Tuesday, September 29, 2015

the craft sessions

Natural dyeing workshop, using native Australian plants.

Botanical dye pot using Eucalyptus Obliqua Messmate also known as Stringy Bark. Belinda Evans checking our progress.

Carmen gently drying fabric and yarn samples. Jars of mordants to help fix colours to textiles.

Display of our botanically dyed samples using Stringy Bark. An example of how to record your yarn dyeing results and underneath a basket of Belinda's botanically dyed yarns.

Samples from other students in the workshop of botanically dyed textiles extracted from Argyle Apple and Wattle.

Beattie Lanser demonstrating how to sew "The Beattie" dress. The pattern cutting workshop.

Sewing pleats on the Beattie Dress. The Beattie dress in linen and cotton chambray.

I knew I was at the right event when I heard the heartfelt and teary introductions the first night at The Craft Sessions weekend retreat of creative workshops, inspiring people and all things handmade.

I first discovered The Craft Sessions last year, over at Tiny Happy and incorrectly thought it was held in New Zealand. I was so over the moon when I realised earlier this year that it was held here in Australia, my friend was eager to go with me, and we were able to get tickets 'by the skin of our teeth' as registration sold out in 40 minutes!

The event was held in Melbourne's wine growing region at Yarra Valley Estate, an award winning venue for their commitment in environmental and social sustainability. We were served delicious meals three times a day which meant no cleaning up or eating cold foods for all the mothers! Fresh organic fruit and raw sweets from Harvest Cafe for morning and afternoon tea just an arm stretch away. In the evenings, cosy lounges, wine in hand and coffee tables covered in crafting books to peruse at your pleasure after a glorious day of crafting. It really was bliss and the perfect 40th birthday present from the hubby.

The first two days, Belinda Evans taught us how to naturally dye plant and animal fibers with Australian natives. In my early 20's I tie-dyed vintage lingerie slips worn as outerwear for a Retro Clothing store in Darlinghurst, Sydney. When it was 'Hippie Day' at my son's school last year, it ignited my interest in dyeing and more importantly to explore natural dyeing techniques that fit in with our families journey in natural and conscious living.

I have a bit of a crafty crush on Belinda not just on her natural dyeing and weaving pursuits but on her personal health journey too. Apparently she has a huge following, you'll understand why when you check out her blog,  Elements of Alchemy and her instagram account, I am Alchemy.

Belinda showed us how to prepare textiles for dyeing by gently washing the fibers. This is known as 'scouring' however that implies aggressive washing which you should definitely not do especially with wool. Adding mordants to the dye process to help fix colours to the textiles and how to record your botanical dye results. Animal fibers such as silk and wool are much easier to dye with than plant fibers such as linen and cotton. Natural dyeing is a waiting game and is full of surprises and fits in wonderfully with the slow crafting movement. 

Sunday I spent the entire day in the Beattie Dress workshop, an original design of Beattie Lanser. Beattie is a skilled textile designer with a bubbly almost theatrical demeanor. I was a bit stressed out with airline issues in safely transporting my brand new expensive sewing machine (another birthday present!) but at the last minute, the organiser Felicia was able to arrange for me to use Beattie's demonstration machine. So relieved! In the workshop we learned how to cut out a pattern, sew darts, raglan sleeves, invisible zipper, elastic sleeve casings, neckline binding and pleats. I sat next to Claire from Harvest Cafe and we had a good chuckle about my chambray fabric resembling the dresses Amish women wear. I was delighted as I watch Amish documentaries and movies and I find their needle work and pie making inspiring.

Beattie circled the room helping people with the sew-along and at one point when she passed my table she cracked up laughing at the dozen of pins I used on just one side of the skirt. She removed them and placed two pins at the top and using her arms gracefully said "and let it flow." I love her to bits. She is so sweet and fun and super talented.

I had such a good time in that class. Some of us did not finish hemming our dresses, which is no biggie and easy to do at home, we were tired but elated. Sewing your own clothes really makes you appreciate the hard work that goes in to garment making. For me personally, sewing my own clothes is one small way of dealing with the awful fast fashion industry and the terrible treatment of the garment workers.

I feel truly blessed to have been part of The Crafts Sessions 2015. I'm still processing it all. So much more happened in that jammed packed weekend including free demonstrations - spinning, blocking with knits, spoon carving! It definitely deserves another post. Carmen and I snapped pics using only our phones but the lovely Xan took some great photos with her DSLR camera and be sure to scroll down to see the swoon worthy examples from the Textile Collage workshop.

The Craft Sessions creator, Felicia Semple created this wonderful 'unstyled' event to bring women together to learn, create and make. Her thoughtful words on mothering and crafting such as 'how intention is more important than mistakes and imperfections', can be found on The Craft Sessions blog. This is also where you can be on the look out for The Craft Sessions 2016 event. Maybe I will see you there!

Joining in with Keep Calm Craft On at Frontier Dreams and Yarn Along at Small Things.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


Max: Pirate for a day
Archie: Digs holes all over the yard and tries to chop down trees with his shovel.

Joining in with the 52 project at Practising Simplicity.