Tag Archives: the craft sessions

woolful, edinyarnfest and the craft sessions

I’d like to send out a massive thank you to everyone who has left a comment here- and on Instagram, Twitter and, of course, in person!- in support and encouragement of our move overseas… It has meant a huge amount to me and I’ll be carrying you all with me when we head off at the end of January. Gee, the world certainly feels like a small place with the whole SM circus, doesn’t it?!

Just a few updates: if you haven’t already twigged to the joys of Ashley Yousling’s Woolful podcast, you need to check it out. This super smart and resourceful young woman is changing the way many of us see the yarn that we knit with and the fibre craft community that we are part of by opening up fascinating conversations with fibre people; from small scale to commercial, she’s talking to those involved in producing fibre (spinners, dyers, shearers, yarn companies…) and to those who use it (designers, craftspeople, artists…). I think these conversations will continue in yarn shops, at kitchen tables, in colleges and at fibre events around the world…  A new episode is released each Tuesday and I was thrilled and very honoured to talk to Ashley as part of this week’s episode, mostly about natural dyeing and dye plants but our conversation meandered through many areas of fibre love! You can find all the eps over at Wooful. Oh, and Ashley and her family is also building a fibre mill in Idaho- I can’t wait to see what comes out of that place!

I mentioned in my last post that I am building up a stock of colourwork cowls to take with me to Scotland-  well, I’ve signed up for a booth at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival in mid-March! It’ll be my first time selling my work in this kind of setting and I’m excited and a little anxious at the same time… But, at the very least, I’m looking at it as a great chance to meet and connect with the local knitting community. So, as well as packing up the house and catching up with loved ones, I’m going to have a busy 6 weeks of making!

And, lastly, it was bittersweet teaching my very last Melbourne class at Sunspun this week. It was great to finally run Fibre and Yarn 101, which was inspired by years of questions from customers about how to choose the best yarn for a project and why some yarn substitutions just don’t seem to work. I think my students left with a clearer picture of how different natural fibres behave and why different types of processing result in very different yarns and how to anticipate and work with that. But I’m really not sure whether there’ll be much opportunity for teaching in Scotland- perhaps natural dyeing will be the way to go, as teaching knitting there feels like teaching my grandmother to suck eggs! I’ll just have to wait and see and, in the meantime, will be so happy to take lots of classes to soak up as much of the local knowledge and tradition. But I wanted to let you know that I will be returning in September to teach at the Craft Sessions. It’s such a beautiful event that I don’t want to miss it and it also gives me a chance to bring back and share techniques and skills picked up over there. And, of course, to spend time with my family and friends. So it won’t be that long between cups of tea!

So that’s all my news for now. Have a lovely weekend!

more madder

Well, it’s been so long between posts that I’ll be thrilled if anyone at all is still reading this little blog of mine… It’s been a very busy few months- both at Sunspun and in my own work- but I’m finally getting my feet back on the ground and have emerged from winter thoroughly inspired and ready for spring!

There’s so much to share that it might require a few installments. But I’ll start with the glory that was and is the Craft Sessions

I have to admit that I was a little worried going into the second CS. It couldn’t possibly be as ace as last year. Could it? The answer to that was a deafening YES! I don’t know how Felicia did it, organizing such a amazingly successful event while traipsing around Europe in a campervan with her partner and three kids and very sporadic internet- what a champ!  As a teacher at least, it was such a happy event, with a lovely balance of challenge and enjoyment in the classes offered and, like last year, a group of people willing to be vulnerable enough to come away with a group of strangers and take on something completely new. That’s a rare thing.

My CS classes were in the same vein as last year- colourwork knitting and dyeing with plants- but with some twists. I love spreading the joys of stranded colourwork and this time, I had 12 newbies working on a 10ply hat (that will be available very soon on Ravelry) and learning to work with a yarn in each hand- fun!

New hat design coming

New hat design coming soon

I also ran a class on steeking, a technique that is so perfect for a class because it can be such a scary thing to try on your own. I think my students were blown away by how secure a steek actually is and also reassured by the fact that there is a steek for all yarns and circumstances! I’m running the very same class at Sunspun on October 8th and there is one place still available so get in quick if you’re keen to try this ace technique.

And then I spent the whole day on Sunday repeating an experiment that I’d tried a couple of years ago as the basis for a class to introduce new dyers to the processes involved in dyeing with plants and other natural materials. I really wanted participants to come away with a good understanding of the process from start to finish and how to achieve different colours using different mordants and modifiers. We used madder as the dyestuff and then alum, rhubarb leaf, copper and iron as mordants before dyeing and vinegar, washing soda, copper and iron as modifiers after dyeing. As always with dyeing, I learned a lot and found that, as opposed the last time I did this experiment where pre-treatments seemed to have more impact on colour, this time it was the post-treatments that affected the colour more. And that the pre-treatments weren’t as effective on silk fabric at the concentrations I normally use on wool yarns.

Here you can see the 5 groups of 5 pieces of silk, each piece having had a different combination of pre-and-post-treatments. Next time I’d increase the amount of mordants used when pre-mordanting the fabric to get a wider range of colours, especially copper. But the colours are lovely anyway!

Silk habutai samples

Silk habutai- from left to right: no modifer, acid modifier, alkaline modifer, copper modifier, iron modifier

No modifers

No modifers- from front to back: no premordant, alum p/m, rhubarb p/m, copper p/m, iron p/m

Acid-modified- from front to back: no premordant, alum p/m, rhubarb p/m, copper p/m, iron p/m

Acid-modified- from front to back: no premordant, alum p/m, rhubarb p/m, copper p/m, iron p/m

Alkaline-modified

Alkaline-modified- from front to back: no premordant, alum p/m, rhubarb p/m, copper p/m, iron p/m

Copper-modified

Copper-modified- from front to back: no premordant, alum p/m, rhubarb p/m, copper p/m, iron p/m

Iron-modified

Iron-modified- from front to back: no premordant, alum p/m, rhubarb p/m, copper p/m, iron p/m

After we’d dyed and then modified the skeins of yarn, we finished the day by making shade cards of both yarns- I was super excited to make my very first shade cards!

Wool and silk/ wool shade cards

Wool and silk/ wool shade cards

Silk habutai shade cards

Silk habutai shade cards

We didn’t have time to make cards of the silk fabric so I decided to take them home and cut them up for everyone. The fabric colours were just too lovely to miss out on. I mostly dye yarn for knitting with but I was super inspired to dye more fabrics from now on…

The whole weekend was such a joyous experience and the culmination of so much planning and prep (I’m a chronic over-preparer!) that I felt quite flat after it ended. So now I’m counting down until the next one! A huge, huge thanks to Felicia, her support crew, my co-teachers and the many participants for your incredible energy and joy xx

the craft sessions v2.0

If you’re at all into craft and interact with any social media out there, you’ve probably seen and heard the recent buzz surrounding this years Craft Sessions retreat– I’m so happy that it’s happening again (how could it not after such a wonderful response last year!) and am feeling incredibly lucky to be asked back to teach again, alongside so many talented, lovely craftspeople… In anticipation of tomorrow’s opening of registration, I just wanted to remind you that, if you are thinking of coming (and really, there are classes to accommodate pretty much any skill level in such diverse crafts that you’ll definitely find classes that will work for you!), you need to get in soon. There are limited places available and last years success means that this years event is guaranteed to fill quickly…

There are so many classes that I would love to participate in- in fact, I’d love to sit in on them all… but especially Georgie’s grading for knitwear design, Belinda’s weaving, Leslie’s tote bag and Melissa’s embroidery from the natural world. At the end of last year’s weekend (especially after arriving back from Iran a few days beforehand!), I promised myself that I’d allow myself time to do a workshop but, when it came time to put forward ideas for my classes, I had too many ideas to allow space for that ; )

This time around, I’m teaching two half-day sessions, one on stranded colourwork for beginners (based around a new hat that I’m designing especially for the class) and the other on steeking (cutting- yes, cutting!- your knitting to make knitting garments in colourwork and other complex stitch patterns easier), which will work really well together or as stand-alone classes.

Stranded colourwork

Stranded colourwork

Steeked colourwork cardigan

Steeked colourwork cardigan

And then I’ll be out with the dyepots, running a whole-day class on dyeing with natural materials… we’ll be working from a single dyepot (made from one of the exotic, ancient dyestuffs) and learning how to use the mordanting and modifiying processes to extract 25 shades of colour from that one dyeport. Exciting!

25 colours from one dyepot

25 colours from one dyepot

I’m super excited about everyone’s classes and also by the extra space that Felicia has created over the weekend to absorb what’s been shared or go for a walk or spend time with mates… and I hope that those who take part in the weekend will gain some really practical skills and feel invigorated by being surrounded by such a great, creative community…  I hope you’re inspired by what you see over at CS headquarters!

home

My feet have finally touched the ground after a wonderful whirlwind of a month. I was so busy in the lead-up to it that I didn’t even mention that I was heading overseas- to Iran! I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow because that incredible country merits its own entire series of posts but basically I flew home and straight into the prep for my classes at the Craft Sessions a few days later. After waking up every morning a few minutes before the 4.30 call to prayer (connecting with my inner Muslim?!) while away, I then found myself in the habit of waking around 12.30am… no doubt jet lag but also pre-event prepping jitters! But all came together for Fridays kick-off and I think we were all super happy to finally be there in the Yarra Valley for the long-anticipated event! I arrived so sleep-deprived that I could barely string three words together (which didn’t help my nerves around teaching and public speaking) but the entire event was filled with such a sense of joy and willingness to share that we all couldn’t help but relax and enjoy the whole thing! That really reflected Felicia, the fantastic woman who drove the event, and her community of supporters… and I am so grateful to have been able to be involved in such a wonderful thing. Thank you, Felicia!

I’m sorry that I can’t show you much of what went on over the weekend but I was so intent on tending my dyepots and meeting people that I hardly took any photos- I didn’t get any of the wonderful designs that participants in my stranded colourwork class came up with and I only managed to take a few in my natural dye classes.

Shibori on silk ready for the indigo vat

Shibori on silk ready for the indigo vat

As often happens, we got the most interesting results with multiple layers of colour; in this case, overdyeing the lurid yellow and oranges we got from soursob and eucalpyts with indigo gave some lovely blues and green, but I was also impressed by the difference in results obtained from Eucalyptus cinerea on yarn premordanted with alum and iron.

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Indigo over soursob, indigo over Eucalyptus cinerea (1 dip and 4 dips)

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Eucalyptus cinerea; premordanted with alum and iron

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Crochet left in overnight to exhaust the indigo vat

Luckily, I’ve been able to enjoy everyone else’s photos and see what happened in all the other classes on social media! If you want to be completely inspired to go to the next one, take a peek at the event blog, on Instagram (using #thecraftsessions) or the Craft Sessions group on Ravelry…

Now, off to the couch to knit for the first time in weeks! And then a VERY early night.

giveaway!

Just a very short (and photo-free!) post to say a huge thanks for all your much-appreciated well wishes for both my new job and the little online shop I’m opening! Nothing like announcing things publicly to get the ball rolling, huh. It’s almost there and just needs a few tweaks… If you are super keen, you can sign up for email updates by filling out the form in the shop link above but, in the meantime, you can win yourself one of my cowls or one of the beautiful offerings from the other Craft Sessions teachers by entering the lovely Che and Fidel Craft Sessions giveaway– good luck!