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Renewal in Wales

23 October 2012

You folks may remember our trip to Wales last year – a little matriculation, a little dash to the train, a little knitting in Pembrokeshire with the amazing Amy Singer and the super-fantastic Brenda Dayne. Well, we did it again, crazy people that we are, and Alex came along:

Alex on the Train

It seems Alex enjoys trains – thank goodness.

Yes, there she is, in her little hand-knit hat, on her way to Plug & Play Pembrokeshire 2012.

The theme word for P3 this year was Cariad, a Welsh term of endearment, and I certainly felt loved in Wales. Way back when we signed up for this, I was happily pregnant, Mr. Trask’s book was due to the publisher just before my due date, and we thought we could easily go to Wales with a three-month-old baby.

I hear all you parents out there laughing. I do. And you are right. Because, when it came to it, not only did we have a three-month-old baby, and not only is it folly to think that travel with a three-month-old is easy, but but we had just returned from our Grand Tour of the United States, and Mr. Trask’s book deadline had been moved to just after the retreat.

There was no way it was going to work. I thought about going alone with Alex; I thought about going with a friend; I e-mailed Amy and Brenda and told them we just couldn’t do it. They were disappointed; I was disappointed; but it made sense.

And then…then Amy wrote and pointed out that there would be 30 other women there (and one man – hi, knitting Andy from The Netherlands!), and that several of them would probably be interested in holding a baby from time to time. They would take care of Alex and me, she said, and they would love to see me. Oh, it was so tempting.

I thought about it. I imagined going alone. I had almost convinced myself that I could do it…and then Mr. Trask stepped in and said he would go, too. He worked out a brief extension of his deadline, and we committed to sharing Alex, so he could edit his book a bit, and I could knit a bit.

Readers, we went.

Alex Watches Kathleen Knit

Alex watching me knit. This is only the second or third time she’d seen me with the sticks and string; she watches intently when I do it. Soon after this photo was taken (thanks, Shani!), she grabbed my swatch, threw up a little, and wiped her mouth with the knitted fabric. Impressive baby, right?

It is a testament to the generosity of all the knitters there that we – all three of us – had a wonderful time. Mr. Trask got time to write and edit, and time to nap with Alex, and I got time to sit with knitters (though I often had a baby on my lap), and Alex got to sleep and socialize and receive flattery from one and all. [I am still getting used to the idea that other people might actually want to hold the baby for a little while.] The other attendees were incredibly generous, offering to hold Alex so that Mr. Trask and I could eat at the same time for once, or so that we could chat with people, or so that I could knit. I didn’t get as much real class time as a “normal” attendee, but I got to see a lot of this:

Alex with Aunt Brenda

Alex snuggles with Brenda (who spent the weekend telling anyone who would listen that Alex was “MY Baby.”)

Last year, this retreat blew me away because everyone was so friendly and Brenda and Amy were so accessible and welcoming. It helped me to settle into life in England and it made me braver about travel. This year, the retreat reminded me how truly generous and enthusiastic knitters are. Not just with regard to Alex, of course – but with their time, their knowledge, and their yarn. We had the most amazing goodie bags with donations from Blue Moon, The Kangaroo Dyer, Dye for Yarn, and Nimu (who did two custom colorways just for P3). It’s a sign of the general ethos of the retreat that we easily traded with each other until everyone had yarn s/he wanted.

But wait! There’s more. Jennifer of The Purple Purl joined us for the weekend, helping Brenda and Amy teach and generally cheering us on. When I decided that I wanted to make a Color Affection shawl (check out Brenda’s), she and fellow Crazy Canadian Alli encouraged me, approved my colo(u)rs, and gave me advice gleaned from their own shawls. Then Jennifer taught me a new way to do M1R and M1L, and re-knit the beginning of the shawl when I was ready to throw in the towel:

Jennifer and Alli

Jennifer re-knits my shawl beginning while Alli shows off a just-finished hat. [Alli, tell us what the pattern was!]

You see what I mean? Generosity personified.

Like last year’s, this year’s workshops used Amy’s “Plug and Play” design method and Brenda’s unique way of approaching raglan sweaters to teach design work. Last year, we worked with lace patterns; this year, with texture. We also had a nifty class by Amy on improvising cables, a very cool presentation by Brenda on knitting and memory, and a surprise class the last day in which we drafted silk hankies and knit the resulting roving into woven cuffs. Alli’s post on the retreat has details of each day, and gorgeous photos to boot; Catherine’s has lovely prose on the weekend and a photo essay of our silk hankie adventure.

Amy with a Blue Moon Silk Hankie

Amy shows us how to draft a silk hankie. This was both exciting and scary (drafting, not Amy showing it to us).

Aside from class time, we had:

  • delightful meals (and great conversation at those meals)
  • madcap downtime in the various lounges, parlo(u)rs, and messuages of the Inn
  • a fabulous mini-market where I discovered the wonder that is Countess Ablaze
  • a pajama party with Minstrels (yum!) and Downton Abbey (dramatic!), and even
  • a little yarn-bombing.
Sally's Cat with Wine

Still Life: Knit Cat by SallyWool, with bottles of wine.

So – it wasn’t easy, and we’ll be taking a little break from travel for a while. But it sure was fun.

Alex with Swatch

Future Knitter? Could be. Future holder of wool items, obviously.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Hannah permalink
    23 October 2012 7:01 am

    Mother the mother, knitters are great like that 🙂

  2. consuelala permalink
    23 October 2012 8:50 am

    Welcome back — I’ve missed your blog!

  3. consuelala permalink
    23 October 2012 9:17 am

    PS. What a great guy Mr. Trask is!

  4. 23 October 2012 11:45 am

    I hate to be the one to tell you this, but Alex is charming and adorable, and as a result there are going to be many many people who are happy to hold her. Lots of people like babies, even if we don’t have our own – glad you guys managed to work things out so you could go! (& hope she doesn’t spit up on too much of your knitting).

  5. 24 October 2012 7:56 pm

    Wow, yay for travel! So glad you had time to get away and recharge, one and all.

  6. gt4936 permalink
    26 October 2012 11:23 pm

    I just wanted to say, I lovethat first photo. So animated, and fun. 🙂

  7. 31 October 2012 6:59 pm

    Great post Kathleen and and it was so nice meeting you too! FWIW, I was totally overambitious about travel and what we could achieve with a new, little person when we had our son. The hat I’m wearing in the pic with Jen was knit by the fabulous Rachel that she designed for her new collection of patterns! You can find her through her blog here: which also has links to her shop and where I’d imagine you can access her other patterns. Looking forward to seeing you at a P3 London meet up!

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