Fancy a craft retreat?

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Craft Sessions 2017, Yarra Valley, Australia.

CRAFT RETREAT: definition: Escaping from the usual routine with a group of kindred souls to engage in your favourite activities and learn a few new ones in a beautiful setting with someone else doing the cooking! And there’s usually some good textile related shopping to be had. What’s not to like?

North American knitters have been indulging in craft-retreats, festivals and fairs for years. Residentials such as SQUAM, set in beautiful Providence, Rhode Island and the Schoolhouse Press Knitting Camp in Wisconsin encourage a complete break from the everyday with the synergistic immersion in craft and nature.  Others are located in large city hotels where the pace keeps up with the traffic outside – an immersive experience of a different sort where you can stay in the hotel or step out for fresh air and a dose of reality in the evenings, eg. Stitches West, South, East etc, or Vogue Knitting Live which I was lucky enough to attend in New York in January.

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Vogue Knitting Live, New York.

I emerged with sensory overload and a quantity of yarn that reflected my complete abandonment of the rational.

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Amy Herzog with her knitted jumpers at Vogue Knitting Live, New York.

Other US fibre festivals occur in the context of agricultural fairs such as Rheinbeck in upper New York State. I have read about Rheinbeck on many of the US blogs that I follow, always hallowed in reverential terms. Mason-Dixon Knitting talk about their Rheinbeck sweater for this year. Stephanie Pearl McPhee (The Yarn Harlot) and Clara Parkes talk with excited anticipation of the road trip to Rheinbeck with old friends who they see but once a year. The more I look and the more people I speak to, the more of these events I discover and the more I plan to travel with them in mind. There is Yarndale in Yorkshire, as promoted by Attic24, The Edinburgh Yarn Festival, as promoted by Ysolda and Stephen West and others. And so on and so forth. Clara Parkes maintains a detailed though undoubtedly incomplete list of world-wide fibre related events on her Knitter’s Review website (though I note an absence of Australian events).

So what about Australia? I have been taking it upon myself, for purely educational purposes mind, to explore the world of Australian textile related festivals and retreats and hard work it has been!

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Megan and friends at Bendigo Sheep and Wool Festival, Australia.

Over the past couple of years I have been lucky enough to attend the Bendigo Sheep and Wool Festival on two occasions and last September attended The Craft Sessions in the Yarra Valley in Victoria.

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Craft Sessions, Yarra Valley, Australia.

A couple of weeks ago I spent a glorious weekend at The Ministry of Hand Made Maker’s Escape in Montville, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland and as I write, I am en route to Melbourne for the inaugural Soul Craft Festival, organised by Felicia Semple and her Craft Sessions Team.

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Ministry of Handmade, Montville, Australia.

There has been such a buzz on Instagram about the festival, with some clever marketing of a #soulcraftalong which has encouraged those attending to document what they are making for the event. I am really looking forward to seeing what they have come up with and also to spending the weekend with 3 lovely friends and seeing my son in Melbourne too! After that I am stopping home for a while to knit and stitch my way through the many beautiful yarns and other textiles that I have acquired at these events and through my recent travels.

Whilst each festival is a little different, all feature a range of classes and workshops, a lovely atmosphere made up of the buzz of excitement of a room of makers let loose to do what they do best, the pleasure of new learning – and teaching – meeting equally passionate people and sharing skills and comparing  notes.

At each event I have met new people whom I have learned from and delighted in the company of, my mind has been opened to new creative possibilities and I have come away refreshed, happy and inspired.

The events tend to take place in rather lovely settings adding considerably to the pleasure of it all.

The more I ask, the more of these events I hear about. Whether they have always been there or whether Australia is channeling into an unmet need but is not very good at publicising it I am not sure. The events seem to be wildly popular. The Craft Sessions sells out in minutes and The Maker’s Escape was overwhelmed by the demand this year. It seems they are tapping into a urge for making that is unquenchable.

Whilst I love attending these events, and urge you to consider them, a much more accessible alternative is to gather with your crafty friends for a regular session or perhaps a weekend away in a lovely local spot.

My own ‘Critting’ Group (a combination of Knitters and Crocheters) have been doing this for over 10 years. We meet at each other’s houses once a fortnight and eat cake, drink tea, make things, compare notes, catch up, talk about books, film, children, work etc and feel much better afterwards. Once or twice a year we go somewhere for a weekend and each take responsibility for a meal. I make white chocolate caramel fudge. It is very good.

Shared Threads is based on this idea of a mini-escape.

Craft Retreats in Australia and New Zealand

New South Wales

The Stitches and Craft Show

Rosehill Racecourse, Sydney

March 8-11, 2018

The Sydney Craft and Quilt Show

 June 20-24, 2018

Sydney Craft Week – Australian Design Centre

 Sydney wide

October 5-14, 2018

FibreFest 2018

Knitters’ Guild NSW

Sacred Spaces, 30 Queen St, Singleton, Hunter Valley

October 28, 2018

Go Create!

Textile and Art retreats

New England

Queensland

Ministry of Handmade Makers Escape

May 18-20, 2018

Montville QLD

Brisbane Stitches and Craft Show

Convention and Exhibition Centre, Southbank, Brisbane

June 8-10, 2018

KnitFest Maleny Yarn and Fibre Arts Festival

 June 30-July1, 2018

Brisbane Craft and Quilt Fair

Convention and Exhibition Centre

October 3-7, 2018

The Fibre Arts Festival

Yardina, Sunshine Coast

November 17-19, 2018

Victoria

The Grampians Texture Workshops

March each year.

The Wool Gathering Retreat

Tarndwarncoort in Wearncoort,

May each year.

Bendigo Sheep and Wool Festival

Prince of Wales Showgrounds, Bendigo

July 20-22, 2018

Artisans Textile Festival

Bendigo,

July 20-22, 2018

Melbourne Craft and Quilt Fair

Exhibition Centre, South Wharf, Melbourne

July 26-29, 2018

The Geelong Fibre Forum

Organised by TAFTA

Geelong Grammar, Corio

September 30 – October 6, 2018

Melbourne Stitches and Craft Show

Royal Exhibition Building, Carlton Gardens

November 22-25, 2018

Northern Territory

Textile Art Workshop – Uluru Retreat

Uluru

Aug 4-6 and 8-9, 2018.

The Alice Springs Beanie Festival

June 29-July 2, 2018

Australian Capital Territory

Canberra Wool Expo: A Celebration of Wool

Old Bus Depot

May 19-20, 2018

Creative Fibre Day

Old Bus Depot Markets

July 8, 2018, 10am-4pm

Canberra Craft and Quilt Fair

EPIC, Mitchell

August 9-12, 2018

South Australia

Adelaide Craft and Quilt Fair

March 21-24, 2019

Western Australia

Perth Craft and Quilt Fair

Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre

May each year

New Zealand

Capital Fibre Fest

Upper Hutt

July 7, 2018 

Knit August Nights Yarn and Stitch Retreat

Ahuriri, Napier

August 24-26, 2018

New Zealand Craft and Quilt Fair

Claudlands Events Centre Hamilton

September 6-9, 2018

The Unwind Fibrecraft Retreat,

Dunedin

March 1-3, 2019

We plan to start a calendar of Australian and international events to help you plan your own craft travel. If you know any others that should be added to our current collection, we’d love to hear from you

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