Last weekend, I enjoyed two days of lovely company, delicious food, beautiful countryside, excellent conversation and lots of knitting with a group of friends and friends-of-friends. Six of us stayed in Swallow Barn Cottage in the lovely village of Hartpury, near Gloucester for a knitting weekend.
We spent much of our time sitting around the huge fireplace, with our knitting and cups of tea/glasses of something stronger to keep us going… I can now highly recommend Winter Pimms (oh yes) and hot apple juice as the perfect drink to accompany cosy autumn/winter knitting. Although it was actually too mild for us to light the fire, even though we’re now into November.
I took a few projects with me and worked on my Cedar Shake fingerless gloves (a pattern from the book Juju’s Loops, which I’ve had my eye on for a while). These knit up fairly quickly, and the stretchy lace and twisted stitch pattern, combined with decreases towards the wrist make them fit really well. I also started working on one of Ysolda Teague’s patterns: the Cadeautje slippers from her new collection, Knitworthy. Cadeautje are chunky slipper socks with a secret. The insides are thrummed (which means that they have bits of wool fibre knit into the fabric, so that on the outside the fibre appears like a bigger stitch, but on the inside the ends are loose to create a lovely fleecy lining which looks like a clown wig or a muppet. Like this (which is the inside of the finished sole):
I had got really excited by this pattern as they look incredibly cosy, and I also liked the idear of playing with colours for a rainbow of thrums. I took a selection of dyed merino tops with me, and the wisdom of my fellow knitters was invaluable in working out the right combination and order. Here’s what we went for after much group debate:
I’m still finishing the second one, but they are turning out really nicely. I may end up making more than one pair, as I think they will make excellent presents. It’s the first time I’ve made anything with thrums, but they are very satisfying to do!
As well as colour advice, knitting in a group brings so many advantages. It was really interesting seeing what everyone else was making and having the chance to compare notes and tips. Between us, we managed to solve quite a bit of swatching-related maths, find just the right size needle for every eventuality and share lots of pattern inspiration. With lots of knitting time, we managed to make good progress on our projects. Here’s the group project photo of everything we worked on (mainly knitting, with some patchwork quilting and a rag rug). Some projects were just starting, while others, such as the lovely baby blanket, were virtually finished.
For me, the weekend was also a real marker of my progress as a knitter because my knitting journey really started on a similar weekend with almost the same group of people just over three years ago. Back then, I was more of a general crafter, sewist, and jewellery maker and had never really knitted more than a few rows. When my friend Jenny invited me on the weekend, I realised that everyone else who was going was a knitter and decided it was the perfect opportunity to improve my very rudimentary knitting skills. I took some yarn I liked the look of and some needles, and I started a Christmas present scarf in double moss stitch. I only made a few inches worth of slow progress that weekend, but I had long enough to get into the rhythm of knitting and I loved it. At one point, one of the others, Cat, said to me “I’m not sure you’ll finish that by Christmas”. It was a very fair observation, but when I got home her comment spurred me to get up 20 minutes earlier each day to work on my scarf. Here is that first scarf:
I not only finished it, but also ended up making another two similar scarves before Christmas! It was that daily knitting that really turned me into a knitter and I can’t really imagine life without it now. (Thank you Jenny and Cat for what you started!)
Sitting with the same people three years on enabled me to measure just how much I’ve learned. I was no longer sitting there baffled by the use of unfamiliar (although actually quite simple) terms such as “knitting through the back of the loop” and “slipped stitches” which I remembered not understanding on that previous weekend. It’s now my language, and my knitting no longer feels clumsy but utterly familiar in my hands. I was able to admire everyone’s projects even more now that I have a good understanding of what they are doing and I’m now not phased by mistakes because I am (usually) able to fix them. It was good to take stock of the progress I’ve made and the way knitting has become part of my life, as sometimes it’s easy to forget where you started from.
In other news, if you visit Hartpury, make sure you go to look at the bee shelter which can be found in the churchyard. We had seen the signs for it and were intrigued. It was built in the mid-19th century by local stone mason and beekeeper Paul Tuffley. It is a rather impressive construction which houses 28 straw skeps (which are the dome shaped bee houses that bees were kept in before modern beehives were invented). If you are wondering what a bee shelter looks like, here is the Hartpury one:
All in all, it was a really enjoyable weekend. We’re already thinking about the next one!