February 2018: Linen and Lace, Woven Shibori and other stuff.

March 5, 2018

In the studio this month I held the second Linen and Lace class. The class was nearly full with 4 students. That is why this follows on from #1 in January. There were great results again. Here are some images of work by Karen, Jen and Jan. It is worthwhile to note that two of these are fairly new weavers.

They wove. Karen is missing from this photo.

And they finished off. Here a Swedish Lace series is being mangled using a marble rolling pin.

And went home with a great collection.

Jen’s collection


Karen’s collection


Jan’s collection.

Rochelle after attending #1 decided that she’d like to weave a double width alpaca blanket, so she had the opportunity to also refresh on the theory… and to check out what the others did.


One of the additional challenges of this week was to experiment with pick up on lace weaves if time permitted. In this way all could come to an understanding that more complex design could be achieved with minimal shafts. There are some projects in both Jen and Jan’s collection. Having the loom threaded that way also allowed me to play with a couple of combinations both while the class was underway and afterwards.

On the Bronson Lace warp students could accomplish pick up of a design for an overall pattern or combine it with inlay. I got to weave these two examples.


For those interested in drafts, here it is.

The other pick up warp was on Spot Bronson. Jen got to weave a complex spot Bronson design while I got to play with combinations afterwards. This is my playtime, all off the one warp.

I threaded that one so that both lace and Summer and Winter could be woven at the same time. Jen got to weave a complex spot Bronson design while I got to play with combinations afterwards. I also wanted to revisit the experimentation I’d done with doupe leno from the previous workshop. So it was a 3 way challenge and a bit of forward planning was required.

Here’s the basic draft.

Spot Bronson and Summer and Winter combined. Note as well as being woven full width, there’s an isolated motif in the middle of the lace weave.

To weave the leno, I required a group of 4 threads per dent if I was going to explore more doupe leno stored on an additional stick. My aim was to compare the method that I’d used in the previous month on a countermarche loom with this on the jack loom. However the loom had been threaded 2 per dent. As I knew that I’d be taking advantage of this warp I used a reed where I could remove the uprights allowing me to maintain the sett while achieving 4 per dent. Part way through increasing dent size.

An overhead view of this reed. Once I’m finished, I slide the brass strip back into place securing the reed.

This image shows the leno being picked up. Note the wider spacing has also grouped four threads across in the plain weave.

Preparing one group of 4 to be placed on a doupe. More about this process can be seen on January’s post. I found this process much easier to weave on the Jack loom. The important thing to remember is to put light tension on the pick up leno shaft as each row is woven. It prevents doupes being caught as the shafts change.


The finished leno.

On modifying my reed spacing: One might ask why I just didn’t use a reed with wider spaces to start with. So for the last experiment, I also wove a piece with leno (pick up alternating) and Spot Bronson as an all over pattern. While weaving the threads were very much isolated in groups of 4. After finishing, the warp threads are more evenly spaced. However while weaving, because of the denting, it was impossible to beat the fabric to square as a result the lace floats are elongated.

Here’s the finished collection from that experimental warp.


At the end of this month I was invited to teach at a weaving retreat for 5 weavers at Sewjourn, just north of Melbourne. They had chosen woven shibori as the focus for their study with a bit of additional dyeing tossed in.

Sewjourn is a perfect location for a small group. It has well set up and basic accommodation where you self- cater and a great studio space, set in a rural location. Those weavers sure can cook!

It was an amazing 5 days. Congratulations to Trudi, Di, Jillian, Elizabeth and Kaye. Here are some images.

The studio. Weavers hard at play (aka work).

Some fibre reactive dyeing both as painted warps and pulled up woven shibori.

Different shades of blue from the indigo bath.

Completed dyeing of warps (painted and ikat) and small skeins for weft ikat.

A weft ikat being woven. While the focus was on woven shibori, it was too good an opportunity to see how this would weave up.

The result of a fabulous five days of play.

Next month: In the studio there will be a 5 day class focusing on all manner of twills. There are still 2 places available.



January 2018 Lace weaves and Leno

February 2, 2018

In January, I hosted Linen and Lace in my studio. This class will be run again in a few weeks’ time. My intention is to run small classes with highly personalised teaching, hence the need to divide it into two. It also gives me an opportunity to play as you’ll see later.

Rochelle and Heather explored all manner of lace weaves (Spot Bronson, Bronson, Swedish, Huck, 3 or 5 ends and one piece that combined several). They demystified structures, investigated finishing techniques and took home a collection of beautifully woven and finished pieces. Here’s some images from the 5 days. Congratulations to both of them. It was a great week!



They also explored leno with one piece. The left over warp gave me the perfect opportunity to play.  They got to see the benefit of my play so it’s a “win, win” situation. Towards the end of last year I had explored a technique from John Becker’s Pattern and Loom: Chapter 1, Chinese Han monochrome pattern weaves. The next chapter is on gauze weaves and I spied leno from the Han Dynasty. What caught my attention was a drawing showing loops (or doupes) put on a rod that mechanically achieved those twists that characterised leno. I have used a treadle doupe system to achieve leno and while it works a treat, it takes ages to set up. I wondered how efficiently this would work. It also ties in very nicely with my fascination with S. E. Asian textiles as I’d been seeing leno in use there. Here’s an example from my collection from Bhutan with a detailed view.


Leno is a different way of creating a lacy effect to “lace weaves” which are loom structured. They are classed as being in the “gauze” family. However they do still fit nicely into the week’s theme.

So I set it up. Here’s some things I had to consider. I was working with linen at a sett of 8 epcm (20epi). The warp was already on the loom however I would need to rethread the reed to do what I wanted to do.  Each twist has to have all multiples in one dent of a reed, and I did want to use a reed. So I went to my collection of reeds and found one that had a spacing of 3 dpcm. That meant that I’d thread the reed with 4 per dent for two dents and then leave one free. A dent by the way for those non weavers is a space in the reed.  I quite liked the look of the spaced warp.

Then I had to construct the loops or doupes for the leno. These loops are between the reed and the shafts. It’s easy enough to create the twist in front of the beater and transfer to behind the reed. I could have constructed these loops in much the same way that I do for heddles on SE Asian looms. However I took the soft option of using old texsolv heddles folded in half. They were a bit bulky but it would save time and let me see how this would work.

These two images show how the loops are formed to create the leno twist.


The rod with all those loops on behind the beater.

To weave, it was a relatively simple matter to raise the extra shaft to create those leno twists across the full width of the piece. I did find that it was most effective as the shed wasn’t huge to insert a stick to clear the shed.

The loom I’m using is a countermarche. On this loom there is a lot of movement with the warp threads going up and down. I did find that to weave plain weave a bit of tension on the loop stick allowed for a freer passage of the warp threads. Once you go into the rhythm of just putting a bit of tension while the threads were passing through the “neutral” position at the middle of the treadling movement, weaving progressed easily.

By the way the weft thread is heavier than the warp. I wanted weaving to progress quickly for this experiment. My choice was that heavier white linen thread in my stash: the only one and one that I’d like used up. I’m not sure that it was the best colour choice but it suited my purpose.

Weaving progresses on the loom.


After finishing. The first image has light behind to see the leno more clearly.


And while I was about it here’s a piece of leno that is manually manipulated using the threading on the same loom. The threads in one dent are twisted with those in the next dent and then offset. One image is just woven while the other is after washing. Note how much the denting space has closed up.

The next class on Linen and Lace is from 19-23rd . There’s still 1 place left. Perhaps my students and I will have time to do some more play with leno.

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. www.cmag.com.au



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 www.camberraspinnersandweavers.org.au

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. www.bendigoartgallery.com.au






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. www.tamworthregionalgallery.com.au

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 www.kayfaulkner.com.au 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.





August 2017: The last hurrah, Job’s Tears and in the studio.

September 12, 2017

This post is late. But a trip away and limited internet access are the culprit.


It’s the end of an era. My exhibition, Pattern: A Universal Phenomenon has had its last showing. It has been on tour for the past four years and Childers Arts Space was its last venue. The staff at Childers did a great job hanging it and were very welcoming. I have enjoyed the contact I have had with them. I was driving past the gallery on the week before it came down and called in. My timing was perfect. There was a group of Year 7 students from a local school. They were there on an excursion to look at pattern. I gave an unscheduled artist talk.

Afterwards the group was on the veranda of the gallery where there was some lovely iron lacework.



While I waited for the day to demount the exhibition, I got to spend a couple of days at Burrum Heads. I just happened to be there when some trees were bring trimmed and look what I found: lichen!


As well as being on the trees, there was some adorning an old fishing table.


I have come home with quite a collection ready for some natural dyeing – maybe this month. I wonder how successful the dye extraction (if any) will be. However I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to collect it.

From an earlier trip: Job’s Tears.

DSC04952 (600 x 400)

I had this Akha (an ethnic group in Laos) necklace out the other day. I have been meaning to pass on some information on these beads which are really seeds, since I came back from Laos at the start of the year. I have come across textiles that use these seeds ever since I started travelling in S E Asia. A display in The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre in Luang Prabang detailed great information. This museum is highly recommended.

Pronunciation of “Job” in Job’s Tears: It’s probably easiest to describe as “Job” in the biblical person and not “Job” as in work.

In the museum, there were some great didactic panels which I’ll share detailing aspects of these beads as well as some great textiles.

I didn’t realise that there were four types of beads. I did however recognise that I was seeing different beads in different places. Check out the beads and the different shapes.


This map shows the distribution of the ethnic groups using Job’s Tears in S E Asia. Note the comment that “their disappearance is a indicator of our changing relationship with nature”. Beads are used extensively though often they are mass produced.


Naga shawl. Sagain Division, Myanmar/ Yangon, Myanmar.


Karen skirt borders. Mae Hongsorn Province, Thailand/ Bago Division, Myanmar.


Akha Jacket. Shan State, Myanmar/ Louang Namtha Province, Laos.


Katu shawl for sale in the Museum shop.



Earlier on in August, I had three weavers in the studio for a “Special” class. This allows for open choice and in this case the three students all chose to do something different. Now before I show you what they did, I would like to point out that one had never woven before and this was her first ever experience. Another weaver had done a token amount and had barely wound a warp. While the third was experienced.

Here’s Sharon weaving a fabric length for a blouse.


Sharon is the experienced weaver. The fabric is finished. It has a cotton warp with a silk noil weft: a very beautiful fabric.


But wait- a decision is pending. There are some supplementary warp threads in there for woven shibori. Will she or won’t she overdye? Sharon will be back this month and we’ll find out then.

Jan has just started weaving and is in the process of winding her first warp at home. She came to learn technique and at the same time experiment with some woven shibori. She had seen an example at the Redlands Spinners and Weavers Open day. Along the way she discovered the enjoyment of play.


Here the treadles had been tied up for an 8 shaft twill. What happens if you go that direction and then that one and what happens if you don’t always keep in sequence? It’s fun! And she got to earn about selvedges and how to throw a shuttle and the process of weaving efficiently and with good technique.

And she also got to weave shibori. Here she is pulling up the resist threads. Later she got to experience the magic of an indigo bath. Unfortunately I don’t have images of this.


But I do have some of a collection of things I put in the indigo too. The pattern on the scarf is not really a shibori pattern. The fabric is solid indigo and the pattern sunlight through some lattice work in the early morning. Now that could be inspiration for later.


Rochelle has never woven before and wanted to weave an image inspired by a design on a piece of pottery. Why not? She got to prepare a warp and thread over a 1,000 warp threads. Not bad for a first attempt AND loved doing it. She did celebrate finishing though.

DSC04923 (600 x 400)

This is what she’s weaving. The technique is Theo Morman and allows for great control of imagery.


Later on final detail of pattern will be achieved by embroidery. So for a beginner weaver she’s learn how to set up a loom, throw a shuttle and get great selvedges and how to use a cartoon to achieve imagery. She’ll be back next week to finish off.

Some dates:

The weekend workshop at GO Create will now be on Friday and Saturday, 13-14 October.

Coming up in the studio:

18-22nd September         Doubleweave and Friends

16-20th October               Two extremes: Choose between weft faced rugs and warp faced textiles including rep or textiles inspired by SE Asia. (2 places for rep/warp faced textiles only)

13-17th November          Woven shibori (2 places left)

4-8th December               Special

Lastly: a very special event. When I was at Burrum Heads I got to experience the sun setting down the river and immediately after the moon rising out to sea. It was a remarkable experience!



July 2017: Ballarat and the USA

August 4, 2017

This has been a very busy month teaching away from the studio firstly in Ballarat and then for MAFA in the USA.

At the Ballarat Fibre Arts Australia event, the title of the workshop was Play +1. Each of the students chose a different topic to explore – in other words, play. They could choose an aspect of double weave or mixed warps or a technique of their own choice. There was as a result total diversity. After exploring their topic for 3 ½ days they added an extra component in an extra shaft to achieve a more complex cloth.

But before we started the workshop, there was the matter of a decoration for the top table. I took the opportunity to produce this in the “meet the tutor” afternoon slot. This was a fun activity: a bit of stitching and needle weaving into gutter guard. Everyone got to do whatever they wanted and using whatever yarn they wanted. It was also a great opportunity to meet new and catch up with past students in a very relaxed manner.




Elizabeth started with an unfinished scarf as her project. It was colour and weave on a 4 shaft twill. After finishing her scarf she explored colour and structure variations, including removing and replacing a few warp colours before adding in an extra shaft for a supplementary warp.



Jeanette explored combining lace and summer and winter. This provided the opportunity to explore both structures and some creative approaches to a block of warp threads that didn’t weave. Her extra shaft was used to fix a threading mistake.

Jeanette 1


Trudi explored double weave with Summer and Winter as one layer. There were lots of variables here.


Jillian explored double weave and rotational blocks. (Colonial overshot) and then introduced an extra warp thread on her extra shaft- one that she moved around changing it from one position in the reed across the weft and to a second position.


Di came with a sample of double weave that we then interpreted into a 12 shaft draft. The draft combines blocks of twill and plain weave.



Michael arrived mid workshop and luckily there was a loom set up. It was destined to be rag mug rugs. However, this was used to explore variations of plain weave and then by adding in an extra shaft, it was possible to achieve a 3 end twill.


At the end of the week, the class puts on a display of their work. This is what was achieved. Unfortunately I had to leave early but I was delighted and privileged to spend this time with them. I must also acknowledge the great team that organises the event: Noni, Glenys and the Golden Team. Check out Fibre Arts Australia for details of the next Ballarat event and others run by this organisation. http://www.fibrearts.jigsy.com/ event.

Jeanette table

Later in the month saw me at Millersville in the USA for the MAFA conference. The class was East Meets West where various back strap structures and techniques are interpreted for a western shaft loom. It was a great class of 11 students and everyone accomplished much in 2 ½ days. Here’s an overview of what was woven with each student choosing their favourite section.













Apart from the workshop, there was such a lot to do: catching up with friends and the market place and various structured activities including a fashion parade. Those who were involved in the organisation put on a great conference.

After the conference I had the opportunity to visit with my friend Judith Krone in Atlanta. On one day we got to see these two exhibitions at Lyndon House Art Centre in Athens.

The first one was Time Warp….and Weft, an exhibition by 6 artists.


This is the artist statement followed by an overview of the gallery and work by Geri Forkner that could be walked through.



The second exhibition was Fold Unfold.


About 50 weavers/ university faculties created coverlets. Each of these were folded and placed in a pile. They will be opened at an “unfolding” event. It would have been great to have seen at least one of them unfolded and displayed. Accompanying the exhibition is a movie of each individual work unfolded with a detailed view. This of course can’t replace seeing the actual work.



The other very important activity at Judith’s was our dyeing day. Judith and I have established a tradition of weaving a joint project over a two year period. The first year we each wind our warps of 2 scarves each warp, dye and swap. The second year we weave two scarves with the grand unveiling of the project occurring where we exchange scarves. Each of us ends up with two scarves (one of each other’s dyeing and the other of each other’s weaving). You may have seen previous results of our collaboration. Anyway this is the start of our 5th project (10 years). This time we dyed the two warps together and have swapped. What colour? Well you will just have to wait and see when all will be revealed next year.



Coming up- a 2 day workshop at Go Create (www.gocreatenewengland.com) on the 9-10 September and workshops in the studio.

21-25th August                 Special (2 places left)

18-22nd September         Doubleweave and Friends (2 places left)

16-20th October               Two extremes: Choose between weft faced rugs and warp faced textiles                                                    including rep or textiles inspired by SE Asia. (2 places for rep/warp faced                                         textiles only)

13-17th November          Woven shibori (2 places left)

4-8th December               Special


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 http://www.bundabergregionalgalleries.com.au

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 (www.thelockup.org.au) and Timeless Textiles (www.timelesstextiles.com.au). 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. (nis.wikidot.com)

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.)

DSC04672 (600 x 400)

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: http://blog.feedspot.com/weaving blogs/. I am delighted to be listed.