March 13
Fort Worden Logo

Fort Worden is humming like a well-oiled Pfaff!

It has been a few years since I've been able to visit this annual gathering of kitemakers and designers. But with the change in dates applied this year, my conflicts were eliminated. Susie and I decided to take the drive up through the jagged Olympic Mountains and along the scenic fjords of Puget Sound. We arrived at the far northwest tip of the United States in time to see the lights of Victoria Canada twinkling across the water.

Fort Background!

Back in 1988, the premier issue of American Kite Magazine called Fort Worden a gathering of "artists, engineers, and mystics". The magazine is gone now, but the retreat continues and has improved with age. Now in it's 18th year, it has emerged as the largest of the kitemaking conferences in America.

Movie buffs and romantics will recognize the Fort as the location where Officer and a Gentleman was filmed several years ago. The classic turn of the (last) century wooden buildings resonate with history and are littered with military photos of former residents. It now operates as a Washington State Park and Conference Center.

Classes are run Friday through Sunday. And such classes!!

Ft Worden Classroom Action!
Ft Worden Classroom Action!
Ft Worden Classroom Action!
  • Robert Trepaniér of Montréal, Quebec teaching his signature class in making life-size "self portrait" kites.
  • Wolfgang Grimsel of Oldenburg, Germany with plans for a "kite in motion" with rotating parts.
  • Martin Lester of Bristol, England, famous for his representational soft kites.
  • Sharon Musto of Winnipeg, Manitoba showing the process to draw and construct a small, elegantly appliquéd della Porta.
  • José Sainz of San Diego, California teaching his classic techniques for sewing and cutting appliqué.
  • Kevin Shannon of Carlisle, Pennsylvania making a variation of the ancient Chinese kiteline climber.
  • Scott Skinner of Monument, Colorado creating exquisitely subtle paper kites by combining paper pieces in patterns or images to form the skin.
  • Barry Poulter of West Sussex, England discussing concepts and techniques in surface design and shape enhancement.
  • Bob & Charmayne Umbowers of Gig Harbor, Washington making an efficient, small-but-powerful double parasled.
  • The Yaripa Group of Medellin, Columbia teaching a class in making Columbia's traditional, hexagonal yaripa and paper or cloth kite.

All together there were more than 40 instructors teaching all aspects of kite design, construction, and decoration.

Ft Worden Classroom Action! Ft Worden Classroom Action! Ft Worden Classroom Action!

Most attendees stay in the old dormitories, but Susie and I were invited to share one of the Victorian duplexes built for non-commissioned officers. Susie asked the difference between a commissioned and a non-commissioned officer. Clearly the distinction was the size of the house and possibly the date when plumbing was moved indoors.

Ft Worden Classroom Action! Ft Worden Classroom Action! Ft Worden Classroom Action! Ft Worden Classroom Action! Ft Worden Classroom Action!

Our kitchen featured instruction on how to use the telephone. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a phone or a phone plug in the house or anywhere else. Most people might find that relaxing. Not me! Even my cell phone wouldn't work in these isolated woods. I was finally able to plug in and dial out for email and phone messages in the back of the camp cafeteria...

Ready to Raffle!

Funds for Conference expenses are paid by registrants. Costs run from $85 to $200 depending on whether you want optional meals or housing.

Costs for importing instructors are raised by raffling off kites, trinkets, and memorabilia in one of the largest and most intense ticket lotteries in the kite world. Over $7,000 was raised, one ticket at a time.

I only have one complaint about the weekend. Cookies.

There were cookies everywhere, along with candy, brownies, and other assorted treats. Meals were plentiful as well, but it was the snacks that pervaded the classrooms and presented temptation at every turn. I'm not really complaining. The hospitality was overwhelming. But we're planning a trip to Australia in September and I'm worried about fitting into my thong when I reach Bondi Beach.

Too many Cookies!

We pulled out of Fort Worden on Sunday afternoon with a cheesecake raffle prize in the back seat. Our heads were brimming with new ideas and the joy of spending time with good friends. Susie drove, and I wondered how to write an Update that might make a sewing weekend sound as interesting as it really was.

Next week I'm off to the Smithsonian in Washington DC and then on to France a few days later. See you there!!

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