I hardly know where to begin telling you about the most recent Ripples Crafts knitting retreat on Tanera Mor. The island wove its magic, the weather was kind, and the 10 wonderful women who made their way across last Friday morning all helped to make it just the most relaxing and happy retreat. As I watched the tiny Patricia make its way across from the mainland with the the group on board, on what was a fairly grey day, the usual feelings of anxiousness arose.
Would everyone get on? Would they be happy with the accommodation? Would anyone not want to stay? I should have realised, as I watched the Patricia berth at the pier, and watched the group wave and chat to one other, that I had absolutely nothing to worry about.
Those who came were a 50/50 mix of returnees and those to whom the island was new. Some knew each other, others were strangers, but not for long. As the group made the long climb up the hill to Farmhouse and Schoolhouse, the 2 houses that were to be our home for the next few days, the chatter didn’t stop, except to allow for the catching of breath and swatting of midges, who made their presence felt this year!
As I put dinner in the oven on the first evening, it was so lovely to hear laughter, chatter, and a general hubbub from the lounge in Schoolhouse. And of course who could fail to be impressed by the view from the dinner table?
The group just gelled so quickly, and before very long it was as if we’d all known each other for some time. Everyone was respectful of each other’s reasons for being there, and there was understanding if one wanted to go for a walk on their own, or find some peace and have some time of reflection in a quiet corner. Everyone just “got” it. The 10 women with whom I shared the week were some of the most delightful, generous, kind, encouraging, funny, strong and understanding women I’ve met, and it was an utter privilege and joy to spend time with them all.
It wasn’t only knitting that kept us occupied. As I’ve mentioned, the weather did its best to show the island off at its best, and we all took advantage of the fine weather whenever we could. There was a lot of walking done. A few of us on the island were trying hard to achieve the 10 000 steps a day target that is recommended, and it has to be said that it is pretty hard to do on a small island where much of the ground is rough under foot, but a few did indeed achieve this total every day.
We were exceptionally well fed by Tim and Holly, who did all the catering for us on this trip. At times we had to have a short break between courses to make room for the consistently delicious puddings that appeared each day. Nipping outside for a short walk to take in the dramatic skies and sunsets happened on a few occasions.
We were also able to arrange a boat trip around a few of the Summer Isles with Ian on the good ship Isabella. Unfortunately that was the one occasion the weather didn’t play ball, and we had grey, grey skies for the whole trip. But we still saw some wonderful things.
There was a LOT of knitting done, but not only knitting. Alison produced some beautiful stitched pictures of the scenes both of the island itself with its lakes and bays, and the circular path around the island, and also the view of the Assynt peaks visible from the island – Suilven, Cùl Mòr, Cùl Beag.
And on the back of her beautifully stitched memory book of her time on the island, the names of all those who were there:
On the trip home to the mainland there were calls for a range of Tanera Mor colours, so watch this space. There was certainly some beautiful colours this year to provide inspiration.
Let me close by saying thank you. Thank you first of all to Tim and Holly who took such good care of us and kept us fed and watered. We left a small gift behind for them – each of us took turns in doing a few rows so I can’t guarantee that they’re the most evenly matched pairs of socks but they were knitted by us all with much gratitude for all your hard work:
We did have to sneak a peek at their wellies one evening to get what was hopefully the correct foot size, but we hope they keep their feet warm and cosy on the long trips up and down the hill to the houses – a trip they often make several times a day.
Thank you to Lizzie and Richard for allowing us to share Tanera Mor with them. It is a very special place.
And finally, but of course by no means least, thank you to the 10 women who joined me on the adventure this year. Some of you travelled great distances, both physically and metaphorically, to be here this year. When things went a little wonky (and I’m thinking of that particular washing machine here) you all bore it with humour and grace. You skipped over the late night frogs with ease, and applied yourselves to finishing left overs with great gusto. It was fun and I know many of you will treasure the memories for a long time to come. Thank you.