new homes that afternoon.

When we’d had all the shopping we could handle, the group congregated on the patio at the retreat center to knit, chat, and enjoy the autumn sunshine. While an early winter storm was bearing down on the East Coast, Central California was enjoying 75°, clear skies and a light breeze. No, I’m not gloating.

After dinner, we moved into our meeting room for a class on Mastering Gauge. Then it was on to a spirited round of Last Knitter Standing. Have you played this game? It is a whole new way to have fun with needles and yarn. We had three different tables going at once, and it got pretty rowdy.

Later that evening, we retired to the lounge for wine and conversation.

The most unexpected treat of the weekend happened Friday night. The night was clear, there was very little moon, and the sky was thick with stars. The priest at St. Anthony’s is a knowledgeable amateur astronomer. (I didn’t write down his name – let’s call him Father Gallileo). Father Gallileo set up his telescope and invited all who were interested to join him for some stargazing. He showed us Jupiter’s moons, and the Andromeda Galaxy and the Pleiades. Father Gallileo spoke with great passion of supernovas and star clusters, recent discoveries about the movement of our own solar system within the galaxy, and the fact that we, like all we could see through his telescope, are made of stardust. It was impossible to resist being drawn into his sense of wonder and awe.

Contrails at sunset

Saturday morning began with a session on Essential Chart Reading Skills, then we jumped into Making Your Dream Shawl. The students had selected a pattern from a list I provided in advance. About half the class had chosen Summer Flies. Many had bought their yarn the day before at Creekside. A few had already started, but most waited until the retreat to cast on.

About halfway through the morning, Gisele pulled a crumpled mass out of her bag and asked “how do I block this?” It was a completed Haruni knit in a blend of merino and cashmere. We had a sink in the classroom, and her roommate had bought blocking wires the day before. We scrounged loads of pins from the other students and did an impromptu blocking demo right on the floor of the classroom. By dinnertime, her spectacular shawl was dry and ready to wear.

Saturday evening was time for more wine and the “Dirty Witch” gift exchange. I managed to score a Namaste circular needle case (which I can really use – the case I’ve been using is about the give up the ghost).

Now, it’s not every retreat that includes an after-hours party, but this one did. When sensible people went to bed, the rest of us gathered our wine and moved to Sheila’s room. Fortunately, what happens at St. Anthony’s stays at St. Anthony’s, and there are no photos which might be used as evidence at a later date.

Sunday morning was all about making progress on our shawls. I sorted out pattern issues, picked up dropped stitches, found errant yarn overs and generally tried to make myself useful. After lunch, we went our separate ways.

This was one of those weekends where I was reminded of how very fortunate I am to make my living among knitters. Thank you, ladies! I had a great time.


  1. Well, what a thrill! I was catching up on reading my favorite knitting blogs and came across your story of Sheeper than Therapy.

    I wandered into my LYS, Creekside Yarns, on the very Friday afternoon that all you all were there. I thought I had been dropped into the wrong store because I've seen it busy before, but never outright crowded! What a thrill - as soon as I resolved my own knitting question, I went to work winding up balls of yarn.

    Thank you so much for writing about your time. The retreat sounded like a great way to spend a weekend! And, the priest is Father John, a very accomplished oil painter and much loved member of our little community.

  2. Thank you for your note. I'm so glad you filled in Father John's name. I was not aware he was a painter - it would have been nice to see some of his work.
    The Sheeper Than Therapy group were loads of fun, and we had a great weekend. I believe they are planning to return to St Anthony's next year, and you need not be a member of their guild to attend the retreat.

  3. Do you think I might be allowed to drop in for an afternoon?

  4. It couldn't hurt to ask - I suspect it will depend on overall registration and classroom size, but it is certainly worth an e-mail.