My Annual Summer Retreat

As I do each January, I made my way from Coramba to Sydney for the Guild’s annual Summer School.
This year choosing my courses was even more difficult than usual. There were so many great workshops to choose from but some were on at the same time as others. After some deliberation I made my choices. I selected four workshops. A day travelling in each direction – I was having a ten day fibre holiday.


The weather was hot but the air-conditioned comfort of the facilities made it bearable. The first workshop I took was Pat Surace’s Advanced Nuno Felting. What beautiful garments she had made. We all worked on our own different projects. After three days there was enough for a fashion parade. Most participants fashioned two garments. One lady made several pieces – I don’t think she knows about “sleep.” I was the slowest achiever only finishing one garment, but I was ecstatic with that piece. I now have a new direction in which to head with my own nuno felting. Pat has opened my eyes to new ways to look at felting.
My next workshop was with Helen Beale in Basketry. Helen lives only about 95km from my home and we often see each other but I was not going to miss a chance to be in one of her workshops. All who attended finished at least one major basket and some completed another smaller one. For many it was the first time they had used natural fibres (dried plant materials) and many had never used cane. Everyone enjoyed the process and the freedom of this art form. I chose to make a freeform fruit bowl and was so happy with the end product I don’t want any fruit to cover it up!
I had chosen to do the Cotton Spinning next. I did that workshop a few years back with Barbara Schey. Seeing it offered again I was a definite starter. When I first attended I was a beginner spinner. With the knowledge and skills I now have (thanks to the Guild) it would interested to see how well I managed this time. Unfortunately this class was cancelled. I do hope that things are going as well as they can for Barbara and her family.
Helen (baskets) and I spent a day in the city – art gallery, Hyde Park, cathedrals, protest rally, lunch etc. Exploring Sydney is great for us country members.
My final workshop was with Jenny Dunn (of course Phillip was there helping out too) studying Natural Dyeing. I travelled down with a car load of chopped down vegetation and returned with a most wonderful sample book and skeins in the beautiful shades of nature. I have not looked at left over fruit and veg in the same way since. The cherries I bought at Kew on the way home ended up in the dye pot that weekend – glorious! They dyed better than they tasted. A number of us shared lemon myrtle tea while we waited for the dye pots to do their thing. We talked about lemon myrtle as a food, eg the biscuits (recipe below. They look really stunning, as well as tasting great, if you use a biscuit forcer.)
I would like to thank all my tutors, the committee, Fliss Coles and the daily helpers for all their efforts. Summer School is a marvellous learning experience. It is also a wonderful social event. I have made many friends over the years there and look forward to catching up with them each January.
Barbara Roberts
Grafton Fibre Group

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