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Saturday, 13 December 2008

Christmas Gifts

Christmas is approaching all too quickly and we have our last deliveries of the year arriving this week. For last minute gift ideas we have more of the fabulous Lu Knitting Kits from Fleece Artist, lots of River John Shawl pins and more Denise Interchangeable needles.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Christmas Decs

With Christmas looming on the horizon Amanda hand felted a decoration for the tree and then sewed on beads and one of Debbie's hand made buttons.

The amazing bobbly bag

This wonderful tactile creation by Janet was knitted in Rowan Big wool and Katia Big Snow (a chance find at the tiny market in St Julien l'Ars), then felted in the washing machine, she seemed to think it might continue it's life as a cushion rather than a bag though.

Soho Bag

Ros is a second timer having already been to the workshop in June, her main aim for the week was to convert a vintage pattern to fit, however she also ran up this little felted bag in Debbie Bliss Soho (which by the way is brilliant for felting!)

Sweater design

Cathy was given the holiday as a present from the company she works for (what a nice company!), she used the week to concentrate on her design idea for a sweater worked sideways from cuff to cuff, incorporating stripes and fairisle.

Tania's knitting bag

Tania knitted this marvellous bag from Rowan Big wool and then felted it in the washing machine, the hand felted pink squares were sewn on afterwards. It is the perfect size and shape for all those new knitting projects.

Mood board

Jackie who is currently doing the City and Guilds course with Ros produced this wonderful mood board based on her photograph of Southwold. The finished project is going to be a panelled scarf in this fantastic colour combination.

Was it something she said.............

As you can see there is plenty of room to find your own space!

Joan of Arc's winter wardrobe

It all started with the hat that Lib made.........................

Hand felting

Jane showing the techniques of hand felting. This turned into a noisy process with shrieks of laughter erupting from the kitchen when the felted pieces were being bashed on the table, with Tania's felted samples escaping across the floor with every hit and Zoe looking like she was intent on murdering someone................

More inspiration

The grounds of the chateau provided plenty of design ideas with spectacular autumnal shades, these wonderful leaves were the inspiration for my 'shades of autumn' felted bag which will be available as a knitting kit on Kangaroo.


A climb up the steep steps to the old town of Chauvigny was rewarded with these fantastic friezes in the church. The walls of this stunning church are all painted white with colourful designs running along the walls and around the pillars, a knitwear designers dream.

The rooftops of Chauvigny

Chauvigny is a picturesque town just East of Poitiers, the old town is on a hill above the river with the newer buildings at the bottom of the hill. It has a bustling market every Saturday with a mix of mouthwatering food stalls, live chickens, clothing and joy oh joy a yarn stall with some fairly funky acrylics and a massive rummage box of buttons.

How many bottles of wine shall we open today

The kitchen staff!

Supper time

The evening meals became livelier every day with conversation levels becoming deafening and more and more wine being consumed as the week progressed. With a mix of meat eaters, vegetarians and a vegan the catering was a challenge but judging by the empty plates I think we coped!

Shades of Autumn workshop at Chateau de St Julien L'Ars

14th - 21st October 2008. This was our fourth residential workshop run jointly with Rowan, the course was design based with tutors Debbie Abrahams and Jane Crowfoot. I arrived at St Julien on the night before the workshop straight from the Knitting and Stitching show at Ally Pally so was not feeling that lively to say the least. However we had an early arrival, Christine had come all the way from Australia (via New York) to take part in the workshop so we launched straight into entertaining mode with a lovely meal cooked by Di and enough wine to sort out Christine's jet lag for days!

The remaining 17 guests and Jane and Debbie arrived on Tuesday, after all my panic about delays from the Channel tunnel, Denise was the only late arrival. The workshops were on a similar theme to the week in June, however we had decided to introduce felting this time which was a great success. The thought of actually producing a finished project by the end of the week gave all the guests further incentive. The weather was kind to us with lovely sunny days, warm enough to sit outside for much of the time, but cold enough at night to have a roaring fire in the small dining room downstairs and some roasted chestnuts. The outing to Poitiers on the second day was a great success, with possibly more shopping than inspiration occurring, but on the second workshop everyone settled down to achieve their targets for the week.

The workshops consisted of two full days on basic knitwear design, how to change a pattern and yarn and how to plot charts and graphs, these were followed by half day workshops on intarsia, fairisle, beading and hand felting, with evening workshops on crochet and finishing techniques. Knitting needles were constantly clicking, some even at the dinner table every evening.

We had a second outing to the picturesque town of Chauvigny on the Saturday morning to visit the bustling open air market and to climb up the steep steps to the beautiful old church.

The final review of the week produced some fantastic projects, with certificates and prize-giving in the evening followed by a lively meal and some of us chatting away into the small hours, seemed like a good idea at the time until I had to get up four hours later to get the breakfast ready! Another wonderful week with a lovely bunch of guests, looking forward to June 2009 already.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Wall Hanging

Ros is doing a City and Guilds Knitting course and was inspired by the magnificent painted columns in Notre Dame in Poitiers.

Smocking and Textures

Wendy produced a sample for a smocked garment and some lovely textured swatches using various yarns, including some naturally dyed with indigo and bracken.

Bag design

Inspired by a postcard that she had brought with her, Felicity produced this wonderful design for a knitted bag featuring colourful cupcakes with glass beading.

Show and tell

On the last morning all the guests were encouraged to display the designs they had been working on through the week. The work that had been produced was fantastic, with such a variety of inspiration and design ranging from structured garment shaping, knitted bags to textured wall hangings.

Learning to crochet

Jane leading an evening class on crochet in the first floor sitting room.

Inspirational tiles

One of the beautiful tiled floors in the small dining room on the ground floor of the chateau. I am determined to use this for a design soon, maybe another bag for knitkits...........

Principles of Design workshop

The workshops were held on the first floor of the chateau in a light and airy room with triple aspect windows overlooking the beautiful grounds, this room is linked to a sitting room with large sofas where guests can knit in comfort.

The grounds at chateau St Julien

Knit in Style at Chateau St Julien, June 2008

This was our third workshop in France, but the first time at this fairytale chateau just outside of Poitiers in South West France. The workshop was held in the third week of June, with tutors Debbie Abrahams and Jane Crowfoot leading a group of twenty guests. I arrived on the Friday night with my trusty helpers, Culli (hubby) and friends JB and Di, we were in charge of the catering and general household duties. Parts of the chateau date back to the 12th century and some of the bedrooms come complete with their own turrets. More details about the chateau can be found on the Chateau St Julien website link. All the guests arrived safely on the Saturday, with just one delay of half an hour for one of the trains. By the evening they were all chatting away as if they had known each other for ever. Stern warnings from Jane and Debbie about a day of maths to follow on Sunday were ingnored and the wine flowed freely.

The first full day workshop was on Sunday, this covered the basic principles of design (and yes there was some maths, but not too taxing), with a break for lunch and a chance to sit in the sunshine on the beautiful terrace.
Monday was the coach outing to Poitiers for design inspiration and a bit of shopping. Poitiers is a university town, with some fascinating churches, beautiful gardens and a great shopping centre. Most of the shops are closed on a Monday morning, however some were open in the afternoon and plenty of inspiration was gathered in for the following workshops. The chateau itself is full of inspiration with some beautiful tiles, stone work and wrought iron, plus the 56 acre grounds with the most wonderful mature trees, grassy paths and quite corners to sit and relax.
The remainder of the week consisted of another full day workshop to work through the wish list of each guest and start to plot out a design with diagrams and graphs, this was followed by three half day workshops that included beading, fairisle and intarsia, plus two evening sessions on finishing techniques and crochet.
The workshops are held on the first floor of the chateau in a lovely light room with triple aspect windows, this is linked to a comfortable sitting room so guests can choose where they prefer to work, there are also terraces at the front and back of the building that provide sun or shade.
We had two more outings during the week to the two picturesque towns of Montmorillon and Chauvigny. Although the week is fairly packed guests can pick and choose their level of involvement, there are plenty of places to escape to if a bit of solitude is needed.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Knitting Workshop in France

We have just returned from a fabulous week at Chateau St Julien de l'Ars in France. This was the third Rowan Workshop that I have run in France and they get better every time. Full report and photos to follow soon....................