Friday, July 11, 2014

Knitting Camp Wrap Up

Warning - Long post with many photos ahead! 

I've just returned from a pilgrimage to knitters' heaven Meg Swansen's Knitting Camp in Marshfield, Wisconsin. 

I experienced so much in just four short days that it's hard to know where to begin in sharing it here, so I'll just start at the beginning. 

First of all 'camp' is somewhat of a misnomer now that the event is held at a very nice hotel and conference center. 41 years ago, the roots of camp went down when knitting innovator Elizabeth Zimmerman (Meg's mother) began teaching a weekend knitting course at an extension of the University of Wisconsin.

Since then, the gathering has evolved, with Meg now at the helm, and grown to include four sessions run over every weekend in July. 

Our session, Camp 1, began with a dinner on Thursday evening where we were welcomed by camp staff Amy Detjen and Heather Black, and Meg's son and Schoolhouse Press representative Cully Swansen. After dinner the doors to our classroom were thrown open and the stampede for seats was on. 

As we jostled our way through the mayhem to an open spot we were greeted by cute camp logo tote bags and other goodies, including folders that eventually were stuffed with all the notes and patterns given to us for class sessions.

Standing towards the back of the modified ring of tables in the photo below, Amy Detjen (in the fantastic purple ensemble), was available all day, every day for personal coaching of campers' projects. Amy has been Meg's assistant for many years, is herself a fantastic teacher, and can be counted on for her fun, enthusiastic attitude in addition to expert technical advice.

Video monitors throughout the room made for easy, close-up viewing of knitting and other details being shown by Meg during class, and Meg also had a monitor so she could see our view of her hands at work.

The classroom and adjacent marketplace were open all day and well into the evening hours, providing a gathering spot where many campers opted to return after dinner to hang out, knit and shop. 

The room was ringed with tables stacked high with piles of incredible  sweaters and other knits from Schoolhouse Press publications, many of them knit by Meg or Elizabeth Zimmerman. Campers were free to examine, try on and wear the knits at their leisure.  

You may recognize many of these knits as being the actual samples seen in various books, patterns and video recordings. Below is the famous Saddle-Shoulder Aran Cardigan. 

This garter stitch jacket design can be seen in the photo of Elizabeth with Barbara Walker and Mary Walker Phillips.



You can knit your own version of the jacket using the pattern from a recently published book of Elizabeth's garter stitch designs, Knit One Knit All. 

I loved the ingenious construction of Elizabeth's jacket in natural wool, seen here and in the photo at the top of this post. 

Yes, I tried this gorgeous jacket on (the sleeves were a good 3 inches too short for my monkey arms). Unfortunately, I was not struck with a flash of Elizabeth's knitting genius as I wore it, but it was thrilling to try it on all the same!

Schoolhouse Press staff stocked the marketplace with merchandise from their web store, and campers simply wandered through and selected what they wanted throughout the weekend, recorded it on a sheet of paper on an honor-system basis, then tallied up and paid for their purchases at checkout on Monday morning (welcome to the Midwest).

We drooled over gorgeous wheels of unspun Icelandic wool, 

 every color of Jamieson's Spindrift yarn imaginable, 

 and many other delights.

On Saturday, local vendors added their wares to the mix, including yarns from Sun Valley Fibers, Kimmet Croft Fibers and many others, as well as pottery from Jenny the Potter.

During three days of morning class, Meg instructed on such topics as the EPS (Elizabeth's Percentage System) for sweater construction, and stranded color work techniques.

Meg is a wonderful teacher and knows so much about knitting that it boggles the mind. 

Although there was a planned topic for every class, the format was loosely structured and we frequently digressed along whatever path the class wanted to travel, for instance, developing a right-leaning double decrease to mirror the SK2P double decrease, or the technique for working a Latvian braid like the one in this sweater.

We received loads of patterns, some from Schoolhouse Press books, others developed especially for camp, including hats, mittens, sweaters, vests and more. I can't wait to knit this beautiful hat from a camp hand-out.

Afternoons were presided over by Amy and featured 'show and tell' where campers shared their favorite knits as well as knitting challenges they've faced. We saw many gorgeous sweaters and shawls, and one camper shared this beautiful blanket in many colors of unspun Icelandic wool (pattern from Knitpicks).

The entire Schoolhouse Press staff did a wonderful job of making us feel welcome, answering questions and ensuring that things ran smoothly. 

Meg is such a kind and gracious lady, it was a huge pleasure to meet her and learn from her vast wealth of knitting knowledge.
Although it would be nice to be able to simply download her expertise into our brains, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to miss out on the fantastic learning experience and fun that was Knitting Camp. I was incredibly inspired by this camp and I already want to attend another one!

Elizabeth Zimmerman photos on pinterest


  1. Great summary of camp Robin. Thanks! I'll refer my friends to it as it is probably easier for them and shorter than my rambling, rapturous accounts of what it was like to be surrounded by those incredible sweaters and in the kind, warm, inventive presence of Meg, knitting master-mind. Hope we both get to another camp in the future. Jan Sheppard

  2. Such a lovely recap! I am just now sitting down to think about everything we learned -- and thought to look up your blog. (I'm also now regretting not buying more Icelandic unspun)