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Thursday, 15 November 2012

Knitting and Crochet retreat in France - February 2013

The retreats and workshops for 2012 have only just ended, yet we already have lots of bookings for, next year, with three of the holidays already fully booked.
However we still have spaces for -

21st - 26th February - knitting and crochet retreat at La Verderie.
This is a 'knit'n'natter' that lasts for 5 days, the ultimate winter break. It is open to all skill levels and there is no set project, but I am on hand to help with any technical problems. The Charente-Maritime in February can be unpredictable, it could be cold and frosty nights with bright and warm sunny days, or rain! Either way we have a large roaring fire to snuggle up in front of, lots of yarn stash to rummage through, knitting needles, beads, patterns, books and magazines, some bracing country walks and good rustic home cooking with lashings of wine to wash it down. There is space for up to 5 guests, so the holiday can be booked for a small group or come along on your own and meet some new knitting companions.

There will be optional outings to Saintes, Cognac and St Jean d'Angely for yarn shops and chic French interiors, food markets, street cafes and a bit of history. There is also the wonderful Alpaca farm near Ruffec, meet the gentle animals and purchase luxurious yarn in natural shades, woven shawls, scarves, throws and Alpaca duvets and pillows.
The total cost of the holiday is just £285 per head for a twin room or £355 for a single room, this includes full board with three meals a day plus wine, outings and transfers from Angoleme and la Rochelle. Your travel to France and transfers from Bordeaux airport are not included in the price. For further details visit knitting holidays in france or email

A trip to Bordeaux

Shades of autumn
The last knitting and crochet retreat for 2013 has finished, we have just Lin left to take down to Bordeaux. It is a sunny Saturday morning so Gill, Lin and I set off on the scenic route to Bordeaux through Cognac and Barbeziuex enjoying the autumn colours and rolling vineyards. We arrive in the city at lunch time and I spend half an hour driving around in circles trying to find my way to the car park I know. Having finally parked we wander through a silent funfair to the pedestrianised streets and a compulsory visit to la Droguerie, I buy some lovely leather handles for knitted/fabric bags and some brooch pins.

A wall of chocolate bars
We have a lunch of omelette and salad in a busy cafe, then a dash to the covered shopping arcade as it starts to pour with rain, we admire the beautiful patisserie and chocolate shops. I think Lin is worrying about my ability to get out of the city centre faster than we arrived so we head off early for the airport and drop her off then Gill and I pop into a very busy Ikea on the way home.
It has been a great year for the workshops and retreats, we have met some lovely people and they have all made new friends. Bookings for next year are flowing in fast with a lot of repeat visits, the workshops are almost full already. To see the full list of dates and availability click here.

Friday, 26 October 2012

knitting and crochet retreat day 5

It is the last full day of the retreat, the week seems to have flown by. We decide to make a quick trip into Saintes so set off straight after breakfast for a visit to Hyper U. Yes, it is a supermarket! However, that was the request. Margaret and Pauline buy clothes and chocolate and I buy a few supplies for supper then we drove up the Amphitheatre for a coffee and some postcards in the little shop. Back home in time for Margaret and Lin to go sloe picking before lunch.
We spend the final afternoon finishing off projects, it is amazing the amount that everyone has managed to produce in just a few days.
Neighbour Gill comes and joins us for supper of melon and parma ham, followed by chicken fricassee and oranges in caramel. As Pauline and Margaret have early starts in the morning we don't stay up late.
Pauline's summer top

Pauline's lace bag

collection of flowers

Lin's crochet shrug

more flowers
The end of another retreat, with three lovely guests. They all exchange email addresses and promise to keep in touch and are even talking about coming back together next year for another retreat at La Verderie.
On Friday morning Margaret sets off early for the drive back to Brittany and Culli takes Pauline to La Rochelle for her flight. Lin is staying on an extra day, so she settles down to crochet more flowers for me. It seems very quiet with just the two of us. Lin is flying back from Bordeaux tomorrow so we are going to set off early and go into the city for some lunch and a visit to La Droguerie.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Knitting and crochet retreat day 4

Some weird and wonderful squash in the market
A foggy start to the day, after breakfast and a quick dog walk we go into St Jean d'Angely. A gentle wander through the market, followed by coffee in the square and back home for lunch.
enjoying the sunshine
The sun breaks through the cloud and it is a hot sunny afternoon, so we sit in the garden and enjoy the warmth. Lin teaches Margaret to crochet, in about 10 minutes she is competently working away at a granny square, why did it take me nearly 6 years to learn how to do this????? With a sudden burst of enthusiasm we all decide to cycle into Brizambourg, after a much needed drink at the bar we manage the trip home with ease and settle down to a relaxing evening putting the world to rights.
knit and crochet flowers
 The pile of flowers is growing.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Knitting and crochet retreat in France - day 3

At last! It has stopped raining, there is a soft autumnal mist in the morning which promises to burn off soon. After breakfast we go into Cognac for a bit of retail therapy, a wander through the indoor market admiring the colourful pumpkins and flowers.
Cognac indoor market

First stop at the fabric and yarn shop for a few purchases followed by a coffee in the square in the sunshine and a trip to Casa for some knick knacks and Christmas gifts.
coffee in the square
It is warm enough for lunch in the garden and everyone moves their chairs into a sunny spot for an afternoon of knitting and crochet.
I bring out the last few boxes of stock that I want to get rid of, everyone has a good rummage stocking up on yarn and buttons.
stocking up on stash!

The projects are all growing fast, Lin finishes her crochet shrug, Pauline has nearly used up the quantity of yarn she brought along for her lace top and Margaret is flitting between her wingspan shawl, chunky jacket, knitted mouse, knitted flowers................
We all decide to start producing knitted/crochet flowers in between other projects, the colourful pile is starting to grow.

After supper of avocado and prawns, tagine and poached pears we go back to the flowers.

Knitting and crochet retreat in France

The last retreat for this year has a soggy start with pouring rain. After the retreat last week, we made a flying visit back to the UK, returning to La Verderie on Friday with the first guest arriving the next day. Culli drove down to Bordeaux on Saturday to pick up Lin and bring her home, she is staying a extra night at the beginning and end of the retreat to tie in with the flights from Bristol. Lin has brought with her masses of inspiration and various crochet projects, it promises to be a good week.
Sunday morning and more rain. Pauline arrives at La Rochelle and is here in time for lunch, the three of us settle down for an afternoon of knitting. Margaret the third guest lives in Brittany, so has driven down and arrives laden with goodies. After a cup of tea, everyone is relaxed and acting like they have known each other for years, sharing ideas and tips for knitting and crochet. After supper of salmon mousse, poule au pot and chocolate creams we head off to bed for an early night.
On Monday morning it is still grey and drizzling a little but Lin and Margaret brave the elements and come on the morning walk with the dogs and I. We spend the morning on our various projects with a brief visit to Matha in the afternoon for a wander and a coffee. Lin having accused me of having no tea cosy (I do, but only for my big teapot) has volunteered to crochet me one, which she does in no time at all and it looks fab!
my new tea cosy

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Knitting Retreat final day

Plans to go to the brocante at St Bris de Bois have been scuppered thanks to heavy downpours. So for a slight deviation from knitting we have a go at drawing conkers! Really must get these art classes going next year. The sun breaks through for a few minutes after lunch so Rosemary and Sandra take BeBop for a quick walk around the block, then more knitting until it is time for the trip to Bordeaux. It is sad to see everyone go, Culli has volunteered for the trip to Bordeaux while I get going on the housework ready for the next retreat.
Geraldine was certainly the most prolific knitter, nearly completing her lace cardigan and making a start on a child's chunky jacket, Rosemary's stole is taking shape, Sue has almost a pair of gloves and Sandra has lost count of her Christmas stockings but could be almost there, I have completed the back and half the front of Culli's sweater...........

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Knitting Retreat day 4

An early start today, after breakfast we all bundle in the Volvo for a trip to the market in St Jean d'Angely. Torrential rain on the way doesn't bode well for the three of us with no coats, so a quick trip to the supermarket means we avoid a soaking. The rain stops and we wander through the market to Culli's favourite boulangerie for some bread then back to the car and the trip home making a detour past our new workshop venue at Bercloux. After lunch we spend the afternoon knitting and chatting, followed by an early supper of duck followed by bread (croissant) and butter pudding.

 Then it is a rush for the comfy seats to watch  'Strictly' followed by 'Merlin', followed by another game of boggle.

Knitting retreat day 3

Friday morning and the sun is shining. Sandra, Sue and I take the dogs for a walk after breakfast, Bix is on good form and makes it all the way around the block. Sue and Sandra collect more walnuts and some conkers, there was talk of sitting down and drawing them, but I think they are confusing this with my plans for painting courses next year.

We spend the rest of the morning with our knitting and after lunch set off for the Alpaca Farm. Farrlacey Alpagas are based in the Charente near Ruffec, the lovely owners Trevor and Dick are very welcoming.

Trevor talks us through the breeding process of Alpacas, they are true romantics, singing (known as orgling) to each other during mating (a long slow process that takes at least an hour), then after an 11 month gestation period the female gives birth to a single baby. Twins are very rare and hardly ever make it to full term. We meet Ted the most prolific stud on the farm and visit the mums and newborns. After tea and a quick fix in the shop buying yarn and beautiful warm alpaca insoles we take the scenic route home. Driving through the beautiful town of Vertuil sur Charente I take a wrong turning, after a few renditions of lost in France we make it back onto the main road and arrive home just as it is getting dark. Culli has cooked us provencal beef stew for supper followed by lemon cheesecake.  

Friday, 12 October 2012

October knitting retreat at La Verderie

The second day of the retreat and everyone is relaxing into knitting, talking, eating and drinking. Sandra, Sue and I start the day walking the dogs. The grape harvest is in full swing at the moment so the air is ripe with the intoxicating smell of grape skins, we wander up the lane through the woods and collect a bowl full of walnuts on the way home, battling to get to them before the dogs scoff the lot.
After a morning of knitting, Sandra finally finishes her mini stocking with the intarsia Father Christmas, I manage at least another 10 rows of Culli's jumper and Rosemary stops unravelling her project. We head off for Saintes after lunch and dodge the rain showers taking shelter in Maison du Monde and the yarn shop, then drive up to the top of town for a view of the impressive Roman amphitheatre.

Culli, Rosemary, Sandra, Sue and I go for a visit to Egreteau our local Cognac producer. It is not the best time for them as they are really busy with the harvest, but are as welcoming as usual and Madame takes us for a tour of the distillery with generous tastings of pineau and cognac, we all buy of a bottle of VSOP and merrily head home for more wine. Rosemary's quote for the day 'I don't drink much, just almost every day'!

Neighbour Gill joins us for supper of melon with parma ham, paella and tart tatin, then we watch the Choir and manage a bit more knitting. During 'mock the week', there is a loud exclamation of 'two fingers' from Sue, we think she is referring to the progress on her knitted gloves and not what was being discussed on the telly............... I finally get to bed some time after midnight.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

October knitting retreat

The first of the two knitting retreats this month is underway. We have four guests, I went to meet Sandra and Sue at La Rochelle and Culli went down to Bordeaux to pick up Geraldine and Rosemary. Both flights were on time, so we all got to know each other over gin and tonic's followed by supper of smoked salmon pate, chicken fricassee and chocolate pots. Everyone has brought along knitting projects for the week, Sandra is knitting an advent calendar made up of tiny Christmas stockings, Sue is alternating between gloves and fairisle patches knitted in felted tweed, possibly for a throw. Geraldine is making a beautiful lacy cardigan which needs a bit of concentration and Rosemary is knitting a lovely pattern for a stole from the knitter which is knitted in two colours using short row shaping.

The weather is a mix of sun and showers, so yesterday we spent the morning knitting and then went for a stroll around Cognac with a quick look in the Hennessy shop at the beautifully packaged and very expensive bottles of cognac, then up to the town for a visit to the fabric and yarn shop and a coffee in the square.
The sun was shining when we got back to La Verderie, so we had apero's and knitting outside, followed by supper of pear, walnut and feta salad, lasagne and plum pavlova.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Knitting and Crochet workshop with Jane Crowfoot

We have a new workshop date for 2013. Jane is going to tutor a residential workshop in France at La Verderie, from 9th - 15th June 2013. The workshop is going to cover knitting and crochet and will cater for all skill levels. Guests can choose to design their own project from scratch or work on a kit provided by Jane. One-to-one tuition will be available throughout the course with a small group of just 4 residential guests.
The cost of the holiday includes all workshops, materials, full board, outings to local towns and transfers to La Verderie from La Rochelle or Angouleme. For further details email or visit

Monday, 24 September 2012

The final morning

The alarm goes off at 6am, I wish I had gone to bed earlier. I stumble over to the Chateau and make coffee for Amanda and Danny who have to leave at 7 to catch their train to Biarritz and continue their European tour. After breakfast Culli and I drive 12 guests to the station and wave sad goodbyes, then back to the Chateau to finish clearing up say goodbye to Jane, Andy, Debbie and Steve and take the final five to the station. We discover that Chris has left her bag of knitting behind, fortunately she lives in France, but having made the 3/4 hour long drive home and realised she has no knitting she jumps in the car and comes back to collect it.
By the time Culli gets back from the final trip to the station I am packed up and ready to go, the drive home seems to take forever, but we are home by 3. After collecting the dogs we have an early supper of leftovers from the Chateau sitting in the sunshine, I am asleep in front of the television by 7.30.
Sunday morning is spent unpacking everything and catching up with the washing, we decide to treat ourselves to lunch out, no cooking and no washing up, so head off to La Goule Beneze in St Jean d'Angely for a lovely lunch of melon gazpacho with parma ham and salmon nicoise starters followed by entrecote steak with herb butter and duck breast with peach sauce and for dessert creme brulee and the most divine trio of strawberry puds, now if I could produce food like that every day.............!

Day 5 at the Kaleidoscope workshop

Sadly it is the final full day, the week seems to have flown by and I haven't picked up a knitting needle or had much of a chance to talk to anyone. I have decided that cooking for 24 people every day is hard work! and am looking forward to the smaller workshops at La Verderie next year. It will be sad not to come back to the Chateau, but this has been such a good week I think it will be hard to repeat, so a good time to move on to a smaller venue. We certainly couldn't have managed without Andy and Steve helping with the washing up and trundling the trolley backwards and forwards from the dining room - thanks guys!
A quick trip upstairs in search of coffee mugs reveals where all the wine bottles have been disappearing to at night!
Early morning in the workroom
 We have a free morning with an offer of a trip to Poitiers, but all are keen to carry on with their projects so Culli and I take only Katrin into town, we drop her off to do some shopping and make our final run to the supermarket. Back to the Chateau for lunch with Katrin cursing because she had forgotten to take her purse with her, so it was a cheap outing for her!
The afternoon is spent finishing projects, Toril has decided she doesn't like the beading on her project so takes a hammer to it smashing all the glass beads, how could she after all that work!

At the end of the afternoon everyone lays out their projects in the first floor sitting room for a show and tell. The results are beautiful and do justice to the title of the course with a stunning blend of colours.

Afterwards everyone receives a certificate hand drawn by Culli, we are thoroughly spoiled with gifts of whisky for Culli, bubbly for Steve and Andy and goody bags for Jane, Debbie and I with beautiful necklaces, bracelets, nail varnish and gorgeous Liz Earle products.
The final supper of provencal beef, fish pie or veggie crumble is finished off with pavlova and chocolate brownies. Then Wendy treats us to another of her stories about her trip to Russia, reducing everyone to tears of laughter. Culli has christened her the Kangaloonies answer to Ronnie Corbett.
Listen with Wendy

Andy and Steve at their chores
The traditional tour of the Chateau takes place, followed by more wine and another late night.