UK 2023 - Terroir Knitting Retreat

Our 9-day retreat was spent knitting a Cocoknits Method sweater with gorgeous yarn from a local farm. The luxurious stay at Goodnestone Park Manorin beautiful County Kent, as well as events, visits, and travel during the retreat were expertly coordinated by the Textile Retreat Co. When we weren't knitting, we learned about the farm and sheep whose yarn we were using, took part in a botanical dyeing workshop, visited area gardens and historical sites, trekked around the estate farm, and ate incredible meals prepared by our private chef, Olivia. Below is a description of the group events for each day. In their downtime, participants knitted, explored the surrounding countryside to stretch their legs or get some fresh air, and visited area pubs to enjoy local food and drink. A truly exquisite adventure, with a hand-knit local wool sweater souvenir to remind us of all the fun we had and how much we learned!

The Recap


Monday, April 17 (bonus day)

The retreat officially ran Tuesday through the following Wednesday, but those of us who were already in the area had a little party at the amazing Tribe Yarns in Richmond, which Milli, the owner, opened just for us. We sipped prosecco, talked all things yarn, and indulged in purchasing a few skeins. There was much talk about how and when to use colors - she even convinced Julie to try on a screaming pink and orange sample and to everyone’s surprise, we didn’t hate it. Milli is so knowledgeable about yarn, fibers, colors - we had a great time.


Tuesday, April 18

We gathered at the Petersham Hotel and left our luggage for our driver, Tyrone, to load into the coach while we walked to Petersham Nurseries. We had fun poking around the gardens and the garden shop, and then enjoyed a lovely lunch in the greenhouse. We then departed via coach for Goodnestone Manor, where we would be staying for the next week. Once there, we enjoyed tea and cake while bags were delivered to the rooms. 

Just before aperitifs we all unwrapped our bundles of yarn that Alice of Woolmatters Fibre Co. had naturally dyed for us ahead of time on the local Romney Marsh wool of our choice. It was like Christmas morning with everyone oohing and ahhing over their own (and everyone else’s) skeins while we dreamily imagined the Cocoknits Method sweaters they would become. All the yarn was truly swoon-worthy!

Three course dinner followed, then we all toddled off to our rooms to dream of sheep.


Wednesday, April 19

Breakfast (with plenty of coffee and tea) was followed by a full day of knitting our chosen Cocoknits Method sweaters. Julie and Tracy got everyone started; much swatching and measuring followed by big decisions and changes of mind - pretty much the perfect day, interrupted only by a delicious lunch at the Old Dairy Café around the corner, and aperitifs later in the evening. Most then knitted with a glass of wine until the gong was banged to signal another five-star dinner, after which we retired to bed.


Thursday, April 20

With everyone started on their sweaters, we had an inspiring visit from the farmer Kristina Boulden from Romney Marsh, whose yarn we were using. She gave us a fascinating presentation about the history and workings of their local sheep farm, and brought a sampling of other products made from their sheep, including lanolin products, sheepskin moccasins, more yarn (in case we didn’t have enough) and woven blankets, throws and hats. It was inspiring to see how hard they work to keep sheep relevant in 2023. The UK is having the same issue as US sheep farmers, with prices so low that many farmers burn or bury wool fleece as it costs more to transport it than they could sell it for. The takeaway: buy more wool!


Friday, April 21

We headed off right after breakfast for the charming town of Rye. Once there we scattered to explore, most of us making a stop for some fabric and notions at Merchant & Mills - another woman-owned, inspiring business. There were other sweet shops, bakeries, restaurants, and vintage shops to explore, and the time flew by before we all boarded our coach and headed back to Goodnestone in time for aperitifs and dinner.


Saturday, April 22

We began the morning with breakfast and knitting - by now there was some solid progress on the sweaters and people were able to try them on and get a sense of the fit while there was still time for adjustments.

After lunch we were treated to botanical dyeing with Tara Macdonald. We trekked all around the estate gardens, foraging flora and fauna to use for eco-printing a pair of bamboo socks. Tara gave us a little presentation before we dove in and gave it a try. Tara also brought along some dye made from avocado pits, as well as extra natural dye stuffs to complement what we had collected. Anyone who had ordered extra undyed yarn dyed or printed their spare skeins. The results were surprising and gave us an even greater appreciation for naturally dyed textiles!

We wrapped up in time for aperitifs and dinner - and even managed to fit in a bit more knitting.



Sunday, April 23

We had a light breakfast in anticipation of the upcoming feast we had planned for lunch. We knitted until about 12:30 then departed for The Pig, a restaurant just outside the historic village of Bridge. We enjoyed a delicious and filling lunch, followed by a stroll through the kitchen gardens and a cocktail in the library before heading back to Goodnestone for, you guessed it, more knitting. Luckily, Olivia only prepared two courses for dinner as we were all still stuffed from lunch!


Monday, April 24

We had a quick breakfast and coffee, then took off for Sissinghurst castle, the historic home of Vita Sackville-West, known for its world-renowned gardens. We took our time exploring the tower, cottage, main building, and of course the extraordinary gardens. We enjoyed lunch at the cafe before heading back to Goodnestone in time for aperitifs and another lovely dinner.


Tuesday, April 25

After breakfast, the Goodnestone estate manager gave us a tour of the house - including the “downstairs” which, once upon a time, was the domain of the servants. The bells still hang on the wall, which “upstairs” dwellers would have used to call a servant (think Downton Abbey). The estate has been in the same family for hundreds of years, and one of the ancestors was married to Jane Austen’s brother, so it is known that Jane visited Goodnestone. The upstairs drawing room is named for her and contains a first edition collection of her books.

After the house tour, our breakfast chef, Annabelle, gave us a cooking demonstration. She showed us how to make brioche bread pudding with pouring custard  - which we ate after our lunch!

Those who were interested were treated to a full garden tour by Goodnestone head gardener Paul. This was followed by a tour of the wider estate by farmer Emma and her two adorable children. We visited the ewes with their brand new lambs in the apple orchard, which was in full bloom! Then we walked to a smaller pasture to visit the bottle-fed lambs and ewes who needed supervision. On our walk we learned about how Emma and her husband (he is the estate’s arable farmer, she the livestock farmer) farm the estate using no-till farming. Because it minimizes soil disturbance, it helps keep carbon in the soil and enriches soil biodiversity, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers that emit greenhouse gasses. They also use the sheep for weed control and fertilization - it was all so inspiring and fascinating.

We wrapped up our last evening with aperitifs, and Olivia outdid herself with a beautiful final dinner.


Wednesday, April 25

The morning was busy with last minute sweater try-ons and packing up. We drove to Knole House, which is quite a misnomer as it is in fact a huge castle! We enjoyed exploring and soaking up all its fascinating history. It naturally closed a loop as it’s where Vita Sackville-West was raised - we had seen her adult home, Sissinghurst, earlier in the week. Then came our final ride to the Petersham Hotel in Richmond, back where we had begun the week before.

We all went home with new friends, wonderful memories, and one-of-a-kind "terroir" sweaters to remind of us of our magical week in this beautiful corner of the world.

Join Us for the Next One!

Fancy joining us next time? Check our EVENTS page to see what we have on the calendar.

More information on past and future retreats can be found in SHEEP TO SWEATER RETREATS: TERROIR KNITTING.



Hi Amy, So nice to hear from you! We had a lovely time too.

Amy Chase

Thanks for these photos and the review of the week at Goodnestone. Loved seeing the last photo of us all. Reminds me that I really was there and that the week was not just a fantasy.

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