Lisa Evans (left), a long-time Knitty advertiser, is the creative force behind Knitting & Yoga Adventures, a small business that offers Knitting Retreats in a variety of locations in the US. We asked Lisa to tell us more about her Retreats and the thought behind them.
Q: What made you decide to offer fiber and yoga adventures as a business? How long have you been doing these retreats?
A: The idea of knitting retreats began many years ago when my own knitting group tried to join a local knit shop’s annual retreat to Monhegan Island, Maine, and there wasn’t room for us. Not to be thwarted, we organized ourselves and spent a long weekend on the island having a blast. A few years later a friend and I talked about this intriguing combination and I knew just the place. 13 years and over 30 retreats later, Monhegan Island has become the mainstay retreat, with New Mexico, Vermont and now Knit Maine at Haystack Mountain School of Craft.
Q: How have the retreats changed since you began offering them?
A: In the beginning I taught the knitting classes, mostly intarsia based upon the designs I had created for LBEvans Handknits along with a friend who taught the yoga sessions. But I switched over long ago to bringing in known knitting designers, as well as established professional yoga instructors and a massage therapist. Not all of the trips include yoga or massage, but there is always an element of easy healthful movement and pampering involved. I now focus on the creation and organization of the retreats always seeking out new venues and new instructors working about 18 months in advance.
Q: What are your retreats like? What can your guests expect?
A: When I am creating a retreat I consider the geographic location, travel options, and venue carefully keeping each trip unique from the others. At this point I know many who will possibly attend so I think about what would they be willing to do, how much I can stretch the group to trust me try new things. Experience has taught me that the architecture of a space is critical to the success of an event. There must be a comfortable space for us as a group that feels naturally inclusive and fosters bonding and conversations. It could be a large living room with lots of seating options, a courtyard, or a small gallery space. What it will never be is a conference center with big screens and long tables!
Q: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned in offering these retreats?
A: One thing I have learned is that we all want the same basic things in a retreat. We want to make friends, have good food and conversations and to see, learn and experience new things. More importantly we need to feel safe, included, rested and comfortable. I take great care in curating an experience for my participants to create an experience that is not just fun and entertaining but takes care of these basic needs.
Q: You have retreats planned in Maine, Vermont and New Mexico this year. Tell me more about why you chose each location.
A: Monhegan Island and Quechee, Vermont are easy mainstays on my roster. They focus on a primary location with a few hikes and outings. While New Mexico is a day-tripping type of experience that is much more logistically challenging and takes a great deal of choreography moving through Northern New Mexico. It is a fabulous place to visit. The big addition this year is Knit Maine, September 6-9, at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine. Haystack is an internationally known craft school nestled into the rocky landscape at the waters edge. It is a completely new type of event for me. This event takes place over 4 days with 8 instructors; over 30 class offerings, evening presentations, morning yoga sessions and a Saturday marketplace with Maine & New England based producers. It’s very exciting and very nearly filled.
Q: How do you choose which instructors to have at each event?
A: Selecting instructors is always fun. I am so pleased to have a core group of amazing designers and instructors that travel with me: Norah Gaughan, Susan Mills, Julia Farwell-Clay and Beth Brown-Reinsel to name only a few. This year Kate Atherley, Patty Lyons, Katharine Cobey and Beatrice Perron Dahlen are joining me!
Q: Tell us more about you personally, Lisa. What’s your background?
A: After growing up in Texas and attending Texas A&M I moved to New York City to work as a Landscape Architect for several years before moving to Maine and starting a family. One of my first friends in Portland told me I must learn to knit because ‘all the ladies knit’. So my mother-in-law got me started on a pair of straight-needle mittens. All the basics were there and I was off!
After the birth of my first child I realized I needed something to dip back into the technical side of my mind. Not one to follow the directions of others very well I began designing my own knit projects. With the birth of my third child LBEvans Handknits was created and I went to market with a line of knitted kits for backpacks, totes, and purses.
This all didn’t just happen in a vacuum, however, I had been attending the TNNA shows with my mother, Boots Bailey for many years to assist her with her needlepoint and leather finishing business. But needlepoint wasn’t my thing and she helped me get yarns to play with from Westminster Fibers, the company that brought Rowan yarns to the USA. These kits featured Rowan yarns and were pre-lined structured bags with leather tops and knitted bodies. The knitting was simply shaped but had highly involved colorwork, primarily intarsia. Much to my delight, my small design business became one of Westminster Fibers featured product lines at market just as I was beginning to run retreats and creating K&YA.
Creating retreats is something I really enjoy, it fulfills the southern hostess side of my personality. But the artistic side of me is a very important and a big part of my life. I began working with clay and learning to throw on the wheel gradually as a hobby while my family was young. It took on a much larger role for me during the time of my mother’s illness and her passing. The potters wheel was my ‘go to’ to stay grounded and let go of the stress while I traveled monthly from Texas to Maine to help in her care and to manage her business. It was very clear to me that I could not step back from it and have since created a private studio. I now pursue this work as a ceramic artist right alongside K&YA with work in several galleries in Maine and Rhode Island and a small online presence as Lisa B Evans Pottery.
You can learn more about the upcoming Knit Maine Retreat and the other Knitting & Yoga Adventures at Lisa’s website. Thanks for sharing, Lisa!