At the end of week 6

June 28, 2009

From the studio, week 6

There’s still colour on the trees!

This week has seen a lot of play and loom fixing. But first it started with another trip to Goulburn, firstly for coffee. I had been told about a cafe which had been there forever and was in the style of the old time cafe with plenty of atmosphere. So I went to the Parthenon, and yes it was like stepping back into another era. I sat in one of the booths and had coffee and cake. After which I collected my sewing machines. On the way I had collected another batch of leaves, this time from a different “silver dollar” for dyeing at a later date. I am still trying to get the red brown that I associate with that tree. I’ll put the leaves to one side till I have the appropriate item/s to dye.

The Parthenon Cafe in Goulburn

The three scarves from the previous week are finally finished… totally. They have much potential for another series, but next time I’ll be introducing a whole new colour way. I’ll get around to it eventually. There’s just too much other stuff I want to play with just now. I’ve put all the details of the scarves in the “weaving at Sturt” page.

Detail of the 3 scarves

After the Tuesday class I spent another afternoon fixing looms. It is now weaving beautifully. In fact I now have requests of: “Can you fix mine too?”  Often it will be just a simple job of swapping very old string heddles over. I do not wish to spend too much of the residency being a contortionist under looms. I’ve also had a reorganisation in the studio. I’ve been shoving looms around so that I, let alone the students can move. Now at least there is space…. but the back room is jammed full. That’s also complicated by the fact that I’ve had to empty shelves back there because of a roof leak. I am just using the front room though, where it is now uncluttered, and warm!

I’ve also spent some time investigating alternative dye recipes. I have my favourites that I use all the time and am very happy with the results, but I thought that it would be of interest to evaluate some variations that I’ve come across. So far I’ve had a look at 3 variations of a procion soda soak recipe on a commercial cotton fabric. I have plenty more that I want to investigate. The residency is an ideal time to take time to do so.

Dye samples using Procion on cotton fabric

Top left: fabric was soaked in soda ash for 15 mins and dyed with urea/dye solution. Batched 24 hours in plastic. washed. Top right: fabric soaked as before, dyed with urea/salt/dye solution. Batched 24 hours in plastic. Washed. Bottom left: fabric soaked in soda ash, dyed with dye dissolved in water. Allowed to dry without wrapping in plastic. Washed. Bottom right: as for bottom rioght before washing. I was surprised at how little dye was washed out. There wasn’t much difference between the sample that had the salt added and the one without. The intensity of the dye between thew first two and the unbatched one was noticable but that is because the strength was different initially. I was quiter surprised with the results of allowing it to dry without wrapping in plastic. I think that I will have another experiment with this one.

What is being referred to as a “piece of ginger” is currently sitting on a cupboard in the studio. One of the classes has labelled it as such. It’s a 3m length of fine cotton that I’ve been experimenting with natural dyes on and it’d now bound up ready to dye again. The dyeing process so far has taken a couple of dye baths: the wood shavings and the first batch of silver dollar gum leaves. Both have given poor results with not very interesting results. It does now look remarkably like a piece of root ginger.

Cotton fabric, naturally dyed and ready for the next process.

I’ve also decided that I want to have another go at dyeing with wood shavings. It seems such an appropriate thing to do when the wood school is such an integral part of Sturt and there is such a huge pile to collect from. This time I’m trying to extract the colour using alcohol.

The wood pile: a potentially huge resource


The wood shavings soaking in alcohol.

Our Friday night “wind down” is becoming very popular.

Friday night in Ainsworth.

From left to right: Dale ( Sturt Admin.), Carolyn (Sturt Gallery),  Mel (a resident weaver), Megan ( Sturt Admin.), Dennis and Sina (Jewellery residency)

There are delightful pockets of bulbs opening. I pass this patch on the way to the studio.

Jonquils beside the path to the studio

A piece of double weave is slowly being woven. It results in such a strong image but it does take some time to weave. I’m nearly half way on the first piece…. i.e. I have woven approximately 50 cm after an interrupted 3 days. I am continuing to explore the notion of layering of societies and that both have the common denominator of the land. I hope to get this one piece woven next week but it will be an interrupted one with other exciting adventures about to begin.

Doubleweave circles partly woven.

At the end of week 5

June 20, 2009

There’s no view from the studio this week as I wasn’t there.

It’s been a week with a difference! It started on Sunday with the opening of Australia Naturally exhibition. I had such a great time catching up with everyone that I didn’t think to take any photos even though I had the camera there. Sheila Virgo and Marg Barnett had hung the exhibition. They had done a great job. This was the exhibition that was shown in Paris in conjunction with the International Shibori Symposium and comprised of work that fitted in a 30 x 30 cm box by Australian shibori practitioners. I thought that the works looked better in this space than they did there. They had space and were well lit. It was great party!

I did finish off the scarves. As the washing machine at Sturt was a bit problematical being inclined to wash everything on a hot cycle, I elected to take it home to a guaranteed wash cycle. Probably the machine was fixed but I didn’t really want to run the risk. I’d rather do a test wash on my clothes not on these scarves and didn’t have time to do so before I left. I am pleased with the results. All I have left to do is some stitching on one. These will be up on next weeks post.

On Wednesday, I took the train to Rockhampton. It has been a very long time since I’d done that…30+ years. I was very impressed. It’s fast (quicker than I could drive) and very comfortable and as well gives a totally different perspective on that regularly travelled trip. I was going up for Mum’s 80th birthday and she didn’t know I was coming! Wasn’t she surprised as I’d previously told her that it was just too far for me to come. We celebrated in appropriate style. My brother, sisters and I took her for a drive “up the beach”. As kids we’d spent most weekends driving “up the beach” to go fishing. “The beach” is a 16km stretch of untouched and uninterrupted beach north of Yeppoon. We’d drive up it in an “old beach bomb” and go sand worming, fishing and crabbing. Well, Dad would while we helped, swam or walked for miles collecting stuff. If we were really lucky we’d find an old bit of plastic or lump of ply and go sliding down the sand dunes. Then we’d have lunch of savaloys cooked over a fire and wrapped up in bread with tomato sauce. It had been a very long time since Mum had been “up the beach” so this was a very special surprise. It was great being on that untouched expanse. There was the odd 4 wheel drive but we were basically on our own…. doing lots of reminiscing. And what did we have for our picnic? Well savaloys in bread of course! (and other yummy stuff) It was a grand occasion!

Our picnic spot.

This is our picnic, kilometers from anywhere and looking towards Great Keppel Islands

Ron and Lyn

Reminescent of another time: my sister Lyn, “worming” and brother Ron, fishing.

Mum getting her feet wet

A rogue wave came and Mum got her feet wet. Her grand daughter, Naomi, offered help; the rest who saw, watched on with laughter.


Cutting the cake

Mum cutting her cake with Beth, Lyn, Ron, Naomi and Kyle looking on.

Friday saw me make the return journey. I was very fortunate flying into Sydney airport as I saw a pod of 5 whales and one was breaching.

 It was great to be back and just in time for our Friday night wine too. Now for some more play…

At the end of week 4

June 20, 2009

From the studio on week 4

This week has seen progress. I have been a jewellery model, finished a warp and done some dyeing.

On a cold and very windy afternoon, I became a jewellery model! I am always the person on the other side of the camera so it was a very interesting experience. It was freezing in my light black long sleeved top… just the thing to show off the pieces but I certainly wasn’t dressed for the afternoon. Sina Emrich, the resident jeweller, was requiring a model photographing her very interesting wooden jewellery. We stood out in the howling gale, me positioned against a large gum tree, selected because it reflected the nature of her pieces. Check out her work at


After completing the samples, I had made informed decisions about what elements I wanted in the remaining warp for a series of scarves. The number was dependent on the amount of warp left but I judged it to be about 3. In each scarf I wanted to combine several different elements. All of them were to have sections of loom controlled shibori. I will include all details later with the images when they are finally finished.

Once I had finished the fringes and pulling up the shibori threads, I organised the dye bath. I do not often dye with natural dyes, but this is play time. It seems to be appropriate to use the eucalypts around Sturt to respond to where I am. So for this series, I took a walk up the hill behind the galleries, and collected leaves from a Eucalypt. They were growing on Frensham grounds, and came from tree stumps under power lines that had reshot after being cut down. I didn’t feel guilty about carrying out another heavy prune. I have obtained a glorious golden brown from the brew.

eucalypts for dyeing

One of the scarves after dyeing

Emily, a Tuesday student, has nearly finished putting a very wide warp on a loom for a series of floor rugs. We have ensured an even tension by using a system of plastic milk bottle weights. The warp went on very smoothly. This loom is one of the two oldest looms at Sturt. She is undertaking a huge project.

Emily preparing her warp ready to wind on.

In addition to actual work, I have moved the looms around. I am going to have another gas heater installed in the studio. It is going to be very welcome, but I don’t think the fire is going to be made redundant. In fact we had a delightful afternoon on Thursday. Two people chose to brave awful weather to take advantage of the open studio day. I had 2 students come along and we had fun! Open fire = toasted marshmallows! YUM!

Lois toasting marshmallow. She had the most amazing implement designed for the purpose.

On Friday, I took a drive to Goulburn. I had been told that there was a good sewing machine repairer there and as my machine and overlocker needed a bit of TLC, I have taken them there. In addition, I have been chasing silver dollar gum leaves. There are 3 trees over the cottage but they are very high and also don’t have a huge quantity of leaves, so I was after an alternative to these. I had been told that there was a stand of them in one of the lay by’s along the road to Goulburn. So on the way, I drove into every one… finally finding some in the last one before the turn off. I have noted that there are 2 types of trees with the basic round leaf. One has the circular leaves all the way to the top, the other has round leaves lower on but change to the usual elongated eucalypt leaf as the trees grow older. I collected the latter but the resulting dye bath was tan and not the exciting red brown that I have seen from “silver dollar”. I will collect the other version when I go back to collect the sewing machines and overdye the commercial fabric test piece.

On Saturday after the morning class, I set off on a different adventure, starting with a trip home to Brisbane.

At the end of week 3

June 7, 2009



View from studio week 3

This is what I’ve seen from the studio this week. There are still some red leaves.

This week has seen the completion of the first section of samples from the countermarche loom. I have been evaluating and fine tuning the actual working of the loom while experimenting with different effects with wool/lycra, overtwist yarns on 2/16 wool in combination with loom controlled shibori. During the process I have also experimented with different treadlings. This has meant crawling under the loom and doing the appropriate tie ups, a difficult enough process when the warp isn’t on and even more so when in the middle of a warp. Each tie up change gave me the opportunity to do a bit more fine tuning with the mechanics of the loom till finally I have got it working more efficiently. I have implemented a system using knitting needles to secure the cord positions in the treadles. This has made changing the tie ups much quicker and easier to accomplish.

 I have cut off the first set of samples and completed the dying and washing to activate the overtwist and lycra.  This set of samples is going to be the basis on which I will complete the series of scarves left on this warp.


During the dying of the samples, I also took the opportunity to dye a section of bookmarks. One of these used woven shibori while the others used other folding, tying and clamping techniques. Once dyed, I “burnt” the bookmark with the woven shibori in a candle. On removing the resist threads, I discovered interesting scorch marks as opposed to burnt out patterns. What I enjoyed about this experiment is how the memory of the folds is evident once the resists are removed.

second set of bookmarks

I have gained an extra class to teach as the result of Elizabeth Nagel’s accident. She unfortunately had contact with a car and has ended up in hospital. She is a remarkable lady and very positive but unfortunately it is going to take some time for her to recover from her injuries. I am enjoying the challenge of teaching a very diverse range of activities in both classes (her Tuesday one and my Saturday one) as they have been set up as student driven with each person choosing their own project. As a result, I have great diversity with for example, some working on floor rugs, scarves and wraps in different structures, a bamboo blind, and others exploring specific structures with sampling in woven shibori, basic twills and doubleweave. I am also enjoying getting to know the people in each class. They have all been very welcoming and I also received lots of advice on places to visit and things to do.

I am becoming very cultured. This week was capped off by jazz in the Joadja winery, on the way to Berrima.  The performance was inside the shed with all the barrels. The surroundings added quite an interesting ambience to the event.  What a delightful way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

Jazz in the winery