Sunday, 26 June 2016

Woolfest with Westcliffe

Another milestone passed:  my first holiday as a woman alone.

Last week, I took myself off to Blackpool on the train to the Westcliffe Knitting Hotel, run by the lovely Paula Chew.
I had never been to Westcliffe before, and knew nothing about it until I was trying to find a way to go to Woolfest in Cumbria on my own without being lonely.
And honestly?  The whole experience surpassed my expectations.

From the moment I arrived I was made welcome.
Everyone else on the holiday had been there before, but it was not at all cliquey:  I was quickly made to feel part of the group.
The food was delicious, with excellent vegetarian options.
My room was comfortable, with everything I needed.
The sitting room quickly felt like home from home, with woolly projects sprouting out of every orifice as The Knitters took up residence.

The itinerary was flexible, with some choosing to learn Tunisian Crochet, while others others opted out and carried on with their own projects.
Four of us, including our tutor Michele, started to knit a funky geometric Modular Blanket. I am afraid I didn't get far, due to my own special holiday project.
A couple of days before setting off for Blackpool, I signed up for a test knit for Susanne Sommer, SosuKnits, on a pretty tight deadline.
It quickly turned into Brioche Bootcamp :)
You may remember that I only learned how to Brioche at the start of June.
What better way to get to grips with a new technique than to test knit a massive shawl with a 2 week turnaround time?!
There were some accidents and incidents involving dropped stitches, the inability to count and general late night brain-fog... but it is going well.
At the time of writing I have just begun the final border section and it is going to be gorgeous, if I say so myself!

But back to the holiday... we had outings to local wool shops, including the little gem that is Vivian Westwools.  I was very much taken with Vivian and his carefully curated collection of yarns, from £1-a-ball acrylic to the much-fondled prize bison balls.
Tempted as I was by a selection of local hand-dyes, I bought some self-striping sock wool and some West Yorkshire Spinners Illustrious DK in the colour Sea Glass to knit the Cecilia cardigan from their beautifully-presented collection designed by Emma Wright.
It won't be long before that is on the needles.

One afternoon, we sat in Stanley Park and did a spot of knitting outside the cafe, where there was cake.
Boy, was there cake!

We had plenty of free time to do as we pleased.  I fell into a pattern of a daily stride along the promenade as if I had a dog to exercise.  I was wary of spending too much time alone in a town full of care homes for the elderly and exuberant hen parties, because I am still just one beat away from a meltdown, brought on by the strangest things.
I did a pretty good job of holding it together.
But there was no hope of me going up Blackpool Tower or buying a stick of rock on the pier, because I didn't want to be doing it without him.

And then there was Woolfest itself :)
Have you been?
It is a proper sheepy wool festival, with a good mix of independent yarn producers, dyers and designers.
I had hoped to celebrate the Summer Socks Knitalong with a mini-meet-up, but it didn't happen (my own fault for not checking back in the Ravelry group before setting off).
However, I was absolutely delighted to meet a couple of dear blog-friends for the first time, Ambermoggie and Mr Mog.
That tipped me over the edge, but in a good way.
I don't think any of us expected we would make that happen, but we did :)

Now I am home again, with plenty of woolly goodness to share with you after I unpack and get back to my knitting.

Westcliffe goes to Woolfest (picture taken from their Facebook page)
If you are tempted by a Westcliffe holiday, there are still vacancies on their "Westcliffe on Tour" holiday to Yarndale in September.  That holiday is based at a hotel in Harrogate, so you won't get to sample Paula's cooking, but it promises to be a fun and friendly experience.

I would be signing up myself if it wasn't for a certain four-legged friend who needs to be given a special treat when I collect him from the boarding kennels in the morning!


  1. A significant milestone, as you say. It gets a little easier after the first time. The Westcliffe Hotel sounds marvellous, so glad you had a good time.

  2. I'll be following you like a shadow in blog land, learning how to do it. �� It was super lovely to meet you and I really hope we'll stay in touch and that we'll meet again xx

    1. Thanks Michele! I hope to be back sometime - maybe the dog will let me out again later in the year :)

  3. I'm constantly surprised by when and what triggers tears. I can anticipate something as being difficult and I'm fine, or out of the blue I can find myself weeping. Bizarrely part of me finds the experience quite interesting! Just to have managed the holiday must surely be satisfying and give strength, but I'm so glad you enjoyed it too. I remain in awe!

    1. Yes... it is interesting to observe myself from afar. I am trying to write it down as it happens. Hope you are doing ok.

  4. Hello Roo,

    I'm so pleased for you that you made it to woolfest, I went there once with my oldest daughter by car and it was a brilliant adventure! I will never forget it. My daughter went on to study and graduate in textile crafts!

    I think it is always amazing to find your own tribe of like minded people, you immediately feel at home!

    I admire you for your spirit, well done for doing the test knit!!!

    I am sure the dog would forgive you if you ventured out to yarndale...

    Ingrid xx

    1. Thanks Ingrid. Still knitting furiously to meet my test deadline! :)

  5. Delighted you had a great time in Blackpool, look forward to seeing your purchases and that lovely cardigan. I guess it still is early days for you, it's a big step going on holiday on your own and, yes, the tears do come at the weirdest of unexpected moments. I felt the tears coming in a local shop last week at the sight of 'dad' pyjamas that I'd had difficulty getting while he was in hospital. Wasn't expecting that! Hope you continue to do well!

    1. Thanks Jen. Hope you are doing OK.

  6. I was pleased to meet you - I was on the Ripples Craft stand. I am so glad that you enjoyed your holiday.

    1. Hi Lizzi! It was lovely to meet you - and thanks for the colour advice ;)

  7. It made my Woolfest our finally meeting and hopefully it will be the first of many:) it made a very poignant Woolfest far more bearable. Thank you xx

    1. It was brilliant to meet you at last - and we definitely must get together again. Hugs to you and Mr Mog :)

  8. sounds like a perfect get away! A friend mentioned seeing brioche knitting and how fabulous it was - so we are hoping to find a class near by if we can. Super fast test knitting - always amazed at how having a timeline keeps a project working at speed!

    1. You should definitely give it a go - the moment when the penny drops is very special :)

  9. My sweet Roo. This is the tender year and nothing else will ever be quite like it. Love yourself, love him, love everyone, but keeping your distance is sometimes the best way. Love from across the sea.

  10. Hi Roo, I have not commented in a while..not since your horrific struggle to find help toward the end there. But I have been following along from the old blog to the new. It is lovely to follow along with your adventures and this one is inspired! Wow... what a fantastic idea. I am so glad you had a good time :-)