Knitting retreats featuring quality yarns made from sheep, yak, llama, camel, goat and alpaca combined with sea breezes and birding excursions are among the offerings the owners of North Light Fibers are weaving together in their efforts to extend the Block Island tourism season.
“On Block Island, most hotels and stores drain the pipes and close from about late October until Easter. It would be nice to have the summer season start in May, but the traditional beach season really starts in mid-June and a lot of that is related to schools,” explained Sven Risom, one of three owners of North Light Fibers, a Block Island-based manufacturer that produces minimally processed, quality yarns, sells hand-crafted goods and hosts a growing knitting-retreat business.
“We believe very strongly we have an opportunity to extend the shoulders of the tourism season in May and October,” said Risom. “We purposely schedule knitting retreats for around May 3 or May 6 so we bring people into the hotels. We try to get more restaurants and stores to open up so there’s more activity while people are here for the retreats.
“There’s a limit to how far we can extend the shoulders of the season, but we have to start somewhere, so we’re starting,” said Risom. The most recent retreat, the Language of Lace from Oct. 11-14, was programmed around specialty yarns and three unique knitting styles.
North Light Fibers started hosting knitting, weaving and spinning retreats in spring 2012 and the gatherings over long weekends have been growing ever since.
“We worked with four hotels to open a week earlier than usual just this past May for our knitting retreat,” said Laura Risom, also an owner of North Light Fibers, who is married to Sven Risom.
The couple has owned a home on Block Island and summered there for 20 years. They evolved from visitors from Connecticut to year-round residents in 2009 when their youngest child graduated from high school.
“We hatched the idea to live on Block Island and have a year-round business a long time ago,” said Laura Risom. “I’ve knitted and sewed all my life. My long-term goal is to create a business that will survive beyond my lifetime and that will drive economic sustainability on Block Island.”