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Joeli’s Kitchen Retreat 2016

This past weekend I made my way south to Manchester. I was invited by Joeli to teach at her first ever knitting retreat. Usually my experience of knitting retreats is restricted to pyjamas, an open fire, 1980s films on DVD & a very small group of friends, so this was very different. The JKRetreat was basically a mini-knitting festival with a handful of teachers (*coughs*), Q&As with awesome folk, around 248919304 knitters making new friends or meeting old ones, and a totally fantastic vendor market.

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I lived briefly in Manchester in the 1990s, so I was excited about heading there again. I didn’t recognise a thing! It took me forever to find my way out of the train station and make my way to the hotel where we were all gathered. Granted, I could get lost in a phone booth (remember those?) but I used to live there! On the first night there, it was a joy to meet up with the other teachers and the speakers: Kate Heppell, Kate Atherley, Jules Billings, Louise Scollay, Isla Davison, Allison of Yarn in the City (launching the London Craft Guide in the north!), and Joeli herself. Usually we only meet in crowded halls at festivals, so it was nice to have an evening to chat and catch up.

The sociable evening turned out to be an omen for how the retreat itself went. I was so happy to recognise many familiar faces and I especially loved seeing all the splendid knitwear on display. I live vicariously through other knitters and the knitwear was just astounding. I started the first morning by recognising CountrySinger by her Byatt shawl (it is even more beautiful up close) and that set the standard for the rest of the weekend. So many creative, warm, funny people. I am not going to mention you all because I’d invariably forget someone – but everyone was so lovely.

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I taught two classes (colourwork & lace), the indomitable Scollay waxed lyrically about British sheep breeds, Joeli taught tech editing & drop spindling, Kate Atherley spoke about her knitting journey as well as taught classes on designing and garment fit; Kate H. talked about how a magazine is put together and Jules ran a finishing class and a class on knitting technique. I soaked up the atmosphere and I learned so much just from being around brilliant knitters.

Yarn. There was a lot.

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I was mysteriously restrained, but I think I was overwhelmed! Three rooms were opened to vendors and there were some really stunning yarns. The naturally dyed classy shades from Sylvan Tiger Yarn in Yorkshire (I love her gradient packs), BritYarn showcased some fantastic local yarns (I was especially smitten by her Dodgson Wood Castlemilk Moorit/BFL DK), the rich jewel colours of Travelknitter, and then I fell head over heels in love with Countess Ablaze. I have never met a saturated colour I didn’t love and thankfully the Countess shares my predicament. I’m not a sock knitter, otherwise the damage to my bank account would have been much worse. I left with just one skein.

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But that colour, right? This is a glorious 50% Masham/50% BFL blend in a DK weight and the moment I laid eyes on it, I knew it was going to be my preciousssss. I had such a fantastic time at the retreat recharging my creative juices and I left with my head spinning. See you next year (I hope?).

Back at work today and it is going to be a manic fortnight leading up to Edinburgh Yarn Festival. I’ve designed a hat called Burnet for WOOL TRIBE, the Edinburgh Yarn Festival exclusive magazine. Inspired by tenement tiles, the hat is knitted in two shades of Shilasdair Luxury 4ply – a stunning yarn dyed on the Isle of Skye here in Scotland. I’m just one of a handful of designers featured – the others are Ysolda Teague, Gudrun Johnston, Lucy Hague and EYF’s own Jo & Mica.

Pre-orders for WOOL TRIBE can be found here. The magazine will not be available as a digital download, but you can have it sent to your home or collect it at the festival.

I’ll be back soon with more, more news.

Weekend Bliss: A West Coast Knitting Retreat

This is beginning to be an annual thing. My good friends and I grabbed our current knitting projects, packed some food, and made our merry way to the West Coast of Scotland.

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We had booked a little house with some magnificent views.

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This is the view from my sea-front bedroom window. I could have stared at this all weekend long. Wait. I think that’s actually what I ended up doing.

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Watching the weather report like hawks, we decided to go for a walk on Saturday morning. I quickly decided to just ramble about on the nearby shore.

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I really wasn’t wearing the right shoes for rambling.

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Later same day we realised we had made the right decision when .. what we know in Scotland as “weather” .. rolled in.

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Huzzah for staying indoors with good friends. Some travelled quite far just to be part of our little group and it felt so special just to have to time to talk, work on crafty projects, and forget all about the outside world. I enjoyed the open fire and the assorted 1980s films we watched. I had never seen Labyrinth or Flash Gordon before. My life is definitely enriched.

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The little house had some really fantastic needlework and upholstery. Whoever had lived there previously had loved needlework and had collected a nice variety of display items – including this sampler from 1844.

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Sadly, by the time we were heading home, the weather had turned even worse and we caught the very last ferry back to the mainland.

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We are already talking about next year’s retreat but we think we might try to find somewhere on the mainland as some of my friends did not enjoy the choppy seas. But it is becoming an annual tradition and I am grateful. The beginning of the year is always a bit bleak as we wait for spring to arrive. The knitting retreat gives us all a boost when we need it the most.

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