It totally freakin’ rocked. I’m really excited about it, and can’t wait to offer the next one (February maybe?). It was a small crew, which is good, and also what I expected (it being late notice and Labor Day weekend). There were 6 of us all together. That was a great intro number, and I also feel like I’d be really comfortable with a few more people also. Here’s a little slideshow of the weekend. (Many thanks to Sarah and Katie for sharing the pictures they took.)

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Here’s my self-review:

Food

I think there was a good amount of food, and the food was good. It would be fun to offer really gourmet meals, but I would have to charge more. Folks were a little sceptical about the Dessert of Wonderness and Delight at first, but everyone seemed happy after they gave it a try. (Bananas stuffed with chocolate and roasted over the fire, or apples drizzled with brown sugar and roasted in foil in the fire.) People seemed to have plenty to eat without too many leftovers. I did come home with a lot of snack food, so next time I probably don’t need to buy quite so many apples and bananas and cookies and stuff. Food was mostly vegetarian, but had enough plant proteins (avocados, cheese, lots of nuts, etc.) that no one seemed to notice or mind. Doing just one overnight made it possible to bring lots of stuff like milk and salads and eggs so that most people said they ate better in the campground than they usually do at home. The new Colman cookstove worked like a champ. The Indian food dinner was the biggest hit, and people were happy with the various breakfast options.

Location

Preston pretty much saved the day on this one. I was really worried that we wouldn’t get a good spot at the campground. It’s a first-come first-served campground, no reservations. And we were planning to get there on Friday night of Labor Day weekend. Yikes. So Preston went up on Wednesday and staked out our spot for us. He stayed for two nights to make sure we got the best spot. This campground has one spot quite a distance from the rest of the camp, maybe as much as a quarter mile? And the spot is right on the river with a beautiful view of the Skokomish River Canyon as it heads up into the Olympics. We could watch the weather roll down from the mountains as we knit. Amazing and beautiful. We also lucked out with the weather. Rain was predicted all weekend, but it didn’t actually come down until we were packing up on Sunday afternoon. Perfect. The campground was only an hour from Olympia, so it was easy enough for people to get there from locally, while still being in the Olympic National Forest, which is where I wanted it to be. Really couldn’t have asked for anything better in this category.

Content

I was really winging it here, never having been in a class where someone combined knitting and nature awareness. I wasn’t sure what level each participant would be at, and how much people might want to just sit around and knit. I think next time it will help a lot to let participants have a heads-up about the plans for the day. Not necessarily all the details, but just a general roadmap for when they can expect to have knitting time versus active time. I got feedback that people wanted both more knitting time and more activity, which I take to mean that I balanced it just about right 🙂 The next class will probably be a two-nighter in order to accomodate room for more of both.

People were really happy to learn about the native fibers that we worked with (nettles and western red cedar). I also got some good feedback about content in general that I will lump together in the category of “better lead-up and follow-through”. People wanted to know more about the beginnings of the process, maybe collect some of their own materials and they also wanted a more clear project to do with the finished project. Nettle cordage isn’t really knittable, so some finished project ideas for them would have made the process more meaningful. I need to do some research about projects to do with small amounts of cordage. One of my favorite parts of the weekend was Margaret holding up her first bit of nettle cordage and exclaiming, “Look! I made string! I made string out of nature!”

Overall, I think people were really excited about what we did. I got a lot of positive feedback indicating that people felt connected or re-connected to nature and to their own capacity to be in nature in the future without an organized event. Hurray! There was also a lot of personal connection. Partly this is because it was a really cool group of people, and partly I think it’s the magic of the 8-shields model. Folks actually got a little teary at the closing, and I was sad to see people go.  Many blog addresses were exchanged.

Sit spots seemed to work really well for people, and seemed like a really good way to combine knitting time with nature time. There was a fair amount of sitting around in camp knitting and chatting, which was good, but didn’t feel like it addressed the nature awareness part, so I’m glad there was plenty of sit spot time worked in. I’ll have to think about how to incorporate this in a winter class. Will people be willing to sit outside in their raingear and knit? How to do sit spots in bad weather and keep it fun? I’d also like to be able to push the whole Fox Walking/Owl Eyes/Sit Spot connection more. We did those three things, but I think I could do a better job of making the connection between Owl Eyes and knitting and just between all of those skills in general.

Overall, this weekend rocked. And I can’t wait for the next one which will be a whole step better.