Monday 14 September 2015

Back from The Craft Sessions

Women carrying baskets were everywhere at the retreat and I wasn't out of place for once.
I also couldn't help buying a few lovely items from the mini market. Clockwise from L: Home and Away pattern book by Hannah Fettig, Lilly Brush pill remover, Maze and Vale freeform patchwork kit by Leslie Keating and Recycled Harris Tweed project bag by Julia Billings of Woollenflower.
So, I got back from The Craft Sessions yesterday and I've got some big thoughts bouncing around in my head and I'm not sure if I am going to be able to coherently express them because I'm still processing. I guess I should start by saying how fantastic it was to be able to spend a whole weekend crafting in the beautiful setting of the Yarra Valley.

For those of you who are not familiar with The Craft Sessions it is basically a weekend craft retreat that is organised by Felicia Semple and her team. Felicia is known for her blog, also called The Craft Sessions and she is a passionate and creative maker and mother. And after this weekend I have come to think of her as the ultimate enabler because she is also passionate about giving others a space to create as well.

I first came across The Craft Sessions about a week before last year's retreat because I was hungry for a weekend of uninterrupted knitting. I had even ranted to a couple of friends about wanting to go on a "yarn weekend" where I could get heaps of knitting done and maybe even visit some interesting yarn and craft shops in regional Victoria. So, when The Craft Sessions came up in my internet searching I was so excited but though there were still openings for last year's retreat a week out from the event I couldn't possibly make it happen with a husband who works weekends and two young children to care for. 

Some of the gorgeous swag that we got in our lovely retreat bags.

I was determined to make it happen this year and though I had 12 months to plan for it I almost missed out again because I missed the sign up when registrations opened and this year's event sold out incredibly quickly. I signed up for the wait list and later when my friend Jenny of JCL Created Cuddles dropped out I think I got her spot at the retreat. I am eternally grateful for Jenny's spot.

Now, to actually talk about the weekend. I signed up for two day long workshops: natural dyeing on day one and hand weaving. I also wanted to all the knitting ones and though I barely know how to sew I really wanted to do the sew a kids wardrobe class too. Actually who am I kidding I wanted to do all of them because they all sounded great but my skills are limiting at this stage; I would have been a bit of a waste of space in things like the embroidery classes.

I fell in love with Belinda's basketful of naturally hand dyed yarn.

All my samples were dyed with Cootamundra Wattle leaves.

It was hard to capture all the samples that the four groups in the workshop created.
In the natural dyeing class we learnt how to extract dye from native Australian plants and how to dye yarn, linen and silk with those dyes. We did some cool experiments with adding different mordants post dyeing to change the colours of the original dyes. It was all a bit like "alchemy" which is what our teacher Belinda Evans likes to call it. She loves the term so much that she uses it as her creative business name/ identity. You can find her on instagram as 'iamalchemy' and her blog is also titled 'Alchemy'.

I had read a few things about dyeing since I started obsessing about yarn colours. I am interested in trying it out and now I feel a lot more confidence for it because Belinda was such a good teacher. It was so exciting to see how the dye was taken on differently by the different fibres and how they changed when different minerals or chemicals were added to the pot. We definitely had some pleasant surprises when we pulled out our bits and pieces.

On Sunday I took the weaving workshop that was also taught by Belinda. She again inspired all of us in the class with her "organic" approach to her creative process. The other exciting thing about her weaving is all the beautiful naturally dyed yarns that she has at her disposal. She generously supplied some of that beautiful yarn and there were a lot of "ooohs and aaahs" over the colours before we all settled down with our colour schemes. To my surprise Belinda really liked my colour choices. I have been really challenged with colour work lately and picking good colour combos seems like a massive puzzle to me. I think since realising Sir S's colour blindness I have been doubting my own colour perception because colour blindness is inherited through the maternal side of the family.

My palette of pretty naturally dyed colours.
I'm taking Belinda's weaving approach, being "organic" and letting the weaving flow without too much planning.
Overall the whole weekend was fantastic. It was so nice to be able to sit down with my knitting and knit uninterrupted for a solid block of time. I also really enjoyed meeting other crafters and oohing over their projects and their yarns. I had serious sweater envy all weekend and I desperately want to improve my sewing and stitching skills. I have also come away from the retreat with a whole lot more instagram crafters who I can stalk because crafters love looking at what other people are making and instragram enables that.

Finally, here on my humble little blog I want to publicly acknowledge what a fantastic job that Felicia and her team have done and I am so so so thankful to her for taking the initiative to create this retreat for crafters.

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