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Monday, 30 April 2012

Knitting Retreat in France, final day

The frenzied rummage for yarn purchases
Sunday morning brings more rain, after a late breakfast everyone has a rummage through my remaining stock, with boxes of yarn spread out all over the floor. A few bargain purchases are made with fingers crossed that it will all cram into the suitcases, Jane has just about cleaned me out of Rowan pure wool DK and Hannah goes for more cotton.
Flower stall at Saintes market
Suddenly, a brief glimmer of sunshine so the two Jane's, Hannah and I make a dash into Saintes to the Sunday morning market which is bustling with people taking advantage of a dry morning. The strong wind makes stallholders hang on to their hats and canopies, but there is a good atmosphere and a lot of noise.
Hannah buys more cheese for Maureen to take home and I buy fresh prawns and vanilla pods. Nearly got carried away on the plant stall, but think I need to wait until we source some earth for the new planters.

Home for lunch and a lazy afternoon finishing off projects, followed by supper of antipasto, paella and golden croissant pudding. Everyone heads off for an early night as we have to be up at the crack of dawn on Monday.
Hannah's completed project a Debbie Bliss design
Maureen's scarves
A 6.30 am start on Monday morning to take Jane, Hannah and Jane back to Bordeaux airport, Culli has a more leisurely start to take Maureen to Angouleme, then it is back home to strip all the beds and tidy up before the next workshop starts on Saturday..........

Sunday, 29 April 2012

French knitting retreat days 3 and 4

My new garden planters
Friday morning brought more rain so we settled in with the knitting, Hannah is going well on her first attempt at fairisle, Jane is steaming along with the baby knit from her new pattern book, Maureen is cursing her crochet pattern for a toy duck and Jane G has finished her toy Kiwi.
Friday afternoon the weather was a bit brighter so we left Maureen relaxing at home and headed off for Cognac. A wander around the town and visit to the yarn shop followed by a trip to Auchan which seemed to be the highlight of the day for Hannah who was in food heaven clutching bags of cheese and spicy sausages to take home.
The Kiwi with a Gin and tonic!
Saturday morning and the weather was getting worse, torrential rain looked like it was set in for the day so non-stop knit'n'natter. Culli braved the elements to build me some new planters for the garden, wishing the rain would stop now so that I can fill them. No trip to the market today.
I made banana cake for tea then Jane G and I took the dogs for a quick walk along the lane in the afternoon and got soaked to the skin, the ditches are overflowing and lakes forming everywhere. Everyone seems very happy though and knitting projects are getting finished, Hannah has finished her little fairisle, Maureen has finished two scarves and Jane has finished her little cardi (apart from the dreaded sewing up).
Supper of Charentaise melon salad followed by Provencal beef stew and pasta bake topped up with lemon cheesecake, I think we need to go somewhere tomorrow for a bit of exercise.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Day two of the knitting retreat

A morning of knitting and chatter at home, homemade soup for lunch and then a trip across to the Charente to visit Farrlacey Alpacas
The shop at Farrlacey
It was a lovely drive through the rolling countryside to meet these beautiful animals and welcoming owners Trevor and Dick. The five of us squeezed into their little shop which is packed with gorgeous knitted and woven scarves, shawls and throws, yarn, alpaca duvets and pillows and even alpaca insoles for toasty feet.

Merino lamb
We were all tempted by the goodies, as I have a cupboard bursting with yarn in every room in the house I managed to restrict myself to just one ball of the beautiful rose grey shade for now, I feel a pair of lace mittens coming on, but am also inspired to do some designs using these beautiful yarns, so will probably be paying another visit soon, maybe the crochet group would like to go at the beginning of May....

Farrlacey products are for sale through their website and if you happen to be in the Charente the shop is open Thursday and Saturday afternoons.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Knitting Retreat in France

The April knitting retreat at La Verderie is up and running and everyone seems happy in spite of the weather. I went down to Bordeaux yesterday to pick up Jane and daughter Hannah on the early flight from Luton, we went into Bordeaux for a compulsory visit to La Droguerie for some inspiration and a quick drool over the yarns, Jane bought one of their wonderful pattern books for children (an English version which I didn't know they sold). After that a leisurely coffee then a wander through the massive spring market that had food stalls (delicious sausages in baguettes for lunch) a brocante and plants. Back to the airport to collect Jane (G) and then the drive back to La Verderie.

A quick walk with the dogs in between showers, then Culli went off to Angouleme to collect Maureen. Jane G has brought three knitting projects with her, Hannah started a new one as soon as she arrived as she is keen to try fairisle, Jane F is ready to start a project from her new book and Maureen has a scarf project on the go. After apero's and supper everyone retired to bed early having been up since the crack of dawn.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Knitting and Crochet workshop with tutor Jane Crowfott

The workshop in May is coming up fast, I am really looking forward to this one as I get the chance to take part as a student (in between the cooking). I am determined to actually complete a project this time, I'm aiming for a crochet cushion cover.......!
Jane's cushion design
We still have one space for a residential guest (or two spaces sharing a twin room) and a few spaces for day guests, booking details here. See the itinerary for the week below.
Single bedroom at La Verderie
During this workshop we will focus on learning new knitting and crochet techniques whilst producing a design which can be used as a hanging or cushion cover for example. Students can choose to focus on either crochet or knitting or combine the two crafts.

We will have a basic techniques workshop which will set you up to design your own crochet or knitted piece including the techniques you wish to focus on. The local towns of Saintes, Cognac and St Jean d’Angely have some wonderful churches, shops and places of interest which will provide us with lovely examples of surface pattern which you may wish to use as your design inspiration for your own crochet or knitted piece which will be worked on over the rest of the holiday.

As the group is small – participants can pretty much decide how they wish to use their time and can decide which techniques they wish to focus on (if any!). I will be on hand to help with each aspect of their design and will try to bring relevant books and equipment where possible. Some yarn will be provided for the projects, however if guests have any particular yarns, beads or embellishments that they would like to use in a design please bring it along.

Saturday – arrival and introductions for residential guests

Sunday – All day workshop on Basic knitting and crochet – tips and techniques - a reminder of basic stitches – how to keep edges straight – how to place beads and work out motifs and colour design

Monday Day out – looking for design inspiration 

Tuesday – Full day Workshop – looking at design inspiration – design own central motif if crochet or texture/colour design if knitting

Wednesday – morning outing to St Jean d’Angely market – afternoon workshop

Thursday – morning workshop – optional afternoon outing

Friday – morning workshop – optional afternoon outing

Saturday – return transfers to chosen airport or station for the residential guests.

This programme is a basic guide as to how the week will be planned, but can easily be adapted to each students requirements. Participants will need to bring along a small equipment kit which should contain a pair of scissors, a sewing needle and a range of crochet hooks and knitting needles. A pad and pencil and a digital camera is also a handy tool to have at the ready!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Knitting Basics workshop, final day

By the end of Sunday morning most of the patches on the bags were finished and the ends sewn in, time for a lesson on pinning and blocking followed by a long leisurely lunch in the garden then back to knitting bases for the bags. A demo on picking up and knitting stitches and how to make a neat finish around the neck of a sweater, then the final leg of knitting the sides and strap for the bags.

Monday was the last day of the workshop and at lunch-time everyone had completed their bags except for  sewing up the side seams. Considering this was meant to be a workshop for beginner's I think the results were absolutely fantastic. The knitting basics workshop is mainly for encouragement and convincing students that they can go on to knit just about anything, as they all left clutching yarn and patterns, enthusiastically looking forward to the next project hopefully I have achieved just that (but will they sew up the final seams on the bags I wonder....?)

Culli and I drove Liz and Barbara back to Bordeaux airport with a quick detour into Ikea on the way back for light bulbs and a new rug for the sitting-room. Today it is back to catching up on emails, pattern checking and a  new window for the kitchen so currently every work surface is covered in junk, I should be painting window frames and doors but it is freezing cold and raining and there is a huge pile of laundry to be done....... Looking forward to the next knitting retreat already, but with just a week to go there is a lot to be done.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Knitting Basics workshop at La Verderie

Day three of the workshop and all is going well, everyone has nearly finished their squares, just the dreaded sewing in of ends. Yesterday afternoon we went into Saintes, Culli dropped us off at the Amphitheatre and we walked back into town for a fix at the yarn shop, a wander along the river and into the museum of ancient  stonework, great for textured knitting designs, followed by a beer in town.
The Roman Amphitheatre in Saintes
Stonework textures

Back to La Verderie for gin and tonic followed by supper of smoked salmon pate, chicken with fennel and strawberry meringue. This morning we went to the market at St Jean d'Angely, I bought, prawns, bulot and oysters for lunch and fish for supper. Back home for an afternoon of knitting, only one square to go tomorrow and then it's mattress stitch seams and picking up stitches for the button band and strap.
A walk around the vineyard with the dogs (double biscuit treats to celebrate Bix's 12th birthday), then home for supper of Charentaise melon salad, fish pies and creme brulee.
Bix the dog is 12 years old today!
Good luck greetings on Skype to son Ross for the Brighton marathon tomorrow, we will think of him as we relax with our knitting.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Knitting Basics workshop at La Verderie

The knitting basics workshop started here on Wednesday. Liz and Barbara flew into Bordeaux airport on a slightly wet and windy April evening, after reviving G&T's and a late supper we all retired to bed ready to get the needles clicking first thing in the morning.

For this workshop we have two residential guests and two day girls, Jackie and Lorraine. None of them are complete beginners, but are keen to learn new techniques and be reminded of a few of the basics. I have designed a patchwork bag using a variety of stitches - 18 patches starting with the obvious easy ones such as garter st, stocking st and rib, then progressing on to stripes, fairisle, cable and beading. Some are working their way through from easy to more complicated, Lorraine decided to jump in at the deep end and go for the complicated fairisle after the first few squares, lots of concentration and some very impressive results all round. As I am tutoring this one Culli is in charge of cooking and doing a grand job, last night we had starters of Kiwi fruit and cream cheese wrapped in parma ham followed by seafood tagliatelle and the most divine chocolate pots.

In this mornings workshop everyone has got to the halfway point on the squares, so this afternoon we are heading off to Saintes for a bit of fresh air and shopping.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Knitting and Crochet workshop with tutor Jane Crowfoot

We have changed the May workshop from just Crochet to include Knitting as well. With a small group Jane has decided it would be fun to include a knitting project. Guests can choose a knitting or crochet project or perhaps combine the two. There are still two spaces available in a shared room, or one space in a single room, see further details here.
Dates 5th - 12th May 2012 at La Verderie, France.