Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Yes it was soo good...

...but, I didn't think it would have been so tiring!  And that is my only excuse for delaying in telling you all about The Small Wool Gathering weekend.  Gosh, it's hard to believe that it was nearly three weeks ago that I arrived at Peddington manor, put the sign up

and unpacked a heavily laden car.  Jenny was our head chef (three course dinners, full English breakfast, lunches and snacks!) and my role was baker and housekeeper  So after stowing all the cakes I had baked in the pantry I set about setting up the rooms.  Of course the letting agent had done all the hard work making up beds etc but I spent some time setting out the twiddly bits, hand knitted face cloths by Jenny, names on our doors  and wool chains and bunting in the main rooms

Photo montage by Valerie

Guests arrived and settled in

getting reacquainted in the sitting room... 
 Then we sat down to Dinner in the huge dining room

Dinner (photograph by Rachel)
The dining room was also our class room

Thanks to Alli for this photograph

But first there were goodie bags.

I can't show mine as I opened it because  I forgot to take the picture and now I have already knitted up the Kettle Yarn sock in Amy's auto-pilot sock pattern (the subject of our first class) and spun and plyed  the silk (the little skein of turquoise, our second class).   But you can also see some beautiful alpaca fluff ready to spin and dyed by Porpoise and some of Elisabeth Beverly's plant dyed Merino DK

The bag also contained little treats like a crochet pattern from Agrarian Artisan, a sachet of Soak, a spindle (for the silk) and a pack of Tussah Silk from Sweet Georgia Yarns

We began our silk spindling class using silk hankies.  In their totally un-dyed state they are like this

A pile of cobwebs, each made from a single silk work cocoon.  These are not the ones we worked with at the weekend, those were shades of turquoise and specially dyed for us by Amy - I can't share these with you in their virgin state as I have used them all up, but here they are, halfway to a skein of knitable silk!

When talking to us about photographing our knitting Amy told us she didn't like knitting posed on walls or fences!  Despite this she gave this photograph of mine (of my colour affection shawl) the OK because the fence doesn't feature much and the way it's draped does show off the knitting.

Saturday night was glam night - that is we all wore something we had knitted that had a bit of glitz.  I just managed to complete my Tilly Thomas Citron in time.  To see what some others wore, and Alli herself have a look at her blog.  Meanwhile I felt her shoes needed a mention!

It was all a lot of fun, but don't just take my word for it have a look at blogs by Alli, Valerie and Rachel to see what they thought.



PS - we are planning to do it all again next year.  If you are  interested please leave your e mail in the comments or e mail me (chopkins2011 [at] gmail [dot] com ) and I will add you to the mailing list

Tilly Thomas Citron as worn by Aphrodite In The Garden

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Last Minute (not coming)

Quite unexpectedly we have a last minute vacancy.  All of us at The Small Crafters HQ (somewhere in the ether!) were very sad to hear from one of our friends, who was the life and soul of our retreat last year, that she is, at the last minute, unable to come.

So there is a double room at the manor going spare - this one in fact

Although the room is made up here with a double bed it can also be made as two singles so there is accommodation for either one person at £570 or two sharing at £410 each.

Remember the cost covers all accommodation, food and wine for three nights and tutoring from the amazing Amy Singer.

All the details for this fabulous weekend are in previous blog posts so please scroll back for more photographs of Peddington Manor and details of the classes in sock knitting, silk spinning and knitting photography that Amy will be giving.

If you are interested in taking up this very last place please e mail Catherine at
chopkins2011  [at] gmail [dot] com
as soon as possible.  Since there is only one residential place (or 2 at most) booking will be on the basis of first come first serve.

However, there are still 3 non-residential places available and details of these are also in previous blog posts

So hurry (you know you want to join in the fun)


Catherine (& Co)

Friday, 13 September 2013

The Small Wool Gathering - The Deets!

The excitement is growing, Jenny and I have been feeding each other and our families with all the recipes we intend to present for the weekend.  Being on holiday together for a week should have helped but I have to confess we agreed that there is only so much Greek Salad, Hummus and Tdsadzik we thought we could serve you!  Then, together with Alli and Kathleen we are wine tasting (someone has to do it!!) and chatting about some lovely surprises.

We are up to other things as well Kathleen and I are deep in encouraging others to join in our KAL (Rachel and Sally joining in the fun) and Alli is organising yarn bombing at John Lewis!   I can't believe how much knitting activity a bunch of women can get up to.  If anyone else has news or a blog they would like us to link to on this page, please let me know

STOP PRESS - (well, things I forgot, how could I? !!) The deep fall edition of Knitty is out.   And it contains a pattern designed by Kathleen who also has a fab book out, Silver Screen knits.  Here is the link to Alli's blog about the yarnbombing at John Lewis and lastly a link to Valerie's new blog.

So - as promised  last time I blogged are are all the details of the classes Amy is going to give at The Gathering.

But firstly a huge welcome to Sally, Tricia and Chris who are going to join us as day guests. If you are still undecided we do have two more day guest places but need to knot as soon as possible for catering (and other secret!) purposes.

The timetable for the classes are as follows

Saturday am - AutopilotSocks
Saturday pm - Digital camera secrets for knitters
Sunday am - Spindling Silk

And this is what Amy writes about the courses - please read carefully - there is homework! :-)

Autopilot socks [non-wool friendly]

Learn Amy's super-easy toe-up sock recipe which she designed specifically to work with the characteristics of non-wool sock yarns. Bonus: it works well with woolly sock yarns too! It features an easy gusset, and a heel flap built with Amy's tweaked Japanese short- row technique, all 100% math free. Knit one, and you must might want this to be your sock recipe for life. The easily memorized pattern gives you lots of room to improvise, should you want to add texture, colorwork or lace to the foot and/or leg.

Supplies - please bring with you:

  • Yarn:- Your chosen sock yarn [non-wool or wool welcomed equally] 
  • Needles:- apropriately sized needles to match your sock yarn that will give the sock fabric that you like best; DPNs work beautifully with these techniques; if you prefer 2 circulars, there are a few places in the pattern where DPNs make the job easier, so please bring both.
  • Notions, etc:- at least 20 removable locking stitch markers, such as Clover's locking stitch markers, or safety pins
  • Note-taking materials [paper, writing implement of choice]

  • Homework:
  • - practice and be con"dently able to work Judy's Magic Cast-on
  • written instructions with illustrations:
  • video instructions, courtesy the lovely Cat Bordhi:

Digital Camera Secrets for Knitters

Because good photography is not just about the equipment you use, we'll spend some time talking about how to take a good picture of your knitwear! We'll talk about models, location, backgrounds, styling and more!

Whether your camera is in your phone, a cute little point-and-shoot or something with a few more features, taking better digital pictures is not rocket science. There are simple, concrete things you can do to make the photos you take better right now, without having to memorize your camera's manual. 
In this class, we'll demystify the three basics: ISO, aperture and shutter speed. We'll explore the science behind digital photography [just enough to enlighten; not so much as to put you to sleep]. We'll identify the key settings you want to use, and which simple settings can make a huge difference in your photography. We'll also discuss easy after-processing with iOS and Android apps (for smartphone pictures) and affordable alternatives to Photoshop for computer-based processing. These little details can make so much difference to your finished photos!
Note: almost all digital camera manuals can be downloaded from the manufacturer's website.

    Supplies - please bring with you:

    • your camera(s) and the manual, if you have it and a highlighter pen
    • something to photograph...an accessory (shawl, scarf, hat) or garment, your choice!

    Experience level: 

    "I want to take better pictures without having to memorize my camera's manual."
    Some of the aspects of this class will focus on in-phone cameras like the iPhone 4 and up, the rest will apply to point-and-shoot and and advanced compact cameras. New DSLR users may find the content helpful, but this class is not meant for DSLR users.



    Spindling silk, a friendly introduction: learn to spin silk on a drop spindle

    It may sound intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. After this class, you will be able to spin silk yarn!
    Amy's allergy to wool means she jumped into spinning silk headfirst. Spinning Tussah on a spindle now ties with knitting as her favourite fibre-related pastime. Handspun silk is unlike anything you can buy, and an absolute dream to knit with!
    In this class, Amy will take you from cocoon to hanky to roving and get you spinning silk, guaranteed. Even if you've never touched a spindle, you will be successful in this class, turning silk hankies into beautiful, rustic yarn that you can knit with right away! We'll also learn the skills that will help you, with practice, become a confident spinner of Tussah and even slippery Bombay silk! We'll talk about the di fferent tools available for spinning, and explain the terms that spinners use so you'll know the difference between hankies, bells, caps, bricks, batts, top and roving...and which you might want to choose for your future spinning projects. 
      The class includes a kit assembled by Amy including a great starter spindle, and samples of all the fibres you'll work on in class and enough for you to continue to practice after class is over.

      all required supplies are provided in the kit 

      Homework: none.

      Experience level: "I want to learn to spin silk on a handspindle."No previous spindling experience is required. Spindlers who have had experience with wool and other animal fibres, but not silk, will also find this class beneficial. 

      Sounds like fun!


      Catherine & Co

      Saturday, 31 August 2013

      Day dallying at the Gathering while Amy Advises

      The whole idea of the Small Wool Gathering is that it IS SMALL but although the bedrooms at the house are full we do still have 5 day tickets available at £350 each or £225 for those who prefer to arrive Saturday morning and depart after Sunday lunch.  Day guests can stay at any of a number of local hotels or B&Bs

      What will you get for your money?  Well firstly you will still get to spend up to two and a half days at the beautiful Peddington Manor

      The food will be delicious - and will include cake and biscuits at every snack opportunity and wine with your meals, served in this rather impressive dinning room

      AND your tutor for the whole weekend will be the lovely (and knitterly talented) Amy Singer, editor of Knitty magazine where we all go to find fab patterns and spinning and knitting advice.  

      I met Amy at the first knitting retreat I ever went to, it was such a wonderful experience that I went again the next year.  Sadly Amy and her friend Brenda Dayne (of the brilliant knitting podcast Cast-On and the new book Welsh for Rainbow)  cannot continue to run knitting retreats for the time being and this is how The Small Wool Gathering was born.

      So what happens at The Small Wool Gathering?  This is how we will fill our days

      Friday 11 October 2013
      6pm - arrive and settle in
      7.15  - drinks and surprises
      8pm - dinner
      after dinner - knitting 'show and tell', tell all about a wooly triumph or disaster

      9am - Breakfast (residents only)
      10.30 - Amy's first class (Auto pilot socks - there is homework, learn Judy's magic cast-on before you come and bring with you your chosen sock yarn and needles, circular or DPNs)
      1pm - lunch
      2.30 Amy's second class (Digital camera secrets for knitters, no homework but bring your camera and its manual and something knitted to photograph)
      Free time between classes and dinner
      8pm - Dinner (dress code wear something glamorous you have knitted)

      my choice of yarn for glamour but will I knit it up in time?

      9am - Breakfast (residents only)
      10.30 Amy's last class (Silk spindling, all materials supplied)
      1pm - lunch
      the afternoon is free to enjoy beautiful local walks, explore nearby Berkley village and its castle or relax at the Manor with your knitting (or spinning)
      8pm - Dinner

      8.30 - Breakfast (Residents only)
      10.30 - depart :-(

      Where can you stay?

      Firstly I have to say I have not personally tested out these hotels.

      The nearest hotel is The Gables, only a five minute drive from the Manor.  It is modern and comfortable but likely to lack much character.  It is one of a chain of hotels that are all generally of a good standard. Although I have not been inside these hotels are all pretty much the same and are ideal for a place to crash when there is something good to go on to (as with The Small Wool Gathering)

      In the very pretty village of Berkley, slightly further away (about a 10 minute drive) are a couple of very good looking hotel/pubs which also do B&B including The Malt House which looks comfortable with beamed ceilings in the bedrooms and all food cooked freshly to order.

      There are many other hotels and guest houses in the area this page has a list, I see there is even a castle about 10 miles away from Peddington!

      There are local taxi companies who can be booked to take day guests who don't have cars to and from the Manor 

      More information on Amy's classes please!

      Please watch this space, the next blog post will have lots more information and pictures!

      Amy teaching how to work with silk hankies at last year's Gwlana retreat

      If you would like to book one of the last 5 places at The Small Wool Gathering or would like more information, please e mail Catherine (chopkins2013 [at] gmail.com) or Alli (Allison.thistlewood [at] gmail.com)

      The closing date for booking is 29 September

      Hope to see some of you at The Manor on the 11th!!



      Wednesday, 28 August 2013

      Directions and something tasty

      Hello again!  We are working hard on lots of lovely things for you to enjoy in October at our first Small Wool Gathering.  Alli has brought back a few surprises from her long summer holiday in Canada and despite a case of serious over work on The Great London Yarn Crawl with Rachel, she is also working on something with Kathleen to cause utterances of delight soon after you arrive at Peddington.  Kathleen and I are also working together on a separate project so if you feel like a little more knitting (or knitting something little) hop over to Kathleen's blog, or mine (or both) and find out about a KAL using the fabulous Spud & Chloe Sweater yarn (don't you love the name?)

      no connection with TSWG!  Just because S&C is so pretty!

      We are trying to keep some of the things we will do secret so that you can have the fun of surprises on our weekend away.  But it's hard when you have been tasked to blog about the weekend not to give little hints and tease a bit.  So if you feel this is leaving you a little too much in suspense do pass swiftly on to the end of this post where you will find directions to Peddington Manor and other practical stuff for your reference.  Although Jenny has e mailed you we thought you might find it convenient for all the information about the weekend to be in one place... And that is right here!

      At the moment Jenny and I are working on the food.  Jenny has devised the main menu with vegetarian options and I am adapting this for those with special dietary needs.  My family is a little over provided with cakes at the moment and find them selves handed a plate of some new cake or biscuit and demands from me to provide an opinion.  We have also discovered another way of testing menus... Parties and dinners!  Last Saturday was my un-birthday party (I was 60 earlier in the month EEK!) one of the meat dishes went down very well and will be served to you for dinner one night at Peddington.  Tonight JTH and I are having dinner at Jenny's house where the entire meal follows the proposed menu for the first night of The Gathering.  So you can see we are having fun getting things just right for you all.

      this one's a little ugly, but tasted OK and is GF

      Now for some practical stuff.   One of our classes with Amy will involve some spinning and, although all the equipment and materials you need for all the classes will be provided, it would be fun if you also brought your wheels and or spindles.  This is of course assuming you either have the equipment, are coming by car or have the inclination to add a large unwieldy wooden item to your packing.

      There will be plenty of free time between classes and a free Sunday afternoon so lots of time to sit and spin together (and learn from each other) if you would like.  There are also good walks and places to visit nearby but more of that another time.

      Finally here are the instructions for driving to the Manor.

      Arriving by Car

      Take the M5 to Junction 14.  Leave the motorway at Junction 14 and follow signs for A38.  At the A38 T-Junction turn right signed Berkeley.  Follow the A38 into the village of Stone.  Pass the left turn to Lower Stone then take the left turn signed Ham, passing a primary school on your left.  Follow this road a short distance into the countryside and you will arrive at Pedington Manor on your right.  It is a large three storey house next to a small brick cottage, with the entrance on the right between the Manor and the Manor Cottage.  Follow the drive around to the right and enter through the back door, on your right as you park.

      Much love


      PS - Don't forget, if you are travelling by train, to let Jenny know what time you arrive at Cam & Dursley station  so we can arrange to pick you up.  

      PPS - We have had a few enquiries about day tickets but please continue to spread the word the cost of a day ticket is £350 each or £225 for those who prefer to arrive Saturday morning and depart after Sunday lunch

      Saturday, 17 August 2013

      THE SMALL Wool Gathering 11 - 14 October 2011 - First Sight

      Yesterday Jenny and I went to look over the lovely Peddington Manor, the venue for our first Small Wool Gathering.  The house is super easy to find, only about 4 miles from junction 14 of the M5.  This is the view of the house as you drive down the lane, although you will have to imagine a hedge and a bend in the road between you and the house!

      Drive just past the house and pull into the drive and you will find plenty of parking, enter by the kitchen door (you can just see it on the left in the picture)

      We have some pretty amazing menus planned so were very pleased to see how well equipped the kitchen is - not just an Aga but a second oven in the scullery behind, two dishwashers and plenty of matching crockery, cutlery and wine glasses! 

      It's my guess that either this house was once two or three houses or it is very ancient with rooms built on at random.  There are lots of interconnecting corridors -


      and down

      winding stair cases

      and an arrow slit window or two

      But there are also comfy bedrooms

      Several bathrooms (this one's the biggest)

      Sitting rooms

      and quiet corners

      The formal dining room is huge.  Not just for meals but where we will sit around the table and learn from our knitting expert and editor of Knitty.com magazine, Amy Singer

      When it comes to eating and sleeping our youngest guest (who attended her first knitting retreat when aged only 3 months!) is also provided for, with high chair, cot and through the garden gate...

      a playing field!

      The gardens surround the house (this is the gate to the front lawn)

      Despite driving all the way there in the rain the weather was perfect when we arrived, I wonder if we shall be as lucky in October?  The evenings will be drawing in by then but if the sun shines we could have elevenses and tea in the garden

      Beside the old well

      or if chilly beside the Aga

      Lastly we met the neighbours, although they found us rather disappointing.  Next time we will remember to bring polo mints!

      We'll post more here as we get nearer the date, if you have already booked we hope you are as excited as we are!

      Don't forget that after dinner on Friday we are planning to have a knitting 'Show-And-Tell' (triumphs and disasters) and at Saturday dinner the dress code is 'wear something woolly and glamorous'.  Alli and Kathleen (or was it Alli or Kathleen?) suggested we might have a yarn swap too.  If  you have stash yarn you would like to swap post details on Ravelry  (Forum - Gwlana - Small Wool Gathering Chat) of what yarn you have to swap and see what offers you get!

      If you have not booked and are interested we are sorry that all the rooms in the manor are booked but about 2 miles down the road is a Best Great Western Hotel which charges £50  for bed and breakfast and we have six day tickets still for sale, you get to join in everything except the B&B!

      If you are interested in a day ticket (this is for the whole weekend we cannot sell tickets for individual days) please e mail Catherine (chopkins2011 [at] gmail [dot] com ) and we will send you details.

      Looking forward to seeing you all on October 11th


      Catherine (and Jenny)

      PS If I don't get my needles out I shall be wearing this skein of fab Tilly Thomas symphony lace with beads unknitted around my neck to Saturday night's dinner!