January is such a hard month that last year when I saw Lynne, Jo and Karen had arranged their first Thread House retreat at the end of January at Folly Farm near Bristol, I knew I had to go. I am so glad I did. It was a wonderful weekend, just what many people needed and even after a rainy drive home on Sunday, I felt relaxed and revitalised.
I did ponder afterwards why it had worked so well. There were a few factors:
- The rural location kept everyone together. Groups couldn't go off for separate meals or meetings so it gave the experience more of a shared feeling. I talked to as many people as I could, there were so many opportunities to do so.
- Mealtimes were generally sit-down rather than buffet and there were plenty of tables. I ate with different people for breakfast, lunch and evening meal.
- The food was excellent. I booked as a vegan was I no longer eat dairy and all requirements were met and more. The chef was very helpful and I felt wonderfully catered for. The meals were of a high quality, generous portions and we never felt hungry! Even at morning break times, there was always plenty of cups, coffee and tea as well as being trays of cakes and shortbread. In cold weather especially, this was much appreciated. I never touched the tea making facilities in my bedroom as I didn't need to.
- There was an honesty bar, no one had to leave to go to the pub, again keeping everyone together.
- Everyone shared a bedroom. Some were two to a room, some were multiple people sharing and this included bunkbeds. I think this lead to a more community feel. To be honest, most people, myself included, usually look for a single room but this wasn't an option so we all got on with it. I only went in my room to sleep after long busy days. I shared with Nicky and she was a great room mate!
- Lynne, Jo and Karen are experienced teachers and it showed. They had a clear idea of what they were doing, were well resourced and prepared and were generous with their time and skills in lessons and beyond.
- As well as teaching, Lynne, Jo and Karen put the time in socially. They talked to everyone, moving round the various communal evening spaces and shared of themselves generously throughout the day.
- The design of the centre means that the communal spaces are generally in easy sight by or close to the entrances to buildings so it's easy to include everyone. It also makes it easy to remove yourself from a busy room and have a quite 5 minutes on a sofa without feeling anti social.
- The goodie bags were amazing (see pic above), so much fabric! I don't think this is critical to a good retreat but as it's the first thing you receive once you arrive, it puts everyone in a happy mood and provides resources for classes in case you forget anything. The sponsors were very generous.
There were the usual name badge/zip pouch swaps. I arrived late as I had to travel after work so I didn't do the name badge but I received a quilted personalised Liberty pouch from Poonam, the first time she had made a zip pouch! A lovely memory of the event.
I did three classes in all: two printing sessions with Karen and some appliqué with Jo. I've done bits of printing before but no screen printing and Karen had us all quickly constructing mini hoop frames and blanking out gauze. I can safely say that screen printing is not really my strongest crafty talent, I find it extremely difficult to keep my fingers clean of paint for a clean print and just as hard to squeeze the paint where I do want it to go through the mesh. I did enjoy watching others who took to it fast, swiftly printing up fat quarters of fabric with their motifs. Lino cutting was easier - I did quite a lot of it at primary school and the memory of it came back to me during the process. The applique was fun, there's always something new to learn and I came away with some tips and tricks.
Anna from Eternal Maker drove from Chichester to Bristol to set up a packed stall of goodies on Saturday in the area near the dining room so where everyone passes several times a day. As always, there was a plethora of goodies including bag hardware and integrating - stuff that many sewers find hard to source locally - as well beautiful fabric like these Heather Ross lawns and a quirky cacti cotton.
These are mainly goodies that I had already lined up from@eternalmaker_destash account, plus one FQ of the new Carolyn Friedlander 'Friedlander' range which looks like her best ever and more of it, including lawns, is still to arrive. The village style fabric is for a spring skirt.
In all, a restorative experience. I'm hoping it becomes an annual event.