Category Archives: Textiles

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.


Winter sewing

The challenge for the Waverley Patchworkers Quilt In tomorrow is a 12″ block with the theme Winter. As it rarely snows here I tried to think of another way of showing cold overcast days. I found a cute print with people all rugged up on my last visit to Morris and Sons and so combined it with some greys. Once I decided on a unit, the elements were stitched together randomly. Then it was a real challenge placing them in the 9 patch array. And what was I thinking, all those partial seams!


Other quilting projects have been put on hold because I have caught a Mystery Sampler Stitch Along bug. I saw the pattern being worked at Carrum Downs in March and bought threads to use at the Knox Art Show. The pattern by Linen and Threads is released on the first of the month and I am just starting the April band. I’m working in one strand over one thread of 28 count linen because that suited the width of linen I could find. The Cottage Garden threads are hand dyed lengths so placing the variegations has been lots of fun, although it entails quite a bit of unpicking as I figure out each new pattern.


The only machine work finished this season so far is a Gift Quilt I started ages ago from a pre-cut design by Krista from Waverley Patchworkers. It is now basted and ready to quilt.


Recent finishes

Seeing another quilter at work on some familiar piecing I was prompted to finish an appliqué cushion cover started at the 2016 AQC. We had, as it turned out, done the same Make and Take workshop run by Frangipani Fabrics. I stopped at the paper piecing stage in April last year, but thanks to Kathy’s reminder, it is now finished. The background was inspired by my recent trip to Cairn Curran in Central Victoria. The blue wrens were flitting in and out of the dry grasses and thistles, moving far to fast to photograph.



This is a technique I have wanted to try for a long time and had the opportunity to do so on 1 April. Leanne O’Sullivan of Kimono House conducted the workshop for Waverley Patchworkers, read about the day here. It is a resist technique that involves a lot of preparation of the fabric before it enters the indigo dye bath.

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nui shibori – stitch resist on silk



itajime shibori – folding and clamping




kamo sage – a friction knot and mountain pass pleating


Embroiderers and Golden Textures

The broad skies that open up after crossing the Great Dividing Range are exhilarating. Endless blue and at this time of year golden stubble in the vast paddocks. Sunday was the perfect day for a long drive through Central Victoria, hot, still and little traffic on the roads.

First stop was the Castlemaine Golf Course, venue of Colour Magic an exhibition of the Castlemaine Branch of the Embroiderers Guild of Victoria. The setting was enough to make you want to take up golf, on this course more than a leisurely walk. At the entry was a work basket and chair created by Castlemaine Floristry. No photographs of the work inside was allowed, so just a general shot showing the retrospective display of Beverley Downie’s wonderful work across many techniques and genres. I particularly liked the crewel work on the stomacher of a replica 18th century dress and her landscapes of the local area in mixed media.

I was able to find Denise, the maker of the stunning cauliflower pincushion who gave her permission for a photo. It is a design by Julie Kniedl published in Inspirations, and according to Denise not for the faint hearted.

The second exhibition for the day was in Maryborough. I had two choices of road, north through Maldon and Baringhup or south around the back of Cairn Curran the vast reservoir formed by the damming of the Loddon River. I chose the second route along the Pyrenees Highway. This took me across the Moolort Plains, a beautiful almost treeless basalt plain dotted with wetlands and old bluestone buildings.

romulus-download2If you have seen the film Romulus My Father you will know this country.

IMG_5520I turned off at Joyce’s Creek where the now closed Maryborough-Castlemaine  Line crosses the upper reaches of Cairn Curran to take a few photos of the landscape.

IMG_5501Looking back down the side road to the water with Mt Franklin in the distance.

The Biennial Golden Textures exhibition in at the Central Goldfields Art Gallery is curated by Maryborough local Jenny Bacon and features many significant Australian textile artists. In a side room were a few works from the permanent collection including these two by Jenny Bacon.

No visit to this town is complete without viewing the station.  It is registered by the Heritage Council of Victoria and the plaque states it was built for the Victorian Railways between 1890 and 1892. The station’s distinctive design and scale make it one of the most outstanding railway stations in Victoria. The cyclists were pleased with themselves for reaching their destination.

I then took to the road again, back to the Moolart Plains then cross country heading south towards a plume of smoke in the distance. The back roads took me through wheat farms and into volcano country with Mt Mooroobyle to my right and Mt Kooroocheang to the left.  The smoke turned out to be a small stubble burn off, attended by a fire tanker.

Smeaton is a town dominated by poplars but I found the memorial drive at Kingston far more impressive, so did a little research when back home. Untitled1The 2.9 km avenue of 285 trees, mostly Dutch Elms, stretches from tiny town to the Midland Highway. It was planted for the Creswick Shire in 1918 and commemorates with individual trees the men and women from the shire who enlisted in WWI . Such plantings were encouraged by the State Recruiting Committee in 1917 so that intending recruits could be assured their name would be memorialised in an Avenue of Honour. 218 avenues were planted to commemorate WWI in Victoria.

On I drove, to Dean then through potato country, over the Western Highway and finally to Lal Lal and a friendly welcome and a delicious cup of tea.

The road home was not nearly so interesting, but it was a lot quicker.




A hot day in Cranbourne

img_5275The sign says it all. Once again Leesa Chandler has brought together quilts and fabric to celebrate Australian flora at the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne.

This year a bag challenge was added to the mix. Participants used the same pattern shape and make a bag of any size with an Australian theme.  The lively Blue Wren was by Sue de Vanny and Lauren of Ballarat had some fun with her Playschool’s Humpty visits Uluru. The one I would happily take home Coober Pedy Opals made by Chris of Eltham.


Sue de Vanny is the featured textile artist, her appliqué technique really brings the subject to life. You may remember the remarkable quilt Tram Route No 10 which won viewer’s choice at  AQC in 2014.

Beginning True received an Honourable Mention at the same exhibition in 2015.

Here are some of other quilts that caught my eye in the downstair display, but were difficult to photograph because of the sun streaming in the windows.

The exhibition is open every day until March 5.

Even though the day was extremely hot I went out into the gardens looking for some planting ideas. The red sand garden seems to go on forever and the tractor just added to that vast vista.img_5306

The Swamp Lily Crinum pedunculaqum had a subtle perfume and is now on my planting list. I didn’t venture away from the main path after passing this sign, so the lily is the only new idea from today’s visit.


Although I really like weeping trees, these two Acacia cultriformis ‘Cascade’ are a bit extreme.
After seeing the prop on the venerable Grass Tree Xanthorrhoea johnsonii, I don’t feel so bad about the post holding up a branch of my weeping acacia. The foliage associated with the supported branch is at the top left. Before the branch was hefted up by two of the burly tree loppers allowing me to put the post underneath, the leaves were scraping the ground and the path below was blocked.

img_5318On the way out I spotted a wallaby enjoying the deep shade, it is usually Southern Brown bandicoots that can bee seen under the casuarina beside the path to the carpark, but not this day.

Finally, in the middle of nowhere, also known as Bullarto Rd West, some naked ladies. I always got these confused with Nerines, but thanks to Weednstitch I can correctly identify the Amaryllis belladonna growing beside the road.img_5321

Painterly quilting

I had the good fortune to go with a friend to see Kimono Portraits that was the latest exhibition at Kimono House in the Nicholas Building. The works are created using a collage technique and vintage Japanese textiles on a heavy linen base.


Hiroshima Rain

Theo and Maria Giannoukas work collaboratively, on this occasion inspired by a visit to Japan. They were both on hand to answer questions and were most generous in describing their process and how they got started in this joint endeavour. Theo is a painter who is inspired by the impressionists and prefers portraiture from real life. Maria moved on from making clothes when her boys got to that age when they thought store bought was better. She began patchwork and quilting and then dying her own fabrics. Stuck with where to go next while doing a challenge for her quilt guild she asked Theo’s advice. So began his exploration of fabric as a medium instead of paint. In 2012 they were finalists in the AQC challenge “What the world needs now” with a very personal work focussing on peace and love.

Theo makes many sketches before settling on the final design which is then outlined on the linen. This is supported on an easel and he snips at fabric from bundles Maria has sorted by colour. The small pieces are kept in place with a little glue. There is much overlapping and hunting for just the right piece, with lots of stepping back to take in the whole effect. When he is satisfied, Maria presses the piece and begins the stitching phase. She uses a sturdy straight stitch Singer and adds to the work with careful choice of stitch pattern and thread colour.


img_5230Recently they have had a turn of swapping roles, which has increased Theo’s appreciation of the challenge of the stitching. Maria also dyes fabric when just the right shade cannot be found as was the case with the flesh colour of some Sumo wrestlers in one work. More images from this exhibition can be found in this post by Jacaranda.