a weekend at Joeli’s Retreat

Last weekend I made my first-ever trip to Manchester, and had an amazing three days.  Despite spending the whole weekend there, I barely saw anything of the city as I was there to focus on nothing but knitting.  I was one of the forty-odd knitters descended on Manchester for the first-ever Joeli’s Kitchen Retreat.

first class

Manchester station

I’ve been to a few knitting retreats before, and for me the best part is the sense of community that is created when a bunch of knitters are kept in a confined space that allows complete immersion in all things woolly.  Joeli’s retreat fit the bill perfectly.

I took a day off work so that I could head up early on the Friday, and after dropping off my bags at the hotel I made a beeline for the woolliest place in all of Manchester:  the studio of Countess Ablaze.

You'd never imagine all the colour inside!

You’d never imagine all the colour inside!

For those who aren’t familiar, Countess Ablaze is a fellow yarn dyer who also has a penchant for saturated colourways (so we had a good chat about that!)  Her premises are a working dye studio that becomes an open shop on Fridays and Saturdays (once all the surfaces have been duly scrubbed and bleached of course).  The Countess was incredibly welcoming, and she keeps a good supply of tea and treats for people who come by (and there is a regular knitting group for locals).  I was only planning on stopping by for a quick visit (there was the whole of Manchester to see!) but I actually spent the best part of the afternoon enjoying myself, surrounded by yarn, knitting away with  Jo, Allison, and Lori.

The retreat was held over Saturday and Sunday, with one class on each day.  After seeing Karie Westermann at so many different events over the years, I finally managed to take a class of hers:  Introduction to Two-Handed Colourwork.  I’ve made one pair of stranded mitts before so this was a good little refresher, and Karie was very patient while I got my head around the Old Norwegian cast-on.  It is now firmly imprinted in my brain!

Karie's samples

Karie’s growing collection of colourwork designs

On the Sunday I had the pleasure of taking a class with Julia Billings, who I first met a few weeks ago at Unravel.  She’s a great teacher, all-round fab person, and it was a rare treat to dust off my best Australian accent.  The class was Finishing Your Knits, so I’ll spare you a photo of my swatches and seams.

The weekend finished off with a mini-marketplace where a number of folks got the chance to set up a table of wares – myself included.  It was a slightly surreal experience to sell yarn to so many new friends I’d made over the weekend, but it’s always nice to know that my yarn is going to a good home (including the skeins that Lori is taking back to Colorado.  Woo hoo!

travelknitter at the retreat

Sunshine! Who says it always rains in Manchester?

I believe that there may be another retreat in the future, under the new name of Joeli Creates.  If you get a chance to go, I highly recommend it.

Many of the people I met at the retreat are also heading up to Edinburgh Yarn Fest, so I’m looking forward to a mini-reunion very soon.