After what can only be described as a pre-summer summer here in England in February, we entered March with much cooler weather. As we were counting down the final days to the retreat it became clear that the rain wasn't going to let up.
While one might have wished the sun to return, in fact this is quite the most ideal weather for a residential retreat. With the perfect excuse to stay indoors, we could settle into long hours of stitching and watch the blustery wet weather from the comfort of our cosy hotel.
Our Spring Residential Retreat has become very close to our hearts over the years. It gives us a chance to reunite with old friends, make new ones, and to settle mindfully, peacefully and with whole hearts into our shared activity for one wonderful week.
This year we returned to the banks of Lake Windermere to take over the Ryebeck Hotel and enjoy classes with the brilliant Jenny Adin-Christie and Nicola Jarvis who created two new designs for us inspired by Beatrix Potter. Both designs thrilled our students who enjoyed being the very first to stitch them in a workshop setting. You can read about Nicola's design here and Jenny's design here.
There were so many highlights of this retreat: the delight of Judith Heelis, a member of Beatrix Potter's family, when she saw Nicola's Hill Top Queenie design; the moment Michaela, a complete beginner, completed Jenny's intricate design; and in general the wonderful buzz of supportive friends enjoying the creative process.
The food was fabulous, healthy and a treat (how do they do that!), the rooms cosy, and the staff attentive. Taking over the hotel means it becomes a 'home from home' as we can relax in the sole company of fellow embroiderers, kick off our shoes, make full use of our boutique hotel. And on movie night especially this made for a relaxing and fun evening.
The residential retreat always works in two blocks of teaching with a day out in between. This ensures that the students gain three solid days of tuition from each tutor before resting and then switching tutors for a further three days. This year we chose Hill Top, Beatrix Potter's Lakeland home and the inspiration for both of the retreat designs and the Armitt Museum. Continue reading to hear our in-house artist Georgina's account of the day.
"After a nice fresh breakfast with plenty of options we gathered make our way to Hilltop House. We had free rein to wander and explore the beautifully decorated property, including the familiar green gate to her garden. Of more interest to our ladies though was the hand stitched curtain and pelmet around her bed.
Next we headed to Sawrey House for lunch with some of us taking an earlier taxi take some time to explore Ambleside before meeting at the Apple Pie Café. I made a mental note to return to Ambleside very soon because it was absolutely beautiful and the shops were fantastic.
From here we went on to the Armitt Museum where there we enjoyed a talk about the life and interests of Beatrix Potter. I had no idea how enterprising she had been - successful and generous.
We were lucky enough to be shown a selection of her original paintings - not the illustrations we are familiar with, but others based around her interest in natural sciences with studies of fungi and microscopic images. The detail and execution of the work was beautiful - I snapped a couple of photos of the group with these paintings, however we were encouraged by Phillipa to seek out these images in the gift shop downstairs to support the funding of the property. Beatrix herself was a major contributor in her day to the Armitt.
After this, Phillipa and Nicky had some time to unpack a mystery box of needle and lace work that had been given to the Armitt. We had a chance to view and admire the selection of exquisite embroideries which emerged form the box with the fascinating commentary from Nikki and an Phillipa to boot.
Finally, we looked around the Armitt Museum, gallery and gift shop where I purchased a couple of prints before saying my goodbyes and heading back to Appleby to continue our work on the next kit (we are creating the illustrations for our next project kit at the moment, what we informally refer to as the Muncaster Monster. It will have a proper name soon I'm sure ;)
In any case, it’s always a pleasure to be invited to these retreats, where there is always a great amount of inspiration to be gained and genuinely wonderful people to meet."
By Georgina Pilsbury