Monday, July 26, 2010

Craft fair? Should have called it Craft Affair.

I have an creative friend here in Melbourne, which is great because I really miss my creative friends from Canada.  So when I had the opportunity to get 2 dollars off the price of admission to the 2010 Craft and Quilt Fair in Melbourne I snapped up two tickets, one for her and one for me.  To my relief, my friend suggested meeting at 9am.  Usually I wouldn't find myself dressed by 9am! But I would do anything for crafting, even that.

The massive Craft and Quilt Fair ( is organized by the crafting juggernaut Expertise Events that brought Australia the 2010 Australasian Quilt Convention.  There are other thrilling events like the International Jewelery Fair in Sydney and the Autumn Jewelery Fair in Melbourne.  On my door prize entry ticket I expressed interest in the Textile Art Festival (fingers crossed) and nixxed the Scrapbook and Papercraft Convention and Expo. They have big plans.  But most importantly, we can look forward to the upcoming 2010 CraftExpo in October!  Make sure you keep that piece of paper they gave you when you eventually left the exhibition centre, hours (or days) later, bruised and battered, a with a lot less money in your bank account.  This little paper gives you $5 off the price of admission to the CraftExpo! 

For those who don't know, Melbourne is a holy crafting city.  Ok, it may not be the Mecca or Vatican of Crafts, but crafting enjoys a very loyal following here.  Melbourne is also, cross my heart lest temptation get me, a city of sin.  Up and down King Street men, and lets face it some women too, pop in and out gentleman's clubs and brothels.  Some are just having a bit of fun.  Most are cheating.

But what about those of us whose proclivities shy away from the peelers and peep shows?  Fear not!  Another red light district has popped up on the other side of the Yarra River in the Melbourne Exhibition Center!  And I would wager that most of the women lining up here were being unfaithful.  They were having an affair at the fair.  You could see it on their faces - guilty pleasure.  Women casually passing by a wall of yarn, gentling passing their fingers over the wool.  CHEATERS!  Fabric displays filled with fat-quarters and women pinching and pulling on the squares.  CHEATERS!!  Embroidery threads unwound and held up to the light.  CHEATERS!!!  Women layered 5 rows deep, all on tippy toes, craning their necks to get a better view of the $5 wooden bag handles.  CHEATERS!!!!  It was one gigantic peep show! And all these women were crafting two-timers.

I was cheating too.  Despite my avowedly deep connection with patchwork quilting, I really wanted to try something new.  Experiment.  So when my friend and I saw the Felt Studio with Wendy Bailye we pulled out our $30 mad-money and signed up to make the felted rose.

Liz, our felting madame, introduced us to the colourful silks and generous wools, the soapy warm water and the PVC mats and plastic sheets we would use to bind our felt and roll it.  With two flat fingers, Liz showed us how to pluck out the fibers and gently lay them onto the flat felt back ground. 

We made our designs onto the three layers of our flower, wet them down, and then covered them up with the plastic bags and gently rolled them like cigarillos.  Every few minutes we would check on the delicate felt, rotate a quarter turn, re-roll the mat and rock them back and forth again to agitate the fibers.  All this agitation gets the felt ready to bind with the layers.  Then, with the assistance of a little dab of olive oil soap at the centre of each layer, we piled them on top of one another, jabbed our finger in the centre, plugged the flower into our other hand and twisted. And twisted. And twisted.  Soon our layers of petals are bound together, and with some gentle plucking and pulling our flowers had shrunk to a respectable size, were wrung out of water, and ready to be pinned on by our beaming instructor, Liz.

The whole time, we created a spectacle.  Ladies passed by and paused for a second look, cautiously nudging a friend and pointing with their eyes, 'Oh, that looks like fun.'  As we were agitating fibers, woman after woman pulled out $30, $40, or $50 to share in this unique experience, emboldened by those of us already inside. Felting was FUN!!

As we looked around, at least 10 other women had joined our troupe.  Some were felting booties, others made silky flowers, still more were laying out long silk scarves and gently pulling out wool and laying it down gently in floral designs.  They all had a look of satisfaction that only comes when unbridled creativity is given the levity to come out.  You could tell they were all sneaking around, experimenting with a craft they had never tried, a form of expression that had been, until now, exotic and forbidden.  With a squeal of delight, the women across the table pulled out another $30 and signed up to do another project.  I knew it.  They were all cheating on their favorite craft. 

My friend might be cheating too.
Look at that smile. Is that the smile of a crafting two-timer?  I don't know...  She is a knitter.  And from the way she looked at anything woollen I would imagine she wasn't cheating.  It was kind of pious as a matter of fact, like a deep communion she had with spun wool.  I, on the other hand, had a dark temptation that saw me caress a skein of tangerine orange wool unlike any other and imagine all the things I could create with it.   No, my friend wasn't a two-timing knitter.  Felting is related to knitting because you work with wool.

 But I think she may be cheating with silk scarves.

Time wasted to date: 23 hours

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