The last couple of months have been kind of hectic. The downside of having 4 kids presents itself in winter when one person after another gets sick so by the time this year’s Craft Sessions retreat came around I was truly needing (and deserving) of a crafty weekend away from the family. This meant my guilt factor of leaving everyone at home was minimal as I was starting to go round the twist. I’ve lost count how many visits we’ve had this season to the doctor’s and I may or may not have left my last Doctor’s visit bursting into tears.
We got off to a bumpy start the day I was due leave for Melbourne with a text message sent to me at 5am saying Jetstar had cancelled my flight! I was already in the shower so stuck with the plan of catching a ride to Sydney with my husband but getting a later flight. I was a bit late (and stressed) however managed time to collect 2 lovely creative ladies in my hire car as welcome company to share the journey with me to the beautiful Yarra Valley and the Yarra Valley Conference Centre where the event has been held for the past 3 years.
As with most years the line up of classes is amazing and it’s really a juggle to choose which ones to take and then hope you get into them. You can check out the full class list over at The Craft Sessions website as there are too many to list them all here. The first year I went, I did all of Georgie Hallam (Tikki Knits) classes which were great and then last year I tried steeking, natural dyeing and colourwork knitting for a bit of a change. As lovely as it is to learn new crafts it’s also really great to come away with something that you’ve made so when you get home you can show the family something tangible.
With that in mind, this year the classes I chose were Knitting into the round and upside down, with Georgie Hallam, who is just the coolest and such a fantastic teacher. We get along really well and I really enjoy her classes and spending time with her. Georgie likes to stay up late knitting like me and I’m pretty sure we were the last people knitting by the fire in the main dining room 3 years running! Ha
I attribute a lot of my knitting ability to Georgie and one of her classes I did at the very first Craft Sessions retreat. Georgie taught me how to read my knitting which enabled me to fix my mistakes without frogging back to them. The confidence this gave me really helped me feel like a real knitter, considering I only really started venturing past garter stitch and knitting seriously in 2012.
The knitting into the round and upside down class was great in understanding charts and we charted a few patterns from written instructions, created pattern repeats and worked out how to create motifs upside down. The knitted swatch in the above photo was something Georgie knitted (probably on #swatchingsunday) just to see what different patterns looked like and what happens with slight alterations or combinations. Georgie truly makes swatching fun!
I spotted this great idea for knitting needle storage during the class that a new friend Kylie was using. A mini concertina folder from Officeworks made the perfect storage for all her circular cables and needles.
The next day (Saturday) was the Spinning class with Kate James and her mum Judy. Having done a bit of spinning, I knew that not too much would be achieved as it was more of a taster class, however I felt it would be great to learn more about the different fibres and their preparation, plus get a bit more practice on a spinning wheel.
With 12 in the class we split into two groups and one group had some hands on spinning practice which was lots of fun. It’s like any craft though, you need to invest the time in learning and practicing. As I mentioned before on my blog, my husband gave me a spinning wheel for my 40th birthday and lots of people ask me how it’s going. I’m afraid it hasn’t gone too well so far but hopefully this has ignited my interest to do some more practice. If you want to learn spinning and can’t find any independent lessons I’d highly recommend joining your local Spinners and Weavers Guild. There was a great local group I went to for a while, but it became too hard to take my little son there and the last time I visited he was banging on the door “I go home now, I go home now” so I decided to wait till he’s a bit older or at school to try again!
The other half of the class was given lots of fantastic information about fibres and preparation and were able to have a turn on the drum carding machine, use some combs and brushes to fluff up and blend some fibres. We also were able to have a go at plying two yarns together on a plying machine. The ball of fluff, or rolag as it’s meant to be called, in the picture above, was one I made on the drum carding machine pictured above also.
Saturday afternoon was free time and was one of my favourite new parts about the retreat. A mini market was set up in one of the rooms with some great stalls like Helene’s stall Stitch 56, Amy’s beautiful yarn shop Sunspot and The Craft Sessions also had a stall with treasures from some of the fabulous teachers from the weekend. I purchased my first ever Liberty fabric (the blue one in the top right picture, although I’m still lusting after the one on the bottom too) and some gorgeous Megan Nielsen patterns to go with it. If you are into sewing you should check Helene’s online shop – it’s amazing! From Sunspun I purchased some beautiful Skein yarn in a silk wool blend and a couple of books. It was hard to restrain myself at the market that is for sure as there were so many lovely things for sale.
After the mini market we popped by to see a fun spoon carving demonstration by Alichia from Hearth Collective and we were able to have a go ourselves. Georgie thought it was hilarious how I sat like a “lady” with my legs to the side (much like a lady would ride a horse) to do some carving. I think I was just trying to keep body parts away from the sharp carving knife! Haha
Then there was lots of free time to knit with friends before dinner. I took “my favourite” cardigan to knit and loved noticing everyone’s hand knitted projects and chatting to them about what they were making. How cool are Sandy from Purplepurlz socks? The little yellow Wallaby pattern was one Georgie just whipped up overnight for her class the next day! So cute in newborn size.
I’ve always wanted to do some more screen printing and heard that Leslie Keating from Maze & Vale was another fabulous teacher so always wanted to do one of her classes and this year I did and wasn’t disappointed. Like every teacher at the conference, her patience in teaching and generosity in sharing her knowledge was fantastic.
We made some stencils out of paper to begin and then some others out of stencil plastic. It was so much fun and I definitely see more screen printing in my near future. This was an all day class and we paired up with someone to help us with holding the screens down firmly and cleaning up as it can be a bit messy.
The Craft Sessions 2015 once again was just a fantastic weekend with likeminded crafty people, learning, chatting, knitting, creating and sharing. I look forward to this retreat and love it when I go as it makes me really feel a part of something special. It’s just sad that it only happens once a year so I only truly feel this way for one long weekend every 12 months. My crafty tank is full, my mummy tank is well rested and I have a real spring to my step this week after such a fabulous weekend.
Do you go to any crafty retreats? Have you ever had your flight cancelled with 4 hours notice?