knit camp

The barn and dyeing room at Tasma House

A handful of us have spent the last few months organizing a weekend of knitting in Daylesford, a small town near Melbourne… and it finally happened this last weekend! So much preparation and anticipation and, in the end, everything ran beautifully, other than the burst water main that meant we had no running water for the greater part of Saturday- but luckily we can’t take credit for that one!

Things kicked off at midday on Friday with attendees trickling in; those lucky enough to have the day off work headed to the Creswick Woollen Mill with us to have a look at the mill’s machinery. That is, the mill’s very quiet, completely stationary machinery! Unfortunately, when I booked the tour, I didn’t specifically ask if the machine would actually be working and the operators neglected to mention that Friday is the one day it doesn’t run… so we were a little deflated. Still, we managed to get pretty enthused about the big and complex machinery and downy alpaca mist covering the floor, as well as the greatly reduced pieces of alpaca and merino blanketing spun and woven by the mill (one of which came home with me to buffer our lack of heating on the cold nights we’re having this year) and the various other merino and alpaca knits up for sale. Absolutely worth a visit… but try to avoid going on a Friday ; )

Super soft and cosy alpaca blanketing woven at Creswick, Victoria

We then swung by Tailored Strands in Allendale, a small company turning great quality, locally grown alpaca fleeces into really lovely yarn. Lots of temptation there and I think quite a few of us dipped into our Bendigo yarn funds…

12-ply alpaca; the colour is much richer and more interesting than it appears here...

By dinnertime, everyone had arrived and we settled in for a mammoth weekend-long knitting session. Loads of amazing projects were on show, including this sweet jumper knitted by Jo, which was very in keeping with the style of the place…

Fairisle Yoke Sweater

And a highlight for me was having the chance to touch and examine yarns that I’ve only read about before. On hand were rare shades of Wollmeise and the work of other highly-sought-after indie dyers, as well as yarns made of fibres as diverse as buffalo, Orkney angora, stainless steel and Jacob.

Sarah and her stainless steel

Heaps of skills were shared, both in classes and in informal exchanges. Several campers generously agreed to give classes free of charge (thanks so much again, all of you!) and all were super informative and enjoyable. Heather and Kylie demonstrated ecoprinting, using plant material from the surrounding streets and wrapping them in silk around a core of rusted iron; the colours and prints achieved were deep and lovely.

Unravelling the ecoprint

Detail of ecoprint

Heather, a textile student at RMIT, also discussed dyeing with eucalypts and showed us some incredible samples of her dyeing, on both yarn and fabric. She made the process seem quite magical and I could see the inspiration and ideas starting to form in many of our heads…

Heather's samples of eucalypt-dyed yarn

Kylie then discussed dyeing with chemical dyes and gave us some of the tips and tricks that she finds useful… just as magical a process and perhaps more tangible in the short-term!

ms gusset yarns

Next came a colourwork class with Sue and we were all blown away by her skill and creativity, not to mention her class prep! So many different techniques for incorporating colour into knitting…. even the simplest, like slip-stitches, are beautiful and impressive.

Beautiful samples of colourwork from Sue's class

Sue also spoke about the joys and challenges of designing knitwear, pattern-writing and publishing, which provided lots of food for thought, especially for the aspiring designers in the room. And Katie‘s and Audrey‘s classes went hand-in-hand perfectly; shawls and lace! So many techniques and contstruction methods, hints and enticing patterns… I think all of us have queued at least one lace shawl on Ravelry today! There were also informal demonstrations on Portuguese and continental knitting, recycling yarn from a jumper and using blocking wires, and a stash swap on Saturday night. I can’t say I came home with less yarn but it was certainly different yarn ; )

Speaking of more yarn, we all left with more in our pockets, thanks to the goodie bags that everyone received… on top of what we bought out of our budget (stitchmarkers, highlighter tape, homemade blocking wires courtesy of Amy and more), we were lucky enough to be given yarn and patterns by some lovely small producers- Skein, Ixchel Fibre and Yarn and Little Yellow Cat. We were super grateful for such generous support for our undertaking and hope that everyone enjoys the spoils! (There’s also a Little Yellow Cat KAL starting over on Rav soon if you’re interested… we’ll be knitting her Dandelion Beret).

Merino/ cashmere fingering from Skein

Bluefaced Leicester/ angora yarn from Ixchel

And a huge thanks to Chelsea, a knitter who also works in catering, for all the wonderful food and super organization!

Chelsea taking a breather from cooking and working on her Guernsey Wrap

The whole process of organizing Knit Camp has been really interesting… I’ve never done anything like this before and it really came about in response to Amy and I attending the UK Knitcamp in Stirling last August. We just wanted to be able to go to something like that without having to travel to the other side of the world- and to make that possible for others too. Now, in the wake of a really successful and enjoyable weekend, I find myself wondering where it could go and where I would like it to go… The six of us- Amy, Katie, Kylie, Jackie, Nandi and I- worked really well together but it definitely took the team to get everything done. Everyone who attended was super-quick to jump up and help when needed but it was kind of like having a party; it all goes by in a blur and you never quite relax- well, I don’t anyway ; )

We’ve spoken about making it bigger so that we could make it worthwhile for teachers from Melbourne, interstate or even overseas to run classes- and that would be wonderful but certainly a higher-risk operation and a lot more work before and during the camp. Perhaps it would be better to keep it small. What do you think? Would you prefer to pay more for a larger camp with more formal classes with wellknown teachers or a cosy group as described above? We’ll be receiving feedback from attendees but, if you have a opinion on this or would like to come to the next one and so have your say, I’d appreciate your comments…

And lastly, an almost-finished armwarmer (designed by Jackie for the camp!) knitted over the weekend in some of the the Lopo Phoebus sent to me by Fernanda. I’ve been wanting to use this yarn for ages and it is perfect for this project- but I don’t love the colour combination so I might restart with some of the other colours… I really don’t mind though- I forgot how much I love two-handed colourwork!


12 thoughts on “knit camp

  1. Nikki

    Too much gorgeousness!!! Sounds heavenly.

    (BTW – I just inherited a huge haul of machine-knititng yarn and am SUPER-inspired to learn more about garment-shaping. This knitting thing is a tad more addictive than I was led to believe!)

  2. Barb

    I work on the west coast of NA (generally)…..flight is easier from here….

    I really enjoyed the knit camp in Scotland (even though it has descended into a place where I feel guilty for saying that). I’d welcome the opportunity to go again. Made a bunch of new friends….learned new things. What could be better?

    Although I would like to put in a bid for a mattress that doesn’t feel like sleeping on tinned peas.

    1. julesmoon

      We managed to score a place with pretty comfy beds ; )

      I’d love to see you again, Barb! We’ll try to make it big enough to warrant you coming all that way to attend!

      Hope all is well with you xx

  3. mary jane

    It sounds like so much fun! I would love love love to come, as teacher or attendee. That tin house is gorgeous! And to think of all that wooly goodness inside!


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