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Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Back to normal life

It seems very strange to go back to cooking for just two! We arrived home from the Chateau on Sunday afternoon and collapsed, but I managed to revive myself enough to see Bruce Springsteen (my all time hero) at Glastonbury and Status Quo who were the first live band I ever saw on Hastings Pier of all places! Monday was spent ploughing through thousands of emails and making updates to the website.
Today is the start of the summer sale. We have 15% off everything for a limited period, just enter the code 15OFF at the checkout. I am still clearing stock before I have to do the annual stock take at the end of the month and of course making room for the gorgeous new winter yarns. Rowan magazine 46 (autumn/winter edition) is due out in just two weeks time, look out for the next newsletter for details.
I am also trying to confirm the tutors and dates for the next workshop in France, this will be on the website and in a newsletter asap!

Monday, 29 June 2009

and even more projects from Exploring Colour

More projects from Exploring Colour

The projects from Exploring Colour

The results from the 'Exploring Colour Workshop' were fantastic, we had a real mix of skill levels in the guests ranging from sisters Fiona and Bronwen who had only recently started knitting (not that you would have guessed) to Mary who was on her second knitting holiday with us and had been knitting all her life, Felicity who must have been to nearly every possible Rowan workshop and Toril who being Norwegian had to knit from an early age just to keep warm.

Saturday at the Chateau

We have an outing to Chauvigny for the market today. The first car load sets off at 8 am on the dot, I go on the last trip to get some shopping in the market. Chauvigny is a mediaeval town in two parts, the market is in the newer bit which is built on the river, to visit the old part of the town you can climb up the winding steps to the top of the hill and can visit the beautiful church which has painted friezes that are just perfect for fairisle and intarsia projects. Culli and I wander around the market, one of the first stalls we come to is the haberdashery one and guess who we find - the whole group rummaging through the button box. I love this stall, some of the buttons are just fantastic - you could spend a fortune and some of us did! The market is great with lots of colourful stalls selling everything you could possible want. I Bought some mussels and prawns for tonight's paella and some yummy looking strawberries and raspberries for pavlova (and of course some buttons...). Back to base for lunch followed by the final workshop, which was how to finish off the projects and an introduction to mattress stitch for those that didn't know. At last - show and tell, everyone lays out their projects, a few finished and some not quite. But a fantastic effort from all and apologies to any that I haven't included in the photos, I know I didn't manage to get them all. When asked to sum up the week these were some of the comments - 'Naught Mallory Towers girls go mad knitting in France: yarn, sun, buttons, wine and patisserie' by Yolie, 'this week has been truly inspirational, dedicated, good humoured and generous tutors, first class hospitality and delightful company' Suzanne (see Suzanne and Yolie's blog glittyknittykitty), 'delightful and brilliant' Gloria (Gloria is Connie's mum and comes from Texas and brilliant is her new word for the week), 'Thank you for a glimpse of what heaven might be' Mary Leeson, 'Fantastic in all aspects, when's the next one?' Chris, 'what a wonderful week of knitting, what wonderful women and wonderful creations, the best holiday I have ever had' Natalie. Back to the terrace and more Kir, we have a little prize-giving ceremony. Instead of choosing the four best projects of the week we ask the guests to vote for the person they think most deserves to win a prize and put the names in the hat. Felicity, Toril, Natalie and Chris were the four names drawn. Sarah, Emma and I all received some beautiful gifts and a bottle of whisky and bubbly for Culli - thank you everyone for your generosity and for being such good guests! For the first time in the week I actually managed to sit down and eat with everyone, was a total slut and left most of the clearing up in the kitchen for the next day and carried on chatting until the early hours of the morning sitting outside in candlelight and smothered with Toril's mosquito cream. It was a great week all round, just need to get that date booked for next year! Culli arrived back from the gig at 2.45, I knew that neither of us would feel like doing the clearing up in the morning.

Friday at the Chateau

Another morning workshop with free afternoon, the pressure is on to get projects finished for the show and tell tomorrow afternoon and sparks are flying from the needles and hooks. I go for a wander around the beautiful grounds of the chateau and take yet more photos, the tiles are in the downstairs sitting room, I just love the colour and will one day use the design in a project. It is Culli's last night helping me cook as he is off to somewhere near Jarnac to play a gig tomorrow night (see the Bedrock band here!). After supper he makes his customary speech with statistics for the week, to sum it up this group are very abstemious having drunk far less wine than the last two groups, however I think they may catch up by the end of tomorrow........., they certainly win all prizes for the quantity of cups of tea, thank goodness for the urn and constant supply of hot water. Supper is Lamb Tagine, Salmon au Poivre or aubergine and chickpea casserole. I am sensible and have a reasonably early night.

Thursday at the Chateau

Sadly Caroline has to leave early to go back to work today, so we have the group photo then all wave her off as Culli drives her to the airport. Just a morning workshop today with a free afternoon. Everyone is engrossed in their projects, a few cushion covers and lots of knitted bags. Supper is meant to be early to allow time for an evening workshop, but in a mad moment I had decided to do roast pork with dauphinois potatoes, normally not a problem but forgot about the temperamental cooker! Finally served up the roast and pasta with roasted veg about half an hour late. The thunderstorm is brewing, the evening workshop on embellishments is going well, Sarah has given me a lovely corsage made with Kidsilk Haze and fabric. The first few crashes of thunder echo around the chateau, Yolie has a ringside view in the library sitting in a comfy chair with her feet on the windowsill watching the lightning, the rain is short and sharp and clears the air, leaving a gorgeous fresh smell of wet grass and bruised roses.

Wednesday at the Chateau

Wished I had gone to bed before 1 am! Never mind another busy day ahead and soon get into the swing of things, still a beautiful sunny day but there is a threat of thunderstorms. Today everyone starts on their project, with a bit of fairisle and intarsia tuition to start them off. The workshops are very relaxed and although this one is meant to be all day, the guests can come and go as they want, disappear to find a comfy sofa or go and sit and knit in the sunshine. Sarah and Emma are great, always on hand to provide useful hints and tips and tons of inspiration. The menu for tonight is Cassoulet, Fish Pie or Roast Peppers stuffed with lentils and feta cheese. Culli has taken it upon himself to encourage the guests to drink more, I think he is worried that they are being a little timid - I am thinking great we won't need to buy any more wine, but looks like I could be wrong, they are rising to the challenge! Mary is doing an impromptu lesson on sock knitting for any that don't know how.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Tuesday at the Chateau

Today is the trip to Poitiers. Culli, Chris and Patty are providing a taxi service for everyone. The first group head off at 8.30 am ready to shop 'til they drop (and visit a few of the sights!) When everyone was safely deposited in town, Culli and I shot into Chauvigny for a quiet drink in his favourite bar, had a call on my mobile from Jane Crowfoot to check that everything was going ok, she sounded very jealous that she wasn't here, we wish you were here as well Jane...! then more food shopping and back to the Chateau in time to collect everyone from Poitiers. The little wool shop in town must have been overwhelmed by 19 manic knitters descending on them, but some of them came back with some fab buttons, free gifts left over from world knit in public day and lots of inspiration to start on their projects tomorrow. The apero's are becoming popular, everyone is knocking back the Kir's and I am cooking Provencal Fish, Lasagne and Stir Fry Veg, followed by cherry crumble (hand picked from my neighbour's garden) and stuffed baked apples. Sarah and Emma held an evening workshop on crochet, then we got stuck into a few drinks in the dining room. Rachael and I stayed up far too late with our international guests, Toril from Norway and Connie from Florida discussing the many differences between our four countries (I was speaking for France), crawled to bed the wrong side of midnight again.

Monday at the Chateau

Another beautiful sunny day. The first workshop is on colour theory, the workshop studio looks amazing with a huge colour wheel of yarn in the middle of the table. Sarah and Emma explain about opposites and complimentary colours and ask everyone to pick their choice of shades and knit up swatches with the yarn provided (mostly Rowan Cotton Glace, Handknit Cotton, Kidsilk Haze and Kidsilk Aura) - the results are fantastic with colour combinations that many of them would never have dreamed of putting together. More swatch knitting after lunch then a relax in the sun. I'm back in the kitchen slaving over a hot stove with Coq au vin and mushroom risotto for supper followed by lemon cheesecake and sauteed nectarines. My hat knitting is not progressing very well, but I am really enjoying the cooking. This year Culli and I are doing all the catering on our own as our friends Di and John weren't able to come, however, so far it doesn't seem to be any harder. At least the dishwasher is working, so far.....!

Exploring colour workshop at Chateau St Julien l'Ars

Culli and I arrived at the Chateau on Saturday evening, it is looking as beautiful as ever. We sat on the terrace with a bottle of wine and a bowl of moules and I carried on writing some never-ending lists for the week. This beautiful Chateau can be rented by anyone on a self-catering basis and will sleep up to 45 in 15 bedrooms, for further details click here.
Sunday morning was bright and sunny, we have a total of 17 guests arriving and the two tutors Emma King and Sarah Hazell. Culli went off to the airport and station to pick up the first three arrivals, Pippa, Caroline and Mary and I made many trips up the three flights of stairs to check all the bedrooms and work out who was going where. It was good to see Caroline and Mary again, both were on our second French workshop two years ago. After lunch Culli headed off to pick up the next batch from the station, all the pick ups went to plan, with no delays (apart from Natalie who we thought was lost in France, but it was just a little mistake on the arrival time), so Chris who had arrived by car leapt to the rescue and went and picked up a car load and by 7 pm everyone was sitting on the terrace with their knitting and apero in hand. We have four more returns from last June, Mary, Felicity, Karen and Sarah. By the time everyone sat down to Mustard Pork casserole and Tuscan bean stew, everyone was getting along fine. Emma and Sarah stayed up until nearly midnight getting the workshop ready for Sunday, and it looked amazing. I crawled off to bed feeling shattered.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Debbie Bliss 'Design it Knit it'

We had a new delivery yesterday from Designer yarns; the Debbie Bliss book 'Design it Knit it' has some great tips for creating your own designs and some sheets of knitters graph paper. Also in the delivery were some more shades in Noro Silk Garden Chunky and Debbie Bliss Rialto Aran.
I am now off to load up the car and head off for the chateau, the sun is shining and the long range forecast looks good - hurrah!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Exploring Colour Workshop

Only three days to go to the workshop at Chateau St Julien - I am buried under a mound of course notes. The workshops look fabulous, I hope I have time to escape the kitchen and go to some of them and to get a bit of knitting done. I am taking Noro Mini Knits Two and some odds and ends of Noro Kureyon and Silk Garden to make some gloves and hats for Christmas presents. I made the first batch of chocolate brownies last night for Sunday (if they last 'til then....), and have a few other meals ready in the freezer. Really looking forward to meeting all the new guests, we have four repeat visitors from last year and one from the year before so it will be lovely to see them again. The weather here in France is beautiful at the moment, hot and sunny with a bit of breeze. Culli and I head off for the Chateau on Saturday so that we are reasonably organised for all the arrivals on Sunday. I am hoping to keep the blog up to date every day next week with reports of the workshop, so watch this space....!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Summer Sale

The dreaded stock check is looming on the horizon so to make it easier for ourselves by having a few less balls of yarn to count we currently have up to 15% discount on the following - Debbie Bliss Pure Cotton, Eco Cotton, Prima and Pure Silk. Rowan All Seasons Cotton, Calmer, Lenpur Linen, Organic Cotton DK and Summer Tweed. Rowan Classic Bamboo Soft, Cotton Jeans, Natural Silk Aran and Pima Cotton. Sadly Rowan are discontinuing their range of buttons, so these are also currently reduced, however they have been replaced by the beautiful range of buttons from Bedecked and these are used in the current Rowan magazine and future issues.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Worldwide knit in public day.....

.....was a brilliant success. The sun shone, we had people knitting, Amanda made loads of cakes to sell for the Alzheimer's Research Trust and we were serenaded by the Cliffe Tubthumpers!
A big big thank you to Amanda for organizing it and to everyone who came along to help.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Worldwide Knit in Public Day....... on Saturday 13th June. Come and join us in Lewes for the afternoon, we will be having a stand on Malling Green from 2 pm onwards, look out for the Kangaroo sign. Or if you are in Brighton on the day pop along to the seafront and support one of our more energetic customers – Susie Hewer will be riding a tandem whilst knitting a scarf!!! Both Kangaroo and Susie will be raising money for the Alzheimer’s Research Trust. For more details or if you would like to make a contribution visit Susie’s blog

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Noro Mini Knits Two

We have just had a delivery of this lovely new book by Jenny Watson. The designs include patterns for babies and children up to 12 years, cardigans and sweaters for ladies and accessories, a welcome addition to the Noro range. See the designs and yarn quantities here.

Sadly the lovely weather has ended, it is wet and windy today in France, but still warm. Fingers crossed that it will improve for the workshop at the Chateau which is now only two weeks away, I am spending the weekend working our menus. We still have one space available due to a cancellation, so if anyone wants a last minute holiday book now.