Category Archives: Textiles


Only four and a half hours drive from my side of Melbourne, the Horsham Regional Art Gallery proved worth the visit. It is located in what I assume is the older section of the Town Hall that has had a squiggle added to the top.

The exhibition I travelled to see last Tuesday consisted of woven works from the Ararat Regional Art Gallery Collection. This gallery decided in the 1970s to collect textile and fibre art and now has the premier collection of such works in Victoria if not Australia.

Works shown in  Enmeshed ranged from the boldly experimental craft revival of the ’70s to recent work in all manner of fibres.

A few of my favourites.

Sara Lindsay, originally from England, is a founding weaver of the Australian Tapestry Workshop. Her tapestry is tightly woven using commercially manufactured gingham cloth.

Elizabeth Djutarra from North East Arnhem land uses traditional weaving techniques in constructing a very large floor mat from dyed and natural pandanus fibre.

Olga de Amaral’s Shield in Three Colours is a monumental piece that hangs from the ceiling and pools on the floor. The woven wool strips are themselves woven and interlaced with he bound rope that directs the eye down and up.

Transparent weaving was used by Mary Beeston, the designer, and Larry Beeston, the weaver. Two pieces are hung almost together and the light from the rear reveals the view outside the kitchen window. The fine linen ground is woven on a four shaft loom with the pattern in a heavier yarn woven at the same time. This piece is worked sideways. A class in this technique was run at the Handweavers and Spinners Guild Summer School this year and I hope it is repeated.

One of four square tapestries in Marcel Marois’ piece  concerning environmental elements that can be both nurturing and destructive. This work Blue represents the air.

Roma Centre was an abstract painter who bought a treadle loom and taught herself to weave in order to take a teaching job. This work is made from a number of panels stitched together and close examination reveals that it is not traditional tapestry but created on a shaft loom with woven textural patterns as well as the tapestry style colour shapes.



Costume and character

The Bendigo Art Gallery has built a reputation for staging wonderful textile exhibitions. The Costume Designer: Edith Head and Hollywood is on until 21 January. I visited on a very hot day, but this was not too bad as both the train and gallery are air-conditioned.

After arriving in the late morning I first had an early lunch in a little hole in the wall Japanese restaurant I discovered opposite the Law Courts. Oishii on Wheels is a new business run by a Bendigo locals, she is a Japanese cook and he passionate about food. The Chicken Katsu Curry was delicious.

My ticket to the Bendigo Gallery was a timed entry, so I had just enough time for a quick visit to the Post Office Gallery, the current exhibition is about postcards and other tourist ephemera. The original elaborate counter now supports display cases in the back room. The volunteer on duty kindly showed me a copy of a photograph from 1898 showing it as it was originally.

I think I have already mentioned it was a very hot day, but Bendigo streets have big wide verandahs and lots of shady trees. This old sign indicates that the Births and Deaths Registrar is in the Passage.


There is a lot to see at the Edith Head exhibition. My favourite section was the everyday wear, mainly suits. These had to look ordinary, but at the same time have some movie glamour.

The garments showed clever tailoring and amazing attention to detail. It was interesting to see clothing made in various colours, but to be used in black and white film. This is the reason Edith wore distinctive blue lensed glasses, so she could easily see how colour would translate onto film.

Edith usually dressed Veronica Lake in monochrome as it helped give this very short actress height. Her role is that of a smart, feisty night-club singer, who sparkles even when she is kidnapped and figuring out how to talk Alan Ladd out of his traitorous betrayal of his country.

The sweetest costume is this one made for  six year old Shirley Temple’s fantasy dream scene in Little Miss Marker, 1934.

Many of the costumes are for films set in historical eras. Much research went into the appropriate dress and also the circumstance of the character. The plain wool dress is a compromise between what would be worn by an indentured servant in the west, and what could be worn by a star of Loretta Young’s popularity.

Along with the costumes are a number of short films explaining the designing process. And there is one with Edith Head at home, with her sewing machine collection.


In the general collection of the gallery is this oil painting The Bridesmaid, Amalie Coquhon 1942, an Australian artist. Always nice to see a sewing machine in use.

The other painting I photographed some time ago, it is in the National Gallery of Victoria. La Couturière, the dressmaker is by Spanish artist Oscar Dominguez . He was a surrealist artist working in Paris and much influenced by Pablo Picasso during WWII. I believe he better captures the physical energy required to create beautiful textiles, just as I was impressed with the skills of the seamstresses who brought Edith Head’s designs to life.

SAQA at Stitches and Craft

Saturday was hot and humid, not typical November weather in Melbourne. The Exhibition Building is beautiful but not at all comfortable in the impossible weather. Nevertheless I took a train and two trams to do a two hour stint on the Studio Art Quilt Associates stand. I am not a member but was helping out by monitoring their My Corner of the World exhibition.

This travelling exhibition started in Canada in May 2016 and is currently touring around Australia. Artists were invited to examine a world, real or imagined, that represented what is important in life. The resulting textile pieces are amazingly diverse in concept, technique and design.

The use of colour stood out for me in these three. Sunset over Lake Ontario, the elevated park in the city, succulents in the back yard.

Details from two quilts that showed great restraint in colour and evoked a nurturing softness.

Quilting lines are often critical. The black panel in Afternoon is only attached at the top, adding to the sense of gentle movement of the grasses.

This very balanced quilt uses a host of techniques to explore birdlife.

The Stitches and Craft Show itself had a little bit of a lot.

A creative use of treadle drawers at Hat Creek Quilts of Tasmania. The designer has published a book on wool felt appliqué on pieced blocks. Tempting but I don’t need a new project.

I was fascinated by the work of Effie Dee an artist from Canberra who works with plasticine and petrie dishes among other things. She has a range of clear block stamps that I couldn’t resist.

Also picked up some very fine luminous cotton from Lola Lovegrove, a fairly new yarn supplier based in Ormond. If I am quick this will be woven into something special for a Kris Kringle.

Haute Couture

I think I first became aware that there was an extreme style of garment making when I read Paul Gallico’s Flowers for Mrs Harris as a young teenager. I knew rich people had very fancy clothes but had no idea of the artistry and technical skill behind these custom made garments made by hand from start to finish.

The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture at NGV International gives a fantastic overview of the designs from this notable house. Unfortunately only one small area is given over to the atelier which I think is the most interesting aspect. I have seen quite a few documentaries and these will have to be enough to satisfy my curiosity.

The exhibition is huge, and very popular. Some visitors even dress up for the occasion. As expected it is wonderfully staged, with salons and catwalks with video backdrops. I was most interested in the designs of Dior himself and the embroidery and other embellishments. Garments are organised by design themes rather than chronologically but of course it begins with the ‘New Look’. The Bar Suit was the most discussed and photographed work from Dior’s debut collection in 1947.

This amazing dress was almost impossible to photograph being in a dark area and behind glass. It is described as layers of plush black velvet with a bodice of heavy wool lozenges and dozens of handmade tassels. Those lozenges look like EPP with a textual stripe in the fabric going in all directions on the bodice and then making a net  hanging over the skirt. I can imagine it having quite a sway when moving down the catwalk.

The toile is a Raf Simons design obviously paying homage to early Dior work. The toile, a prototype of the finished garment in unbleached cotton, is an essential part of the couture process. It left the atelier as the very essence of a design, showing only line, fabric bias, principal seams, balance and volume, and returned cross-examined and corrected, marked up by the designer for further adjustments.

Two silk organza dresses to satisfy any little girl’s dreams of a party frock in the 1950s.

Dior hit Paris in 1947 with an extravagant use of fabric. The skirt alone of this stunning deep blue taffeta dress uses 23 metres of silk. Displayed behind this is the pleated look reimagined by Raf Simons in 2015 in silk organza and tulle and colour.

The celestial blue ball gown of 1953 has swathes of taffeta draped in cloud like puffs. John Galliano took the idea of volume to new extremes in 2003 in this coat inspired by the kimono.

Recently designers have embraced the art of embroidery and embellishment again, but using non traditional materials. This beautiful dress is covered in split raffia stitching and has trails of branches with silk cherry blossom.

Another design by Maria Grazia Chiuri the current designer for The House of Dior. The dress features three-dimensional raffia and skill thread embroidery.

Her evening coat from the same collection has densely embroidered panels of flowers and branches.

Two Raf Simons designs appear at first to be quite simple. The sheath dress however is covered in tassels made from pressed droplets of paint and attached in strands to the surface of the fabric. The second dress required really close inspection to understand how the graduated colour was achieved. Hundreds of chiffon petals have been attached to the surface, looking much like a pointillist painting.

Sometimes just a gorgeous fabric is needed such as this one successfully evoking the deep sparkling waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

The epitome of Dior design, highlighting the skills of the atelier with the layers of tulle and the graduated embroidered crescent moons. This is haute couture.


Continuous repeat

I have been doing a little bit of stamp carving at the last couple of meetings of Waverley Art Quilters. For this month I tried a process I knew about in theory but had never attempted before. To make a design that repeats in every direction.

Using a photo of a churning river that I took while on retreat, I drew a simple design.

I cut this in two, reversed the positions of the two halves then cut in two and reversed again. I filled the gap in the middle with more elements of the design.

The next step was to transfer the final design onto a Soft Cut carving block. This was easy as my design was the same size and drawn in pencil. I put it face down on the block and rubbed the back with the rounded end of the pencil and the graphite transferred.  I then went over it with sharpie pen so it was easy to see. I now had a mirror image to cut away.

I wasn’t finished in time for the class but did a quick test print anyway. The design is matching up, but I have a way to go yet. I also need to think about the complexity of the pattern in the joining sections, so I may start all over again.

All in all it was an interesting experiment and I am happy with the design so far.


I need to carve a stamp for a printing class tomorrow night. These pictures taken on my weekend away will hopefully provide enough textural material.


Interesting bundle

The guest speaker at last night’s meeting of Waverley Patchworkers was Janette McInnes aka The Plain Needlewoman. She donated a couple of packages to the raffle that is run each meeting. The proceeds this month went the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

IMG_6271And surprise, surprise I was a winner!

On opening the bundle this morning I discovered an interesting collection of pieces from very worn hand quilted quilts, a fancy work doily in the shape of a flower and a penny square. These will find there way into some projects eventually I guess.