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.


Vivid Sydney

First another hotel view. The lift. An over the top interior.

Tuesday evening I headed out to see Vivid. I thought I would just visit Vivid in the Gardens, but they way it was organised, the one-way lighted path started near the Opera House, so I spent time at Circular Quay as well. A mild evening had lots of people out and about including a lot of children. But it was not overcrowded. The light show was everywhere and totally mesmerising.

The gardens had illuminated plants and a sequence of installations but all sorts of artists,  who I cannot acknowledge as I didn’t pay attention to the information pillars. I think they are all listed on the Vivid Sydney site.

Trees taking on new personalities

Some spooky things

Following pathways

Reflections in water

Huge paper lanterns

and birds were singing in the gazebo. Many many more amazing things to see, but one of my favourites was a projection designed by TAFE students on the facade of Government House. Not possible to get a reasonable photo unfortunately.

IMG_9649Finally the view from Cahill Expressway, from the Museum of Contemporary Art to the Opera House.


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.

Not sinking, weaving

All the work involved in the lead up to Waverley Patchworkers Quilt Show meant I had to take a break from weaving. That is all going to change very soon as I start a weaving intensive next Friday.

Here are some things I learned while I had a loom on loan in May.

Weaving drafts are not all written the same
The book I was using had drafts for floor looms that have a sinking shed. This means that  the shafts move down to open the shed. I was using a table loom and the shafts move up. So some patterns had the wrong side on top and the right side underneath.

I first noticed this with an undulating twill sampler that didn’t look quite right at first.

IMG_8893Its not about the cats
In reading various weaving instructions the term ‘use tabby’ popped up a lot. At first I ignored it and those patterns, but curiosity got the better of me and I found a really good explanation in the classic A Handweavers Pattern Book by Marguerite Porter Davison. In brief ‘tabby’ is another term for plain weave, ‘use tabby’ means to do one pick of tabby between each pick of the pattern, alternating as you go.

So when I did another undulating twill piece in green, using variations on the largest section from the blue sampler I used tabby. You can see the extra threads of white 2 ply if you click on the close ups. I also transposed the shaft lifts so I could see the pattern emerge right way up.

One weaver structure has a multitude of possibilities
My next warp was half black half white and the weave structure Monks Belt with a Swedish Point threading.

I had lots of fun with colour and it is interesting to see the effect of the white or black warp.

So much can be said in so few lines

I still really like honeycomb
Now I understand the pattern I used in my bags 1 and 2. Here is a honeycomb from the front and back where you can see the threads that float.

A little experiment
Finally, having read in a magazine pattern that fusible thread can be used to fix the warp if the piece is going to be hemmed. This thread is usually used in the bobbin of a sewing machine so a hem can be fused in place with an iron.

I wove three picks at the beginning and end of my test piece. Then pressed between two layers of baking paper when it was off the loom.


It worked. The warp threads are not fraying and it still feels quite soft.

I can’t wait to get weaving again.


Job well done

Being part of a Quilt Show committee involves a lot of planning and challenging but fun work. My quilt group Waverley Patchworkers had to move venue for our 2018 show. So my first task was to work out where the quilt stands would go. Despite all sorts of possible computer tools I found graph paper and a ruler the best way to go.

And once the stands were up, it was very satisfying to see that everything fitted perfectly.

Set up day was exhausting, I didn’t do the lifting, just checked and rechecked that every quilt went into its correct position, and then worked out the hanging height for each one. Fortunately we have a very experienced crew who not only know what they are doing, are happy to go up and down ladders doing all the final tweaking no matter how long it takes.

At the end of set up day all the decorations that hide ugly walls and enhance the environment get put in place and labels that I had printed go beside each quilt. Only one reprint needed this time, a record for me.

Then on Saturday the show opens and awards presented. Here is Marie a long serving member presenting her award to one of our newest Hilary who received a ribbon for her second ever quilt.

The challenge this year was very challenging and so I was happy to spot someone taking a picture of my effort.

I’m back at the show today, then at 4.00 pm it all comes down.

Wall art?

Heading down Swanston street this morning I saw a couple of guys setting up to do some painting. On my way back in the afternoon they had made some progress. I have often wondered how large paintings on the side of buildings are actually produced.

When I was at Teachers College there was a compulsory subject that was a bit of a bore. PPT – the principles and practices of teaching. It was all about using technology to support classroom practice. This included spirit duplicators, gestetners, slides, film projection and mention was even made of the epidiascope even though it had been recently superseded by the overhead projector. OK it was a while ago.

But most of the time was spent on the blackboard as a chalkboard was then called. This is well before they became a trendy cafe menu device. We learned that by soaking the chalk in a sugar solution, you could make semi permanent lines that would only come off with washing. A great time saver. For potential infant teachers it was very important to be able to create lively pictures and of course a map of Australia on the board was essential for social studies. We even had a blackboard writing test. If you have ever tried it, it is not easy to keep things straight or spell correctly when writing on a wall.

The secret we were let in on was the existence of large brown paper templates with lots of pin holes that you taped up onto the board and then hit with a dusty blackboard eraser. When you took the paper down a faint outline of the illustration or map could then be traced over.

And this is the same technique the wall painters I saw today were using. First they taped up cut out shapes from their design, and marked around it. Then they filled in with paint.

But is it art? If you look closely at the design on the bench, it is an ad for a sports broadcaster.


After a lovely morning and lunch with one of my quilting groups I took a friend to the member preview of a small but interesting exhibition at NGV International. It’s topic is Japan and the Birth of Modern Art. Using works from the gallery collection, it is an exploration of the influence of Japan and Japanese Art on European and Australian artists.

Unfortunately a lot of other members thought attending the curator floor talk a good idea too. The curator is in about the centre of this photo.

Fortunately the PA system worked very well and while not being able to see specific works, at least you could hear what he and the other curator had to say. Seeing works from the familiar art movements of the 19th and early 20th century alongside the ceramics, block prints and textiles from Japan that had a huge influence on their development was fascinating. It gave an insight into how novel the Japanese aesthetic was at the time and how quickly it was embraced, not only by copying but by adapting compositional techniques and the use of everyday subject matter.


Nearly everything is displayed in very dark cases with dramatic lighting.

The serving platter is part of a new acquisition from the Bracquemond Rousseau dinner service designed in France in 1866 by Feliz Bracquemond after work by Katsushika Hokusai.

Cockatoo is stunning piece of French majolica from 1870 shows the popularity of the exotic.

Having just seen the documentary The First Monday in May, a behind the scenes look at the mounting of the fashion exhibition ‘China Through the Looking Glass’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the corresponding 2015 Met Gala, I had a bit more of an idea of what goes on in mounting an exhibition. By the way it is great viewing and on iView until 19 June.

Still, it was a bit disappointing to find a couple of glaring problems with this NGV exhibition. As my friend pointed out, the labels were placed so that the reflected light flared on them, or your own shadow obscured the print.

An interesting set of lithographs from 1901 by the Austro-Hungarian designer Koloman Moser, were intended to be adapted for use in wallpaper, textiles and other flat surfaces  After much puzzling we figured out the labels did not match the layout of the prints so I could not find Wish hat, fabric in two colours at all. It was easier to identify this one as Silvanus, a printed textile design.

I think I will drop in again for a second viewing when it is not so crowded.