Last weekend, I went to Fiber Camp. Fiber Camp is not your usual fiber festival – now in its third year, Fiber Camp is about getting the community together to learn from each other. Getting high-quality instruction from top-notch industry experts costs a lot – these industry experts often need to travel, as well as feed their families and pay rent/mortgage. The Common Cod Fiber Guild does a great job of having industry experts at bimonthly meetings, but once a year they mix things up.
Registration is very inexpensive – $40 for 2 days is the most expensive it gets, and that’s if you are not a member of the guild. You can also buy day passes for $25 if you can only make one day. The way it works is that there is a call for workshops among the community – you just edit a wiki page and add your suggestions for topics. You can suggest a topic you would like to see and suggest a topic you can teach. For example, here is the list of session topics from the 2012 Fiber Camp.
The schedule starts to get filled in by the people who are teaching (“enabling”) the sessions. Fiber Camp allows people to schedule workshops during Fiber Camp itself, and because of this, the schedule cannot be completely full before the weekend starts. This allows people to schedule workshops they had not thought of before.
Workshops are either 30 minutes or 1 hour. This is a perfect amount of time to “taste” a skill. For example, last year I learned how to spin on a drop spindle. This year I’m a spinning fiend. But I probably would not have paid $40 for a short beginner workshop to learn, because why spend the money if you don’t know if you’re going to like it? And I certainly would not have paid hundreds of dollars for a half-day or all-day intensive workshop from an industry expert.
That’s the great thing about Fiber Camp – because you have not invested a lot, if you find yourself not liking a skill, you can actually leave the room and go somewhere else, or just be content to sit and listen without practicing the skill. Then again, if you find yourself loving a skill, you learn just enough to get you started, and just enough to let you know that yes, you do want to take a longer/more intensive class.
Now, I’ve been separating “community” and “industry expert” so far in this post. But in reality, they are one and the same. Folks who want to learn double knitting can do so from Alasdair Post-Quinn because, guess what, he’s local to Boston. There are no travel costs involved for him. Did I learn spinning from Abby Franquemont? No, because she lives in the midwest, and it would be unfair to ask her to travel, stay in a hotel room, and give a short workshop when she is not getting reimbursed for her travel/hotel expenses. But I learned from Guido Stein, and I learned enough to know now that I want to take a class from Abby.
There are also vendors, so you can stock up on supplies if you want. The vendor area is also the “hangout” area, and plenty of people hang around there, too. There is a swap table too, where you can drop off or pick up fiber, magazines/books and other supplies (crochet hooks, needles, etc). I dropped off a lot of yarn that was being unloved, including some of my own handspun, and picked up a few magazines/books.
So, on to the fun. What did I learn/get from Fiber Camp this year?
Well, first off, I taught the Sweet Tomato Heel by Cat Bordhi. I already posted the PDF handout. I prepared the handout in advance, and there were a few people who told me they could not make my workshop because there were others going on. “No problem,” I said, “here’s the handout.” Folks really appreciated being able to have something they can look at, because they can try the skill themselves at home.
I not only learned how to make a duct tape mannequin, I made one. Or rather, other folks made one of me – mine is the one in the middle:
And from the swap table, I picked up some cotton and cotton/linen yarn, a pattern booklet (Reynolds, volume 66 “International Cables by Mary of Holland”), 2 Vogue Knitting magazines with patterns I like (Fall/Winter 1982 and Holiday 1986), and the big score, a Kaffe Fassett book – Kaffe’s California Patches, Kaffe Fassett for Rowan.
Now, I have been looking for a “Cosby sweater” pattern for a few years now. See, my husband actually likes them. While it was Koos Van Den Akker who designed the real Cosby sweaters, Kaffe Fassett is a designer who makes patterns that look like Cosby sweaters. (Actually, while at Fiber Camp, I was told that Kaffe designed Cosby sweaters, and I thought he was the designer, but as I went to check my sources, I realized I was wrong. Always check your sources!)
So anyway, I now have a book of some pretty awesome geometric sweater patterns (think Q-bert). And a pattern to knit for my husband….eventually.