I was recently lucky enough to travel to Napier in the north island of New Zealand to attend the Knit August Nights 2017 (KAN) knitting retreat. This was a very special weekend for me as I was actually booked to attend last year and at the very last minute had to cancel. Nothing was going to stop me going this year!
I arrived quite late in Ahuriri, which was a short $17 NZD taxi ride from Napier airport. Unfortunately I arrived too late to attend the KAN organised lights up movie. This is a movie screening where they have the lights up just enough so you can still knit while watching. How cool is that? Wish there were sessions like this at my local cinema! Instead I went for a little late night wander to get my bearings and managed to find a little Thai takeaway still open. I was staying at the Crown Hotel so took my food back there and had an early night after a pretty full day of travel.
The classes for KAN are held at two locations some are at the East Pier and the others are at the Crown Hotel, which is why I chose to stay there. They’d run out of studio rooms (which is what I’d booked the year before) so they kindly upgraded me to a single room, which was actually huge!
My first class the next day was with Charles Gandy at the Crown Hotel which was handy and I was so early because I was staying there that he asked me if I could be his “assistant”. He was very sweet and funny and really a wealth of knowledge. The class I did was Creative Knitting Techniques and I learnt a lot from him. He was so happy to share his knowledge with us.
Interestingly he was saying that when he wants to learn a new technique, like say bobbles, he will put aside a Saturday and pull out every book from his extensive library on bobbles and then knit it every single way you can. That way he “knows” the best way to knit a bobble. Total respect, Mr Gandy! That is some bobble dedication.
His socks pictured above are amazing and what is even more amazing is the inside. They are so neat! Charles taught us knitted in i-cords, finger cords, twists, bobbles, tiles, beading, ruffles and attached ripples. It was an amazing start to my KAN learning.
Before my next class was something everyone was excited about – the Market stalls! After a quick bite of lunch everyone was hovering at the doors waiting for them to open and some souvenir shopping to begin. I purchased some lovely yarn which I’ll talk more about later but it really was lovely to meet some of the stall holders and come back and have a bit of a chat over the weekend once some of the madness of the first few hours of the market died down. I needed to purchase some yarn for my brioche class the next day and Yarnfloozy and Knitnstitch were very helpful finding some 8ply yarn for me as everything I had was 4ply.
I missed Libby’s visit to Skein Sisters in Sydney so I had fun at her Truly Myrtle stand trying on some of her designs and checking them out in the mirror. I fell in love with the Darling Dotty design after trying it on and have since added it to my Ravelry list. The yarn which is by Skein Artisan Yarn & Fibre (from Coffs Harbour) and is 50% merino / 50% silk is heaven to the touch. The colour is buttermilk and I’ll have to find out if they are dying more of this colour as I’m in love with this shade of yellow.
It must be from hanging out with this chick so much as she loves yellow! Well my mum also always tells me how she would dress me in yellow as a baby but I just don’t seem to wear it much anymore.
Anyway after a full on afternoon class learning Masterclass Techniques with Nanette Cormack, which maybe should have been a morning class as my brain was a bit fried by that stage as all I could learn was a crochet cast on and an integrated i-cord edge. Handy things to know but I thought I might have gained more skills from this class. We spent ages on a button hole technique that was very difficult and not many of us could understand or I think will ever actually use!
The day finished perfectly with a lovely evening stroll by the water and dinner at the Thirsty Whale with lively conversation together with my friend Georgie from Tikki Knits.
My first class the next day was Best Blanket Techniques with Susan Hagedorn in the beautiful sunny room at East Pier. Unfortunately the first part of the class was spent doing a lot of cast ons that we’d done the day before in my previous class so I felt as though I didn’t get to the juicy part of the “best blanket techniques” that I wanted to before I had to leave. We did learn the pinhole cast on and started a mitred square.
For those who wanted to squeeze in a visit to Skeinz Wool Mill they had to leave 15 mins early. I learnt the pinhole cast on which was good but never got to do the vivid blanket square to finish. I did do a basic mitred square but didn’t even get a chance to add a second square to it. We spent so long on the cast ons that I’d already learnt there was no time to learn the stuff I wanted to learn which was a bummer. Will have to go through the notes for that later to learn more.
This is Ian Kelly and as you can see by his lovely smile he was our very friendly tour guide to the Skeinz Mill. This is a photo of the fleece when it comes in and then the bottom right is after the first process and it is vacuumed up through pipes and dropped into this metal room.
Rows and rows of machines doing their thing. He started them up for just a moment so we could see them working but not long enough so they would heat up the place.
This was the dye section and drying rooms where they actually use the heat from the boiler rather than artificial heat and dry it a bit slower. I’ve never visited a mill before so it was great to go, albeit a bit rushed with my busy schedule of classes. While waiting outside for the mini bus to rush us back for our afternoon class (no time for lunch!) we met a nice (now) friend called Kate who offered us a lift instead of waiting for the bus. We knew we’d already be late so took her up on the offer. Awesome driving skills Kate we were only 3 mins late!
My next class was something I’ve been so keen to learn – Brioche Knitting with Sue Schreuder. Sue was lovely and patient and very talented at brioche.
Above, you can see some of the beautiful brioche knits that she has made. I had started practicing a bit at home first as there are so many brioche patterns out there I want to knit and I’m also currently knitting Stephen West’s eyeball shawl and the edge is brioche so I have to learn. So with my yummy new yarn in good contrasting colours and so much determination I managed to get the one colour brioche pretty well. It’s just when you start adding another colour it gets hard. Three hours wasn’t really long enough but I had a red hot go and managed a few rows – it was just the edge that was confusing as it wasn’t in the round like the two colour I had practiced at home. I understand the whole stitch and its shawl thing and can read my brioche knitting better now, plus I can see what colour I’ve knitted last etc. I do need more time to practice though, but the motivation is definitely there so I can see it happening.
After all the rushing around and no lunch I went back to my room to refresh before the fashion parade and soiree. Apparently it was a bit more social last year with the dinner, but I think maybe the numbers are getting too big to organise something like that at the venue, which is a pity. Coming from Australia I only really knew Georgie and most people come with their group of friends and stay together in accommodation with their friends and then go to the classes together. For me that was harder to meet people and if I didn’t know Georgie I would have been lost as everyone is staying at different locations and you don’t necessarily bump into them. Don’t get me wrong, I made some really lovely friends in some of the classes by sitting next to people and chatting, but there was no social event or area where I could go and make friends easily.
If I came again I’d probably come with someone next time, not that I’m shy about coming by myself. I’ve been to plenty of craft retreats by myself so I won’t let that stand in my way of learning or having a good time, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that a little part of me wished I was there with a big group of friends having fun like lots of the other KAN attendees were.
On Sunday the market stall opens up to the public and for the keen beans (like me) there were a couple of crochet classes on in the morning to finish up KAN for the year. I’ve always wanted to learn to make a rope basket and have a pile of rope at home waiting for me to use, so I jumped at the opportunity to learn from the colourful Alia Bland from The Little Bee NZ. It was a lovely class where we had music, I made some lovely friends, tons of colour and loads of inspiration with all the fabulous projects Alia had made using the same technique but just taking it a step or two further (like the handbags pictured above). I’ve since come home and finished my basket and keen to start another one. These might be Christmas presents this year I’m thinking!
I managed to pop back into the market before it closed and grabbed some more Dark Habour yarn as I’d only bought 2 skeins which clearly wasn’t enough! I have a funny story about Nikki’s yarn. The first day when I saw it, I went to pick up a skein and check out the fibre content as I noticed the beautiful sheen and knew there was some silk involved. It was pretty busy at the stand so I just picked up a colour, not teal my favourite, but a bright green and when I looked at the label I could not believe out of all the colours I picked up what this one was called…..Lorelei! My name and my spelling. It was as if it was calling to me just like the siren. I didn’t buy that colour as it really wasn’t a colour I’d wear, however I had to get a few more for my collection. Such beautiful yarn and when I saw a sample knitted up it was superb.
Another one of my favourite purchases from the market was Bleating Art – Yarn for passionate fibrephiles! Bleating Art is a small-scale yarn dyeing operation by mother and daughter fibrephiles Denise and Alice. I purchased these four beautiful skeins that fade beautifully. Colours from left to right are Sweetie, Cupcake, Nebula and Andromeda and they are on their left ventricle sock base, 80% merino wool 20% nylon and is 350m.
With a few birthdays coming up and a unicorn lover daughter at home, I just had to purchase this hand dyed yarn kit to make a Nilla the Unicorn. The kit contained all the hand-dyed yarn, some sparkle, 12mm safety eyes x 2, so all I need is the pattern and some stuffing. How cute does this one from their stand look? When I saw her I knew I had to make one.
Some other goodies were from Orange Tail Yarns and some cute knitting pins to add to my pin collection, plus this pretty gradient from Darn-Knit NZ, which I might actually use to crochet something. They also had a watermelon dyed yarn to knit cute beanies with, but they sold out of those very fast.
To finish up I spent a good 20 minutes on the beach photographing my fluoro pink Nardoo Shawl on the beach to enter into the KAN photo competition. There are three categories you can enter as an attendee and I entered the photo at the top in the “you wear it well” category and I actually won! Yes, I couldn’t believe it, very excited to receive a lovely package on my return to Australia with yarn, patterns, chocolate and lots of other goodies.
I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Knit August Nights in New Zealand and would love to do it again. If I did though, I think I’d like to take a friend or two with me for a bit more of a knit and natter!