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No retreat? No surrender!

One of the big joys of writing is retreating into another world and one of my favourite places to ‘visit’ is Swansmere, where Amy Hammond works and, all too often, finds trouble.

It’s entirely fictional, but there are places like parts of it and I’ve just drawn all of them together into one place. Swansmere involves parts of Kingston Maurward and Kingston Lacy, both in the lovely Dorset countryside. The quilt shop owes a lot to the wonderful Midsomer Quilting which you can see here - It’s the only quilt shop I know of where husbands are welcomed with coffee and biscuits and the amazing Chris chats to them while the equally amazing De just knows so much. I’ve never managed to go to the classes or exhibitions, but the newsletter is worth signing up for because it’s so much fun.

And obviously, living in Dorset means I have easy access to some incredible farm shops, like Holme Farm and Pamphill Dairy

So everything I write about has a basis in fact, but without the bodies and trouble. I get a lot of ideas for those from the local paper so again, everything is possible. It just doesn’t all happen at once.

So, getting to the point (See, I always do eventually.) I’m working on the research for another Amy, provisionally to be called ‘No Retreat, No surrender’ and in the process, I’m creating an imaginary craft retreat that’d be exactly what I’d love and thinking about how to recreate it at home for those of us who, for whatever reason, aren’t getting out as much as we once did.

Anyone who crafts is practically bound to have a backlog of projects, so last winter I organised mine, and now I can go shopping in my own fabric shop where everything is something I love. How cool is that?

Thanks to the magic of the internet I can watch top-class restoration projects in progress with the Repair Shop (And who doesn’t love Jay and Will and the teddy bear ladies?) And if you don’t have a clue what I’m talking about then I’m not sure if I should tell you to google it or not. You’ll smile, you’ll cry, and if you watch it on catch up then you’ll find an afternoon or evening just disappears.

Watching James Martin on Saturday morning means I can imagine myself drawing up a stool in a corner of his kitchen and listening in while I learn. It’s a shame I don’t get to taste any of the food, but his website means I can make it at home.

And then, of course, there are the amazing quilting team at Missouri Star. Again, I imagine myself sitting in a nice comfy chair and learning and laughing along with the gang.

And none of that costs anything and I bet there are more amazing things like it, so why not have your own crafty retreat this autumn and winter? Plan it into your week. Make it an occasion. Play and have fun, because the joy of this retreat is that you choose when it happens and make it exactly what you want. You can even set a time to watch with friends who are out of reach and chat online about it.

Please, share your ideas and finished projects and let's see if we can step away from the doom and gloom of the so-called real world which frankly, I’m not convinced is all that real outside media-land) and make this an amazing autumn and winter.

Today’s picture is of Kingston Lacy, and if you’ve read Wasted on the Young then you’ll recognise it but I promise that no house managers have ever been murdered or poisoned there!


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