Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Curious Handmade Country House Retreat

Last Thursday, I headed south to Cumbria for a much-anticipated Country House Retreat, organised by Helen Stewart of the Curious Handmade podcast, and designer behind The Shawl Society.

It was a glorious weekend of autumnal sunshine, knitting before breakfast, workshops, talks, yarn-fondling and delicious meals in the company of a really friendly group of fellow-crafters.

We were staying in a stately home.
Yes, really.
 I was lucky enough to get the last single room.  Each bedroom was decorated in a different style.  Mine was the Chinese Room.

Photo credit:  Helen Stewart, Curious Handmade
Our workshops were held at a long kitchen table with views of the cobbled courtyard and walled gardens beyond, including a wonderful little orchard.

Espaliered pear tree in the walled garden

I took part in a natural dye-ing workshop with Mette, who organised the retreat with Helen.
Mette demonstrated dye-ing with onion skins, avocado kernels and chlorophyll and a few of us dyed silk scarves using the pre-prepared vats.

Naturally dyed scarves - mine is on the far right
There was also the opportunity to learn brioche basics with Renee Callahan, East London Knit.
Although I know my way around brioche, I was keen to join in.
I highly recommend Renee's teaching style, if you ever get a chance to take a class with her.

Brioche class in action.  Helen is thinking...
Renee is wearing her Enso sweater in this picture.
That pattern went straight to the top of my queue when I saw the garment in real life.

And that is the thing about being in the company of knitters:  everyone had something interesting on the needles, or round their shoulders.
So many beautiful shawls!
Project bags galore!
And so much to talk about!

There was a mini-market, where Daphne from the Fibre Company was showing her wares, alongside Julie of Suffolk Socks.

I didn't buy any yarn (!) but was more than satisfied with the amazing Arranmore in our goodie bags.
Mine is in the colour Slieve Sunset, a rich and glowing magenta with neps of blue and yellow.

Helen included her patterns for the Bracile hat and cowl and several people got going on their projects straight away.

I was working on my Honey Badger socks using a sock blank from Stranded Dyeworks.
This was the first time I had used a sock blank and I was surprised to find I really enjoyed it  -  the "ripped out wool" feeling was a good one when knitting at sock-tension.
The great thing about a sock blank is it stays put as you knit - no stray balls rolling off down the aisle of the train - perfect!
I love how this colourway (Street Art) knitted up.

I also made good headway with my Iara stole.
I should have that finished this week.

All too soon it was time to leave.
My train was an hour late, so I am hopeful of a "delay repay" to fund some of the woolly inspirations I brought home :)

Helen is planning another retreat in March (before the Edinburgh Yarn Festival), and again in October next year.
Listen out on the podcast for news of how to reserve a place.
I might see you there!

Photo credit:  Helen Stewart, Curious Handmade


  1. What a lovely bunch of people doing amazing things in a glorious setting. Very envious. Your Honey Badger socks look great in that colourway. I am still working on plain vanilla socks K xXx

  2. What a lovely bunch of people doing amazing things in a glorious setting. Very envious. Your Honey Badger socks look great in that colourway. I am still working on plain vanilla socks K xXx

  3. It looks like you had a great time. The colour of that yarn is AMAZING, both the skeins and your socks :)

  4. That sounds like a wonderful time. A perfect way to spoil yourself! I love your goody bag yarn.

  5. sounds like a wonderful weekend away!

  6. That sounds perfect. I'm starting to think I might need to plan myself a yarn-centered trip to the UK in the upcoming year. It really is just a hop, skip and 1.5 hour flight here from Norway!

  7. I love the idea of a sock blank (I had to click on your link to find out what one is!) So glad you had a wonderful time. x x

  8. Oh that looks like so much fun! :-)