I only registered for the first day of retreat that included meet-and-greet, a joint presentation and a fashion show at the Courtyard Marriott hotel, merely steps away from the waterfront. (That’s the tall ship Silva by the way).
So let me tell you a little story-in-pictures (and maybe a few words) about the great time I had there.
That’s Ilga (left) and Jane (middle) greeting guests at the door. I spoke to both of them, then chatted a bit with Lucy Neatby who was also a guest there, then with Kate from Dartmouth Yarns, and Joanne from our knitting group. Because I talk a lot, I had to occasionally stop my stream of consciousness by wandering around and taking pictures of pretty things. I can’t swear that I stopped talking completely so a few comments were addressed to the subjects of my admiration, like these designs by Ilga Leja
and this work of Jane Thornley.
Also, I believe I had a brief conversation with boxes of yarn by Fleece Artist and Hand Maiden. If you are a knitter, most likely you know how pretty those yarns are. And this picture doesn’t do them justice but I couldn’t mess with displays to get a better angle.
Now, I always felt that I am immune to luxury yarn charms. (Maybe it has something to do with the whole charity knitting thing, or I get a kick of being a nonconformist once again, or the reason is much more prosaic but I never felt compelled to buy yarn). But this time, walking among knitters who were putting skeins of yarn against each other’s faces to see if the colours would work, I felt that I really want to be enchanted for a moment. I didn’t give up completely cause I still find that the most exiting part of knitting is designing a piece, but now I have the yarn that would inspire me to make something really pretty.
After some more wandering, talking, eating, and trying to fit a whole pitcher of ice in my glass (with predictable results), I joined other knitters and occasional husbands for a presentation.
What would you like to know about these two creative women? They are long-time friends that started their knitting adventure as library studies students. Knitting was not associated with professionalism or wouldn’t seem to boost one’s career at the time so it was an ‘underground’ activity. I will skip the personal stories that lead to leaving their high-end carriers and choosing knitwear design instead, around the year 2005. Both designers are very different in the way they approach knitting and design, and while explaining why exactly it is so, they exchanged compliments like ‘technique guru’ and ‘organic style designer’. But there were a few moments during the presentation when both Ilga and Jane seemed to ‘borrow’ each other’s work style, to the benefit of finished pieces. Also, it was the most unusual fashion show — very knitterly — no blasting music, models were turning around, stopping and coming closer so that knitters could take a better look and touch the garments. One of the models was even listening to her mom’s directions (!) and that gave me a tremendous hope that one day my five-year-old daughter would too.
Ilga structured her collection in chronological order starting with the very first scarf originally designed for a Vogue Knitting competition.
The next piece was supposed to be a vest but it was turning into something different so Ilga decided to do a ‘Jane thing’ and let the piece dictate the form. So it became a Lady of the Forest shawl with unusual shaping.
And this one is called Queen of the Waves, to continue a tradition of using ‘strong female leads’ of the nature.
Jane based her collection flow on inspiration themes. I love how she explained knitting your mood or capturing a landscape with different yarns and textures. Also, her designs have the most unusual grading — in short, knitters are free to add as many stitches as they need to join front and back panels. She told us her patterns are written like recipes and her secret for choosing colours is hidden in a single skein of hand-painted yarn. One piece had about 40 different yarns in it, and I bit my tongue not to ask about weaving in the ends. I think it would sound mean. The first item is Savannah, Not a Poncho.
The next item I couldn’t identify (I wasn’t taking notes, is it here?). It is beautiful though, and do you see the same fan and feather stitch throughout the piece? I think it should be dubbed ‘Ilga thing’, for consistency.
Now try to guess who designed this?
There were many other beautiful and popular designs like Ilga’s Bermuda
and Jane’s Knit a Beach but since I am approaching the World’s Most Picture Heavy Post record, I will have to stop here and refer you to designers’ websites for more inspiration.
Speaking of which, that’s how inspiration by the same Atlantic ocean looked off the needles: On the Waterfront (left) by Ilga Leja and Seaglass (right) by Jane Thornley.
Those knitters who stayed for the workshops would have a chance to play with their versions of these brand new designs.
After the fashion show was over, we stayed for a bit longer, some people were buying yarn, some socializing. I was waiting for a ride to my car parked ‘somewhere next to the Metro Centre’ pondering if I should ask advice about a pattern I seemed to be stuck with. I had the project with me so instead of asking I did a little ‘Jane thing’, and then I knit a little ‘Ilga thing’, and it turned out pretty. Two designers, double dose of inspiration. Highly recommend.