November 2017: A woven shibori studio class and textile exhibitions in Canberra, Bendigo and Tamworth.

December 4, 2017


Philip and Annette spent 5 days in the studio working with various woven shibori techniques. Looms were pre-threaded with both warp and weft shibori and different fibre/yarns combinations to explore as wide a range of techniques as possible.

Firstly fabrics were woven that incorporated either a supplementary weft or warp thread.


These threads were then pulled up very tightly. Hopefully the area that is not exposed will not be accessible to dye. Annette is pulling up one of her samples.


After dyeing these threads are pulled out exposing a dye pattern. Philip is in the process of removing his resist. The fabric is opening up to reveal the pattern.


Once undone, the work was washed. Here’s a collection on the line.


and closer details of work.



Some of Philip’s collection, hemmed and totally finished. Annette had to leave early so I don’t have an image of hers.


This month I was also fortunate to see some significant textile exhibitions.

There were two exhibitions in Canberra celebrating 50 years of the Canberra Spinners and Weavers. Crossing Threads can be found at the Canberra Museum and Gallery. This is a retrospective exhibition and it was wonderful to see the depth of weaving practice over past years. This exhibition, curated by Meredith Hinchliffe is on till 18 March 2018.



At the same time, The Canberra Spinners and Weavers hosted an exhibition, 50 Years Looking Forward. This exhibition is of current member’s work and also curated by Meredith Hinchliffe. The work was beautifully presented and included a great diversity of well-crafted items. Congratulations to all involved. This exhibition closed on 25 November

I was delighted to be able to be in Bendigo and see The Costume Designer: Edith Head and Hollywood. I had head an interview on ABC radio and went with great expectations. This exhibition did not disappoint. It is an extensive and includes images and movies of costumes, drawings, quotes, background information on her design process and of course many costumes. It’s on till 21 January 2018 and I’d highly recommend you get to see it if you can.






The last exhibition was the 3rd Tamworth Triennial. Tamworth has had a long tradition of hosting high quality and often cutting edge textile exhibitions with often work by world acclaimed textile makers. At first a biennial since 1975, it is now a triennial. It has had a remarkable reputation so I went with great expectations. I was so disappointed! There were a few pieces that provided interest but in my opinion the overall standard certainly wasn’t of a standard of past exhibitions. It’s on till 10 December at the Tamworth Art Gallery.

And a closer look at work by Jeanette Stock, Meredith Woolnough and Sally Blake.


I have released the start of next year’s studio classes. Check out or this blog for more details. There’s more to be posted.

8-12 January (4 places left) and 19-23 February (1 place left) Linen and Lace

26-30 March (provisional) From a Twill Threading.

30 April- 4 May Beyond the Basics

11-16 June Special

6-10 August Two ties or Summer and Winter





September 2017: Student work + John Becker’s book/Weaving informed by S E Asia.

October 4, 2017

I’m in the studio this month. This blog covers both student work and some research.

Scheduled was a five day studio class in Double Weave. For two weavers: Sharon and Marja this was their focus. Looms had been pre-threaded so that they could just weave. However there were theory and design activities often revolving around what they were actually weaving as well as developing an awareness of the diverse range of applications that were possible. The following are some images from the five days and a sample of what was attempted and completed. There was more but I missed taking some images.


Sharon weaving layers.


Marja wanted to master double weave pick up for imagery. She did!


Windows of colour being woven: double weave blocks.


From the same warp, their own designs on an off sett layer.


Just a bit of fun: layers that swivel.

In addition to the scheduled work in class, Sharon took the opportunity to pull up and dye her fabric woven in the previous class. The technique was warp shibori woven on a warp of linen/cotton with a silk noil weft.


The warp has been pulled up and dyed. Shown here is Sharon undoing her resist.


This fabric is destined to become a blouse.

At the same time that Sharon and Marja were weaving double weave, Rochelle continued with her bird in Theo Morman.


By the second day the weaving was completed. Now there is thought being given to the next steps in completing this wall hanging and a single repair to make. It is a gigantic achievement for a first time weaver.


For her second warp, Rochelle decided to weave a throw in alpaca, plain weave and checks. Here it is finished in 3 days.

These weavers sure got through a lot of weaving and can certainly be proud of their efforts. I was certainly impressed by their dedication as they took full advantage of the studio hours. Of course while they were committed to what they were weaving, there were times of wonderful companionship and laughter. Special friendships have been formed.

Some may question why Rochelle got to do other things than the listed course: double weave. I can be flexible. My aim is always to accommodate weavers who want to learn- no matter what the topic is. First in with a booking will always be welcomed. And if one class fills on a designated to a topic (remember class size is strictly limited), then I can always list a second.

I have been “playing”. It’s always a good idea to take time off every now and then and explore a topic or do something different.

So what has….

IMG_2101“Pattern and Loom” by John Becker,


my experiments on a countermarche loom with long eyed heddles, and a Laos style vertical storage loom or what I refer to as my hybrid loom and


this technique using horizontal pattern storage from Vietnam/ Thailand/ Laos, got in common? Opportunity!!

Firstly this is a new, second edition of John Becker’s book published in 2014 by NIAS Press. The information is basically the same but it does have a different layout and in particular a better size of illustrations. I am enjoying this edition which does away with the “need” to have the two parts of the original (below) which has the larger diagrams and drafts in the second “half”. Note that this edition has “with the collaboration of Donald B. Wagner” on the cover. It is due to his effort that there is an updated version.


This is the original edition with the two halves. The diagrams in the main book were difficult to read so having the second supplement was beneficial.

I was having a look through the new edition and not having gone very far was very excited to see a technique that was running parallel to some research that I was intending on following. There is this textile that is in my collection and that was intriguing. What I knew about the process in its weaving had commonality with what I was seeing in Becker. I won’t show that textile now as it will come in another post and will only muddy the waters now. However this and what I saw in Becker has sent me off in a new direction of “play” on the hybrid loom.

My hybrid loom had the remnants of a long warp. It has been used for previous “play” at the start of the year. The one thing that I have discovered about this loom is its great flexibility. Here was an opportunity to use it in a different way and maybe finish the warp. I will need to use it as a conventional countermarche loom for weaving rugs in a month or so and this warp really does need to be finished.

The technique I was about to explore is on page 22 in the new edition for those who have it but it is also in the older one. The technique is from the Han Dynasty of China (206BC to AD220). Yes, it is also fascinating because it is so old.

It uses one shuttle for weaving and combines plain weave being woven on two shafts with pattern being picked up and stored. The result combines a pattern in warp faced twill on a plain weave background. Structurally it is excitingly simple.

Becker for blogThe book also shows a horizontal storage system being used. However, I also knew that I could store it on the vertical storage system. Initially this is what I used.



The pattern is picked up in pairs, transferred to behind the shafts and stored.


I have used the vertical system to store a single diamond motif. This may be used to weave the start or end of the entire motif. I started with this system because it was something I was familiar with.

But here was the opportunity that I’d been waiting for. I would also try out using the horizontal storage process. It’s been on my “to do” list for a number of years. I wanted to understand its advantages and limitations. When asked in Laos why you would use one rather than the other, I had been told that the vertical storage has the capability to store a much longer warp. But how easy is it to use the horizontal system? What are the advantages or disadvantages? It’s usually only by actually using the loom that you can understand how it works.


But then I took up the challenge and used the horizontal system. I learnt that the pick up requires the making of half heddles and got fast at doing half hitches. This is different to what is shown in Becker but in keeping with where I needed to go. Becker uses pre-tied loops. The knotting of half heddles with half hitches is quite efficient. This system also requires less yarn in creating the heddles than the full loops used by Becker: therefore less opportunity for tangles. I have also taken on board the heddle support rods that I had noted in Laos and Thailand. Using these created a mostly clean lift with few tangles and a very convenient way of keeping them in sequence.

Once the design was picked up and stored, weaving progressed reasonably quickly. To weave the design all I had to do was raise the heddle bar, transfer the pattern to behind the reed and weave two rows of plain weave.


The first design is woven. It’s interesting to note that when the direction of the pattern lifts are reversed and providing the same weaving sequence of two rows of plain weave for each lift is maintained, then each side of the motif looks different.


Here’s a closer look. I like that both sides of the design are not the same: left to right and bottom to top.


And a second one using a different coloured weft. Note the different twill direction.

This second towel uses a different plain weave sequence. Weaving with the left and then the right treadle now becomes right then left and the direction of the twill line changes. Logical but fascinating!

And there’s still  enough for one more “play”. And that will be revealed next month.




June 2017

July 17, 2017

This has been the month for exhibitions. I know this blog is very late but much has been happening as you’ll see in next month’s blog. In the meantime….

I have delivered my touring exhibition, Pattern – A Universal Phenomenon to Childers Art Space. It will be opened on the 11th July and will run till 3rd September. This will be the last opportunity to view this exhibition. Its tour of 4 years is finally coming to an end. CHARTS is an interesting space with a glass wall commemorating the fire in the Backpacker’s several years ago where many lost their lives. That in itself is an interesting memorial to see. I will look forward to seeing how it sits in the space at the opening. Check out CHARTS at

Also on right now is Stitched Up, an exhibition on at The Lock Up in Newcastle. It’s a group show which includes 24 National and international fibre artists as well as some local input. I was honoured to be asked to participate.


A section of the gallery space with my work on the left.

It has been a fascinating project and, for this blog, I thought that I would share my thought processes on producing this work.

The exhibition is a collaboration with The Lock Up ( and Timeless Textiles ( It marks the 150th anniversary of the Industrial School in Newcastle being established. (1867-1871)

In the four years the institution operated, 193 girls from two and a half to 18 years of age were admitted. They were taken from their families, if they had families, and incarcerated as a consequence of the Act for the Relief of Destitute Children, which targeted youngsters who had committed crimes, were destitute, neglected, delinquent, uncontrollable or living in the care of thieves and prostitutes. The Industrial School sought to educate them in literacy while also teaching them sewing and needlework, skills that would increase their chances of employment as domestic servants.(Timeless Textiles)

The conditions in the school were needless to say pretty severe and very much a reflection of that sort of institution of that era. The school became notorious because of the conditions and rioting.

As artists we were provided with the background information of the school and the case studies of some of the inmates. This research was done by Jane Ison. (

We were asked to select a girl and respond to the information to celebrate her life.

When I was reading through the girls’ histories I was struck by many similarities. Fate or Destiny celebrate the lives of Margaret Poole and Rachel Willis. The following is the information that I worked with based on the research by Jane Ison. Both are very much a reflection of life at the time of the Gold Rush and for a certain demographic of society. I found their backgrounds fascinating. Maybe you will too.

Rachel Willis

Father- Thomas aka William Willis (b 1810). Mother – Eliza aka Elizabeth, alias Mary Kennedy (b 1828). They married in 1844 and had 10 children: 5 boys and 5 girls. Rachel aka Margaret was the youngest, born 1860.

Thomas either died or had abandoned the family sometime prior to 1868. Her mother resorted to keeping a brothel. It is thought many of the siblings were fostered out.

Rachel came before the bench on 24 February 1868 after being taken from a brothel and was released back into the care of her mother as “the bench was not satisfied that the evidence as to the character of the mother” justified removing her. On 2nd July Rachel again came before the bench. By this time her mother and eldest sister were in jail for “keeping a disorderly house”. She was being cared for by a person named Dunn who had reported that they were unable to keep her but as she was taken from the house, the bench was unable to act. Two days later she was found entirely destitute on the streets. She was aged 8.

She was a resident of Newcastle between 1868 and 1871 when she was apprenticed to an older married sister. In 1878, aged 18, she married Mackie Wilson (1854-1942). They had two daughters and two sons with 1 son dying in infancy. She died in 1893 aged 33. Cause of death is unknown.

Margaret Louisa Poole /Pool

Father, Robert Poole (1812- 1872) and Mother, Mary Leonard (b. 1815) were married, probably bigamously, in 1852 in England. Robert had been married once before with 3 children. He abandoned his first family. Mary was a convict and had been married twice before and was widowed both times. She returned to England with her second husband after being pardoned leaving 2 of 3 surviving children behind and fostered.

Robert and Mary arrived in Melbourne as unassisted migrants in 1852. Three girls were born in Australia. Margaret was the middle child, born in 1855.

Her mother died in 1860. She was aged 5. The sisters were separated one apprenticed and one fostered to a step sister. Margaret was living with an associate of her father. Betsy Harvey is listed as a step mother.

Margaret was 12 when she came before the court in rags on 31st August 1867. She was” much neglected and half starved”. Her parents were described as “very dissipated characters” and Margaret was charged under the Act with living with two common prostitutes.

She was a resident of Newcastle between 1867 and 1870 when she was apprenticed to magistrate at Scone. In 1872, the family’s circumstances changed and she was re apprenticed.

On 26 January 1875, aged 20, Margaret married William Ison (1852-1936). They had 10 children with 7 surviving infancy- 5 of 6 sons and 2 of 4 daughters. Margaret died on 2 January 1887 in childbirth aged 32.

So how was I going to take this information and use it?

I decided that whatever I did, it needed to tell their story. The cloth that I would weave was to be a story cloth with words embedded into the actual story. It needed to be able to be read. The cloth also needed to represent age as this story did happen 150 years or so ago. It needed to include stitch as that was the skill they were taught; let alone the title of the exhibition. Ideally it should also reflect on all the girls who passed though that institution.

We were also sent a swatch of fabrics similar to what research had showed that they might use. Of course I wasn’t about to use a commercial fabric when I could make my own. But I did have some natural cotton that would weave fabric similar to calico. I had a starting point. I needed a second yarn that would not dye as I wanted to have some definition to imagery post dyeing.

I knew the finished dimensions as we were given those and that there would be two pieces. So I knew the size of each piece. I knew the yarn and therefore the number of warp and weft threads that I would be using. That’s simple maths. So then I knew that the “words” that I would use needed to fit into this. I needed something of around 210 letters and spaces that would use about 2200 weft rows. So I need to achieve a somewhat shorter version of their lives that would be used to create a weave draft.

In addition I wanted to weave in “stitching”. Some of this would be left in while some would also be used for woven shibori. This could then reference the fact that what happened in their lives created their life “pattern” in much the same way as aged lines on a face and body.

The following shows the fabric being woven. The story can be read on the diagonal in either direction. Note also the heavy cotton supplementary weft that will be used for woven shibori and that will create the dye pattern. (It’s easier to read the words on the fabric underneath.)

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The fabric was then dyed. I have used natural dyes of various forms and my choice was influenced by “age”. The resulting shades of brown are similar to the notion of grubby aged cloth: the cloth from the streets before they went to the home as well as stained cloth found from times past.

The stitching threads were removed from the “figures” and some left in to define their edge. It also makes the fabric look more “aged”.


Close up of fabric showing dye pattern, stitching and woven words.


Artist Statement: Fate or Destiny

These shadowy humanoid silhouettes represent two girls who were inmates.

Was it predetermined by fate and their backgrounds that these girls would end up in The School. How much of what the choices they made with their lives resulted in what they became?

When I read the inmates’ stories I was struck by how many had similar stories. I have chosen two girls and have woven story cloths. Their stories are impregnated into the actual cloth. It can be read. The process of uncovering their stories equates with your search to read them.

Here’s the synopsis of their lives which can be read diagonally in the cloths.

Rachel Willis. Father- Thomas. Mother- Eliza. Father left or died. Mother jailed as prostitute. Rachel age 8 homeless. The school. Apprenticed 12. Married 4 children. Died 33.

Margaret Poole. Father – Robert. Mother – Mary. Middle child of 3. Mother dies. At 12 charged- Living with prostitutes- associates of father. The school. Apprenticed at 15. Married-10 children. Died 32.

The full research into their lives provides a more in-depth insight into their life stories.

These aged cloth represents life of a different era with different social pressures. Both of these girls were charged because of their contact with prostitutes. It was only by being charged that they then escaped their living conditions and were sent to the school.

Stitch is a skill that they were taught. In much the same way that these stitches have created pattern and texture on these cloths, did these skills have any effect on the direction their lives took? One hopes that The School, in spite of its history, gave the girls a chance of a better life.

The following show some additional close up images.






It has come to my attention that I have made the Top 100 Weaving Blogs. To check out who is in the 100 go to: blogs/. I am delighted to be listed.

December 2015

December 31, 2015


My studio is nearly finished. What a very nice way to end the year. I am so looking forward to working in this space. To do is some tiling and then to move looms. It should be finished for the first class in the New Year. Here’s progress this month.

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The painting gets done. I say goodbye to the purple wall. I need light in here to work.

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The painting is finished.

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And the very next day, we had heavy rain. The gutters overflowed but there I was dry inside.

Kathryn, Barb, Ann and Maggie were in the studio at the start of the month. They worked on independent projects with great results.

Kathryn experimented with 4 layers of weaving, swapping the layers around to achieve different effects.




Ann explored different 4 shaft twills.


Barb explored twills on 8 shafts.


Maggie explored woven shibori  with shirts that had been cut up.


Here she is pulling out the resist threads to reveal the dyed pattern.


Fabrics washed and hung out to dry.


A very important part of any workshop is time out.


In this Festive Season, I’ve had a lovely few days weaving in the new space. I’ve got that warp to finish off.

For this next experiment, I had rethreaded the original warp on 4 shafts as I wanted to see how it would perform. The loom action for those of a technical bent is counterbalance (when two shafts go up the opposite two go down linked by a pulley system) I’d also increased the spacing of the warp. I also wanted to explore was the effectiveness of using normal treadles on this loom. Two sticks of wood as treadles were very floating and of course have a tendency to move. Maybe fixed treadles would make for more effective weaving. I have taken bits from a couple of looms to rig up these treadles. The original ones were very heavy. I knew I would have issues working the vertical storage component if it were too heavy. Of course it was much easier to weave. By the way the extra horizontal bars will be necessary if I’m to do any sort of patterned four shaft weaving.

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I got to weave about 30 cm of plain weave before I came to the pattern area. OOPS! These treadles even though they are as light as possible make moving the picked up pattern to behind the shafts just way too difficult. There’s just too much weight. So back to the drawing board and I have put back on the bits of wood. Four shafts tied directly to the treadles. It works!

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A comment would be though that it is much easier to transfer the picked up pattern when there are only 2 shafts. Having 4 shafts would have meant that I could do some extra patterning similar to what I had done on the draw loom. What I’ve tried here with the treadles and their inherent weight problems will mean that I’ll need to find an alternative to make that possible. Some features of a western style loom are not as efficient in this case as the original Laos loom.

Here’s my 46 stick pattern. This is a much more complex pattern than I have previously used. The piece of paper attached to the beater makes seeing the threads much easier. The purple against the dark wood is really hard to see.

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Note the series of pattern sticks storing the design.

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Here’s a quick preview of some of the classes starting in the New Year. Full details of these and others will be posted under “My School” soon.

18-22 January. Linen and Lace.

22-26 February (5 days) or the weekends of 20/22 and 27/28 (4 days)    From profile to structure

25-29 April         East Meets West and more

23-27 May          Networked Twills.

27 June – 1 July               Special

19 – 23 September         From Parallel Threadings

This time last year I was in Canada experiencing snow. I have my own snowflakes. They seem appropriate for here.

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August 2015

September 7, 2015

The blog this month covers workshops and then more on my Great Experiment.

But firstly a gathering of friends and another studio celebration. Cathy and Peer Moon donated a mutual friend’s loom. They had Marjorie’s loom in storage for quite some time and decided that it needed a new home. It will be a very useful addition. By the end of August there were students weaving on it – you’ll see it in action later on. At the same time Janet de Boer selected work for The Director’s Choice exhibition at Gallery 159 to be held in November.


Cathy and Peter Moon, Helen Barnard and Janet de Boer celebrate amongst the looms.

The Gold Coast Spinners and Weavers Guild hosted another workshop at Bornhoffen. Apart from an excellent venue for a workshop why wouldn’t one come here?


The topic was Colour and Weave. About half the students elected to work in a round robin while the others elected to work on individual projects.

The following are some images from the workshop. Firstly there’s some general images, then the results of the round robin. Each warp was divided up so that students took their own samples. Then there’s individual student’s work.














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It was a highly successful workshop. I am impressed by what was achieved. It was also great fun.

The first weekly class has finished with very satisfying results. There were 3 students, all inexperienced.

In 5 weeks Maxine completed two projects.Firstly an introductory project where students learnt a variety of basic skills.

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And then a project of her own choosing. It was going to be vest material but Maxine decided it was just too beautiful as it was. A great effort!

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Melissa examines her project. There’s a lot of information here: lots of different structures and an exploration of colour. Another great result.

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Isn’t this a great result? Fleur knew she wanted to weave but had never seen it done. I’ll look forward to seeing them finished. Her work was much admired by these weavers,

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Marg Barnett, a wonderful shibori artist and friend decided that she really needed to find a home for her loom. She had acquired it in 1987 but then discovered shibori so no more weaving.  I’ll look forward to getting it working. Yes another loom in my space and another plaque coming up.

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There has been another 5 day workshop. This time three students came from Vic., NSW and Qld for intensive study of woven shibori.

They wove……

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8 looms were set up in a variety of structures and yarns so that a wide range of techniques could be explored. Here Jennifer and Lynda weave on an 8 shaft countermarched and 16 shaft computer assist respectively.

This is Marjorie’s loom in action with Virginia (the loom donated by Cathy and Peter). All students enjoyed it.

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They pulled up to dye…..

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They worked so hard, showing great commitment. We also had a lot of fun along the way. Morning tea and an examination of results.

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At the end of 5 days this is what they each managed to produce. What a collection!

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The level of commitment shows in what they managed to achieve. I am certainly impressed.

I had the opportunity to visit the local Spinners and Weavers Guild. It was a real treat to spend time with these ladies. It brought back great memories as it was the first guild that I belonged to. There were some familiar faces from a long time ago. What a shame I forgot the camera. http://redlandsspinnersandweavers,

Now for my continuing adventures with my replica Laotian loom experiment… well as of last month it did undergo some modifications but it remains the Great Experiment.

The following is a movie from my recent Laos trip and will give reference to what I’m about to undertake.

How to make a vertical storage system on a Laos loom.

I have graphed out the design from one of the scarves I collected in Laos. Each squares represents 2 warp threads.

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From this graphed design I have picked up the pattern on the loom. Getting it perfectly centred took a couple of tries. Using cotton ties to identify pattern change and centre certainly helped.

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I know that I have to get this picked up design to behind the plain weave shafts to transfer it to the vertical storage system. To do this I did it in two stages, Firstly I turned the pick up stick on its side and transferred it to behind the beater, then repeated the process to transfer it to behind the shafts. I confirm that I’ve got all the warp threads (pairs) at each stage.

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Then to transfer it to the storage system. I had tried with my usual wide sword (middle one in the image below) and discovered that it was difficult to do the transfer with ease. I knew that I’d need a super wide one. I recognised that my wood working skills are basic and came up with an alternative by going to my favourite place for perspex (Plastic Welded Supplies at Capalaba). I got them to make me one with smoothed off edges. It works a treat. Here are the pick up stick and 2 swords that I use for the transfers. While the wide one is not necessary for the previous transfer it is absolutely essential for the next stage.

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This is the process I used: First position the sword immediately behind the plain weave shafts. Then bring all the pattern heddles forward. Turn the sword on its edge and hey presto the heddles not selected slide backward leaving a gap. This wide sword makes the job so much easier. Then I’ve inserted a narrow dowel in the gap and moved it to the top suspending it by putting them in the loop of Texsolv cord. It works a treat. In Laos I saw both yarn and bamboo being used to store the design. (see previous posts) I’ve decided to use the equivalent of the bamboo rods instead of a cord purely because I think it may be easier to manage. I’ll try the other later.

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At some stage one does have to weave. This is the process that I’ve worked out is best for me. After removing the picked up design just once without storing it and having to pick up again, one recognises the need to have a system in place!

1.  Pick up the design and transfer it to behind the plain weave shafts. Do not remove any of the pick up sticks. Weave the pattern row by turning the pick up stick on its side. Remove the stick and the sword between the beater and plain weave shafts. Check that the pattern and picked up pairs is correct.

2. Transfer the pattern to the vertical storage system. It’s insurance knowing that it is stored but keep the sword in place.

3. Weave plain weave. It’s necessary to remove all but the wide sword to allow for the plain weave shafts to move.

4. Turn the wide sword on its side and weave the pattern row.

5. Weave plain weave.

The process is slow but I’ve only got a couple more rows of the design to store.

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Here are some observations: Lightness of equipment and movability are very beneficial.

Having those light weight lengths of wood as treadles allows for the heddles on the shafts to move freely- very necessary in transferring design. The ability of the shafts to move forward and backwards facilitates transfer and weaving as each stage is processed. I have the vertical storage system under flexible tension with it being anchored by stockings tied to a brick. The brick anchors it, while the stockings allows for tension, necessary in the opening of the vertical storage system during the selection process. In the movie, the weaver re-tensions with her feet. I had to find an alternative as my toes don’t work that way. Here’s a general look at the loom to show these systems in place. The bricks are insurance for when it rains.

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I am looking forward to weaving without pick up. It’ll be soon. Lastly a close up view of the border so far.

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December 2014

December 18, 2014

It’s an early blog this month. It seemed appropriate to post at the end of the era of the weaving workshop rather than the end of the month.

I quite often start off by contemplating what has happened in a month and say “It has been a very busy month”. Well this “month” has exceeded all expectations. It has been a remarkable couple of weeks. It has been a time for finishing projects, another indigo play day, a celebration of weaving, and farewells.

In amongst all of these activities, there had been many visitors revisiting the studio. Many people have expressed their disbelief and sorrow at what is about to happen. The following is a letter provided to me by Julia Charles. You may remember her from last month’s blog as the granddaughter of Betty Charles who had donated the big rug loom. She expresses a point of view shared by many.

Like anyone who has a close connection to Sturt I love the place, the culture and environment. My grandmother was pivotal in introducing me to Sturt. She boarded at Frensham. She loved Miss West and considered her a dear and lifelong friend. She served on the council. She would take me to visit Sturt every time I visited her on her farm. She donated the large loom in the Weaving Workshop after bringing it back from Leeds in the UK after the war. I am a graduate from the Wood a School. I went on with two fellow graduates to found Splinter Workshop. I teach Applied Object Design at the UNSW College of Fine Art. My subject is popular and the students love taking their designs from concept through to construction. They love making. The process and materials are integral to the creation of the object. There is new leadership at COFA and electives are being slashed. An emphasis is being placed on digital design and digital media. Students are not happy. People will not cherish 3D printed objects, handed down by their grandparents in decades to come. There must be serious thought given to whether it is wise to do things just because we can. It is important to embrace and explore new technology but we need to be careful about doing that at the expense of traditional skills which are so highly valued, especially the rarer they become. I was so sad to learn on the weekend at the Wood School Graduate Exhibition that Sturt is following this same trend. They are sacrificing the Weaving Workshop and Cafe in favour of a digital design lab. I feel that this is a very sad ‘development’. It is very short sighted and fails to recognize the inherent and rare value of what Sturt has to offer. It is completely unique. Once lost, this extraordinary space will not be easily restored. It feels like there is a failure to recognize the extraordinary facility, wealth of knowledge and skills which are so special and are not being valued. I’m not sure how much funding has been poured into the new Swimming Pool. I imagine it would be possible to raise funds to build a digital design lab without sacrificing the more traditional crafts. It doesn’t have to be either or surely. I would be happy for this message to be passed on to the Director, the Principal and the Board of Governors. I am writing to express my concern about the loss of this great facility which I feel is not in the best interests of the Sturt creative community. Warm regards, Julia Charles

The students in this term completed an amazing amount of work. I am so very proud of their endeavours. As well as finishing off individual projects (and some were finished before this last month), there have been on- going student challenges. Students were finishing projects right up to the very last day. We certainly made full use of this last term. I’ll include these chronologically to give a sense of how things developed.


Belinda has woven a sample of woven warp shibori. She used the opportunity to explore the basic concept of woven shibori as well as producing something for the proposed indigo bath.


Maureen had discussed the design for this project and dyed the yarn at Sturt and then wove it at home on her 24 shaft Toika using her own hand spun alpaca on a silk warp. The colour variation in warp and weft came about because of the different rates the fibres accepted dye.

P1050237Hot off the loom at Sturt; Maureen completed a floor rug in “honeycomb”.

P1050239As with all projects we all gather around to celebrate another completed project. The warp ends have been tucked under to give a sense of how it will appear when completed.

P1050240Barb cuts off the first section of the warp of 5 napkins.  She decided to cut off at this point because she was concerned about not having enough time to finish the warp. This was the second last class and only one week to go.

There have been three main challenges that most students took advantage of and two last minute ones that some squeezed in.

The challenges are designed to encourage students to develop design skills and strategies. Many beginner/intermediate students are not comfortable designing their own projects while the more experienced enjoyed a different design approach. They involve me issuing design parameters and threading the loom and then the students wove their design. Apart from the parameters there were no rules. In this way a great variety was achieved enabling everyone to see great diversity in colour and pattern.

Challenge #2. Number 1 had been completed a month ago. The parameters for #2 was to explore stripes, checks and anything in between. To explore colour choosing yarn from the box. In addition they may choose to explore supplementary weft pattern (overshot style) either building up pattern as they wove or selecting one from Davidson. The pattern threaded was “Rose Valley” with each repeat coinciding with a warp stripe. This was a 4 shaft challenge. It started off on the last donated countermarche loom but due to Bev’s desire to weave a wide rug, the warp was moved to a 4 shaft jack.

P1050231Isobel has the honour of cutting off this student challenge. She examines the effects she had woven.

P1050262Most wove the challenge. Others felt they had to concentrate on finishing their own project. All appreciated the diversity of colour effects and design potential. Weaving tea towels means that the sample is something useful they go home with. It’s also possible to do one in a day.

Challenge #3. Identify a grid 8 squares wide x 8 to 30 squares long. No vertical or horizontal row should be greater than 3 either coloured in or left blank. A diagonal line of some description was desirable though it needed run 45 degrees from corner to corner. I had wound the warp in red and white stripes with one section of alternating colours. The loom was threaded in a straight twill for the red bands and point for the white. They wove on what is for many a favourite loom: Marjorie Ey’s donated 8 shaft mechanical dobby and were able to go back and forwards at will. They like the fact that once pegged they don’t have to think of what they are doing and just weave. They also accept the fact that there are limitations in that a design cannot be easily changed on this loom. It’s fun to just “do” though.


Tuesday was last to weave so she gets to be first to examine what was woven.


The finished tea towels with the drafts that students had developed.

Challenge #4. This was the first warp woven on the “Faulkner” loom. (see last month’s post) The parameter was to identify a column 8 squares high. As usual there was to be no squares coloured or left blank greater than 3. This was then the starting point for developing a twill line. Students had to tie up the treadles using this for treadle #1. The sequence was to move back one for each progressive treadle. I had threaded the loom with a variety of 8 shaft twill sequences: straight, broken, advancing, extended, point, Ms & Ws etc. Again they could go forward and backward at will.


As the first tea towel was woven and pattern emerged there was some discussion that they wanted to get pattern too. It was with great delight that they realised that all tie ups would give all this pattern and that everyone was different.


Not a bad effort in just over 2 weeks of weaving.

I couldn’t resist a last play in an indigo dye bath. And play it was…..

P1050242First there was a collection of shibori prepared fabric.

P1050243Some of the pieces as they were removed. Many were left tied up for 24 hours before undoing. I prefer to leave them as I believe that better results are achieved.

P1050245John, the 3 month resident potter from the UK had dunked some pots. He then thought to sand back the indigo on the ridges to get a defined pattern. When dyeing both pottery and wood the magic of indigo where it turns from green to blue does not happen. Rather the indigo stains these materials.

P1050248John contemplates what is going on in the dye bath with his collection of pots in the foreground.

P1050246What’s in the dye bath now? A piece of wood and a small ceramic pot floats on the surface.

P1050249A collection of small porcelain bowls. At the top was the one that had been floating, then others that had been dunked and others with indigo still in them. There’s also a beautiful indigo circle on the piece of wood.

P1050251Isobel holds a wooden bowl to achieve a partly coloured effect.

P1050252A well of indigo. The question is: How will she get it out without dribbling it across the top? The careful use of a straw was the answer.

P1050265A day later I saw these results from Belinda. Underneath is her woven shibori sample.

The Sunday before the last week was marked by a “Celebration of Weaving”. It was not a wake but rather an opportunity for weavers past and present to get together and remember weaving achievements and celebrate friendships made. A few couldn’t make it on the Sunday so came on Saturday. Saturday was also the last class for that group though the majority came only on Sunday.


Melanie Olde (second from right) was a previous tutor and long term resident weaver. Gill, a past student gets to weave on the prototype. Challenge #5 was set up both as a challenge for students and a means of providing visitors with the opportunity to weave on the loom that was developed at Sturt.

Challenge #5. The loom was threaded with two blocks of 4 shaft twills as stripes. Weavers could choose to weave as tabby or 1/3, 3/1 twill blocks in any configuration and in any colour way. This warp went on with less than 2 weeks to go. A mug rug meant a very fast project and with the opportunity for many to weave.

Then Sunday arrived. I wondered how many people would come. I was delighted with how many did throughout the day. The studio played host between 10.00 and 3.00 with some staying just a short while and others stayed most of the day. Many brought a plate of food to share. It was also the last day of the cafe so we took full advantage of the coffee. It was also the last opportunity for weaving to be finished for some. Here are some images as the day progressed.





P1050272And some chose to weave challenge #5: visitors and students.



Elizabeth Nagel wove and taught here for 50 years. She read out a report on a “friendship quilt” that was completed by a group one year. Some of those were known to those present. The story of its progress was universal: who was going to weave what, colours, sizes that varied and how weavers chose to put their quilts together.

P1050273Monique Van Nieuwland (third from left) also taught and was artist in residence. Our stints often followed. It was very pleasing that all tutors who spent a significant amount of time here were able to attend.

P1050277Bronwyn is on a mission to finish. It’s her very last day.

P1050283And does.

P1050278Sari (right), the last student resident makes it late in the day. The party still continues.

P1050279Libby Turner reflects on Sturt and its history. While she only came to the weaving workshop in the last 15 – 10 years she has had a long association with Sturt. She has slept in the cottage when Winifred West was living there. Her mother was great friends with her. She knew the people from those earlier years and spent much of her formative years here. Of recent times she has attended the tapestry weaving class. Those are some of her tapestries on the wall.

It was a grand day!

Then the last Tuesday Class came. They wove and they celebrated.


There were the challenges to be collected. On the right are some of Challenge #5. I couldn’t resist a final challenge. Challenge #6 happened with barely a week out. As well as being a challenge in colour (That lime green and orange was designed to be a challenge in its own right), students could design with in  a 24 x 24 grid. Maureen got to weave her coaster, for the rest I wove their designs.

P1050286Barb did manage to weave another two napkins.

P1050287Bev finished her throw.


P1050290Belinda finishes off her challenge # 4.

P1050294And also cuts off her scarf from the left over black warp of the Winter School.

P1050297Bev also finishes off her brown and cream scarf. She’d had two projects on the go at the same time. The scarf was started while she waited for wool for he larger project to arrive. By having patterned areas combined with space she was able to weave this quickly, even though it was on an 8 shaft table loom.

P1050298Tuesday cuts off another project on one of those left over black warps. I’m pleased to say that all left over warps got used. Students took advantage of not having to thread looms in the context of time constraints.

P1050299Tuesday wove this Saori style with bands of twill and clasped weft.

P1050301Last month I mentioned that it was my intent to weave a number of loom bench rugs. In the midst of all the social catching up and saying goodbye occasions (and there were quite a few) I did manage to get 3 woven. I was the last person to weave on Tinkerbell. I hope at some stage this grand old loom will find a home hopefully at Sturt somewhere. It also will be dismantled.

P1050303In the foreground is my souvenir of Sturt, the to scale replica of the Sturt Community Rugs of twelve months ago.

At the “Celebration of Weaving” I found out the history of another loom. Unfortunately not all looms have plaques. This is the oldest loom at Sturt. Ruth Ainsworth who was a friend to Winifred West (she established Sturt) went to England to learn to weave. She brought back with her a European loom and a potter’s wheel. Elizabeth Nagel showed this photo of the loom on Sunday and presented me with the book. The book contains early images of Sturt: spinning, dyeing (our indigo day was in the same place), weaving, “carpentry”, flowers and children’s library, all in this building that houses the weaving workshop and cafe. I was very pleased to note that Maureen had just completed her rug on this loom, in some way completing a cycle.

P1050304Not a very good image I’m afraid but the image in the book was very faded and grainy.


It seemed appropriate to take the final photo of the Tuesday class with this loom. L to R: Tuesday, Bev, Belinda, Maureen and Isobel. Barb had already left before I remembered this photo opportunity. Unfortunately I did not get an image of the Saturday class consisting of Tuesday (no wonder she got so much woven), Helen, Maggie, Bronwyn, Ruth.

And then it was time to pack. Five of my looms needed to be dismantled for the move home.

P1050305Four bundles of sticks and one to go.

P1050306And then there were none, just those that the maintenance guys have to dismantle. The other room has many as can be seen in the celebration images.  Six have been identified to go into accessible storage for events like the Summer School while others will go into more permanent storage. The six looms that I have identified will make a great core group for if/when ever weaving can be made available.

The drive home enabled me to reflect on my time at Sturt. I certainly leave with mixed emotions. Here are my final thoughts.

I have been there for two years and had completed two – three month residences before that. Sturt has provided a remarkable experience. It is a very creative environment. I have enjoyed creating my own work in that historic of all buildings. I have certainly enjoyed passing on knowledge to students and watching them grow as weavers. And as a bonus they have become valued friends. My time at Sturt would have no meaning without them. I have been challenged by the space and often working with very old and initially poorly functioning looms. I have accepted that challenge and with a sense of achievement know that I made a difference. The students certainly expressed their appreciation. There were new looms and some of my own which made a difference. I had the privilege of working with Doug Rosemont in developing a new loom and who could forget my delight and honour of having it named after me. This would not have happened if I hadn’t been there. I value the exchange between workshops, the swapping of ideas, the creative energy, the friendships. I have had the opportunity to spend time with other tutors, students and residents; seeing what they do, sharing, swapping stories. For those of us who live on site, there has been many a night getting together over a meal and a glass of wine and it has been a wonderful time just getting to know fellow artists, all of us working in our own medium but often facing the same challenges. I have enjoyed getting to know the staff and working with them. There have been many others who I have known though Sturt and their friendship I also value. So I celebrate my time at Sturt.

But it is with some regret that I leave. It is the people who count. I feel mostly for the students. The weaving community will be poorer for this loss of facility. Students at Frensham will also be poorer for this loss of opportunity. Sturt as an entity has just lost a quarter of its family. Hopefully weaving will continue in some form. I know that Mark as Head of Sturt intends to try to make it happen. I feel for the loss of the cafe and the impact it will have on the community that is Sturt. I hope that other workshops survive and worry for the future of Sturt. The addition of a digital lab I hope will prove a valued asset across all workshops and not just Frensham. Weaving can also take advantage of this technology if it has a presence.

In this era of having “hands on” classes eliminated from educational institutions, I also reflect on the future of weaving in particular. Weaving is not just something that was in the past. It has value in this digital age too. There are computer assist and jacquard looms, both one could suggest use current technology. However there is also value in weaving simple cloth using the most basic of technology. There is weaving for the professional and weaving for a hobbyist, for young and for old, for the able and disabled. There is weaving that stimulates thought and promotes the sense of creativity and achievement by what is made. In this fast paced age, it provides balance. It also promotes community. So the loss of the facility at Sturt is disappointing. But as Isobel says when we were sitting around the table at the last day of weaving “We have to make and keep on making. It is up to all of us.” For that group, there is a development that may ensure that they continue to weave together, as well as individually. That is something that they want and a positive outcome. And I will certainly continue to make and share knowledge.

So on this last post on the “Sturt Weaving Workshop”, I celebrate all the Sturt has stood for, wish all of the Sturt community the very best in their creative endeavours. To the weavers I say in particular a heart-felt thank you. It has been a pleasure working with you and being part of your lives. No doubt our paths will continue to cross.

bookmark (193 x 600)To mark my time at Sturt and to present as gifts I wove this series of bookmarks. The colour is that of the sign on the Weaving Workshop. I did consider adding dates, but what dates? Should it be the date that weaving first began at Sturt: 1941 or when the formal workshop was begun: 1951? Should I put 2014 as the ending date. It is the end of the workshop building but I sincerely hope it is not the end of weaving all together.

sturt 2012 (600 x 450)It could be Sturt Waving Workshop as of last week. In reality this photo was taken in 2012. How time has flown! Best wishes Sturt for your continuing growth and prosperity.

November 2014

November 29, 2014

Sturt Weaving Workshop is not just a place where weaving happens but it is also a community. On some days when there are no formal classes, the doors are open and all manner of interesting people come in. There are of course weavers working from all three groups (shaft weavers and tapestry), and then there are the visitors: some who are just plain inquisitive about “what is going on in there”, some who came when they were students at Frensham, some who have relatives who wove either here or in another place or time and some who have extra special stories to tell. Sometimes I sit back, look at all the activity on these days and am content. It feels great!

So this month there’s stories on some visitors, our student resident, weaving (both projects and challenges) and a great honour.

At the start of the month we had a visit from Margaret and some family. Margaret wrote the delightful letter following the announcement of the changes that are about to happen (September) She brought along Christopher, now not so young, who had woven here under Elizabeth Nagel. When he came in he made a bee line for the big rug loom out the back studio. What stories were told! For us who were here, it was a real treat.


Christopher and the loom he used to weave on.


This helping hand provided by the husband of Barb highlighted the community spirit that makes up the weaving workshop. Barb rejoined for the last part of the term. She was concerned that she wouldn’t get her ideal project completed so she brought along her husband to lend a hand. Threading of a series of wide napkins (serviettes) was done in no time.


Last weekend we had a visitor. Julia Charles walked in and said that her grandmother had donated a loom. I said that unless it had a plaque, it would be difficult to trace. Luckily the loom had a plaque. (I insist on all looms that are donated to the studio have a plaque.) It was the big rug loom! Betty Charles had given the loom in 1959. What a delight to meet her grand daughter.

P1050223The plaque.

It was time this month for the annual visit from Year 10 Frensham girls. Each year the year 10’s come across, are divided into groups and spend a lovely time creating. The girls had the opportunity to work with clay, make books, work in the jewellery workshop and of course in the weaving workshop. I had a maximum number of 12. The girls made purses and bags to “hold treasures”. They started with some tie dye and then all did some card weaving and then had the opportunity to weave on table looms and a brief 20 minute stint on a floor loom. This is what was produced. Many of the bags are lined using the dyed fabric. I was delighted with their efforts. We had fun!


An impressive collection of bags produced by the year 10’s; and they are not all there!

We’ve had a student resident weaver. Sari came for 6 weeks but had such a lovely time; she asked if she could have an extra week. During that time she produced a large quantity of work, focussing on felted woven scarves. It was a steep learning curve as she had to learn that not all wool felts by experience. She soon became accustomed to testing first to see if the yarn she was going to use would. It is very sad to contemplate that she will be the last resident weaver under the current format of the weaving workshop. But what an experience for her! The weavers also enjoyed having her around.


Sari weaving on my 8 shaft jack loom and with  her collection (below)



Tuesday finishes another warp: this time a scarf in lace weave. She explored a number of different patterns from the one threading.


She proudly showed the finished scarf.


Ruth played with colour. The warp is widely spaced, allowing for weft colour to dominate.


Belinda cut her colour study from the loom. She also explored various threading on this warp.


Tuesday wove another warp. This time it was a scarf using loopy mohair.


Maggie (second from Left) wove a length using strips of old shirts. The coloured warp added great interest to the overall effect. There is much discussion on the end use of the series she has been working on.


There will be another indigo day before the end of term. Belinda finishes a short warp exploring warp shibori. It is now pulled up ready to go.


Isabel is the last person to weave on a group challenge. She has the honour of cutting off. These will be another series of tea towels. More about this will be on next month’s blog.


I have decided that I’ll mark the end of my term by weaving a series of “loom bench floor rugs”. The first was a scaled reproduction of the community rugs from last year. I thought that it could be a souvenir of my time here. There’s potential for possibly 4 rugs but whether I get all done will depend on how much I am diverted from the project by other things that happen.

Last year, Doug Rosemond made a loom for the graduating wood student’s exhibition. He was one of the year long certificate course students. There was collaboration between us to achieve what is a beautiful loom. It is a joy to weave on. Currently there are 3 of these in the workshop. I have the original prototype. Belinda, one of the students, acquired one and has been weaving on it here. Then last month Friends of Sturt acquired one. It is currently being used for another group challenge. I wanted all students to have the opportunity to enjoy the experience of weaving on it before the end of year. I have been asking Doug to put his plaque on them. He came to see what this year’s graduates have produced and he arrived with his plaques.


Isabel supervises putting them on.


I am speechless, feeling very honoured and delighted by what he has put on them. It is not every day that one has a loom named after them. I know that I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be involved in this project. Right from the start of my 2 year term, it was my hope that through collaboration with the wood workshop, a loom could be developed. I saw it as a way of updating the very old and mostly inefficient collection of looms that were in the workshop. I saw it also as representing the ethos and vision of Winifred West, the person who set up Sturt. I am very pleased that Doug also had that vision and made it possible. It could not have happen without us being here at Sturt. It is the interaction between workshops that can sometimes make this an exciting place. I am delighted that he has on-going orders for more. Phone Doug on 0419493081. By the way I am very happy to promote these looms and have absolutely no financial benefit in doing so.

I have just heard from Mundaring Art Centre in Western Australia that Exposition continues to have great reviews. This is a group exhibition in which I am involved that stated in Warwick then went to Redlands Museum, both in Queensland. There is an online gallery that may be of interest.