Imagine a weekend spent in a beautiful converted barn in the middle of the stunning Herfordshire countryside...
Imagine a big Christmas tree, a roaring fire and a sprinkling of snow...
Pretty idyllic, huh?
Now add to that endless crochet, crafty workshops galore, enough yarn to sink a ship, a thoroughly knowledgeable and convivial host and you're getting pretty close to something I'd call Heaven.
And I haven't even mentioned the amazing food, luxurious bedrooms or the blimmin' good company of terrific like-minded gals I shared it with.
THIS, people is the Big Crochet Stayaway.
A few months ago, I met the lovely Louisa of Komodo Krafts at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Ally Pally. You can imagine my utter delight when she kindly asked if I'd like to be a guest at the December weekend. Well, I nearly bit her hand off with my enthusiasm. A weekend away? Without the kids? With ALL the crochet? I could not say no.
The Big Crochet Stayaway is the brain-child of Louisa. She lives in Hertfordshire with her partner and decided to switch her corporate career for something more crafty after the birth of her daughter. Within a short time, she began to run workshops and sell yarn and so Komodo Krafts was launched. As for the retreats, Louisa says that she fell in love with the idea of spending weekends with like-minded crafters and as there wasn't anything in her local area, decided to set up her own.
Now, for those of you who are a bit nervous about spending the entire weekend with a bunch of people you've never met before, you needn't worry. Louisa made lots of contact with us all beforehand, sending us a very full programme of events for the weekend and even set up a Facebook group so that we could chat to each other before meeting.
And so, on the Friday evening, we all arrived at the barn for welcome drinks - and I have to say, the accommodation is absolutely spectacular. The barn is situated on a working farm and used to house the pigs! Thankfully, the only remaining porcine features are those in pictures on the walls. The living area is huge, with underfloor heating and plenty of comfy sofas and on the other side of the enormous fireplace, a large table for eating and working at. To the side of this are the huge kitchen, where our brilliant cook worked her magic and the large bedrooms, each with ensuite facilities.
Once we'd all made our introductions and were settled with a beverage of our choice, Louisa showed us the weekend crochet project: her beautiful Holly and Ivy table runner.
This project was designed to suit all abilities and Louisa, an experienced crocheter who was taught by her nan when she was little, was on hand to provide support and advice on all manner of crochet queries throughout the weekend.
After a fab dinner, it was time for our first workshop - Spinning with Caz from Wulla.
Caz is one of the Komodo Krafts team and is an indie spinner and dyer of big yarns with attitude. Now, I've never done anything like this before, so was totally enthralled by the whole thing.
Caz is an amazing tutor and showed us how to spin using a drop spindle and then on her spinning wheel, which we were then invited to try. And if that wasn't enough, we we each given a goody bag with fleeces and our very own drop spindle.
Saturday was a bright and beautiful morning and once a delicious breakfast had been consumed by all, we were joined by a day guest, who was immediately made to feel welcome and it was time for our first crochet workshop of the day and: another of Louisa's fab patterns -her Slouchy Sprig Hat.
Louisa's crochet designs suited the weekend perfectly - easy enough for a beginner to pick up, especially with all the support on hand, but challenging enough for even the most seasoned of crocheters. Louisa strives to design things that have modern edge to them, 'I spent most of my life being called "Granny" because I crocheted, so I think it's important that our generation of crocheters is standing up and saying ... actually we make really cool stuff!'
The next workshop was embroidery, taught by Ellen from The Sewing Alchemist, who arrived with the biggest, most colourful selection of threads I've ever seen, along with lots of examples of her beautiful and quirky pieces.
We were shown how to attach the fabric to the hoops and how to make the stitches over the template for our 'Merry and Bright' Christmas stitching. Embroidery is another craft I've never really tackled, but this was so enjoyable and very, very relaxing.
And after this, there were even more crochet projects on offer to anyone who wanted to try - Light-up Neon snowflake, anyone?
This is such a fun project (free pattern here) which we made in Bobbiny Cord and threaded through neon lights, which made them absolutely amazing.
Now, what to say about Sunday? Well, we woke up to this:
Yep. About a foot of snow.
Completely magical of course, especially for a Christmas workshop...
But this did pose some problems... it meant that our rag-rugging workshop had to be cancelled as the tutor couldn't actually get to us. Not that we were worried - we had Gingerbread Christmas Baubles to crochet (free pattern here) tea to drink and good company to enjoy (and enough yarn to crochet ourselves warm jumpers, if needed).
But sadly, the weekend had to end. And so after lunch, and a little earlier than anticipated due to the weather, we packed our cars with all the lovely yarny things, said our fond farewells and made our way through the snowy landscapes back to our homes.
I have to admit, it was one of the most enjoyable, relaxing, fun weekends away I think I've ever been to. I felt thoroughly spoiled with the great variety of workshops, the generous goody bags (including hand-made stockings filled with brilliant presents) and the really fabulous company I spent it with. Louisa is a wonderful host who made sure that everyone was happy and her enthusiasm for crafting and crochet is infectious.
'I love watching people become friends, I love learning about different people. I also love a weekend away from my own home! I really enjoy everything about it; planning the agenda, speaking to guest workshop runners, sourcing items from small businesses. I strive to support other small businesses with my own and the retreat gives me so many opportunities to do that.'
If you're interested in attending a retreat with Komodo Krafts (and I thoroughly recommend it), or attending a day workshop or organising some private tuition with Louisa, then check out here for details of all events.
I hope you enjoy some crafty R&R