Sarah Jane Humke

The life of a traveling, reading, writing, spining and knitting shepherdess.

In Which I finally blog about Knit Camp September 18, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 9:52 am
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I have sat down to write this post at least a dozen times.  At first I was going to edit carefully and only talk about the good stuff that happened at camp.  But I couldn’t do that when my stomach was still feeling like I was going to throw-up whenever I thought too much about it.  It’s very unnatural for me to, for lack of a better term, air dirty laundry in public, but I don’t feel as though I can keep silent any longer as more and more comes out into the open about the lies that the organizer spread.

Last year I went to the Rav day in Coventry with a friend of mine.  We enjoyed it and I didn’t think that it seemed all that much more disorganized than knitting events that I had been to in the US.  Other than the horrid weather, I thought (as an attendee) that it was a pretty cool day.  After that day, there was mention of Knit Camp on the Rav boards and I thought that it sounded really cool.  I joined the Rav group to get updates about what was happening and got more excited as the tutors were added and more fun things announced.  I sent the link out to friends of mine all over the world and some of them made plans to join me in going to Knit Camp.  When the registration went live I was one of the first people to sign-up and I was fully booked with 7 classes, self-catering accommodation and an excursion.  Over the next few months I ran into the organizer a couple of times, once at the opening of her store and once at Wonderwool Wales.  Both times I told her that I would be more than glad to help out before the event stuffing envelopes or whatever needed doing.

About a month before the event the organizer contacted me and asked if I would be willing to take over the organization of the volunteers as the person that was doing that was a bit overloaded with rescheduling folks from tutors who had pulled-out.  I said sure and also volunteered for handling questions on Rav as there seemed to be a lot of them that weren’t getting answered.  I made sure that the organizer was completely aware that I was fully booked for classes and that I didn’t really want to pull out of them at this point as well as the fact that I wouldn’t be able to be up there much before the day that the event started as I was having friends fly in that were driving-up with me. The organizer said that they would work around that and then offered to refund my accommodation and any excursions that I went on in return for my helping to chaperone them.

At first it went ok.  I enjoyed helping people answering questions on the boards.  The organizer had never seemed to have time to do this so there were a lot of them.  However, as time went on a few cracks started to show.  It got harder and harder to get questions answered from the organizer via e-mail, which I just put down to the fact that she was getting busier as it got closer and closer to the event.  I kept hearing about things that I thought that would have already been done quite some time ago still not being done.  The organizer was always reassuring that she would get to it them next day.  My accommodation and excursion refund were always the same as well…tomorrow.  I started getting panicked e-mails and calls from vendors who didn’t know if they had a booth or not and they were worried about the marketplace taking place at all.

However, things were progressing and I thought that maybe she was one of those folks who just procrastinated until the last-minute then went on a massive spree of work.  The organizer went on a couple of times about the travesty that was the Scottish Wool Centre, but truthfully I didn’t pay much attention about it until she said that she and one of the other folks doing the bulk of the organization would be there for a day right before the event and would be out of reach of cell phones and internet.  This didn’t seem like such a good idea to me but I figured that she must have had some sort of back-up contact for while she was out of reach.

On the Saturday before the event, I had gone out with my house guests to pick-up some last-minute travel bits and to show them a bit of the area of England that we live in.  I came back to an e-mail from the organizer saying that one of the tutors and another person supposed to be at Knit Camp were being detained by immigration because their work permits weren’t in-hand.  Upon reading this, I know I turned green because my husband took one look at me and asked what was wrong.  I actually had to put my head between my knees for a few moments so that I wouldn’t throw-up.  Now I moved to this country about 19 months ago.  Anyone who has had a read through my blog will know that I am pretty thorough person when it comes to paperwork.  I moved here with 4 cats and 2 dogs, which by the time that we got here was well over a ream’s worth of papers and about 9 months of slogging through US, UK and EU bureaucracy   The paperwork for the human members of our family was dealt with by the hubby’s workplace and was all taken care of well in advance of us coming here.  I would never have agreed to come otherwise.  What happened to those ladies was the thing that haunted my dreams as I prepared to move here, and here it was actually happening to them.  Now, I will be very honest here.  I had never even thought about the work permits for a couple of reasons.  First off, I didn’t know that they were needed.  I had never heard anyone talk about them before when it came to events like this.  Second off, if something like this was needed, then I would have assumed that they had been taken care of a long time ago!!!!

By this point, I had learned who the back-up contact was for the organizer… me.  To say that I was grossly unprepared for this would be an understatement.  I hadn’t even been told that it was going to happen, and here I was fielding questions from folks all over the world, freaked-out to the max, with precious little idea of what the hell was actually going on.  I knew that there were tons of tutors that were in transit to the event at that moment, but I didn’t know who exactly was already in the UK and who was still to leave.  I was getting e-mails from tutors wondering if there was going to be someone to pick them up at the airport or train station and all I could do was tell them what I knew which was, “I don’t know,” and to give them my personal phone number in case someone wasn’t there.

The next day my friends and I were set to leave for Scotland.  We weren’t going straight to Stirling as we had planned on seeing some of the Yorkshire Dells and staying at an inn about an hour from Edinburgh.  We had a good day, though it was hard for me to enjoy things as much as I should have as I was worried sick about what was going on in my absence.  However, I hadn’t gotten any panicked text messages or anything, so I kept on.  When we got to the inn, we found that the wi-fi didn’t work with my computer for some reason, so I was unable to check my e-mail.  I texted a few people to see if everything was ok and got very little information in return.

The next day, we drove to Stirling.  I had a volunteer meeting at noon and had precious little time to prepare for it.  There was no organizer in sight as she was off trying to sort out the work permits problem.  The place was chaotic and panicked and it didn’t seem a good start at all.  I had my meeting and went and checked-in to my accommodation and then tried to help set the chaos right.  That is more or less what I did for the rest of the week.  I spent most of my time at camp trying to answer people’s questions and helping the tutors, who were all very professional despite the insanity that swirled around them.  I got really good at saying sorry.  Sorry for not knowing the answer to the questions, sorry for tutors not having their supplies or in some instances, classrooms, sorry for not knowing what the hell was going on.  I watched good people, people who had done their part of the organization of Knit Camp pretty much flawlessly take angry comment after angry comment about something that they had no hand in whatsoever with grace and good humor even though it was clear that they really wanted to have a good cry.  I consoled these people and others after they were publicly “fired” for not having the right attitude.  I watched the people who had volunteered to help go through much, much more than folks ever should have gone through.  I went to most of my classes, but didn’t get much from most of them because I was either too stressed to really learn, or I was in and out, dealing with problems.  And I tried to do all of this with a smile.  I would go back to the flat that I was sharing with one of my friends and 5 other lovely ladies and my face would hurt from smiling so much and I was shaking from all of the stress.  I lost a ton of weight at Knit Camp between the running around the convoluted Cotrell building and the fact that my stomach was in so many knots that I could usually not eat all that much.

I hadn’t known that when I left the house on Sunday that I was never going to be able to check the Knit Camp e-mail again.  To anyone who e-mailed me after Sunday morning, I am sincerely sorry, but I never received it.  When I got to Stirling, the first bit was so chaotic for me, I was scarcely able to tell which way was up at any given moment.  I didn’t have time to check the internet and didn’t know how to get onto it.  Except for the one post that I made on Ravelry at one of the tutors insistence, I was completely off the internet for several days.  When I finally had a few seconds in which to check my Knit Camp e-mail, I couldn’t get to it.  According to the message that kept appearing when I was trying to log-in, someone was trying to hack into the account and it was automatically shut down.  I was never able to access it again.

There were a few bright spots; I’m not going to say that it was entirely horrible because it wasn’t.   I had a blast at the pub quiz acting as the MC.  I had been looking forward to that night a lot and it more than lived-up to my expectations.  I met an awesome relative that I hadn’t seen since I was too young to remember her (What are the odds?!!?).  I met a TON of really cool people from all over the world who managed to still have fun in spite of the problems.  My roommates in the flat were amazing and so generous with the crazy girl who came back in every night practically vibrating from caffeine and tension.  I saw and heard about tons of impromptu knitting lessons where someone would say, “I’d love to learn how to do that but it looks so hard…” and another person would pop up and say, “Oh, that’s easy!  Let me show you!”  I finally got to sit in the jump-seat of a tour bus (I know, odd small goals…) and I completely got over any shyness that I may have had hanging about (you can stop laughing now, I’m serious!).

I owe a HUGE thank you to my friend who more or less kept me sane through the whole thing.  She would come along every few hours and ask when was the last time I ate/drank/sat down was and generally the answer was, “the last time I talked to you,” at which point she would hand me a snack/drink/force me into a chair and stand over me until I did as she ordered.  She listened to me babble in double speed and helped me sort things out.  She would keep me in check of the time and saved me a seat whenever I was in need of one.  She literally led me around the blasted Cotrell building by the arm until I had finally gotten the layout of it.  She was a blonde angel and I owe her big-time.

Folks on the trip that I took to Shetland after Knit Camp asked if I would ever do it again.  I don’t remember what my answer was (I was still rather hyped-up and would remain so for a few more days to come) but I know the answer now.  I would love to do it again, so long as it is with someone who has done at least a few well-received events in the past.  And I would question both vendors and tutors from their previous events to make sure that nothing fishy had gone on.  If it was something that had never been done before, I would only be involved if I was in it from the beginning and had more of a say in what was happening.

I’m appalled at both what has happened since Knit Camp and the things that I have learned about previous events/businesses that the organizer had been involved with.  Had I known even a small amount of it prior to becoming involved, I probably wouldn’t have.  Some folks may say that there was a lot of stuff over on the “other” Knit Camp board about this stuff, as well as in other threads.  I can honestly say that I didn’t realize that these threads/groups existed until I was calming down a very freaked-out vendor while at Knit Nation and she kept talking about things on the Knit Camp group, which I had just checked on my iPhone.  I had no idea what she was talking about and asked her exactly where she had read these things, and that is when I learned that there even was another group.  Doh.

Given that I am also in the refund-less and zoodie-less camp, I feel that it is right to post this.  I know that many of the tutors signed contracts that gagged them from saying anything, but I never did.  Also, the organizer, nor any of the groups or companies that she was the head of, ever employed me.  I don’t feel that I owe any allegiance to anybody except for the folks that attended the camp either in the capacity of camper, tutor or volunteer.  These folks are the reason that all of us that were in the trenches stayed, not the organizer.  I really hope that everyone gets paid/refunded, though I am not terribly optimistic about this.  I’m saddened and sickened by the thought of how much money is owed to various people and organizations.  I really hope that at the very least the organizer is not able to ever set-up another company, at least not until everybody effected financially has been paid, with interest.

Lastly, I would like to say thank you to all of the tutors.  Y’all are made of awesome sauce, on so many levels.

 

37 Responses to “In Which I finally blog about Knit Camp”

  1. Signe Says:

    Oh no, Sarah
    I’m so sorry you got caught up in it all!
    I’ve sort of followed the whole mess unfolding via Ravelry and blogland in disbelief. Just because I so wished the horrific stories and accounts to be untrue.
    I still can’t believe that they are true. And I can’t believe somebody would create such a train wreck with so many people involved, hurt and put out, and then not even apologize and own up to it.

    On a positive note, it makes me happy that you (that I know to be a very kind and lovely person), were there to help some of the lost and confused 🙂

  2. unblinkered Says:

    I really don’t know what to say…as outsiders, we knew it was bad but I don’t think I imagined just *how* bad, even at my most cynical!

    I think it’s safe to say that the event would have been a complete disaster for everyone involved if it hadn’t been for you, the tutors, the volunteers and other staff, all of whom really went above and beyond to try and rescue the situation. Thank you. 🙂

  3. Lydia Says:

    Sarah,

    You did an AWESOME job at knit camp….even though the “sky” was falling all around you, you gave an air of sanity and calmness. Also, you are a ton of fun and are one of the people that made this event truly enjoyable.

    I’m so sorry about all of the stress you had to contend with. You hid it well. It seems that every blog I read about knit camp gets worse and worse….it is hard to fathom how something can get so totally screwed up!

  4. ambermoggie Says:

    I am so sorry you had such an awful time, I started the “other” board on rav because of all the deleted threads and lack of official info on the kc group. I wanted to know what was going on as I hoped to attend, in the event I didn’t but kept board open for those needing info

  5. Mulene Says:

    I must admit I thought you might be going through hell. I had no idea of your level of involvement, and frankly as someone who volunteered their time you’ve been treated terribly.

    I’m sorry you went through this.

  6. Jane Says:

    Sarah
    Thanks for this, reading comments on Ravelry it is now obvious the whole set up of this event was dodgy but I am shocked at the extent of the shambles and the exploitation of people like you who were taken advantage of because you were willing to help. You stepped up above and beyond the call of duty to make an event for which you were not responsible better for all concerned and you shouldn’t have been put in that position. I am sure you will turn the experience to your advantage although it was obviously a very unpleasant experience at the time.

  7. millie cole Says:

    On a positive note, Sarah: I was one of the people who had an absolutely awesome time at Knitcamp with no problems other than being a bit confused and dismayed by the lack of leadership on the part of the organizer. You are one of the reasons my experience was so great, Sarah. Thank you so much for just jumping in there with both feet and doing whatever you could to save the day. Your efforts did not go unnoticed. You are rare and precious.
    And weren’t those tutors just an absolutely fabulous bunch? So professional and so gracious.

    • hortihoney Says:

      I didn’t want this blog post to come off sounding all “woe is me”, but it was a tough time. It was tough even writing it to tell you the truth. I have to give major props to Lucy Neatby for her blog post on the subject for sort-of kicking me in the pants about writing this.

      And yes, the tutors were total awesome sauce!

  8. Sarah, I am so saddened at the way you were abused and your good nature taken advantage of by the organiser. Still, you were more gracious, helpful and cheerful that I could have been were I in your shoes.
    You deserve way more than just having your classes comped and a hoodie (yes, I know, that didn’t happen) so I would like to send you an assortment of knitting patterns as a thank you from me for your efforts. Small compensation for all the stress and frustration, I know, but I really do appreciate the help you gave me personally.
    Email me with your snail mail address when you have a moment, please.

    • moiraeknittoo Says:

      Lady, you are full of class. Two big old thumbs up from here!

      To Sarah from someone who has nothing to do with this event except for the dismay and bystander rage at seeing someone so fabulous taken advantage of so ruthlessly? You rock. *raises a glass to you*

  9. Emma Says:

    You are amazing to have shown so much commitment as a volunteer.
    I am sickened by how badly you were treated. That the organiser just dumped everything on you, then ran away.
    I hope that you recover fully from such an emotional and physical ordeal.

  10. I’ve finally switched on my brain and matched up your Rav name to the lovely Red-Hatted person I met at Knit Camp ( I was in Deb’s Rare Breeds Class )

    So sorry about all of the stress you had to put up with – especially as an unpaid volunteer, that’s just completely innapropriate. I think Joan McGowan-Michael has got it just right with her offer of patterns. What a lovely generous way of acknowledging your efforts 🙂

  11. corrie Says:

    All I can say is: You are truly amazing. THANK YOU!

  12. Lucy Neatby Says:

    Thanks for joining me in hanging out laundry! I was pretty sure that the tutors were absolutely not the only ones being dumped upon. We all appreciated your support and that of all the other volunteers. Let’s none of us be had again.
    Happier stitches in the future.

  13. Kiarapanther Says:

    You deserve some sort of medal. No one should have to go through what you did. I am sick to my stomach because I can imagine vividly what it must have been like for you and Im sure my imagination pales compared to the reality.
    Karma works both ways and I hope she shines brightly on you. You deserve wonderful things to come your way.

  14. Cheryl Says:

    Hi Sarah-Jane.
    I totally sympathise – as one of the “publically sacked” I know exactly what you went through. I still have some sleepless nights over it..I was promised so much and recieved very little as the organiser took the stance that ” if I hide away it will all get sorted by someone else” stance. Like you I did feel that I wanted to do whatever I could to make it better for tutors and students alike – which was the only reason I did not leave on Tuesday night. Although I have to say I was totally embarassed to sit and eat/socialise with students or tutors which was one of the things I was really looking forward to. You were totally professional throughout and I never saw you lose it with anyone all week. I, on the other hand did not do quite so well and had a couple of very public arguments with the organiser.
    I did., however, meet some great people – especially you – and that did take the edge off a little.
    Take care and keep in touch. C

    • hortihoney Says:

      Sweets. Your calm was one of the few things that helped me to not lose it!

    • Sarah Jane and Cheryl and also, if you’re in touch with her, Kate: you were all rocks on which the event’s solid points were grounded. Thank you from the bottom to the top of my heart for being there, and for hanging in there. Hard times show people’s true colors. You were golden. Please stay in touch.

  15. Barbro Says:

    Sarah, you are an outstanding person. What you did before and during KC was also outstanding. And your blond friend is also an outstanding person. When you feel baaad, remember the pub at that nice Scottish hotel 🙂

  16. Kris Says:

    Bless you for all the POSITIVE work you did! Here’s hoping that you and all the others who have been so badly dealt with manage to attach the “organizer’s” accounts, business and otherwise, and get the payments you so richly deserve. I got stung once by such an individual, and it was a hard, hard lesson. I no longer am kind, polite, and patient in such situations. Thank you for being a positive light!

  17. SJ, you were absolutely amazing that week. I was so glad to be there and I really wish I had known what was going on at the time. You and the tutors made it an awesome week for us. I wish it had gone smoothly and I am so sorry it has turned into such a mess for those involved. I hope the Reese’s pieces helped some that week. You should know that Robert was the one who lugged them in his suitcase. 🙂

    • hortihoney Says:

      Thank you again for the Reeces. I tend to eat them very slowly since they are so rare here. I’m still on bag one!!!! 🙂 However, it was totally wonderful to be thought of and I have been enjoying them!

  18. Elaine Says:

    Hey Sarah

    Elaine from Team Home Turf here – I’m so gobsmacked by all that is coming out – it’s so saddening and infuriating.

    Quiz night rocked thanks to you – I had a great time. And I’m so so impressed – you appeared as smiley, calm and in control throughout – I’m so sorry that the whole thing was such an awful stress for you, and so shocked that it was as bad as this behind the scenes. So unfair!

    You deserve a yarn-based medal for staying and I have eternal gratitude that people like yourself stayed and gave so much to make it such a great week. I would have completely understood if you all had just walked under the circumstances.

    You are total awesome sauce!!

  19. tini Says:

    Wow, that sounds awefull. I hope the organizer will never ever plan an event like this!

  20. Danielle L Says:

    Sarah – you are truly truly special. I knew things had to be horrible for you as you buzzed around the entire place, the only person from whom anyone could get any information about anything. And always smiling! You are a super-talented person and without you stepping into the fray, the week would have been pure hell for many people. Thank you for your stamina, And thank God for Liz who led us through a flawless week in the Shetland the following week – I know you were still revved up but at least you got to be a participant without any duties assigned to you.

    I was getting goosebumps and tears as I was reading your blog. Same with LucyN. I’ve been watching the Rav Group with increasing disbelief over the last couple of weeks. And it just seems to keep getting worse.
    Hope to see you again one of these days 🙂 Hugs

  21. Knitcave Says:

    I am so terribly sorry and angry to find out that the volunteers and turours have been treated so appallingly but I am not surprised. It is with great thanks to your hugely caring and professional attitudes that so many people were able to have a great time.

    I hope that such events will not be tarred by the orgaisers reputation in future and that ultimately we will be able to host a form of Knit Camp where everyone is treated with respect and everyone is recommended correctly for their time and work.

  22. Lix Says:

    What a mess. Your account is great though and even though I wasn’t there I’ve heard from others what a great job you did.

  23. Freyalyn Says:

    WEll blogged. I haven’t said much at all because for some strange reason I got my stall at Knitcamp Market free (and I’ve not yet worked out why?) and I haven’t actually lost out money-wise, but I’m so appalled for everyone who has. Thank you for writing such a clear-sighted commentary.

  24. Mary Beth Says:

    You are awesome. I hope you find a better place to use your skills.

  25. Carrie Says:

    Sarah your story of the events really brought me to tears. I could feel myself in your shoes and that of your friend looking out for you. I hope your blog post gets to who will make the decision about the organizer of this event.
    Thank you for putting knitters first , thank you for posting about it.
    I will continue to look on rav for the ways others knitters are able to help and I will help.

  26. Wow.
    I hope sometime in the future you can have a wonderful experience working with a well-organised knitting retreat. You deserve much better than the events described here.

  27. […] of these venues, written with more clarity and calmness than I can muster, here are blog posts by Sarah, Deb & […]

  28. […] Links: Woolly Wormhead; Horti Honey’s blogpost and Lucy Neatby’s blogpost about Knit […]


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