Category Archives: Textiles

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.


Sheep, Wool etc

The 140th Australian Sheep and Wool show is a really big event for Bendigo. The carparks were almost full and people were still queueing to get in when I arrived early on Saturday afternoon.IMG_6005

Exhibitor numbers were up, apparently things have been good down on the farm. There was a big focus on technology and careers with an emphasis on the younger generations both in primary production and textiles and food.

Beanies and coffee were essential, it was lovely and sunny but also quite cold.IMG_6013

Pavilions were full of all sorts of uses of wool; finished garments, threads and fibres and repurposed creations. Sackville and Lane, formerly of Wangaratta had cute tea cosies to knit. The soft wool garments by Jemima of Tumat are bush dyed in a process she has developed over the past ten years.

Claudine McPherson, originally from Canada is an avid collector of wool blankets and the sheets that are often found in the same cupboard.  She had seen nothing like them until she moved to Australia. Using the name Robeology, she transforms them into very, very warm dressing gowns. I was surprised that she had not heard of the Wagga, so gave her a very brief introduction to this very utilitarian bedding.

But my favourite display was that of all the Ashford spinning wheels and looms. They are beautifully made from New Zealand Silver Beech and just want to be touched.

Outside, the skies remained clear and the sheep were being shorn, judged, mustered and drafted. I found out that sheep will run better in a curved race, and that now there are electronic ear tags, automatic drafting gates are selling like hot cakes. A lot of cooking was going on too, and not only of lamb.

I got the impression the judge was looking at a lot of Sunday roasts. The one second from the left was the best ewe in this class. The sheep with the strange fleece is a self shearing variety, the wool just falls off. The proud breeder said – within the sheep’s hearing – that this is a great advantage as the Ultra White breed is for meat.

Right round the back of the grounds the Bendigo Steam and Oil Engine Preservation Group had their engines fired up. Even some cattle breeds were on display as farming sheep does not preclude running cattle as well. These two Hereford’s were very happy just chewing their cud. I was very distracted watching the Australian Yard Dog Championships in the late afternoon sun and only just had enough time to view the Woolcraft section.

This is spread over a number of small sheds and is full of all sorts of wool enthusiasts. The competition work is beautifully displayed.

Lots of specialist suppliers had everything for dying, spinning, felting, knitting, garment making and every other textile art. I resisted them all as I had to dash back to pick up my purchase made earlier in the day.

Something I had been contemplating for quite a while. It is an Ashford SampleIt Rigid Heddle loom and floor stand. You may think I have been very quick to have it warped and a first piece well under way. After all I did learn to weave on a four shaft loom when I was at school. But no. I bought one of the display looms, already varnished and threaded up. So I will be remembering how to take off a piece before I do any setting up.

Abstract composition

The July task for Waverley Art Quilters was to create an abstract composition. A number of approaches were suggested, so I took bits out of each one.

One suggestion was to look at a work by an abstract painter and focus on one part of that work. Another was to take an image, divide it into nine and using one part simplify the shapes. Changing colour combinations was a further suggestion.

I reviewed photos taken at recent exhibitions and settled on one of a painting by John Olsen. The photo I used was of a detail of this work, showing wattles and birds.

olsen2My second stimulus was photos I had taken recently of my Cootamundra in bloom. It wasn’t just the bright yellow blossoms but also the loud buzzing of all the bees that attracted my attention at the time.

I reduced the  image of the tree to black and white with high contrast and focussed on the rectangle at the lower left.cootamundra2 I then went back to the original photo, enlarged it and traced out just the yellow elements.

I also made simple sketches of the bees and also the stem and leaf outlines that reminded me of the humming. My final colour scheme was the yellow fused onto a dark grey. I drew the bees with fabrico pen and then stitched a wandering yellow line on and off the raw edges, redrew the bees with black thread and quilted the humming lines.