Sunday, July 26, 2015

Knitting Fair Isle on a Fair Island

Some people grow up spending summers on Washington Island.  I wasn't one of those people, but luckily I've sort of become one.  I get a chance every summer or fall and then again in winter to spend some time on this little island off the tip of Wisconsin's Door County (the thumb of Wisconsin's mitten).  I've been coming to the island to attend and/or teach classes at Sievers School of Fiber Arts since 1997.  The island and Sievers are special places!  Sievers' summer class schedule goes online each year on February 1st and students don't want to wait too long to sign up, as some classes can fill quickly - was 15 minutes the record?

In July, my teaching buddy, Sandy, and I taught a Fair Isle Techniques class that was well attended by knitters who wanted to spend time together and extend their knitting skills.  Immediately following our class, there was a Fair Isle Design class taught by Janine Bajus from California.  Janine is known as the Feral Knitter (say Fair Isle and Feral quickly and you'll see where the name came from).

Left to right:  Sandy, Ann of Sievers,
and Janine Bajus of Feral Knitter
In keeping with our Fair Isle theme, we were pleasantly surprised to find the island's book store has a new owner and name - Fair Isle Books.  The book store is located next to everyone's favorite, Red Cup Coffee Shop.

In the summer when daylight is abundant and weather is cooperating, I love to get out on the island roads on my bicycle.  Sunrises and sunsets can be outstanding, and wildlife (oftentimes deer, turkeys, or pheasant, but even a fox this year) and beautiful wildflowers can be seen.  And whether you're in a car, on a bike, or walking, you'll want to be sure to greet everyone you meet along the way with the customary island wave.  It's a friendly community of about 700 residents year-round and many more in the summer months.

For most visitors, a ferry ride is required to get to the island.  In the summertime, the ferry ride takes about 30 minutes.  In the winter, the trip can take a little bit longer as it crunches through the ice.  Here's a short 10 second video I took from the ferry in winter.

winter ferry video

So, as I said, a ferry ride is required . . . unless you fly in.  As it happened, a Fly-In and Fish Boil were taking place on the weekend after our class.  Our favorite was The Pink Lady, a 1955 plane that is flown by the daughter of the original owner.  The daughter followed in her dad's footsteps and is now a commercial pilot living in California.

It doesn't have to be a special weekend to view some of the other island sights.  Mountain Road is a flat road that curves around the island's "mountain."  After climbing wooden steps to the top of the mountain, you can climb some more steps to the top of the lookout tower for a view to the north and east, which includes Rock Island, a state park that can be reached by yet another ferry.


Since it's an island, it's obviously surrounded by water.  Schoolhouse Beach is a popular spot, but be sure to wear your shoes or sturdy sandals on this rocky beach on the north shore.  On the opposite shore, you'll find Sand Dunes Park where you can snuggle your toes into soft sand.

The impressive Stavkirke, or Stave Church, was built in the 1990s mostly by volunteers from the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church.  The design was based on the Stavkirke in Borgund, Norway, which was built around 1150 AD.  The Washington Island Stavkirke is set back from the road and can be reached by a woodland path.  There also happens to be a miniature Stavkirke on the island in the middle of a lavender field near the Historic Island Dairy building, but it should not be confused with this church.

As you can see, the lavender fields were beautiful when we were there in July.

Lavender fields at Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm and Shop

You'll find a fair number of restaurants on this fair island.  Some of my favorites are:  Tuesday burger night at Karly's Bar or dinner at The Cellar located in Karly's lower level on other nights (don't miss the homemade Blue Cheese dressing), breakfast at The Sunset Resort featuring traditional Scandinavian specialties like Icelandic pancakes, and the Friday night Perch Fry at Findlay's Holiday Inn (privately owned, not part of the chain).

Once a year, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church serves a Harvest Dinner on the Saturday of Columbus Day weekend.  Happily, we are usually on the island teaching in October, and can sign up for one of the five seatings (from 4 PM to 8 PM).  Church volunteers prepare and serve a traditional Thanksgiving-like dinner complete with turkey, stuffing, gravy, potatoes, squash, pink fluff (Google pink fluff recipes), rolls, pickles, and pumpkin pie.  Wow, I swear you can smell turkey roasting all over the island that weekend!

But the best thing to do on the island?  Take a class at Sievers School of Fiber Arts.  You'll find that it's definitely located "north of the tension line."

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