and photos by Kathy Wortel
Lucy Neatby, Elizabeth
Fallone, Beth Allat [in chairs].
Emma Penny in foreground.
seen them advertised in the back of knitting
magazines. Ads for "knitting camps", usually
held at some rustic resort, where well-known
knitting instructors teach classes exploring
techniques that, for the most part, are explained
in books readily available at your local public
what's the draw? Are these camps worth the time
and money we could instead be spending on stash
this question in mind, I recently attended the
5th annual "Gone Stitchin' Weekend", held at
Bayview Wildwood resort on Sparrow Lake near
Orillia, Ontario. This camp is organized by
Karen Dinner, owner of Village
Yarns, Julie Schilthuis, owner of The
Needle Emporium, and Bev Nimon of Kertzer
were approximately 40 of us attending Gone Stitchin.
The camp runs for 2 or 3 days, depending on
what classes you choose. Instructors this year
included Bev Galeskas, owner of Fiber
Neatby, a well-known Canadian knitwear designer,
and author/designer Nancie
Wiseman. I signed up for Option 3 which
included a Friday night arrival, two classes
Saturday and one class Sunday morning. The total
cost of my weekend was $975 Cdn. This included
the classes, as well as accommodation and meals
for me and my husband and daughter, who shared
my room and enjoyed the resort while I was at
class. The cost for a knitter attending on her
own, and willing to share a suite with another
knitter, would have been $600 Cdn.
what do you get for $600? The resort itself
is classic Canadiana: suites with sitting rooms
and fireplaces overlooking a very pretty lake,
muskoka chairs by the water, pretty good meals
and great meeting/classrooms. There were generous
door prizes for every attendee donated by major
yarn companies. I won a 10-pack of Mohair Plus
by Naturally Yarns for participating in the
scavenger hunt, as well as a door prize of a
Jo Sharp scarf kit with pattern book and yarn.
right, Julie Neal in Bev Galeskas'
Felted Clogs class
three classes [Finishing Techniques; Fiber Trends
Felted "Fizz" Mitts; and Lace Making & Charting]
were excellent and the class sizes were small
four to eight knitters.
of what I learned could be found in instruction
books or well-written patterns that companies
like Fiber Trends sell, but like many other
participants, I learn and remember much better
by doing rather than reading. For instance,
by the end of the 3-hour lace class with Bev
Galeskas, I was surprised at just how much I
now understood about lace charting, reading
my lace knitting, and the actual construction
of those scary-looking but beautifully intricate
from the classes, the weekend was very busy
with group meals, a scavenger hunt, fashion
shows and general socializing. The Friday night
fashion show was a huge trunk show with models
wearing the latest designs by Rowan, Naturally
Yarns, Needful Yarns, Mission Falls and others.
Saturday night's student fashion show was a
chance for the attendees to show their work.
There were many accomplished and creative knitters
present, and seeing their artistry was truly
inspiring. It also begged the question: Since
so many of them were obviously very talented
and knowledgeable, what made them think they
needed to attend knitting camp? I asked some
of the knitters attending to describe the bang
they got [or didn't get] for their buck.
Fallone from Barrie, Ontario, brought her mother-in-law
with her for the weekend. "Knitting is
such a solitary pursuit, I came here for the
chance to get together with other knitters,
explore ideas and techniques, be inspired, maybe
try something different."
Lucy Neatby [left] described the weekend as
being "more about the people you meet.
We have a common bond. Knitters are a community.
After a while you start recognizing other knitters
youve met everywhere."
most of the happy campers were from Ontario,
there were also some who traveled from farther
away; several from Quebec, one from Whitehorse
and another from NY state.
asked Julie Neal from Montreal why she and her
friends chose to spend a good chunk of their
yarn dollars traveling to Ontario to attend
this weekend for the past few years.
have a blast on the train together," Julie
said. "And when we get here, this is like
Club Med for me. I have two small kids at home
and this is my chance to get away for three
days, not think about meals, and get inspired
by other knitters techniques and garments.
Its the equivalent of my husband attending
a medical conference and discussing science
for three days. Also, the knitting world is
quite small, and its great to meet and
learn from knitting designers who are very accessible
to us [here]."
friend Beth Allatt used to own a yarn store
in Montreal. "My non-knitting friends don't
understand this obsession," she said. "When
I come here, I'm with others who share the same
passion or obsession. I come for the whole experience."
L to R: Bev Nimon with Bev Galeskas
on her knee, Julie Neal, Julie Schilthuis,
Jane Lowe, Theresa McPherson, Ann de Jong,
In chairs: Lucy Neatby, Michelle Brisebois.
was the weekend worth what we paid? I think
the answer depends on your personal circumstances,
as well as your reasons for attending knitting
camp. A quick look around told me that all the
attendees were women and most were probably
middle-aged, with a sprinkling of 20-somethings
and seniors in the mix. These demographics might
suggest that women with disposable income are
more likely to attend a weekend like this. Then
again, there were also passionate knitters who
live by a strict budget so they can attend camp
each year. Everyone I spoke to emphatically
pointed out that they came as much for the camaraderie
and inspiration as for the classes.
I attend again? I think Ill take it on
a year-by-year basis, and if my bank account
is healthy and there are some courses that interest
me, I would love to hang out with and be inspired
by these knitters again.