Thank you Brenda

Today I am feeling extraordinarily thankful to my good friend Brenda, who made Gwlana a truly wonderful context in which to teach and learn. Thank You Brenda!

Beautiful Brenda concentrating on her knitting!

Beautiful Brenda concentrating on her knitting!

A week ago at Friday lunchtime I was stood in the Orangerie at Beggar’s Reach Hotel organising all the shades of Jamieson & Smith 2-Ply Jumper Weight ready for the Quotidian Colourwork class at Gwlana

Ready to go!

ALL THE COLOURS!

…several hours later, steaming mugs of tea and hot, strong coffee arrived along with mountains of biscuits and cakes. These refreshments lifted us as we swatched diligently!

tea, biscuits and yarn, wot's not to love?

tea, biscuits and yarn, wot’s not to love?

I’ve not had the pleasure of developing KNITSONIK swatches with comrades over several days. The extended time frame and intimacy of our small group enabled us all to engage with each other’s work to a satisfying level of depth. There were also opportunities for me to swatch alongside class attendees!

Would you like to see what we made?

Chris's swatch and the little wooden box that was her inspiration source

Chris’s swatch and the little wooden box that was her inspiration source

Alison's swatch, inspired by her husband's gorgeous photos of local Peregrine Falcons

Alison’s swatch, inspired by her husband’s gorgeous photos of local Peregrine Falcons

Julie's swatch, inspired by a dreamlike photo of sunlit poppies

Julie’s swatch, inspired by a dreamlike photo of sunlit poppies

Brenda's swatch, inspired by views across Tenby Harbour at night

Brenda’s swatch, inspired by views across Tenby Harbour at night

Catherine's first swatch, inspired by a beautiful tiled floor spotted on her recent travels

Catherine’s first swatch, inspired by a beautiful tiled floor spotted on her recent travels

Catherine's second swatch, inspired by a beautiful tiled floor spotted on her recent travels and building on ideas found in her first swatch!

Catherine’s second swatch, inspired by a beautiful tiled floor spotted on her recent travels and building on ideas found in her first swatch!

My swatch, inspired by a beautiful fabric print given to me by Liz

My swatch, inspired by a beautiful fabric print given to me by Liz

As in all Quotidian Colourwork workshops, I was amazed by the wondrous diversity of inspiration sources, and how some folks prefer to work with a physical object and how others prefer to work with a whole context (like the local Peregrine Falcon population) or beautiful photos containing important memories, or inspiring colour combinations.

It was a huge luxury to have so much time in which to develop ideas, without ever once having to think about what to cook. All of us brought our swatches to the dining room when it was time for dinner and we never went short for tea, coffee or cake!

THE BLESSED AND NEVER ENDING REFRESHMENTS AT BEGGAR'S REACH!

THE BLESSED AND NEVER ENDING REFRESHMENTS AT BEGGAR’S REACH!

Apart from having such a charming group with whom to work, endless caffeination and delicious fare, I thoroughly enjoyed Brenda’s workshops on producing one’s own bespoke yoke sweater math, and knitting a beaded bracelet. Both these classes really benefited from Brenda’s attention to detail, and her celebratory approach to making things that really suit you and which bring epic pleasure in their production and in their use.

We had such lovely, lovely discussions about the yokes we would knit following this class. We filled out worksheets, we talked about yoke depth, we measured each other, and we speculated on how our individual motifs developed in my class might be applied to the wee canvases and spaces discovered in Brenda’s class. Catherine went on to devise a very cunning second swatch in which she explored colour progression from the body of a sweater up to the neck, and Alison immediately began fitting her motifs – the eyes, plumage and talons of Peregrine Falcons – into a miniature swatch representing an exact proportion of a sweater yoke.

Catherine explores colour progression through the yoke

Catherine explores colour progression through the yoke

Alison's second swatch, experimenting with applying her Peregrine Falcon motifs to the maths of a yoke sweater

Alison’s second swatch, experimenting with applying her Peregrine Falcon motifs to the maths of a yoke sweater

It was very enabling and exciting to see how we might apply our own motifs to sweaters designed to precisely fit and flatter us, and very instructive to see how different swatching methods can be used to help with the design process from inspiration source to garment maths.

Brenda on the beach at Amroth

Brenda on the beach at Amroth

I also really, really loved Brenda’s class on knitting a beaded bracelet. She had designed the class so we each had a small pouch with a length of silk, pre-beaded beforehand. Beads were organised to be somewhat random in their placement, and special lampwork examples made by Laura Sparling were included. The concept was for our wee bracelets to resemble the random treasure flung up by the sea, tangled in seaweed, and gleaming with foam from the waves. I know I took a photo of Brenda showing me these treasures on the same day when I took the one above… I can’t find it just now, but I was thrilled to find that memory there in the fun of our beaded bracelet class.

Beaded bracelet in progress, shown with matchy matchy swatch!

Beaded bracelet in progress, shown with matchy matchy swatch!

Brenda’s level of preparation and thoughtfulness before the weekend was astounding. Goodie-bags in the UK are not a thing as they are in the USA, apparently. I don’t know about you but when I hear ‘goodie-bags’ I imagine a bland promotional sack stuffed full of bland promotional nonsense, with just a few good bits that you have to dig for. But Brenda’s goodie-bags are amazing. She included squared notepaper journals in which we could sketch out our stranded colourwork motifs; binders with all the class notes; a handful of amazing sample skeins of yarn from an intriguing US company called Elemental Affects; some VERY USEFUL bags with popper closures, which proved invaluable for organising multiple yarn balls while knitting several shades in sequence… (I do not have a photo of that, but it saved us all from horrendous yarn tangles); and we each got a beautiful nostepinne, turned by Brenda’s amazing partner, Tonia, on her lathe (more on that in a moment). I know there is stuff I have forgotten to mention on top of these riches but the goodie-bags were really awesome; like care packages made by your closest knitting friend.

And if you are not good friends with anyone else at Gwlana when you arrive, you will be by the end of the weekend. Because Brenda knows how to lend a knitting retreat weekend the proper atmosphere of love and respect it deserves.

It’s about a thoughtful programme of classes which fit well together…

Knitting through our ideas together

Knitting through our ideas together

…finding a venue with the right light, and brilliant hospitality…

Matching the yarn to the biscuits...

Matching the yarn to the biscuits…

…inviting amazing vendors like Purlescence and Triskelion Yarn to the tiny perfect marketplace…

Sarah and Jonathan of Purlescence  kindly brought the whole J&S range for us to explore...

Sarah and Jonathan of Purlescence kindly brought the whole J&S range for us to explore…

Triskelion yarn at the perfect tiny marketplace!

Triskelion yarn at the perfect tiny marketplace!

…but mostly it’s about knitting with other amazing knitters.

Alison's beautiful sweater and hap shawl

Alison’s beautiful sweater and hap shawl

While we were busy with our sticks and string, Tonia was busy at her lathe, designing a very special nostepinne for me. I am having lots of problems with my fingers and wrists at the moment and a very lightweight nostepinne is the way forward to ease pressure on my joints. Tonia was swatching, if you will, with wood… to find the lightest one for me to use, which turned out to be Willow.

Tonia's beautiful nostepinnes

Tonia’s beautiful nostepinnes

I feel very lucky to have found my own nostepinne, my yoke maths, my swatch, my bag o’ goodies, and – most importantly – new comrades at Gwlana… Thank you so much Brenda, I think you did a beautiful job! I am converted to your luxurious WOOLGATHERING concept.

All of us with our swatches

All of us with our swatches

ROLL ON OCTOBER X

10 Responses to Thank you Brenda

  1. Terry says:

    Looks and reads like Heaven! your big smiles put a big smile on my face. Such beautiful work, too!

  2. Margaret says:

    I wish I lived in the UK so I could attend this retreat. I drooled over it and dreamed of going.

  3. Elaine says:

    Although I have your wonderful book I’d surely like to take your class. Alas, I’m on the wrong side of the pond!! The work by your students is beautiful and I’m sure they had a wonderful time. The cake looks pretty good too!!

  4. louise says:

    Looks like it was an awesome weekend and such beautiful pictures. (and LOVE the hap)

  5. Quinn says:

    Every one of those swatches is so beautiful! What a lovely experience you shared – thank you! I don’t know if I’ll ever be in a position to take a class, but now I know what kind of class/workshop I’d really love to participate in 🙂

  6. Joanne says:

    I am not a big class person (I teach, but never seem to take these) but your photos of that J&S and the food made me want to fly right over…wow, I could dive right into these photos. Also, have had a three day weekend with my preschooler twins, so just seeing people getting to sit down, knit, and eat without my entourage sounds like heaven!

  7. sj says:

    Wonderful post! I wanted to be there. How true it is that having to provide food and drink is SUCH a distraction from knitting…….

    I was sorry to hear you are having trouble with your hands. I use Muscle and Joint Lotion from Harmony Healing (email Julia@harmonyhealing.org.uk) for painful joints – perhaps it might help you?

  8. Helena says:

    How lovely to hear about this and see pictures of all the fabulous knitted things – particularly loved the idea of the bracelet looking like sea-worn stones all jumbled together. The swatches in particular are amazing in their diversity!

  9. SallyWool says:

    Oh the joys of a Gwlana retreat, I remember then well. Timing was wrong for me this time but I’ll be back and I hope you will be too Felix.

  10. Susan says:

    OMG, what fun and those swatches are amazing……….the sea one by the bracelet…heaven and the first one and and and…….ALL the others 🙂

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