The Craft Sessions 2014

The Craft Sessions 2014

Last weekend I returned to the Yarra Valley in Victoria for my second time and attended The Craft Sessions 2014. If you read about my trip last year (here) you’ll know all about The Craft Sessions run by Felicia Semple.

The Craft Sessions at Yarra Valley Conference Centre

Once again I flew to Victoria from Sydney and then hired a car at the airport for the 1 hour drive to the Yarra Valley Conference Centre in Dixon’s Creek which was the same location as last years event and it’s so pretty there in Spring.

Craft Sessions goodie bag

With a lovely little goodie bag to welcome me I checked into my room and got settled. The schedule was a little different this year with classes starting on the Friday afternoon so that some free time was kept for Saturday afternoon to enable us to have more time to sit, knit (or craft) and chat. It worked out really well and as tired as I was from waking up at 5am to get there it was nice to start the sessions on the Friday and get right into learning.

learning colourwork knitting

The first class I did was Stranded Colourwork by Julia Billings or “Jules” as her name tag read (she has a blog called Woollenflower which you’ll find here). I had never done any colour work before so was interested to learn how to change colours and carry the yarn behind your work. I had done a bit of YouTube watching but couldn’t really understand how it was done. There is nothing like learning in person from someone who is a great and patient teacher and Jules was all that and more. She had such a lovely calming voice and no question was too silly and she gave such lovely encouragement to all of us. Something that you really need to keep you going when you’re learning a totally new technique.

Jules also went into the history of colourwork, the different types, colour relationships, choosing colours, reading / creating charts and all the technical issues with stranded colourwork. We created a stranded colourwork beanie for the class and actually did some knitting homework before the event so that our hat band was done and we were ready to start joining new colours straight away.

The food was great once again and after a wholesome dinner I couldn’t stay up to late and knit as I was so tired. You know that thing where it all goes quiet in your head well that was happening to me so I decided to get some rest to wake up fresh for Saturday’s classes.

steeking or cutting your knitting

The next morning I chose to learn Steeking which is a technique where you cut into your knitting. It is used a lot in colour work like Fair Isle and means your can get more even tension by knitting it in the round and then cutting into your knitting tube to turn it into a cardigan. To be honest I had never heard of the technique and was intrigued to find out more when I heard about it.

making the steek

Once again we had knitting homework before the even and came with some samples ready to cut into. We used the crocheted steek where you crochet two lines into the top of the work and then cut through the middle. The way it’s done it is held in place and doesn’t unravel. The type of yarn you use is also important and you can’t really do this technique with slippery or superwash yarns.

steeking your knitting

I found the actually cutting into my knitting so liberating and lots of fun. I’ll have to blog about my steeked mug cosie that I made when I finish it by sewing some buttons on.

knitting by the fire at the craft sessions 2014

Steeking was a half day class and for the Saturday afternoon we had free time to sit and knit with new found friends and some lovely friends I had made from last year. This was such a nice part of the event and a big improvement from last year where there wasn’t enough time for it. We were all in our element talking about patterns, yarn, knitting and crafting together. For people who wanted to learn more there were a couple of more casual sessions like Fibre 101, Craft Photography and even a Yoga session.

I stayed up knitting a chatting to new and old friends and I’m proud to say that Georgie Hallam (of Tikki Knits) and I were the last ones up knitting by the fireplace. We could have actually stayed up even longer but I think the staff at the conference centre wanted to go to bed!

yoga at the craft sessions

Seeing as my roommate was getting up for early morning yoga sessions that are held and I was waking up with her I decided to give it a try as I hadn’t participated last year in the yoga and wanted to know what it was like. Gemma ran a great session and it was really refreshing to stretch and have time for some relaxation at the end of the class as the thought of Sunday was stressing me out. After two weekends in a row away from home and getting a bit lost in Melbourne I was worried about getting home so I used the relaxation time to calm myself and get ready for a full day session of crafty learning.

Sunday morning was a bit rushed as not only did I do yoga but I then had to get organised and ready for the day, call my husband and Dad for Father’s Day, check out of my room and make it to breakfast before that finished. The classes started a bit earlier to enable us to finish everything on time so it was a bit of a rush.

I’m really lucky that my husband (and even me) didn’t realise that The Craft Sessions 2014 ran over Father’s Day otherwise I probably couldn’t/shouldn’t have come. Please, please, please don’t run them on Father’s Day next year! It just added to my guilt factor and although my husband was fine about it and my Dad was away it didn’t feel quite right to be away for a craft retreat for their special day.

dyeing 25 colours with Julia Billings

Anyway once I got over that it was on to the class I really wanted to do for the weekend – Dyeing Wool – 25 colours from one natural dyepot which was also with the lovely Jules.

range of wool colours from dyeing with madder using mordants and modifiers

These stunning 25 colours were made with a natural plant dye called Madder and then either different mordants (processes before dyeing) or modifiers (after being in the dye bath). Amazing and so much fun. I’ll definitely be trying this at home.

I was explaining to someone that the thing about The Craft Sessions retreat is that there are so many great and different classes to do that it’s had to decide. The only way to choose is to work out the class that you really don’t want to miss and then find other classes to fit the other time slots. For me this year the class I really wanted to do was dyeing so then I worked back from there to see what lessons I could do on the Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. Funny but I ended up doing all of Jules’ classes this year and last year I did all of Georgie’s!

If there was more time I would have loved to do printmaking and Georgie’s circular yoke class. There is always next year and I am setting myself the goal of knitting a cardigan for me to wear. I know I said that last year but dang it this time I mean it!

Have you  been to a fabulous craft retreat or even craft lesson that you travelled a fair way to do it or a crafty event that you make sure you attend every year?

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