My Weekend: Getting Cozy with Cashmere …

Cashmere does in an upper pasture

Friday the 11th, I loaded the van, kissed the kids and dh goodbye, and headed south-west about an hour to a lovely farm in the autumnally-festooned foothills of Barboursville, Virginia. My weekend of “getting cozy with cashmere” was about to begin. After months of planning this knitting workshop with Spring Gate Farm owner Jane McKinney, we were about to embark on the FIRST annual cashmere gathering … a weekend of knitting, talking about knitting, and doing some more knitting with a dozen lovely ladies.

Jane’s 220-acre farm is a rolling mix of pastures (where her championship cashmere goats, her Suffolk sheep, her newly-arrived Merino sheep and a couple of donkeys gambol) and fruit trees, organic vegetable patches and chicken houses, girded by the Rapidan meandering along.

It’s an idyllic spot to host a knitting workshop, especially at the peak of the fall colors.

Our classroom above a storage garage

A barn, renovated as a studio apartment for her dad, was our classroom/lunchroom/shop-op spot for the weekend. We had lots of space for our 12 participants to knit, chat, knit some more, and revel in learning all about this luxury fiber called cashmere. Jane was an amazing hostess, stocking the apartment with snacks and sweets, coffee and tea, and a ‘fridge filled with water, juices, yogurt and fruit. Lunch on Saturday was a gourmet delight: homemade butternut squash (from her garden) soup, chicken-salad on croissants, and fresh fruit. We did not go hungry from the start of the workshop on Friday at 7:00pm till we left on Saturday at 4:30 pm.

I organized the workshops to take full advantage of the cashmere fiber — Friday evening I taught a class on adding beads to knitting, designing a necklace for the class which highlights Spring Gate’s cashmere(50%)/silk(25%)/merino(25%) and lovely gold beads. Named “Garnet Glow“, this design allowed the participants to instantly put into practice the explanation of how to knit with beads. I had pre-strung all the beads so they just had to choose their yarn, wind it into a ball, slip the beads on and knit away on their bead project.

Working hard on adding beads to their knitting

Saturday, we kicked off the brisk morning with a walk around the farm (a couple of us stayed back for some one-on-one time with me and the bead project) and then I introduced chart-knitting by giving them a design for a cashmere scarf. “Trees in Snow” is an orginal design that I created for this workshop — we used it as our example of chart knitting in the morning, continued to work on it after eating lunch and while Jane told us all about cashmere, and then I used it as a prime example when giving tips, tricks and techniques at the end of the workshop. The ladies were able to choose their preferred color for the scarf — 100% cashmere in pastel tones or naturals — and begin knitting as we knitted the day away.

Jane’s talk on cashmere … the history, the harvesting and the husbandry behind keeping goats … helped us all understand a little better just why cashmere is considered a luxury fiber. We learned that back in the days of Ancient Egypt, the pharaohs placed a high value on this rare fiber. We learned that a fleece, combed by hand once a year, only yields about 4-6 ounces of unspun fiber. We learned that cashmere goats have personalities and attitudes and those with bad attitudes (especially the bucks) don’t stay long at Spring Gate.

Spring Gate Farm owner, Jane McKinney, teaching about cashmere

A bit of time for “shopping” … with the opportunity to purchase my Spring Gate designs as well as Jane’s skeined yarns, roving and pelts — finished off the amazing weekend.

Some of the wares available to purchase; most of the samples shown are my original designs

Can’t wait till next year’s workshop.

So what knitterly thing(s) did you do this weekend?

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