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.
I emerged with sensory overload and a quantity of yarn that reflected my complete abandonment of the rational.
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!
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.
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
Rosehill Racecourse, Sydney
March 8-11, 2018
June 20-24, 2018
October 5-14, 2018
Knitters’ Guild NSW
Sacred Spaces, 30 Queen St, Singleton, Hunter Valley
October 28, 2018
Textile and Art retreats
May 18-20, 2018
Convention and Exhibition Centre, Southbank, Brisbane
June 8-10, 2018
June 30-July1, 2018
Convention and Exhibition Centre
October 3-7, 2018
Yardina, Sunshine Coast
November 17-19, 2018
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
July 20-22, 2018
Exhibition Centre, South Wharf, Melbourne
July 26-29, 2018
Organised by TAFTA
Geelong Grammar, Corio
September 30 – October 6, 2018
Royal Exhibition Building, Carlton Gardens
November 22-25, 2018
Aug 4-6 and 8-9, 2018.
June 29-July 2, 2018
Australian Capital Territory
Old Bus Depot
May 19-20, 2018
Old Bus Depot Markets
July 8, 2018, 10am-4pm
August 9-12, 2018
March 21-24, 2019
Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre
May each year
July 7, 2018
August 24-26, 2018
Claudlands Events Centre Hamilton
September 6-9, 2018
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