Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Scenes from Camp

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, I'm about to deliver the Upanishads. Sorry. It was that kind of weekend.

Objects of Inspiration

A bewildering conglomeration of knitted pieces (many from the needles of Meg and Elizabeth) filled one long wall of the classroom. I spent a lot of time rummaging around and turned up several pieces I'd seen before in photographs or on video. It was like running into old friends.

This is perhaps a fifth of what was on display. And according Amy Detjen, there was more piled up under the tables that I never got to.

For Jean Miles: Elizabeth's original rib warmer.

A watch cap, "art socks," and yet more sweaters.

Elizabeth's famous Aspen Sweater. I tried it on.

One of several Baby Surprise Jackets.

Role Models

The teaching staff was nonpareil. We had the pleasure of learning from:

Joyce Williams, a gigantic amount of knitting know-how ensconced in a quite tiny person. The sweater she's holding is an example of Armenian Knitting, one of the techniques we covered. Joyce will be forever in my heart as the woman to whom I lost my steek virginity. She sat next to me and coaxed me through the whole process from crocheting to cutting.

Amy Detjen, who in spite of her breathtaking command of yarn and needles remains gratifyingly down-to-earth. I confess to having been very shy around her, which meant I didn't talk to her as much as I would have liked. I was in awe.

And of course, Meg. You remember Pa Ingalls describing Ma Ingalls in the Little House on the Prairie books as "Wise as a serpent, gentle as a dove"? That's Meg. Except she's also funny as hell.

My longstanding schoolboy crush on Judi Dench has now been transferred to Meg. Judi, you're a fantastic actress and we'll always have Paris, but Meg knits.

My Fellow Campers

Knitters, they're good people. This group took knitting seriously, but not themselves. This became evident during one lesson when the whole crowd spontaneously burst forth in song:
Knitting Camp is one week long,
Doo-dah, doo-dah.
Knitting Camp is one week long,
Oh, doo-dah-day.
Going to knit all night,
Going to knit all day.
Spent all our money on the lace-weight yarn,
Oh, doo-dah day.
And then the lesson resumed as though nothing had happened.

We sat at long tables and I had the pleasure of sitting across from:

Charlotte and Luz, who were both very nice to the New Boy. They didn't try to short-sheet my bunk or anything.

At each day's show-and-tell session, what might have been an exercise in vanity was instead a parade of top-flight workmanship.

A small sampling:

My girl Martha not merely showing her splendid stuff, but holding the swatch she made to get the fine details just right.

My bud Carol Shirley absolutely working the floor. Sashay, chantay.

Carol Shirley and Maureen in matching Fair Isles.

And the charming Pat, who apparently doesn't find modern life challenging enough as it is, displaying her method of knitting socks on two circulars. Four at a time.

There was lace all over the damn place. It was common as stockinette.

Fellow Chicagolander Cathy.

Nancy, in a cuddly summer shawl and one of my Worldwide Knit in Public Day shirts.

Maureen, who let me hang around her even though I kept drooling all over her work.

Shawn and her awe-inspiring wedding shawl. Is that a symbol of committment or what?

Lace-in-progress. Maureen helps Kate block her elegant Violets By the River shawl, done in Koigu.

I was so impressed by all the lace that I asked the lace knitters to sit for a group portrait, and they graciously agreed.

A beautiful group of women if I ever saw one.

You Knit What?

Of course, not everything the knitters showed was Serious Work.

The ladies who took me into their little group had quite surprise for us, in progress since the end of last year's session. May I present: Meg Swansen's Knitted Camp.

Here's the full site set up on Meg's table. The banner is double knitting. The tent has a steeked front opening, and inside is a two-color sleeping bag (also steeked) that's also a swatch for Meg's Baby Russian Prime sweater.

Ready for a closer look? Hang on tight.

They knit the campfire. And the marshmallows.

I'm not sure which of Barbie's friends this is, but I seem to recall that what she's knitting is the start of an Aran cable.

Another camper, wearing one sock while knitting its mate. Note the (wool) daiquiri and tin of needles in handy proximity.

"Dude...knitting fucking rocks," says Ken.

The perpetrators, L-R: Lynn (kneeling), Kate (behind), Carol Shirley, Maureen, and Martha.

When Meg came in from lunch and found what was waiting for her, she lit up like a Christmas tree. Apparently prior to this she had never handled, much less owned, a Barbie doll.

And then somebody pointed out there were three campers and one sleeping bag. The French have a word for that, don't they?

Say Not Goodbye, But Au Revoir

It was all over far too quickly. We'd only just arrived, and suddenly our teachers were standing up for a much-deserved ovation.

There was time for one last conga.

And before leaving I felt compelled to make my intentions clear on the dry-erase board in the classroom.


Unknown said...

Meg looks fabulous. She must be in her 60s now, no?

Although I cringed a bit at the knitted Camp, mostly because I would have knitted rude garments for the dolls, it's kind of sweet.

I am so glad you got so much from it. Now. Let's see some of your knitting, eh? It's been much too long since I've seen anything that you've been working on. So come on now, make yo' adopted mama happy.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like everyone had a great time. The knitted camp is awesome, and so many of the other projects stretched my mind further than previously imagined. Lace of any kind impresses me, but the wedding shawl? HOLY.

M-H said...

Judy knits too. But she's mine, all mine, so you really didn't need to know that. Just like I didn't need to know about Paris [sob]

Anonymous said...

And behind the lens is a handsomely talented manknitter if ever I met one! (Kevin in Willcox, forgive me....)

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post, great description of camp, I went 2 years ago and was starstruck by Meg, I got to stand next to her for the group photo. I loved Amy, she was so funny, Joyce was incredibly sweet and she helped me with my first steek as well, hopefully one day I'll get to go back and finish my baby russian prime.

Angela said...

Looks like an amazing time. I could not begin to touch the hem of their (knitted) garments--or yours!

Anonymous said...

Had I of known there would be Armenian knitting, I wouldn't of spent money on a new camera system, I would of gone to knitting camp!
Even with living in Fresno, I don't know one Armenian who knits.

Ken said...

The pictures are fantastic. Thanks so much for posting them. Looks like you had a great time...I'm jealous!

Nancy said...

Oh, I am still SO jealous. I noticed that Meg still favors the video camera close-up thing. That amazed me when I took a class from her at Stitches West the last time she came out for it (several years back). Particularly in contrast with Lily Chin's giant needles & rope trick.

LOVE the knitted camp! I just about fell out of my chair when I saw the close-up of the campfire.

Zee said...

Bravo! Fabuloso! What an awesome post, Franklin. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful time. *grin*

Christina said...

Is it wrong that I'm jealous?

Anonymous said...

*sniff* ... I wanna go to camp too. It looks like such a great time. And the lace knitters. Wow. (speaking of lace knitters, I get to meet Ted on Saturday!)

Very pleased to see the knitted campers had the appropriate beverages.

String Bean said...

I am SO jealous.

somebunnysloveDOTcom said...

What an awesome time you must have had! And I see that Dolores did make an appearance after all the night-time partying she partook. Now, one question bugs me... How do you know if Judi Denche does not knit??

Anonymous said...

sob sob
i miss camp

thanks for sharing your photos. i went to my first camp (1) this year and can see i have much fun and merriment to look forward to in the coming years.

that knitting camp was too too much!

oh and i adore judi too (but i DIDNT know that she knits - i heard she does ... hush... needlepoint!)

sillyewe said...

That's it!! I am going next year. That looks like wwwaaaaaay too much fun. Thanks for sharing such great pictures.

Anonymous said...

How do you know that Judi doesn't knit? If she does, Paris or no Paris, I'm going to switch teams and go after her myself.

Anonymous said...

Wow! You did a great job of capturing the essence of Meg's Camps! It sounds like you're going to be a "lifer!"

Sara (Who leaves for camp in 8 hours and 50 minutes and should go to bed now!)

dpaste said...

I'm sure I'll be shouted down but after viewing all those photos I wonder if an intervention might be in line at this point.

Anonymous said...

I second angela's comments.

un-fucking-believable that such stunning artwork was created by handknitting.

bless those women - they have more patience than I.

were you the only male knitter at camp (besides the ken doll)?

anne marie in philly

Anonymous said...

Don't know about Dame Judi knitting, but she certainly makes needlepoint cushion covers (and buys her tapestry wool from the same shop as my mum). She's famous for embroidering swear-words into them in such a way that they are virtually invisible. It comes up in every interview, but non-embroidering journalists never go into detail, so my mum and I have spent years trying to work out a method. Our current favourite is keeping the bulk of the work in tent stitch but marking out the ouline of a word and working that in half cross stitch.

LaurieM said...

That is just so awesome! What I love is the height of the knitting craft is all about technique and beauty in equal proportions.

You are so lucky to have been there. But it also sounds like they were lucky to have you.

Anonymous said...

Nice: Thanks Franklin.

Didi you get the Camp T-Shirt?

Anonymous said...

My eyes are bleeding from all that ogling . was rfknitting etc but Blogger kept blacking out my site .

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Franklin, for your generosity in sharing Knit Camp with us. My only regret is that reservations to Knit Camp will now be impossible to secure.

Surpurb photography, witty words, delightful sketches, gentle humor... You have created a blog, to use your word, nonpareil. I came long ago to observe your knitting progress but have been captivated as your talent continues to emerge. Bravo!

Peggy in Conshohocken, PA

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much! I have YEARNED over Knitting Camp and loved seeing all the pictures!

That Laurie

Anonymous said...

Luz's sweater is to DIE for. Holy moly.

Anonymous said...

I want the pattern for "my girl Martha" 's (punctuation?) garter stitich sweater!

Diane said...

Looks like a wonderful time was had by all. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Hey Franklin, thanks for doing such a great job of capturing the essence of Knitting Camp...and our Knitted Camp! We did have a great time, didn't we?! I wanna go back...

jill said...

What fun!

Thank you so much for sharing this - I'm as envious as anyone else of your delightful experience, and am so glad that you are letting us share it.

Anonymous said...


That is a great photo of me with my mouth gaping open... just how I always think of myself! If you own Photoshop, could you shave 40 lbs off for me?

I hate to tell you, but you're doing a disservice to yourself! You are letting untold MASSES know of the wonders of Meg's camp, and next year the waiting list will be even longer! You should be tight-lipped and secretive to keep the numbers down. I'm kind of kidding, and kind of serious!

Oh, and for the record, the sweater that Luz is wearing was knitted by the infamous Joyce Williams and is in yer book Latvian Dreams. Luz is a great knitter, yes, but that masterpiece is a one-of-a-kind to be sure! (We let people sample the wares at camp, and it's odd to look up and see someone strolling around in a vest knitted by EZ herself.)

I'm leaving for Oft-Timers now, the 4th and final session of the summer. Thanks to Franklin for all the wonderful PR he's given camp, and the sweet words he had about me. Franklin, if you want more time to talk to me, I have a toll free number and love to talk about knitting more than anything!

Knitting on in Wisconsin,

Amy Detjen

Anonymous said...

OMG, the campfire! How silent-squeal-worthy is that?!

I heart Joyce Williams - a knit goddess if ever there was one.

pacalaga said...

Wonderful. I am so very jealous. Thanks for sharing everything!

Darci said...

I feel like I was there...all the highlights and none of the drama!

Totally off topic but have you thought of illustating children's books? That end cartoon/drawing is a perfect character for a story. I can see the outline now....

Liz said...

Awesome! I need to set aside some vacation for Knitting camp.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing with us. I'll probably never get to go, but I feel like I have been there (nearly).

There is only one sleeping bag because they are too busy knitting to sleep...

(Hi Dolores! Love ya!)

Nana Sadie said...

Wow. Just WOW. What an ultimate, once-in-a-lifetime sort of experience that must have been!
Love your photos. Love the ladies of lace! And the camp setting...

Anonymous said...

Your picture of Maureen taken through lace is lovely. It could be the start of a new form of photo -- the eternally flattering hazy lace portrait.

Anonymous said...

I am pea green, I should have gone too, next year for sure! Thank you so much for posting the pictures, it's not as nice as actually being there but to be able to peek through your window was quite lovely.

Unknown said...

Amy Detjen. My, my. Hey Amy, someday there should be Remembrances of KnitList Past Camp. Am I the only one who remembers when Amy ran the KnitList?

I guess so. Those really were halcyon days, my dears.

Susannah said...

Seconding the anonymous comment... holy balls, but Luz's sweater is stunning. Did you happen to catch whether that was her own design?

Anonymous said...

You TRIED ON the Aspen sweater?
Oh my!
If anyone wants to volunteer to take my 7 and 3 yr olds for a week I will so be at knitting camp next year!

Barb said...

I'm nearly speechless... what awesome gorgeousness!! I learned crocheting and tatting from my beloved and much-missed grandmother, and it's so cool that the tradition of creating beautiful and functional objects by hand is so alive and well.

And! I learn something new pretty much every time I read your blog - today I had to Wiki "Upanishads" but now I know! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

OMG...I don't knit, but I may have a fabric-related orgasm at some of that lace work.

Anonymous said...

Two things. Mar, I remember Amy from the halcyon days, too. Ain't it amazing how things have changed? And not, Lord knows, for the better. And Franklin, on behalf of, well, me, thank you for not writing "See ewe next year" on the whiteboard.

Anonymous said...

It all looks very intimidating, very overwhelming, and very fabulous. I'm nervous about Stitches!

By the way, would you consider making the "WWDD?" design into a button? I can't afford all the t-shirts I want, so I'm getting all the knitting designs I covet on buttons to satisfy my id.

Anonymous said...

Franklin, thanks so much for the great photos (especially Maureen through her lace) and the spot-on descriptions! You forgot to mention wrapping the bandanna around your head to keep your brain from exploding! Also the number of people who want "Friend of Dolores" t-shirts.

Note to Mary K. of Rockport: the garter stitch sweater is Sally Melville's "Favorite Summer Sweater" from her book The Knit Stitch. Thank you for asking!

MsAmpuTeeHee said...

That was hands down the coolest blog-tour of an event I have ever been on.

Usually I only see just enough to leave me wishing I could go to more things like this. And I still would love to actually GO, but your post really made it feel like being there.

Thanks so much. ~bonnie

Anonymous said...

Oh, so envious....are you sure that Ken doll isn't supposed to represent you?

Anonymous said...


Love the pics. Sounds as if you all had a grand time.

Anonymous said...

Oh as for the one sleeping bag? It's because they are having to much fun knitting to sleep!

Anonymous said...

I'm. so. JEALOUS. Thanks for sharing the pictures. Loved the dolly camp scene. Forget the boob job I was saving for. I've got to go to summer camp.

dpaste said...

Kudos for working "Upanishads" into the post, btw.

Mel said...

I'm just wondering where Ken slept, 'cause I'm sure he wouldn't be sandwiched between Barbie and her girlfriend. Of course, we know he wasn't the only gay boy there....

Anonymous said...

Hi, My name is Sue and I'm hooked on Camp! Camp 1 was awesome and all the attendees were inspiring.

I first found your blog, Franklin, in mid-June as I patiently waited for Camp 1 to start. I've been following your blog ever since. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and beautiful pictures!

Sue in WI

Anonymous said...

In viewing your photos of the work displayed, my jaw has dropped from my desk, out the window and into Times Square!

Franklin, why oh why, do I only have two hands, and have to spend eight hours daily, using them to edit at T:Style? Oops, I forgot––it's yarn money.

How do they do it? Honestly, are those women retired?

Your post makes me want to leap up and run outta here, go home, put on my audio book––The Emperor of Ocean Park––and knit the rest of the day away.

Wendy DG said...

The only ones who look like they're having more fun than you and your camping buddies are Barbie and Ken. Too Cool!!!!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Gawd! That little campsite is AMAZING!! I especially loved the fire with the little balls as stones. Genius and adorable all at once (a good combo).

Good to hear you had a great time.

Jen said...

Great description of Camp 2. I'm so glad you were there! And don't worry about someone's threat of intervention--as I told my sister just yesterday, as long as there's food in the fridge, there's no problem.

PS--I must agree with Amy--you should really be writing about how awful the weekend was. Really, truly, people--you don't want to go.

Jen in Portland

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, thank you so much for sharing your experience at the camp. That little campfire is amazing, so much thought went into that scene.