“Can we please eat dinner with strangers every night while we’re here?”, asked my daughter her first time at NETA Knit and Spin Spa. She was only a high school junior, but she already understood the essence of Spa.
NETA (New England Textile Arts) Knit and Spin Spa started over 10 years ago, almost by accident. An email string started floating around encouraging some fiber friends to meet up at a hotel in the Portland Maine area to escape the winter blues while luxuriating with friends, and of course, knitting and spinning. A crowd showed up and Spa was born!
No one knows exactly how many people turned out that first year, and no one really knows how many people attend today. This is because there is no registration, no one taking names, no sign-ups, no NOTHING! Seriously. Just because there are no classes or registration, don’t imagine for a moment that all this happens magically. There are a lot of people and details to manage. We are lucky enough to have a brave and mighty team to plan and execute the event. I can only imagine that on occasion they feel like they are herding cats. We should all be so grateful they take this on!
Three hotels officially and other hotels and Bed & Breakfasts unofficially are filled to capacity with fiber people. In common parlance, “There are no muggles”. Several years ago, the event moved from Portland to Freeport ME, the home of, open-24-hours, LL Bean. The group outgrew the singular location and needed to expand. Growing to multiple hotels keeps the event from feeling too overwhelming, yet accommodating many more people.
Fiber-istas start showing up on Wednesday or so for the weekend. This year I picked Lola up at Logan airport in Boston on Thursday. We meandered up to Freeport via Norway Maine. Yeah, I know, not really on the way but we first met up with a Spa friend at a cute shop called Fiber and Vine. You guessed it. It’s a fiber and wine shop! We had lunch together at a cute café and then continued on to Freeport, with our wine purchases safely in the trunk awaiting an evening nip whilst spinning. Sigh, yes, many of us DO have cup holders.
Spa friends, new and returning, are at the heart of what makes Spa so special. Even though there are now thousands involved, the atmosphere is one of a gathering of friends- LOTS of them! Is there a line at the hotel restaurant? People feel no hesitation waving some new faces over to share a table. I love that. Is there any other place where people feel so comfortable together? Pull up a chair in the lobby with your spinning wheel. Talk fiber, learn a new technique (there are casual groups which form to learn a new skill and share tips), or try out a different wheel. A great way of making a new friend is stopping to photograph someone in a beautiful knitted object or pretty fiber on their wheel. Works every time and there is plenty there to admire. Spa fairies flit past, gifting fiber, notions, patterns and in my case, a handmade mechanical puzzle! I saw someone clutching yarn I had left at the free table. It was left over from a well-loved project of mine, and the recipient was telling her friend what she was going to make with that. Such fun!
The social atmosphere transcends the connections you might make in the “real world”. People connect regardless of profession, geography or even more so, age. When I was lucky enough to have my daughter with me, she made friends with people her mother’s age and older, and is sad to miss them now that she is in college. Some folks at Spa get to see each other more often, but for many of us, these meet-ups happen only at Spa. It is so wonderful to catch up with the events of the last year. Kids go to college, loved ones pass away and new grandchildren come into the world. Love to see the pictures.
Why does this work with all those people and no classes or general activities except for the Fashion Show? It is the sitting. Broken up with trips to new restaurants, and shopping at the marketplace (awesome vendors) whenever you spend hours during the day, over multiple days, playing with fiber and talking, you can’t help but feel happy and renewed. For me, it is just as therapeutic as the massages and reflexology treatments people sign up for.
I enjoy working the Greeter’s table. There is something so wonderful about a new attendee coming to you giggling, confessing that this is their first time. Love telling the newbies about the Fashion Show, the Ship’s project and the good places to hang out! Last year was the first time Lola was able to come. It was wonderful to have her there and she felt instantly like she was spending time with old friends. We wish that Leann could experience spa too! The desire to bring more people into the fold is part of the Spa culture.
I love fiber festivals and farmers markets. Many of them have a social atmosphere, but at NETA Spa it is primarily about the social piece, with hours of spinning, knitting, learning and shopping. If you come next year, and I hope you can, please find Lola and me, pull up a chair and stay awhile.
To find out about next year’s date and details:
NETA’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/NETA-New-England-Textile-Arts-Network/98569908258
NETA’s blog http://netafiberforum.blogspot.com
NETA’s Yahoo email group https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/NewEnglandTextileArts/info
Pics of Spa 2014 http://www.flickr.com/photos/lmardennh/page1/