Thursday, October 30, 2008
Dateline: Montisi, Tuscany, Italy, 10/4/08 – 10/11/08
The knitting project for the retreat was something of a mystery before I got to Montisi. It's called Canottiera, and it's a modular, wearable art vest. Jill started releasing patterns for the various pieces in June. They are complex designs with intriguing names like Bit of Italy and Farfalle Knot (named after the villa cat Farfalle). We had a basic schematic, but it was difficult to see how the pieces would fit together.
This project pretty much consumed my knitting life for several months, and frankly, I resented it. Most of the pieces had lots of cables and twisted stitches, not my style, and a type of knitting that I don't enjoy. The pieces were difficult, and there were lots of corrections to the patterns, and just when I thought I had caught up, another piece would be released. I also didn't really like the yarn colors I was using; they were not as bright as I usually use. I kept at it, but also kept finding other projects that I really wanted to start (or continue) working on.
When we got to Montisi and started our workshops (which were scheduled for 2 - 4 hours per day, around other activities), the plan for the Canottiera became more clear and I began to enjoy it more. We steamed the pieces and they started to look much nicer. Jill has a magic touch with steaming; she puts the piece on the kitchen counter, saturates it with steam, and uses her hands to get the piece to look perfect. We started to put the pieces together.
We also did some art felting, which I enjoyed very much, to create a yoke for our vest. We used a needle felting tool to attach pencil roving to "magic paper", then wet the piece, put it in the dryer to felt, then poured boiling water on it to get the magic paper to dissolve. I went wild with colors in my needle felting, so that I'm not really sure that the yoke goes well with the rest of the vest.
I didn't get my vest finished in Montisi; I don't think anyone in the group did. I still have several pieces to knit, and a lot of putting together to do. Without impetus from Jill, Susan, and the rest of the group, I fear this could become a UFO, which would be a shame after all the work I've done on it.
Several months before the retreat, Susan and Jill started a blog that participants could contribute to. I really appreciate this technique; it's a good way to get to know fellow travelers before actually meeting them, and to ask questions about the project. I arranged to take the same flight from Dulles to Rome as 5 other women going to the retreat, and before we met at Dulles we felt as if we almost knew each other. We recognized each other by our "Knitters for Obama" pins. It seemed as if everyone on our retreat was an Obama supporter, or if some were not, they kept it to themselves.
After the 6 of us went through taking 3 different trains together, schlepping all of our luggage, laughing at the tiny elevators we had to take two by two to change platforms in Chiusi, and then the extremely long ramp that was the alternative to stairs in Sinalunga, we were a cohesive group by the time we got to Montisi. We found two other knitters along the way, one in Chiusi and the other in Sinalunga. This group of knitters was one of the nicest I've been with on a retreat, and I hope to remain in touch with them.