Friday, June 15, 2018

soul craft festival

Last October, nine months ago, three small things happened that together set off a chain of events that affected almost every one of my days since.

one - Last October our youngest daughter Pepper had a birthday and turned 10. There's this particular folklore spoken of in my family that I grew up in that tells the tale of how when my mum's youngest daughter turned 10, she got her brain back. She went back to study, she started writing and she felt like a person in her own right again. When Pepper turned 10 last year there was most certainly an expectation within me that there was about to be shift in my brain function and in my life.

two - Last October I listened to a podcast about ways to protect the ageing brain and to delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer's. One of the suggestions made was to try to live outside your comfort zone regularly. To meet new people, to try new experiences, to challenge yourself.

three -  Last October I got a phone call out of the blue from wonderful Felicia who runs The Craft Sessions each year. Felicia called to tell me all about Soul Craft, a fabulous festival celebrating craft and connection that she was setting up to run the following June. I'd had a few interactions with Felicia before so she knew that when she asked me to consider making a 45 minute presentation at her event that she was asking me to step out of my comfort zone.

But because of the birthday, and the podcast, and the feeling that June 2018 was so far away and in the middle of our quiet season on the farm, I said yes.

And then as if that wasn't enough for future Kate to deal with, somehow we got onto the subject of teaching a masterclass at the festival. Felicia had asked me before and I'd turned her down, not feeling like enough of an expert, but this time part of me wanted in. I wanted to take on a bigger role, I wanted to push myself, I wanted to give something back to this community that has been so very generous with me, I wanted to pass on the skills and knowledge that I've gathered, and I wanted to share the love, and on the phone that day I  told Felicia that I thought I might be ready.

At first we discussed a crochet class. A wonderful, colourful, free-form class where hooks and yarn would be used to create patterns and shapes and scenes.

But then a couple of days later I called her back with the thought that while crochet had definitely been my introduction to the fibre crafts, knitting, and toe-up-sock-knitting specifically, was my craft true love. If there was no one else at the festival teaching it, then it should be me.

We locked it in.

What followed was a big bit of excitement; That she had asked me, that I had agreed and that I was going to be part of something wonderful. And then there was a fair bit of panic; What had I been thinking? How on earth could I? Who did I think I was? Was I even capable?

But then I employed all sorts of methods to trick my brain out of thinking about it, which wasn't too hard considering there were veggies and flowers to plant, apples to pick and young girls to raise. I wrote on my blog a few months ago that I mostly deal with my life the same way I deal with a complicated knitting pattern - one row at a time. And so I tried my best to stay in the moment, in the needs of the season, in the week, and not to look at the next row until I got there.

And when I lay awake wondering how it was even possible to explain in words something my hands know how to do without my brain thinking about it, or what words to use to explain a purl in the front and in the back of a stitch, or what was the best cast-on to teach, or how on earth we could complete a whole sock in a three hour period of time, I learnt to take some deep breaths and tell myself sternly that nothing I worried about or planned overnight was going to help the situation, and to think about something easier like growing flowers instead.

And then there came a day when I could not put it off any longer. It was time to make lists, write questions, choose photos, write definitions and instructions, find diagrams, knit samples, teach some friends, buy some cute notebooks and pens, and make some plans.

And when I did I found that it all came together quite neatly, and part of me wished I'd started earlier and lessened the long term worry, but that's never going to be me.

And then all of a sudden it was the night before. My hair was freshly cut, my clothes were laid out, my bag was packed, and I felt prepared and maybe even a little bit excited. Although a drama with Jarrah's stapler almost saw the whole thing fall in a heap....

The next morning Felicia met us outside the front of the Meat Market and walked us down the side past the queue of people waiting to get in, and we felt like rock stars. We met Kirsten who would be MCing our talk, we drank coffee in a hall filled with poppies and people proudly wearing their hand knits, and then it was time.

The idea for Indi to interview me on stage about how craft has been interwoven into every aspect of my life was one of the few insomnia brainwaves that lived to see the light of day. It came to me one night and I remember being so impatient for the minutes and hours to click by so it could be morning and I could ask her. And she was brilliant at it. Articulate and warm and funny and often quick to add a story of her own.

I actually can't remember a lot about those 45 minutes that felt like five. I do remember looking up at a sea of women knitting and feeling thrilled to be amongst my tribe. I remember finding the women who were smiling and nodding and looking back at them often. I remember watching people's eyes open wide as I told the story of wanting to be Mirka Mora's friend in my 20's and knocking on her door in St Kilda and continuing to do so for years to come. I remember how my girls got on stage at the end and grabbed the microphone so confidently to answer an audience question about how they feel about having their lives shared on my blog. And I remember feeling so much love as I stepped down afterwards to speak to blog readers, and instagram likers, and people who have been following our journey for years and years.

After the talk we wandered around the market place and spoke of the fact that Felicia had gathered the stalls we usually spend the whole time at the Bendigo Sheep and Wool show hunting for. A hall filled with ethical, sustainable, local, natural, bio dynamic and beautiful products, yet I was too hyped up to make any decisions or to commit to a purchase. (I'm regretting that now).

And then it was time to set up my classroom. Lucky I had my helpers along.

As the future sock knitters came in and got settled Bren snapped these shots which are amazing to look back at now.

We introduced ourselves and we quickly got to work, there was much to cover in not very much time.

And although there were some very experienced knitters in the class, although there were two left-handers and although those two left-handers were also committed double pointed needle users, as soon as we started the cast-on - I started loving the class.

I absolutely loved every second of those three hours.

I loved meeting and having Jodie @jellywares (in the handmade dress and blue shawl above) in my class. I've been following Jodie's blog for longer than I've had my own. Over the years I've admired and been inspired by her creations, I've congratulated her on her babies, I've participated in her face washer swaps and I've bought a share in her yarn clubs. I had been nervous at the thought of teaching such a beautiful knitter, but within minutes of walking in and hugging her, I forgot all of that and instead felt lucky to be spending time in real life with my wonderful friend.

I loved explaining the steps to the group and then walking around and watching them doing it for themselves, I loved showing them individually and watching it click for them, I loved the joy that burst out of them when the flat piece of knitting became a toe pouch, or a foot, or a heel. 

I loved watching the connections between knitters happen, I loved the stories people shared as their hands were busy knitting, it was amazing. AMAZING!!

And the time flew and before I knew it, it was time to pop all of the little socks in the middle to take a group photo. (Note to self - for future classes provide yarn in the same colour palette so the group photo in the end looks prettier).

After they had all left and I was alone packing all my stuff up, I couldn't stop smiling. There had been 16 people in my class and there were 15 (hopefully 16) new sock knitters in the world.

Then I walked back into the hall and met some more of my favourite online knitters and dyers. All chatting about the anxious lead up to their talks and classes, all as lovely as they are online, all happy to discuss their favourite cast-on and -off and the need for swatching and blocking. All compounding the feeling that last October's Kate had made what felt like a brave but ended up being such a good and important decision.

And then we drank champagne. And I met more awesome textile folk. And had some pretty cool conversations about juggling motherhood and guilt and finances and craft, and about craft consumerism, and about other life stuff.

And then all of a sudden it's a week later. The butterflies in my tummy that made their presence known every time I let my mind drift to Soul Craft for the past nine months have flown away (to where?). The fear that I am not worthy, or an expert, or qualified, or enough, to speak to an audience of crafters and to teach sock knitting has disappeared. My worry about not being the best knitter in the room feels silly now. My pride that my girls saw me in the anxious lead up and then celebrated me and my success afterwards was immense. The feeling I get whenever one of those 16 sends me a photo of a sock they've knitted is beyond thrilling.

My love of teaching has been rediscovered. I may have started discussions about a sock knitting class here, in our sun room, later this year. My mum said she'd make the bread and a cake and Bren said he'd make soup and salad, so that's the food sorted. I know that if I do it I'll be crazy nervous again beforehand, but I also know that I can do it. I'm not quite ready to work out the finer details and set a date just yet though. Let's get through winter first.

And to you Felicia, so many people have great ideas and love to talk about them, but by gosh you make stuff happen. And so beautifully and with such integrity and joy. Every single detail of that festival from the no-waste food and drinks, to the speakers and teachers and helpers, to the layout and aesthetic, to the way you made every single person involved feel special. You are one in a million and I am so grateful that you included me, I feel changed.

And to all of you who cheered me on, and encouraged me, and sent me your words of wisdom, trust me when I say that I took them all on and believed you. Thank you!

Life on the other side is definitely calmer. My studio build continues, the girls have one and two weeks left of school for the term, I still have garlic and bulbs to plant before the winter solstice, the nets need to come off the trees, the flower patch needs to be cleaned up, there's wood to split and stack and a home to clean. And I'm still not sleeping.

How are you anyway?
Are you good at getting outside of your comfort zone?
Do you say yes sometimes and then wish you hadn't?
Do you have anything fun planned for this weekend?

See you next Friday folks!

Love, Kate x


  1. I'm so happy for you, that this experience was one you enjoyed on so many different levels. Sharing and creating is wonderful!!
    Anne xx

    1. Thank you so much Anne, sharing and creating are some of the best bits of all. x

  2. Congratulations Kate on taking that step outside your comfort zone and succeeding. I have hit a bit of a 'gunna do' patch. I will eventually break out and actually achieve a few things.

    1. Thanks Jane, I know you'll get there and when you do it'll be awesome! x

  3. Wasn't Soul Craft just the bestest?! Like you, I left feeling renewed and invigorated.

    Count me in for a class at yours! ;)

    1. It really was the best! And I really need to do a class with you sometime, so let's somehow swap. xx

  4. I am so glad it went so well. I was working a night shift here in the uk so was thinking about how you were getting the whole night. I too have said yes so many times to things I wish I hadn’t. But sadly I usually have back tracked to get out of them. Maybe it is time I started to step out of my comfort zone. I’m so pleased for you. And have loved seeing Jellywares completed socks. It would be amazing to attend a class but a bit too far to travels sadly. Any tips on mastering a good toe up. I tried last week but it went horribly wrong!! Ha ha. Have a fantsstic weekend and see you next Friday xx

  5. Kate I was one of the lucky ticket winners to attend the market, thanks to peppermint magazine. My friend and I caught a very early train and eventually found the Meat Market. It was a fabulous day being with like minded people. I would have loved to meet you there, sadly I missed your talk. I can’t wait for next year with more pennies in my pocket and perhaps a master class. X

  6. I knew you would love teaching the class..the whole day sounded great and I think you should definitely have classes at home in your sun room.

  7. Yay, hip hooray, so so glad it was a wonderful experience for you.
    I'd love to come to a class at yours, even though I already knit toe up socks, I'd pretend I don't just to meet you and see your amazing studio. Hmmm that's not meant to sound creepy at all. Also I'm still back at Bren offering to make soup and salad, I just don't understand.
    I'm terrified of stepping out of my comfort zone, a tough year a few years back still has way too much power over me. For me just to come to a class and meet you and other wonderful knitters would be way out of my comfort zone. I do have a birthday ending in 0 this year so I think it's time to kick myself out of my comfort zone a bit and do some scary things.

    cheers Kate

  8. Nice one Kate! I liked the bit about your girls seeing your anxiety and nervousness in the lead up, then your joy and success after. That's great.
    I said 'no' to two things this week; one mostly in my comfort zone, and one a little out. And I did it because I need a break from lead-up anxiety and extra logistics. And I felt such relief when I finally gave my answers! I feel like I struck a little balance in my life, which is a rare thing.
    Stay warm xxxxx

  9. You and your girls are fabulous. Well done Bren on the outstanding photographs. I'm glad you got a buzz out of it. So many people want to learn these traditional skills. I think knitting takes the world to a better place when women, girls and men are clicking away on their needles..

  10. I'm so glad you said "yes" and that it was such a great experience for you! It was so lovely to meet you, and you're right - Indi did do a marvellous job!! When all three girls hopped up on stage at the end, I thought about how proud you must be of the three confident people you are raising.

    Teaching is terrifying, but I think we need people who are willing to share skills and knowledge, and that's what makes us qualified xx

  11. I’m Kate’s dad and so of course I’m extremely proud of her. Also I’m delighted to have played a bit part in this week’s Foxslane story - my stapler came to the rescue when she realised that no-one in her house had one! ❤️❤️❤️

    1. A most important contribution. Where would we be without our dad. 💖

  12. A sock knitting class? Yes Please!! and what about a shawl knitting class? I'm in....xx

  13. Good for you! I did have a life changing event last October, too. I had a mild stroke and it was a wake up call that I'd better lose weight or I might not survive the next one. So far I have lost 72 pounds and still losing. Life is so much better and I look forward to the future. I have not only gotten out of my comfort zone, I have had to create a whole new one.

  14. What a lovely blog post Kate. A sock knitting class in your beautiful sunroom sounds like bliss to me and if I lived in Austrailia then I would be signing up right now. I’m glad you stepped out of your comfort zone and it worked out for you because now, it will give you confidence to do more. Your post has encouraged me to do it a bit more too. But then, your posts are always like that ☺️

  15. I just knew the whole thing would be grand and am glad that it was! Too often, even though we have done something for a long time, we fail to recognize ourselves as experts with knowledge valuable enough to pass on to others. Good luck with recreating it home. If only San Francisco wasn't so far away from you...

  16. Congratulations it sounds wonderful. Thanks for sharing the journey I'm hoping that this September will be a similar starting point for me. My no.3 girl starts school, and no.1 & 2 girls both change school too, so a watershed moment and time to step out of my comfort zone... here's to new challenges and feeling inspired! xx

  17. Hi Kate i would love to come to your sock making class if you are opening it up. I have bought the book you recommended and have tried for years to knit socks. I would love to be taught in person xx:)

  18. It was a wonderful event. I went the Sunday, and was thrilled to be able to bring my baby along, be out of the house and see so many of my sewing friends. If I’d gone the Saturday I would have loved to have said hello! I’m glad you loved being there and were able to involve your family entourage too! Xx

  19. Great post, as always. My Mom used to say that she spent 10 years in a fog, while raising the four kids she had in 5 1/2 years. I understood after also having 4 kids in 5 1/2 years, the last premature. It seems to be a standard response, so there is light...I would not have given it up for anything. So glad your teaching turned out to be such a great experience!

  20. Yes, I have stepped way out of my comfort zone many times in the last three years... I often wish I hadn't said yes, but generally follow through as I hate being flaky!!!! It definitely rewired me. Glad your teaching went so well xxx

  21. WOW..I have goosebumps ! This is such a wonderful post. You were so brave and I applaud you. I wish I could achieve something like that ...and I also wish I could come to one of your the sun room. Bliss

  22. How lovely that stepping out of your comfort zone meant that you shared your skills, your heart and your joy in crafting, with others there to learn perhaps outside of their comfort zones too. Craft seems such a wonderful way to share and to learn and to grow. Meg:)

  23. Great Kate

    Fantastic activity and sharing information. keep it up

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  25. So marvellous, Kate! Well done! 🌱
    I love how your daring has sown seeds in more places besides your garden. So pleased for you. That's awesome.

  26. PLEASE run your sock knitting class!! I'd be there in a heart beat! Knitting socks is my nemesis im determined to master!!


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