Wednesday 23 March 2016


March has been a very special month for me this year.  First our holiday to the Maldives and a few days later, still slightly jet-lagged, I was off on another holiday!  This time I headed to beautiful Cumbria to attend the Curious Handmade Country Retreat at Melmerby Hall.  The retreat was organised by the lovely Helen of Curious Handmade and her friend Mette.  
I had met Helen before at Unwind Brighton, where I had also met Deb aka Tinkhickman for the first time and at Unravel I had arranged to meet up with Deb again and we also met Dani aka Little Bobbins and Amanda aka Knittingmummy there, so it was nice to know some people before the trip.  This was the first time that I had gone on a holiday without my husband!  I drove up to Cumbria in my Mini as the train journey would have taken just as long as the drive.  The timing was perfect as Dani and Amanda's train arrived just as I got to the station and Deb, who had arrived earlier had just walked back to the station to meet them.  Deb joined me in my car and we drove through the stunning countryside to Melmerby Hall, which was much more grand than I had anticipated!  It was like living in a National Trust property for the week!

Most of the attendees had arrived early so we introduced ourselves and went for a short walk to the village pub for some lunch.

The weather was surprisingly warm and sunny.

This was the old village school that had been turned into a home.

We ordered lunch and decided to eat outside to make the most of the lovely weather.

When it was time to check into our rooms we headed back to the hall.

Helen had put Deb, Dani, Amanda and I into the annex, which was called Stag Cottage, as we all already knew each other.  The cottage was very cosy and well appointed, with a living-room

where we lit the log fire on the last evening.

A kitchen and breakfast room.

A dining-room

and bedrooms, each with en suite bathrooms.
We spent most of our time in the main part of the house.  A lot of knitting was accomplished in the breakfast room, which was part of the kitchen, accompanied by much laughter

and eating of sweet treats and drinking copious cups of coffee and tea.

In the evenings we dined in the main dining-room.
The food was delicious and my only regret is that I didn't photograph the delicious desserts!

As you can see there was much laughter throughout the week! :)  All the ladies were truly delightful company.
The evenings were spent with more knitting, either in one of the drawing rooms
or the library.
Helen very generously gifted each of us with a project bag, handmade by herself and Mette and inside was Helen's newest pattern, the Hill Top Shawl, two skeins of the Cumbria yarn by The Fibre Co, a pattern from Elizabeth and a leather bracelet, made by Stewart both of whom also attended the retreat.  The colour way I choose was appropriately called Eden Valley.
Many of us cast on immediately,

watched over by Teva, the retreat dog. :)
Each morning I woke up early as my body clock still hadn't adjusted to GMT.

It was lovely to sit in the quiet of the morning, knitting on my Hill Top Shawl and drinking lots of caffeine! :)
Each morning I was joined by Emma who was knitting a pair of socks, using Mina's aka Knitting Expat two-at-a-time method that Mina had kindly demonstrated one evening.

One morning Paula of The Knitting Pipeline taught us how to make magic cakes to knit a Magic Cake Ruffle Shawl.
I was very lucky to be able to pick some of Paula's minis for my cake and also some of Helen's.

I'm hoping to have some of my Cumbria yarn leftover from the Hill Top Shawl to add to my cake as the ruffle.

Some people went for walks up the fells and some of us couldn't tear ourselves away from our knitting for long, so we took shorter walks; into the village one day

and the woodland,
which was carpeted with snowdrops.

Another day we walked to the church

and explored the garden.

These doors in the garden wall so reminded me of "The Secret Garden", there was even a robin nearby.

Helen had arranged a pop up market to be held one afternoon.  Dani, Mina, Maya and Julie had brought some of their products to sell and I was finally able to get my hands on one of Dani's bags.  I always seem to be too late to catch her shop updates, so I was very pleased to purchase an appliqué chicken bag from her.  I also fell in love with the cat bag that Mina had made and of course I couldn't not buy some of Maya's gorgeous hand-dyed yarn.
Deb had kindly gifted me with a goodie bag, Maya gave us all a lip balm that she had made and Julie also gifted us all with a progress keeper.
All too soon it was time to say goodbye to new and old friends.

A big, big thank you to Helen, Mette, Amanda and Pauline for the great care you took of us all.  I had such an amazing time with you all.
The week didn't quite finish there for me as I was driving Deb and Mina back to Birmingham, where I had planned to collect J from uni for the Easter holidays.
Mina caught the train to London from New Street Station

and after seeing her off, Deb treated me to some delicious sushi at Wasabi.

We then popped into the haberdashery department in John Lewis to buy some sock wool.  This will be my first pair of socks!  The yarn is in my chicken bag from Dani waiting for me to finish some older WIPs before I cast on the socks.  I will probably try Mina's method so that I don't get second sock syndrome!
After that I said goodbye to Deb and collected J from his apartment and we headed home.

The round trip was a total of 642 miles.  That's the furthest my Mini has been!
Since coming home I have worked a little more on my shawl and I've probably completed around 60% of the pattern, but I have adapted the design slightly so it is hard to tell.
 The design is such an easy and enjoyable knit; just perfect to knit whilst chatting with friends.


Deb Hickman said...

Such wonderful memories and amazing photos, you've captured it perfectly. X

thesnailgarden said...

Thank you Deb, it truly was a wonderful week, wasn't it? xx

Paula said...

Delightful photos and post, Paula! Your photos are outstanding. Some look like calendar shots. You certainly have an eye for capturing special moments. Thank you!

thesnailgarden said...

Thank you for your kind comment Paula. It was such an amazing week! xx

Ejw1969 said...

Such a lovely blog post, I managed two photos while I was away! It has been great to be able to share your post with all your wonderful photos you really captured the feel of the retreat.

thesnailgarden said...

I'm glad you like the post Emma, it was lovely to start each day knitting & chatting with you. x

Unknown said...

These are absolutely beautiful Paula. I am ready to go back now!

thesnailgarden said...

Me too! :) x

Lesley said...

What a stunning place. I love your pics and commentary - they give a very atmospheric narrative. Happy knitting! Lxx