Twas the night before Stitch Gathering and the only sound in the house
Was the whirr of a sewing machine as fast as a mouse.

While the menfolk all lay resting, asleep in their beds
The crafter among them pulled the hairs from her head!
For the time that she thought she had to sew for her friends
Had gone out of the window and was almost at an end.

One needed a name badge,
Another a bag.
And the other preparation made Katherine's shoulders sag.

"A window", she thought "now that would be fab!"
"Of the cathedral variety on the front of the tag.
I'll cross-stitch the name (it's nice and it's short)
And finish the piece with a knitted i-cord.”

Initially the bag was to be knitted in yarn
But the idea was abandoned as it would be too heavy – oh darn!
So some bright, cheerful fabric was selected as a base
And a pocket knitted to keep precious things safe.

With fabric cut out for her projects of choice - apron and bag -
She picked up her sewing machine and tried not to lag
As she put away her tools, all tidy and neat,
At last excited and looking forward to the quilting retreat.





So, it's done.  And yes, I'm pleased – and if we stop feeding Oldest Son, it might last him more than five minutes!

How long has it taken?  I checked my calendar as I know exactly when I bought the pattern and yarn: Saturday 2nd March 2013, John Lewis Sheffield, immediately following a colour workshop with the wonderful Bev.  I can't remember when I cast on but let's be realistic, it could well have been on the train on the way home – if not, it'll have been shortly afterwards.  So a mere 13 months then.

As with many projects, it's not just about the goal, it's the journey to get there.  Now I'm not going to get all morbid as I recollect knitting this in hospital corridors but think on the positive and how mother-in-law was among the many who kept me company on this path.  Of the many car journeys whose monotony was broken with knitting "Kurt"; of the pleasure knitting with the yarn (Baby Merino Silk DK, in case you're interested) and the satisfaction with becoming so quickly  in tune with the cabling pattern – after a short while, it became almost instinctive.  The delight in discovering a new yarn shop in which to purchase buttons (and a delightful shop it is too).

Oldest Son’s next project is already underway:  A Cornish Gansey.  If I manage to keep my needles clicking, it might not end up being such a snug fit.





We have been visited by death. This time he insisted on keeping my mother-in-law for company.

On some levels, I can understand his choice: She's interesting, has a phenomenal memory, patient, kind and a crafter.  She'll always be a knitter to me, but that undersells her other crafting interests: She could crochet, sew and was a most proficient cross-stitcher. At least three other reasons why you might want to spend some time with her.

I'm clearly in the "denial" stage of my grief. We lost her only days ago or, perhaps I should say, we can't really have lost her, can we?  Yet, under instruction from our father-in-law, sister-in-law and I have sorted through her crafty things.  This has not made her passing any more real, though it has allowed me to realise how all our treasured possessions are just "stuff" and are, on some level, meaningless. It truly is about the people.  For example, I'm now the owner of some rather lovely knitting books.  My current reaction?  In all honesty:  Indifference.  Now, if my mother-in-law had personally gifted even one of these books to me, I would have been thrilled.  Absolutely delighted.  She and I have a shared love of Kim Hargreaves's designs and I've long admired MIL's copy of Kim's first solo publication "Heartfelt" (one day I'm going to knit myself "Darcy").  Well, now it's mine.  Which is nice but in such a flat, emotionless way.  And there are others.  I'm sure that my attitude will change over time and perhaps, at some point, you'll allow me to share with you these special, new additions to my library.

As for unfinished projects, there were a couple (by which I mean three): One child's cardigan complete except for the buttons; one child's top (in progress); one crochet blanket, finished bar a short section of border.  More than a competent crocheter herself, sister-in-law very kindly completed this and the blanket, MIL's first adventure in crochet for years, is now part of our family home and crafting history. An absence of buttons doesn't count as "knitting" so that leaves one, one project.  Since we think that the top was destined for her eldest child, sister-in-law has taken the work to complete.  And, just like that, the projects are sorted (well, almost).

Then there was the stash, or lack of it.  At least that's what we initially thought as her work basket contained only the yarn she was using plus a few other oddments.  Sister-in-law and I were stunned to say the least.  And possibly shamed (as we compared hers to the complete frivolity of our own stashes).  Thankfully – for our own consciences, I mean – over the next couple of days, father-in-law found a few bags of yarn, mostly comprising gifts that she hadn't got round to using.  So, not really stash of her own making – but there was enough to give hint to her own tastes.

Despite my earlier ascertains, very quickly it became too much.  Books lost their individual identities just falling under the collective heading of "knitting"; yarn became a blur, loosing its composition, texture even colour.  I could barely focus.  I didn't want to know, didn't want to look, didn't – don't – want to accept the truth of why we doing this.  But I also didn't want to part with any of it.  Not just randomly: It had value to MIL and I wanted the next person to appreciate that, if not in the same manner, then in a different but meaningful way.  But who am I to dictate how other people's belongings should be distributed, handled, cared for?  Who I am to set such high, unrealistic and unfair criteria?  Seemingly grief can give a false idea of legacy.  Enter MIL's friend and neighbour who, understanding everything – the practicalities, the emotions, everything - took the remainder of the collection for distribution among her crafting friends. To only say "thank you" is completely inadequate but I confess that any other, more suitable words, fail me.

Of course, this isn't the whole story.  There's the self-reflection that goes with the loss, particularly when you can connect through a common interest.  Can you imagine going through my projects, my stash, my books?  More to the point, can you imagine what my MIL would say (let alone my own mother!) with the sheer abundance of stuff? What would they do with it all?  Would they get any joy from it or would it be a toil – and, in my case, a very heavy toil?

I realise that now may not be the wisest time to make any decisions about my "stuff" so I'll refrain from giving away all my stash just now, tempted as I am.  But I am more committed to knitting it.  I'm starting with the yarn that MIL gave me.  Too late for her to see the finished work, but – if I start now – not too late for her intended recipient to wear it: Her Oldest Grandson. 

Anne, I think of you with every stitch.  And your grandsons will be blessed to be wrapped in the enduring love of their Granny.

It's that time of, err, year? life? when people are starting to make noises about Oldest Child and his contemporaries starting school.  You probably don't need to be told that it's turning me into a bit of a wreck. 

Please don't get me wrong, I'm not of the mind to keep him at home: Oldest Son, like most children his age, is keen to learn and explore the world and for me, and for my family, we believe that school is an appropriate place to do this, amongst children his own age and under the care and guidance of a team of motivated and professional teachers.  But that doesn't mean that this sometimes over-emotional woman and mother can't mourn the dawning end of this current phase of our lives.

This isn't to say that every one of our days together has been Enid Blyton perfect.  Daily mysteries of "where did the time / shoe / car keys go" continue to plague us and despite forays into baking and cordial making, my boys still prefer chocolate over fruit cake and have yet to be introduced to the delights of ginger beer.  But there's time.  Even with proposed changes to the teaching week, school attendance isn't all day every day – and we, like the millions of others before us, will come to value our evenings, weekends and holidays together.

I'll miss him.  That's the honest truth of it.  I'll miss our freedom, whole days doing something or nothing, as the mood, wind, rain, sunshine, our interests and energies take us.  I've just about got used to the few hours that he spends in nursery but both Youngest Son and I are always delighted to see him at the end of his session – and this is regardless of any baking that he might have been involved in.

I also can't knit for him.  Okay, yes, of course I can, but from August, Oldest Son will be wearing a school uniform and one that doesn't include hand knitted jumpers. I'm aware that this sounds extremely hypercritical given, as we've previously discussed, the jacket I currently have on the needles for Oldest Son probably won't even fit him, but there would have been a whole lot of comfort in sending him to school in a jumper that I'd made for him.  Comfort for me, obviously.  This is all about me.  In case you're in any way uncertain about the degree of this fixation, I have even considered knitting jumpers for all of his classmates just so Oldest Son didn't stand out - his class is likely to comprise four children so this isn't quite as ridiculous as it sounds.  However, that idea was soon quashed – not because it's nonsense (and of course it is), but because all of his class mates are likely to be in receipt of jumpers from older siblings - so anything from me would be totally and completely surplus to requirement.  For a brief moment I considered knitting him socks, but seriously, plain black socks?  I'll stop right there.

So he'll just have to go to school in the knowledge that I love him even if he can't wear anything I've knitted for him to prove it.  Because clearly that's how love is measured, by the quality and quantity of hand knits. But before we know it, autumn and winter will soon be upon us and then my needles will be free to knit, knit, knit away.  At least for the five minutes before he starts rejecting anything and everything that I create for him.  Mummy's knitting isn’t always going to be cool.

In the meantime, I’ll get used to it, obviously I will.  For one thing I have to and for another, it is a wonderful opportunity to have some quality one-on-one time with Youngest Son.  Whole days to do something or nothing……..  

My wake up call last night was at 02:47 (I'm nothing, if not precise) – Youngest Son does like to mix it up. After popping into his bedroom, and expecting to be in for the long haul, I came downstairs, stoked the fire, put on the kettle – by which time, all was silent upstairs.  I hadn't even completed a single round before the timer went off (no, you're not really surprised) and all was still quiet.  Trouble was, I was awake.  So, too, was the cat imprisoned in the utility room, no doubt for crimes again the sleeping (one of the side effects of "clearing" all the local vermin is that said cat is bored and sleeping more during the day; this makes him restless at night. His midnight prowls might even have been contributed to Youngest Son waking – though last night, it was definitely the other way round.)

So you can imagine my pleasure at being up, wide awake, listening to the cat scratching away at the door like some crazed, well, animal, in the wee hours.  I also know how easy it can be to programme your brain: You wake up in the middle of the night; you "reward" your awake self with a cooked breakfast / episode of your favourite programme / chapter of your favourite book; you eventually go back to sleep.  Noting the pleasure of the night's activities, you wake again at approximately the same time the following night for more culinary / cultural delights.  Advice is to do something so monotonous that your brain is sooo off-put at the thought of doing it again, you sleep on through.  Examples include arranging all of your food tins in alphabetical order or reading sections of the dictionary. No pleasure, no (tangible) achievement, no reward. Examples do not include sock knitting or, indeed, knitting of any kind, blogging, perusing Ravelry or staring at any other bright screen.

And so, anxious to avoid any further night-time nonsense, I downed tools and drank my "Sleepy Tea" in the darkness in front of the fire before heading off to bed.

As for the knitting progress that you can see, well, I cheated.  Sorry.  I have to be honest, I had never in my wildest dreams thought that this bed-time "re-set" would last long enough to allow even a single, let alone a pair, of socks to be completed. So the socks were going to have to be knitted at some other time, I just hadn't really considered when.  Turns out that once I'd started, I found it difficult to put down the needles, to release myself from the pure pleasure of round upon round of meditative socking stitch. And although stopping is exactly what I did on Night One, yesterday evening no other knitting appealed to me – to the extent that I started whiling away the hours online.  And then, sensible head engaged, I carried on knitting the sock. Sorry, again.

As for tonight, note to self: Go into Youngest Son's room and then GO BACK TO BED. Simples.

It's with some surprise that I'm able to write to tell you that the night wasn't nearly as bad as I feared.  Despite helpful comments from Husband along the lines of 'and if Mummy gets any sleep...", I did, in fact get some sleep, in my own bed and without Youngest Son for company!

The expected shenanigans kicked off a lot earlier than usual (20.53 to be precise) but were all done just over an hour later.  And, much to my disbelief, lasted the entire night.   In terms of my knitting, I did complete a couple of rounds past the cuff "target" but it turns out that was okay.  Much more so, in fact: I really, really enjoyed it – and it was difficult to put down the sock knitting when Youngest Son has settled (I love knitting socks!).  In fact, those plan stocking-stitch rounds were probably formed just to be sure he was asleep, to be absolutely sure. 

But you know me, I'm a stickler for the rules – and note how I stopped knitting just before the glorious blue colour hit the needles.  Now that's control!  (Though I suspect I'll get plenty of opportunity to continue this evening.....)

For reasons too boring, too mundane and too predictable to mention, we've got into an unhelpful night-time habit with Youngest Son: We put him to bed at bedtime, he goes to sleep and then, usually sometime between 11pm and 1am, he's awake and crying.  For the aforementioned reasons, and in a desperate attempt to get some sleep, any sleep, the next part of the routine is as follows: With head hung in tired and almost hopeless resignation, one of us collects the child – who is by now, standing expectantly in his cot, his little bag all packed and ready to go – and bring him back to our bed.  Where I, particularly, can look forward to a night where any sleep I can snatch will be nose-to-nose with said child, with my hair firmly wound around his lovely, little fingers and 'enjoy' a periodic role-call just to check that I'm still there. Obviously the thought of escape has never occurred to me.

But not tonight.  No, tonight it's all going to change.  Tonight when Youngest Son awakes demanding his bed upgrade, well, I'm afraid it's not going to happen.  Tonight Youngest Son will spend all night in his bed.

Yes, brave words, the kind of words one might expect to hear hours before the drama – and associated emotional battle - but I have a plan: I'm going to knit socks through the crying.  In a few minutes I'm going to cast on, grabbing these last moments of semi-functioning brain to at least get the stitch count correct, and then I'll continue the knitting while Youngest Son and I "negotiate" the new rule. The fire will be stoked, I'll have cats to keep me company, plenty of hot, decaffeinated drinks to the ready and the wonderful, re-assurance of sock knitting.  (If this were to occur, say 12 hours earlier / later in the day, it might actually be a treat!  And as much as I'm trying to put a positive spin on this, don't even think of suggesting that this is "me time".)

Tomorrow, I'll show you the progress I've made with the first sock.  Any more than the cuff and I'll probably be really, really tired.

In my previous life, as a non-mother, I'd heard tales such as these and, although verbally sympathetic, had silently wondered how it was possible for such a thing to have occurred – surely the person had to be "challenged" in some way. And as a mother, I reckon I was right: They were probably sleep challenged.

Take today for instance.  Today, Youngest Son and I were going on a bike ride.  Well, alright, I was doing the cycling while he was going to be providing extra "ballast" and, if I was lucky, a rolling commentary.  Preparations for this adventure had started last night when Husband very kindly inflated bike tyres, checked the seat and attached the bike to the car.  Then came a message from A, a friend with children of a similar age to mine: Would Youngest Son and I like to join her and Youngest Daughter (and another, mother-and-daughter combo) for coffee and a play at the exact time I had planned to be furiously pedalling around East Berwickshire.  What to do?  Well, I'm a 21st Century girl so the answer was obviously "both": I'd cycle to A (along a route I'd never even driven but my map and trusty yarn measurements had suggested it was do-able), have coffee, play with children and then cycle back in time to collect Oldest Son.  A was even thoughtful enough to propose a Plan B whereby her husband, who was assisting with the morning of Christmas Crafts, would – by car – reunite us all together again.  What could possibly go wrong?

Well, for starters, we could be the latest ever leaving the house, so we were over five minutes late for nursery.  So much for the get-there-early-to-get-bike-off-car-then-calmly-deposit-Oldest-Son-before-Youngest-Son-and-I-could-cycle-off-into-the-sunrise.  And I could forget my coat (the forecast assured no rain but I do get more than a little chilly).  Nevertheless, on we went.

Then I could leave the map in the car, the map which I had, only moments before, used to check the route with A's husband.  But still we proceeded.

Then, as I changed gear to ease the impact of the rising incline as we left the village, the chain came off and both Youngest Son and I found ourselves in the ditch.  Unhurt (aside from maybe a bruised ego) but not overly happy.  Our dramatic fall from grace was witnessed by C and, given the "what if", I am glad that she was there as we might have needed proper help.  As it was we didn't, so her presence helped to calm my nerves and onward we went.  Straight past the turning we should have taken.

Now to say that I missed the required left turn wouldn't be all together honest.  I had just plain forgotten about it.  Up and up we continued and then relaxed along the straight.  Only the "straight" wasn't as "straight" as it was supposed to have been, as was represented on the map.  Since I didn't have the map with me, I put this down to mis-remembering the finer details of the road and carried merrily along.  Well, maybe not-so-merrily but along, and up, and then down.  A's husband had told me that this would be a "nice road to cycle" but you know men and their oblivion to hills, especially when they don't have a toddler on the back of their bike.  And then we reached a junction, signed to places I wasn't expecting to see.  To both my right and left were undulating roads and absolutely no sign of my destination.  I cycled a little to the left, turned and cycled a little to the right, and then found myself at W's house.  W lives in a completely different village to A.  Obviously something had gone wrong.  Really wrong.

As this point, I finally – oh finally – decided to cut my losses and head back to the car.  And the map.  Once all safely installed, we set-off again, turning left just after "the place of the ditch", as we should have done the first time, driving along a relatively flat lane with open views on each side that yes, would have been nice to cycle along. 

I believe being late by 90 mins is by far my best (or worst) time ever – slashing my previous record of 30 mins to my own wedding.  But A and J were very kind and plied me with tea and sympathy.  Given the timing of my appearance, Plan B was activated and A's Husband duly brought Oldest Son home with him. Politeness forced me to reveal to him the full extent of my morning's adventures and to say that he looked "bewildered" would be putting it mildly.  See that's the face, that's the face that I probably pulled all those years ago.  And to those who experienced this, please accept my heartfelt apologies.  I just didn't understand.

Actually, this current episode of not sleeping is purely self-inflicted and apparently, in a similar vein to hang-overs, deserves no sympathy.  You see, on Saturday night – or, let's be honest, the early hours of Sunday morning – the day (few hours) before our Open House, I tried to finish knitting my jumper.  Wouldn't it be lovely to wear my new jumper to our party? And then have it all ready in time for Christmas.  With only the collar left to do, and working in Big Wool, I thought this would be a matter of minutes.  It transpires, however, that knitting 32cm of roll back collar takes a few hours and at a 5am, I abandoned the knitting and made soup for our guests.  Leek and potato soup, now that does take minutes.  And is probably better appreciated.

In this particular phase of our lives, our sleep patterns are out width our control and so it'll take longer than "normal" to recover from this particular episode of stupidity.  And until then, I'll knock over a few cups, struggle to finish sentences, be a little less tolerant of toddler behaviour, rigidly enforce early bedtimes and cycle in completely the wrong direction.  And for those around me, I beg your forgiveness.

Dear Mummy,

So today you sold your house, your home for 17 years.  Mine for nearly as long, though maybe, deep down, just as long.  That could explain the tears.  Goodness only knows how you feel.  As an adult myself (not a "grown-up", you understand, I was climbing trees only yesterday), a mother and a home-owner, I think that I can say that I am a little more understanding - although I in no way claim to have got all the bases covered.

The move into Maison Lymer signalled the end of an extended period of part-time separation of your husband, our father, from us - "us" being you and your five children - as he commuted from our home in Essex to his new job in mid-Wales.  As you know, my Husband is sometimes away for work but never have I had to cope with such a long-term separation.  Never during the sale and purchase of a house.  And never with five children.  And whilst the permanent family reunion might have provided some relief, you left behind your mother and sister – both had been within an hours reach in the car; now you were looking at least four hours of driving and without the convenience and informality that comes with geographical closeness.  That can't have been easy.  Quite the opposite, in fact.

And then you swapped a (seemingly) full and vibrant life, where everyone and everything was within walking distance, to not knowing anyone, not having a school gate at which to converse (since we, and many others, used the school bus) and having to get in the car for everything.  Given our recent moving into the countryside, this, this I'm "getting" a little.  It can be oh-so-isolating.  Yet also oh-so-wonderful.

We moved when I was, crickey, how old was I?  15?  I'd been there at the auction where the farm was divided into its designated five lots, "our" lot being the farm house and a small field.  I was with Daddy at the auction, as he bided higher than the amount that you'd both agreed.  I remember the conflicting emotions: Guilt that he'd done so and I hadn't stopped him; a solid sense that I was betraying you; excitement in the adrenaline-filled auction room; annoyance and despair at the opposing bidder; the sure teenage "rightness" that we should get the house, that it was clearly ours and only ours.  As you know, we lost the house that day but through a series of legal twists and turns, what we thought we lost, we found.  Or rather, it found us.

The house itself was a wreck.  Of course, I didn't realise how much work needed to be done until I look back on it now – and I'm sure that I don't remember the half of it.  I can visualise the photos of a corner of the house being supported by a "jack" as foundations were rapidly replaced. I remember floor boards, lots of bare floor boards and then floors with no boards.  Vaguely I remember these things but what I most remember is that way that you very quickly, almost instantaneously, made it a home.  Our home.  Despite working full time (and have I mentioned the five children?), you produced curtain upon duvet cover upon cushion upon blind.  You hung wall paper and you painted.  I have no idea how long it was before the house was decorated but in my memory, it doesn't seem that long.  Children moved bedrooms, ceilings fell down (okay, only one), yet life carried on.  We went to school, we played, we did our homework, we had friends round, visitors came and went and came again.  It would have been mayhem in my home, but not yours.

I was trying to think of my happiest memory from this time, and I can't, there are too many.  There's the time we went to visit a new friend / neighbour at the top of the road and came home with a horse.  (Borrowed horse, but even so.)  Selecting the wall paper for my bedroom (I felt so grown-up!) and the joy and delight at how you made it all work.  Right down to the vase – which wasn't appreciated as a moody teenager but is now treasured.  The pride in bringing Boyfriend, now Husband, home to meet you for my 21st Birthday (even if this included a twisty drive to the hospital in Aberystwyth to visit my grandmother – excellent first introduction to the family).  And then, of course, there's my wedding.  The first of three that you've hosted - such wonderful, generous gifts you have given to the three of us who have married from home.  And not just the day itself, but the preparation.  Oh my goodness, the preparation.  The laying of concrete, installation of a temporary kitchen, the cleaning and cleaning and cleaning (the receptions were held in a barn, a very old barn). And I know that I don't know the half of it.  How you "saved" the wedding dress I'd made (who else was going to tell me that it was too big?), the stunning dresses you made for my sisters to wear as my bridesmaids and your stunning, oh-so-gorgeous outfit.  My mother do things by halves?  Never.  Ever.

And then, of course, there are the every day things that mean so much, especially when you think that they're being taken away.  I can picture you in your sewing room but I can't count all the finished projects that have come out of there.  We've knitted together in that house.  In the kitchen (do you remember ripping out that entire black cardigan because I'd made it too big?), the sitting room, the garden.  At least you don't have a stash to move.  But we've knitted together in many other places too.  My home, Rowan HQ, New York... The important thing is that we've been together and we're still together now.  Our relationship has been woven in ways that I would have never have dared hoped and continues to grow, and grow stronger. That house may have provided the backdrop, but the people were, are, its focus. You've always been people-orientated, it's one of your most beautiful qualities.

So I just want to say thank you.  Thank you for the giving us the opportunity to grow-up, as individuals and a family, and thank you for giving us such a magnificent home in which to do so.  I know it hasn't always been easy and I thank you for the sacrifices and hard-ships you have endured to make it work.  I pray that these will not re-visit you in your new house and I wish you every joy in your plans to make it your home. At the beginning of this next chapter in your life, I send you all my love.  I look forward to seeing you in your new home (though before then too) and being allowed to contribute.  Have I mentioned to you my new love of quilting?

Yesterday, I was one of the fortunate few to attend Edinburgh's first ever "Stitch Gathering", organised by Jo Avery.  Contrary to my usual stitches, this was a sewing, more accurately a quilting, event, and so this definitely counted as being "fun but outside my comfort zone" - having never quilted (!).  But it was during Edinburgh's first ever YarnFest that friend, K, and I were "recruited" and, given the absence of complicated prerequisites (and I did make my own wedding dress, after all), we signed up just as soon as we could.

Preparation for the big day started long before the gathering itself: We were sent fabric tickets accompanied by a suggestion to embellish them in whatever way we desired so that the resulting pieces could be combined into a quilt to mark the event.  Given that my preparation didn't actual start until "not enough time before" Sunday, I'm ashamed to say that my ticket was one of the few naked ones.  (Maybe I should I ask for it back so I can contribute more fully?)  I did, however, produce the required name badge: This was a community event so we were asked to make a name badge for a designated partner – and pretty much the only criterion was to use stitches.  Unsurprisingly, my first instinct had been to knit something but in keeping with the spirit of the day, the name badge I made was created using fabric (Liberty Lawn and silk left over from my bridesmaids' dresses, in case you're interested), needle and thread.  Given Jo's blog on the subject, I guessed that my effort was going to be atypical – and so I was extremely relieved when my name badge buddy, Nicola, was seemed pleased with the corsage.


I'm absolutely delighted with the badge that she made me! Nicola had googled me and, on discovering that I'm a knitter, she thoughtfully embroidered a ball of wool and some knitting needles on the piece she made using the remains from a quilt she made for her daughter.  I shall treasure it.


As well as the opportunity to improve my skill base, I have to confess that one of the retreat's elements that I was looking forward to was the goody bag.  Not normally high on my list, but from the outset we had been promised a "goody bag to die for".  I was not disappointed.  As you can see from the photo, we were given a Liberty bag (mine was in blue – perfection) filled with almost countless delights: A roll of fat quarters, a box of sewing threads, a thread and yarn cutter, a button tin, some needles, a hexagon flower block set, a fabric pen, more fabric including some Liberty lawn, buttons, embroidery silks, broach, pen, oat cakes and water.  Happy days.

After distribution of the goody bags, swapping of the name badges, the real business began with the first workshop of the day.  We'd been given a choice of three and K and I were both learning how to make bibs with Julie Rutter.  From its description, I'd assumed that this was a beginner's class (I remember some comment about this being a good place to learn how to sew curves), but I thought that it would provide a good reminder of machine patchwork – and I was in no way disappointed.  Julie is lovely: A great teacher, very personable and extremely talented with a good eye for colour and design.  She is also a very good baker of cookies (and thank you so much for those!).  I felt that her workshop was perfect: Interesting, enjoyable and with a completed bib at the end.  A whole class of completed bibs, in fact - brilliant!

Lunch followed the first workshop and with it came the opportunity to admire what some of our fellow "retreaters" had been creating.  My badge buddy, Nicola, had made a beautiful pin cushion with Jo whilst others had been experimenting with some crazy patchwork.  Jo hosted a "Show and Tell" where a few of us presented some previous work – embroidery, quilting and so on.  I didn't think I had a contribution until fellow attendees Lesley and Catherine persuaded me to show the bag I made with Poppy Treffry.  And I'd like to thank everyone there for their generous and kind comments.
After the fat quarter swap and lucky dip, the afternoon session began with our second workshop.  I had opted to learn how to do paper piecing – something that I hadn't even heard of until the workshop programme was released!  (See how brave I was!!)  In the beginning, this was more than a bit of a brain teaser and I struggled to see how any of the teeny, tiny pieces of fabric that I'd lovingly cut were going to form the finished mat.  Thankfully I wasn’t the only one.  I think that Jonathan Avery accurately summarised our feelings when he said that "this was taking cutting up bits of fabric only to sew them back together again to the extreme".   Still, under the guidance of our able tutor Katy Cameron, we progressed - inspired somewhat by the delicious cupcakes that she provided as a reward for completing our first section (yummy, yummy – thank you!). As you can see, I didn't complete the mat – but then none of us did so I was in very good company.  After the morning's euphoria of a finished project, I was disappointed that I hadn't achieved similarly in the afternoon – particularly since in finishing the mat we would have quilted our work.  As it transpires, somewhat belatedly, this had been something that I'd hoped to learn.  I'm guessing that a "Beginners Guide to Quilting" might not have had the appeal to some attendees as the specialist workshops offered – though that said, I've attended conferences where there have been sessions teaching the basics alongside expert presentations. Interesting.

On the whole, I thought it was an excellently organised event.  The day flowed without interruption from welcoming coffees to the after-show party at Jo's shop.  The class rooms were well arranged with appropriate numbers of tables, power points and communal equipment (such as irons and cutting boards).  The workshop topics were varied and interesting. Jo was supported by an excellent team of friendly helpers and my colleagues-for-the-day were wonderful.  Thank you all for a super time!