Category Archives: Textiles

Lady and the Unicorn

Wednesday morning and here is the view from my balcony. I’m on the corner so can see old and new Sydney in a few directions.

Off to the Art Gallery of NSW. I haven’t been here since I came as a child with my family. But as soon as I saw those painters’ names around the top of the building it was very familiar. There was even a Morris Major Elite parked out front – same car but different colour that we drove up in. Same trip we stayed at the iconic TV motel in Gundagai.

The six French tapestries are amazing. Hard to believe they were created around 1500. I spent ages looking at them and started discussing them with a young lady who is a real tapestry and costume fan. Made it all even more interesting. After an hour I needed a coffee and fortunately even though pass outs are not available it was relatively quiet and I was allowed to go and come back again. Which was good as when I got back a lot of viewers had gone for lunch and I didn’t feel bad getting up really close.

This little dog shows how depiction of texture, pattern and form is so amazing. The work is wool with some silk which I assume is used for the shine on the corner of the cushion.

The background of flowers and animals is typical of medieval tapestry and appears to be done by different weavers from the main characters. The same images are used over and over such as with these rabbits.

This does not make this part of the works any less mind blowing.

The lion and the unicorn appear in each tapestry. Lions not being common in France, it was fun to speculate about the ideas behind the different ways they appear, particularly the faces.

And look at this. The cloth beneath the positive organ being played in the tapestry representing the sense of hearing, is just like my cushion. I made it in needlepoint to use up left over tapestry wools from other cushion projects.

Cats are cute too.

I am very glad I came all this way for an art exhibition. Lady and the Unicorn closes on 24 June.



A few days in Sydney without a huge airport parking bill? It is possible and I have just managed to get here using bus, train, Skybus, plane, train.

It all started before dawn,

when I caught a local bus to the station. No one else was about. Train to Southern Cross then Skybus to the airport, easy. I arrived an hour before departure time only to be messaged that the flight was delayed, as it turned out by more than an hour.

The flight itself was short and uneventful.

I am staying at a rather trendy new hotel in Surry Hills.

It is in the old Paramount Studios building and has an industrial decor. The balcony is lovely, and the bathroom is two separate cubicles – all very nice.

Sydney is in a state of uproar, it is really, really noisy with road works everywhere.

and look, they are putting down tram tracks!

Not much in the way of street art, it seems quite strange, but I did find this one on the side of Pilgrim House.

No Sydney stay is complete without a visit to the Queen Victoria Building, with its dome and quirky spiral stair.

There I found some lovely textiles, handwoven alpaca from Peru and silks from Armenia, Syria and Turkey.

Worth the wait

What was supposed to be a quick detour on my way home from Carlton, turned into a slow crawl through Warrandyte Village. The traffic jam highlighted just how vulnerable this community is with a single road in and out and only one bridge across the Yarra. That was the reason for the hold up, the bridge is being revamped and widened.

Many motorists did U turns to go back towards Doncaster or Templestowe, but my destination was right in town. It was worth the half hour wait to make it to the first carpark.

The Annual Textile Art exhibition “Threadalicious” is on during the month of May at the Stonehouse Gallery. Don’t let the traffic put you off, the sign said this road work is only until 7 May.

The work is by members of Stonehouse and guest artists. Catherine O’Leary’s transparent dresses with digitally printed fabric looked lovely wafting in the breeze. Regular exhibiter Michelle Mischkulnig had a huge embroidered chaise lounge and felted and embroidered jackets. Her lily pond machine embroidery will appeal to many viewers. There were also sun dyed cushions and woven scarves.

Elizabeth Syndercome was at the gallery. She is a weaver and she was very keen to talk weaving. So of course I had to ask her about her loom and why she liked it. It is a large countermarche which was very interesting as this is the mechanism that I haven’t seen but have been reading a lot about. She was very reassuring about the tying up process which I had heard was tricky. Her lovely wrap is below on the right.

The machine embroidered and quilted bee image and the bird cluster are from the ongoing gallery display.

After a walk to the bakery to get something for lunch, I had a bit of a wait again to exit the carpark as this bin truck was using the area to turn back and the line of cars in the road had no where to go to clear a path.IMG_8885

Fortunately I was in no hurry, and knew an alternate way home via the Warrandyte State Park. Unfortunately others had found this route and didn’t really know how to drive on a dirt road. So much dust!

Three bags full

After making really dense fabric for three different bags, I had a change of rhythm and wove a really lightweight fabric for some shopping bags. These are based on the one made by Amy for her Intro to Weaving final project.

I used several balls perle cotton from boxes I picked up last month at Morris and Sons when they were on clearance.  So far I have finished one which has yellow and white thread in the warp and blue and white weft. The other is just the yellow but is still fabric with the long warp threads that become the handles.

The third bag? That is a calico one full of cones of yarn for my weaving stash that I bought at Bendigo Woollen Mills when in Bendigo last week.

Two bags

The other part of my honeycomb project is finally finished. A tote bag, this time with the warp going sideways. This makes the pattern looks very different from one bag. It is the same threading of the loom, but the fine cotton warp thread is also used in the weft with a salmon coloured viscose and cotton yarn tracing the outline of the cells.

The shape is dictated by not wanting to cut the fabric and the structure developed as I went along, no bag pattern used here. I didn’t waste a scrap, the bottom is the same dark brown as the top of the lining. I made it this way to have a clean line of handwoven fabric right at the top. This top lining has a lot of stiffening to support the handles.

One of my favourite rabbit fabrics for the lining. Quite tricky to attach as there was far too much stiffening to do the inside out trick. In the end it was achieved with tiny hand stitching.

With the warp remaining on the loom I wove a third piece using two variegated perle cottons from my stash. One for the background and the other in a slightly different colour way to outline the cells. This turned out to be the perfect size to make a little bag from these patterns purchased at AQC.

It clips onto the purpose made pocket inside the tote.

Three very different fabrics from the one weave structure. There are so many variables which is why I am finding hand weaving so fascinating.


One bag

The fabric I wove for my final project in the Introduction to Weaving course was to make some bags. This weekend I stopped procrastinating and made the clutch purse. I used the tutorial here and fortunately the template was for a frame exactly the same size as the one I bought at AQC.

My fabric pieces are just big enough, which is good – minimal waste. As I have never made a clutch purse the smart thing to do would be to make it in calico first. But that would take too long. Instead I made the lining first.

The fabric is an unusual Japanese print I bought years ago from Patchwork House in Hawthorn, now long gone. The stripe fabric for the pocket is also from my stash. I used some thin iron-on wadding to give it some shape.

No more delaying tactics, it is time to cut into my handwoven fabric. After much deliberation I decided to use a fairly stiff iron-on interfacing. Then staystiched just inside the cutting line. The alternative was to use fray check.

Sewing the outer was easy, but joining it to the lining made me appreciate the flexibility of a free arm machine.

And the bag is done! But inside out. This is the stage where you wonder if the gap you left in the lining is going to be big enough for it all to squeeze through.

Now for the really hard part. Getting the top edge to sit neatly inside the channel of the frame. It took a lot of wrangling to get to this stage where it is mostly in the right place and the basting stitches are keeping it there.

Ta Da!

Happy with the lining and even the bottom looks good.

Art in Bendigo

A very early start at Heatherdale Station for what was going to be a very colourful day.IMG_8632

I had to make sure I was in time to catch the V/Line train to Bendigo as I was spending the day with friends at the Bendigo Art Gallery.

Walking down Mitchell Street from Bendigo Station three and a half hours later, this small wall plaque caught my eye.

It reminded me of the sculpture on the corner of Collins and Elizabeth Streets. My instincts were right. Although the building is now a real estate agent, it must have been an AMP office as the sculpture is a smaller version of the emblem on their headquarters in Sydney. The sculpture was created by Tom Bass in 1960-62 and he made the bronze Children’s Tree in 1962- 63. It is so loved by children the lizard’s head is permanently shiny.


The purpose for the trip was to view the Marimekko retrospective exhibition at the Bendigo Gallery which continues until June 11. The story of the company goes back to 1951 Finland, and is a most interesting read. As the curator said during her talk we were fortunately organised enough to attend, it is a story of strong, visionary women at a time when this was exceptional. Founder Armi Ratia and designer Maija Isola created bold fabrics with inventive designs and startling use of colour. Clothing designer Vuokko Eskolin-Nurmesniemi freed women from the constraints of tailored clothing with her revolutionary clean cut shapes which focussed on the fabric design.

Screen printing requires skill and particular attributes. Early recruitment was for tall women under 40 who would be physically able to print the fabric.


The character of the founding women is perhaps summed up in the most well known of Marimekko’s designs. The one that is plastered all over the gallery entry. Unniko (poppy) is known as the rebel flower. Maija Isola created it in 1964 in protest to Armi Ratia’s directive that Marimekko would never be a flower print company.

The exhibition is a riot of colour, from ceiling to floor. Such was the influence of Marimekko on designers of the 60s and 70s that it all felt very familiar.

Silkkikuikka (bird: the great crested grebe) 1961 is one of the Joonas (Jonah) series. Maija Isola painted the sketches for these patterns on large rolls of cardboard on the printing tables at night after the factory had closed. Sections of the paintings were then used for final print designs.  The black and white design is also from this series. The dress Sanianen (fern) 1966 by Annika Rimala uses her fabric design Pilvi (cloud) from 1961. This is a common practice, to use patterns even decades after they were originally designed. Another practice is the use of Finnish names for all designs.

The design for Max ja Moritz (Max and Moritz) 1971 is painted directly onto cardboard by Maija Isola shows how the pattern will repeat in the resulting fabric.

While the stripe is a much beloved Marimekko motive, Maija Isola did not often use it. This is the original sketch she made for Sulhanen in 1971. It is this direct, hand made look that is the attraction of the company’s designs.

Designs are developed in a huge number of colour ways. These colour samples of Nasti 1958 by Vuokko Nurmesniemi may have been a bit too tempting to quilters. Fortunately they are displayed under glass.

The fabric Galleria used in this dress is by the same designer and created in 1956. The dress is Takila by Annika Rimala and the photo comes from the Swedish magazine Damena’s Värld, 1967. The seams forming the shaping and the pattern at the front also conceal pockets in the mitre seam.

Another intriguing dress was Pikomi by Pentti Rinta in 1972. It is printed cotton jersey, a fabric first used in the 1960s. The fabric pattern is Lorina (sound of running water). After much discussion we decided the pattern mismatch at the front and on the sleeves was quite deliberate. Something we would have been chastised for in sewing class. It makes you wonder if it is a white dress with a red stripe or a red dress with a white one.

The fabrics behind are Karuselli (carousel) 1973 by Japanese born designer Katsuji Wakisaka who joined the company in 1969 when he was 24. The one on the right is Lammet (ponds) 1971, his interpretation of water plants growing in a pond.


Finally, my favourite design from all those on display. Mansikkavouret (strawberry mountains) 1969 an interior fabric by Maija Isola. The dress in printed cotton jersey by Mika Piirainen in 2001 is one of the first examples of the adaptation of an interior fabric pattern for a garment.