Now that I've had a chance to recover and do the laundry, here's the long version of my SOAR review...
This was my first SOAR (Spin-Off Autumn Retreat). I figured I needed to take advantage of the fact that this is the last year both my kids will be in the same school, and it was within driving distance.
It was held at Granlibakken Resort in Tahoe City. Very nice, woodsy location. I get the impression that it's always held somewhere in the mountains. Gives you that high-altitude, cold feeling that you need to be playing with wool. There were people there from all over -- several had come all the way from the UK.
I just went for the Retreat, but would have loved to have done a workshop. My non-weaving roomate had taken Sara Lamb's silk knotted cut pile workshop, and loved it. (More info on Sara Lamb and her gorgeous weaving projects here... http://www.saralamb.com/) Another friend did Deb Menz's dye survey -- she came away with a HUGE binder of dyed wool samples -- a fabulous reference. I understand that Judith MacKenzie-McCune and Nancy Bush's spinning and knitting mittens class was the hot ticket -- 88 people on the waiting list for that one, but nobody in my guild got in.
Anyway, back to the retreat... I arrived Thursday afternoon, because I had to drop the kids off at school on the way out of town, so we totally missed the feeding frenzy in the vendor rooms that apparently went on when they opened in the morning. One booth, Rovings (http://www.rovings.com/), looked like it had been visited by a swarm of locusts.
By the time we got there, we only had a half hour to shop, so I didn't get much - just a couple of Woodchuck weaving doo-dads.
Thursday evening, there was the class signups for the Retreat. You sign up onsite, so everyone gets a chance to get something they want. Unfortunately, EVERYONE apparently wanted to take Judith MacKenzie-McCune's three wild downs class (one of only two that actually involved spinning). I was lucky - my group was called second, so I was able to get in, but just barely (yea!).
Then we had a lovely dinner (the food was great), and were treated to a keynote address by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (The Yarn Harlot). She was incredibly funny. They're supposed to post a podcast of her address on the SOAR blog (http://www.soarblog.com/), but it hasn't appeared as of the last time I checked.
On to the classes... I took Sharon Costello's Felted Soap class, which was really fun. It would be a great kids' project. You wrap wool around a bar of soap and gently felt it, making a sort of soap within a washcloth. For added pizzaz, she had us make felted ropes for sort of a wooly soap-on-a-rope.
Then it was Sara Lamb's cardweaving class, which I already know how to do, so I didn't really learn anything new, but there were some friends there, and I was able to play around with some techniques I hadn't tried before. Sara is a fun teacher, and I just loved seeing some of her samples. She's an amazing fiber artist.
Saturday morning, I had Stephanie Gaustead's basketmaking class, which was fun, but a little hard on the fingers. Also, we had to run out into the cold to get our wet reeds out of steaming buckets of water, and weave them in before they dried out. That was challenging. My basket looks more like a football than a basket, but I learned some basic basketmaking techniques, which was fun.
Then, finally, I had Judith MacKenzie-McCune's three wild down fibers class. Judith was wonderful, as usual. She is, hands-down, the best spinning teacher in the country. Even if she's teaching something I already know how to do, I learn something from her. As one person said in a class I took with her last year, "if she were teaching Advanced Toilet Bowl Maintenance, I'd sign up for it." We got to play with about a dozen samples of bison down, yak down, and cashmere, as well as blends involving silk and merino. Lots of fun, and I actually finished all of my samples at the Saturday Night Spin-In.
The Spin-In was amazing. Over 200 people in a ballroom, spinning, knitting, and enjoying some nice country music. The resort staff set up the chairs in nice even rows, but within half an hour, most people had rearranged them into little circles of friends, old and new. We were towards the back by the door, away from the music, and within sight of anyone who came in. Great fun -- there were at least 10 people from our guild there, and we had a great time.
Oh, and the door prizes. I've never seen so many door prizes in all my life. Just about everyone won something. I got a Pat Green doffer brush (for cleaning a drum carder), which I actually really needed, as mine looks like it's been run over by a truck. The grand prize was the new super-portable wheel by Louet, which I got to try out in the vendor room -- it's a nice wheel, and not outrageously expensive ($550 retail with carrying bag). If I hadn't already bought my daughter a Majacraft Little Gem, I would have been tempted to get that for her.
All in all, it was a great experience. I don't think I'd be that up for flying 6 hours to get to it, but the next time it visits the West Coast (probably 2010), I'll definitely want to go again.