Firstly, I want to say that I had an absolutely amazing time. Two and a half days away in the Yarra Valley with around 80 other women who shared my love of learning, sharing and craft (with all of my food and accommodation taken care of) - I cannot think of many other ways that I’d rather be spending a weekend. I caught up with people I already knew, met people I’d been chatting to online but never met face to face and made new friends with people whom I’d never encountered before. We laughed and ate and knitted together. Some people even did all three of those at once – clearly they were people who have children and therefore awesome multitasking skills. Personally, I took the opportunity to relax, enjoy the natural surrounds and meet new people. I guess that is the beauty of a weekend like this – you take whatever you want out of it.
The weekend started on the Friday afternoon. Well, for me it started about three weeks beforehand when I started preparing for the workshop I was teaching, but the fun part began on Friday. After picking up our goodie bags and settling into our rooms, we headed off to our first workshop. For me, that was Embroidery From The Natural World with Melissa Wastney.
I was so excited about doing this workshop in the lead up to the weekend that I had actually been having dreams about the native flowers that I was going to embroider. As I had very little embroidery experience beforehand, the dreams were slightly different to the reality of the workshop (especially with regards to technique!), and the reality was that the workshop was even better than I had dreamed it would be. We started off by wandering through the native flower-filled gardens of the venue, sketching and collecting flowers as inspiration. As it was already well into spring, the garden was in full bloom. Not surprisingly, I found it very difficult to restrain myself from picking everything that I saw. I did make some attempt, but still returned to the workshop room clutching handfuls of tiny flowers and leaves.
This fabulous embroidered wattle is not my handiwork. It belongs to the very patient Alichia.
After we returned inside, Melissa ran through the basics with us and we got busy stitching. We continued across the afternoon and again on the Saturday morning. She encouraged us to experiment with the techniques that we used, and it was fascinating to see the different ways that each person interpreted the same flora (both in illustration and the way in that they embroidered them). As I daintily stitched away with Melissa’s hand dyed embroidery thread on the exquisite linen that was nestled in my vintage embroidery hoop, I have to say that I felt very content. It felt almost as if we were in some kind of story book: a group of women sipping tea and quietly chatting away, wildflowers strewn all over the table as we sketched and stitched as if we had not a care in the world. I felt more zen than I would have if I had spent those 6 hours in silent meditation (I can say this with some authority, having done the latter on more than one occasion).
This relaxed state of mind prepared me well for what was on for me after lunch: an hour of talking and weaving to a room full of enthusiastic, curious women. With a partially finished weaving project in hand (this one, actually), I shared stories of my inspiration and creative process, shared some of my weaving tips and tricks and had the opportunity to hear some of the craft (and life) experiences of the other women who came along. It was a nice way to spend the afternoon, and afterwards I took a walk in the surrounding bush (followed by a little nap), before heading to dinner.
Now I haven’t mentioned meal times yet, but this is not because they were not a major part of the event. In fact, they were one of my favourite parts of the weekend. It was at meal times where we really got an opportunity to chat with each other, and it was during this time that it became clear to me that, for most of the women who were there, this was a chance to connect with other people who were passionate about using their hands to make beautiful things. It was also a chance to learn new skills, but I got the feeling that, although this was the most obvious reason to attend a weekend of craft workshops, it actually wasn’t the main reason that most people came along. The only thing that I didn’t enjoy about meal times was deciding whether to sit next to someone with whom I’d already had a great conversation with or someone new with whom I’d not yet had a chance to connect. In the end I went with a bit of both, depending on the mood, and found both rewarding in their own way.
I’ve spent so long talking about the weekend as a whole and I haven’t even gotten to the part where I talk about my own workshop! This is partially because my workshop was at the end of the weekend, but also because, as a teacher rather than a student, I don’t think I’m the best person to talk about it. For this reason, I’ll share my own story of the experience but I’ll keep it brief.
I was blessed to have spent a full day with 12 truly lovely women who were all excited to share some of my tapestry weaving knowledge. Similarly to the embroidery workshop that I had done with Melissa in the days prior, it was a day of joy and laughter. The learning was a bit more intense than the other workshop that I attended, especially as most people had no experience with weaving at all and the techniques they were using were quite different to those used in other commonly practiced crafts. They were all open and eager to learn, though, and after they got the hang of the basics they created their own unique pieces. I loved watching the way that each person took the basic techniques, the enormous pile of yarns that I brought along (and their own yarns, twigs and leaves that they’d collected across the weekend) and their own imagination and created a dozen really different pieces. As they cut their pieces off their looms, obviously very satisfied with their work, I thought I might burst with pride. Thinking about how they had come from knowing almost nothing to creating something that was really a little piece of themselves was an incredibly satisfying thought for me. Even now, I’m feeling all warm and fuzzy in my belly as I type this and look at the photo below. Look at those smiles! What a gorgeous bunch. And those beautiful weavings!
After my workshop ended, the weekend was almost at an end. Everyone was feeling a bit weary but our hearts were full and we each had a few little completed projects, some new craft skills and at least 25 ideas for what we each wanted to make next. After hugs, phone numbers, blogs and instagram accounts were exchanged, we hopped in our cars and headed back to our lives. And just like that the weekend was over – well physically it was, but in my mind and heart I was there for at least another fortnight. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to next year’s event (for which dates have recently been announced!).
As I was just having too much fun to take photos, all of these photos are courtesy of the brilliant, passionate, kind woman who brought this event to fruition – Felicia Semple. You know it’s a good weekend when you don’t even get a chance to take photos! You can see more photos of the event and read Felicia’s honest, funny accounts of her journey through life (told through the language of craft) on her blog.