My first foray into yarn retreats
Absolutely ages ago I talked my dearly beloved into taking on solo parenting duties for our two little people for a whole weekend, and booked a space on my first ever yarn retreat.
Over the last few years there seems to have been a surge in knit and crochet retreats and I’ve been desperate to go, but it’s been hard to leave the small people and arrange work/ life/ family logistics. Anyway, this time it happened and on a Friday afternoon in May I jumped in the car and had the most gorgeous drive to Kat’s farm at Gartur, a few miles from Stirling.
When I was a couple of miles off, the heavens opened and it bucketed with rain, and with a sinking feeling I realised that my beautiful flowery wellies were still in the corner of my porch at home … I needn’t have worried as that was the first and last rain we saw over the course of the weekend!
Gartur Stitch Retreat was organised by Joanne and Kat from The Crochet Project, plus their long-time friend and collaborator Rachel from Coop Knits. I’d attended a crocheted shawl class at Kat’s last year so that gave me a bit of an indication of what to expect from the weekend (i.e. lovely home-made food and lots of cake! All big thumbs ups in my book …)
The afternoon into early evening was filled with all the attendees arriving, introductions, copious cups of tea, over a little crochet or knitting. I think I had the shortest trip, other attendees had come up from Surrey and Hull, down from the Highlands, across from Vienna and quite a gang had come from Cambridgeshire when they had taken classes previously with Joanne. I was quite nervous about meeting people but it’s so much easier over a shared passion, and we were all quickly chatting away over supper and prosecco whilst desperately trying to remember names … After food we had the option of trying a little embroidery; we received a plain cotton project bag containing our goodies so that was the . I used to love sewing although I haven’t done any since the age of about 18, so after taking a good while to figure out my design, I dived straight into a few basic stitches. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed it and I really must get it finished soon.
The nature of the accommodation meant that we were all room sharing, so I was a little apprehensive about that as I don’t think I’ve shared a room with anyone other than my mister, family or close friend since school trip days an age ago! I needed have worried, my room mate Marie was an absolute star and it worked out just fine.
The contents of our lovely welcome bag
Hot cinnamon buns arrived like magic on Saturday morning, and it felt like such a treat sitting down with a fresh coffee and home baking instead of rushing round the kitchen like a mad thing, feeding our little people!
On Saturday morning I’d elected to do a natural dying workshop which was up at the farm, whilch involved a short sunny stroll along the lane. Kat talked us some of the theory, including how to prepare the yarn, using mordants, locally found and foraged dying options. Then we set up dye baths over a stove using nettles, rhubarb root, alkanet and logwood and left them to stew while we moved onto other things.
Kat and family have a working farm, so we also met sheep, goats, kittens and even a peacock – if you don’t already follow Kat on Instagram (@katgoldin) do look her up, she’s a hugely talented photographer and lives in a stunning part of the world.
Lunch was soup, salad and fresh bread, back at the cottages. We spilled out across the house and tables in the garden, enjoying the sun and the views, and discussing the mornings activities.
In the afternoon I took a knitted socks class with Rachel. We choose of skein of her Coop Knits yarn, and I selected the ‘Tartarus’ colourway, which is the most gorgeous shade of deep and interesting grey. I plan to get some more for my next garment, but I want to finish the one I’m working on first!
We made the cutest little tiny socks to give us practice of each of the techniques used within the construction of a sock. I have two works in progress first socks on the needles at home and the class gave me some much-needed impetus to get moving with them again.
Each class session broke for tea, coffee and cake midway through – the baking was divine throughout and as you’ll soon learn about me, I am EXTREMELY partial to a good cake. This was the highlight of the weekend’s cake selection in my opinion, a lemon and rosemary bundt cake – utterly scrumptious.
We were all enjoying the class so much and trying to finish specific sections that we ended up extending the class a little. I was pretty tired by the time we wound things up, so I opted out of the sourdough demonstration back at the farm, and instead crashed in the lounge to work on my socks a little longer … and make a start with a G&T!
Supper was a BBQ – including homemade halloumi which was exciting! So we feasted and chatted and I perched outside and watched the sun go down. Such a lovely vibe ….
Fresh sourdough bread and copious coffee consumed, I was all set for my ‘Crochet Shawls’ class with Joanne. She shared some considerations when planning a design, and where to look to for design inspiration, either external sources or more practically, stitch dictionaries. I loved browsing through them and definitely plan to get a couple to challenge my mind to design. It was harder than I’d anticipated, I just couldn’t quite concentrate enough with all the background chat happening (well that’s my excuse!) but I will come back to it again soon and see if I can get the mathematics element of my brain working again!
I also took the opportunity to show Joanne the Alyssium cardigan that I’d started back in the winter but I was unsure about; I’d put it on hold as I knew I was going to see her. She checked my gauge and sure enough it was too loose and the cardi was going to come out more like a size 18 to 20. I’d actually misunderstood how to do the tension square – I’d based it on a square of standard trebles, and I should have replicated the design of trebles stated in the pattern. So that was a useful learning for next time …. I was in the zone for making progress so rather than ripping it straight back, so I started again with a fresh ball of wool and got busy again, and left the frogging for another day … I’m happy to report it’s all looking good, second time around!
Another alfresco lunch, before the option of a final class or free time to finish off ongoing projects. I sat in the Tunisian crochet class but I’ve done it before (I did a fab class with Sol Rencoret at Edinburgh Yarn Festival in 2017) so I watched and listened and got a general reminder, but was so inspired to crack on with my cardigan I focused on that.
We had the opportunity to look at loads of Kat and Joanne’s crocheted samples which was fantastic. I always enjoy looking at the garments at yarn festivals but this was actually the first time I’d tried any on. It was a bit of a revelation – in nearly every case, the items that I had planned to make didn’t look as nice on me as I'd hoped, and some of the scarves, cardigans, hats etc that hadn’t grabbed me in printed format I just loved when I put them on. So imminent top priorities now include the kelpie hat and the two row tee.
The rest of the evening seemed to disappear at a pace …. We had a yummy dinner of chilli with loads of sides, and then there was a mini marketplace, with options to buy lovely Socks Yeah! yarn from Rachel, patterns and kits from the Crochet Project, and some sourdough starters from Kat. I was pretty restrained and bought a pattern and three of Rachel’s gorgous DK yarns. Then final chats, crafting time, and good byes …
We headed in our separate directions the following morning after breakfast. Whilst being sad to leave, I was so looking forward to seeing the family again, and had a llovely date lunch with my other half, and an afternoon with my little people after school finished.
My first yarn related retreat, but certainly not my last. It was a perfect way to spend a weekend with like enthusiastic, like minded crafters, learning new skills, enjoying an idyllic countryside location. I just wish I’d managed to do it sooner!!