Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Initial Results

Initial results offer some promise.........

This piece was dry and folded in half before scrunched down the tube and fabric paint added.

This piece was dampened before tying and scrunching, then fabric paint added.

This piece was dampened and some fabric paint applied, then tied and scrunched before more paint added. (The most successful piece for my purposes.) The colours are more vibrant in reality but all could use a little extra oomph to really give the impression of fire or heat......

Close up of the patterning - love the effect.

Dry fabric  folded, scrunched and neat bleach added to exposed folds.

Small piece folded into a rectangle, tied and neat bleach added to exposed surfaces and folds.

Dampened fabric scrunched and tied before bleach added.

All in all pretty pleasing but some further  + and - may happen,
Sue xxxx

Postscript: They look even better once ironed - who'd have thought it would make such a difference?????

Monday, 29 July 2013

Adding and Subtracting

Colour, that is. (A very quick post while I prepare a longer post about 'mud'....)

Testing a little pole wrapped shibori style fabric painting (the red fabric on the left) and some discharge using bleach (the black fabric on the right).

All part of a grand plan which may or may not eventuate, so at this stage let's call them 'samples' and see what tomorrow brings,

Sue xxxx

Thursday, 18 July 2013


Reflections - a word with multiple nuances, many of which have been in evidence in the past few days as I've visited family in my old home town. (Funny how I still call it 'home' though I've lived in my own home for over 30 years, several hundred kms away - and the family left the house I grew up in at about the same time.... Do I digress or does that count as another reflection?)

There were many opportunities to reflect on the passage of time and the changes  to our lives and lifestyles as we looked over old photos and revisited the district and rediscovered how our lives are connected to others.

For starters, there was the trip my parents, one brother (newly licensed to drive) and my sister took up through central Australia to meet up with my husband and me at Uluru (then known as Ayer's Rock). The photos, though grainy, brought back so many memories as three generations pored over them - the changes were easy to see - the trip took place in 1976!!!!!

I was lucky enough to go to Wangaratta one day and see several of the main exhibitions of the "Stitched Up Textile Festival' which provided much more food for thought on many levels. The festival has become one of the biggest in Australia in terms of prizemoney ( so I was told) and attracted entries from some of the biggest names in Australian textile art. There was some fabulous work on display in the main exhibition space and at various venues around the town.

The outing also brought two significant highlights, again loaded with causes for reflection. One was catching up with a colleague from 1976 - 77 (when the above trip took place) and marvelling at how, when there is a shared interest or pathway, that a few minutes into conversation it seems possible to pick up where you left off all those years ago. (Hi Kerryn if you're reading this.)

The other was seeing a number of quilts and pieces of textile art by Susan Matthews in various exhibitions.( See here) The significance for me is that she is one of two Australian textile artists - the other being Gloria Loughman (See here) -whose work ignited my obsession or passion for all things textile - as opposed to just an interest - and opened up a whole new world to me..... and so it goes on unabated.....

Then there was a sentimental journey for my Dad to revisit places where he stayed with relatives and went to school when he was young while his parents both worked in different places to afford a home and I suppose stay afloat in difficult economic times. This is usually quite distressing for him to reflect on but it set the path for a secure and loving home for the four of us (and nine grandchildren plus dogs) as he was quite determined that any children of his wouldn't be an only child or be put in the same situation.

Coupled with that was time spent sorting through two boxes of old 78 records (looking for one in particular which gave rise to my sister's nickname - no, it wasn't there). Many were wrapped in local newspapers dating back to the late 70s, so there were references to people known, the political situation at the time and ads to pore over. Interestingly some things were around the same price as you can find them today - though possibly better quality - like an electric frypan for $29.99 - but as Mum said, "You still had to save up for them".

A morning walk along the river bank and through the local wetlands is also a great time for reflection......

                  (Could you make this with hand-quilting on silk, do you think?)

               (Some free-motion zigzag?)

..... and the starting point for this post. Something to think about til next time,
Sue xxxx

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Bobbin Work

Last year I bought a (quite expensive) bobbin case to deal with thick, fancy threads for bobbin work. (For anyone unfamiliar with this it means that the speciality thread is wound onto the bobbin and you turn your work over and sew from the back.)

The bobbin case is designed so that you can adjust tension discs or bypass them altogether if the thread is very thick.

The time has finally come to give it a test run. I handwound this thread onto the bobbin and stitched onto some fabric paper.

Initial results are very promising.

(This is a hasty post before I head off for a few days with family. I'm hoping to get to the "Stitched Up Festival' in Wangaratta, Vic as well  - be back home Monday.)

Sue xxxx

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Production Line

I needed to find a way to speed up the piecing of my flannel improv blocks. Once I started to develop a method I wondered how I could work on multiple blocks at a time. The answer - like most answers - came to me in the middle of the night.

I figured if I layered  them on sheets of A3 copy paper I could work on a stack of blocks at a time, moving between sewing machine and iron easily and keeping the pieces for each block separate - like a series of jigsaw puzzles - and gradually building them up. (Off-cuts of batting or flannel would probably work just as well, but I didn't have these to hand and copy paper is cheap and can be reused multiple times).

First, stack the pinned pieces next to the sewing machine - each block on its own sheet of paper.

Once all the pieces for the block are joined, move the whole sheet to another handy place. (In my case my extension table was sitting behind the machine not being used.)

When all the current pieces have been joined pick up the whole stack and move it to your ironing mat to press and trim.

The mini blocks are now ready to audition the next fabrics to be added.

Then each block can remain on the paper as further additions are made until it has reached the required size. (In my case 11 1/2 ")

As clear as mud? It's working for me - helping to piece quickly and keeping each block separate. As there are so many pieces of varying size it's not practicable to chain piece but this is helping me to avoid chaos,

Sue xxxx

PS: This is supposed to be on my 'Tips and Tutorials' page but I can't work out how to do it. Help!

Friday, 5 July 2013


If you've been following my blog you will already have seen the small carpet we brought home from Central Asia. Now I'd like to share some pics of some others we saw.

Let's start with Sabina, saleswoman extraordinaire in Bukhara, a lively, feisty young woman with fabulous English and a winning smile...... (how could you not buy a carpet from her?)

We were greeted with a bowl of green tea to sip while we listened to Sabina as she began her introduction to the world of carpets - and what a feast for the senses it was.......

The silk carpets were sublime - and of course expensive (all those hand knotted strands of silk) and were so soft and pliable they folded up small enough to slip into your day-pack - if you had the money to buy one - which I didn't........alas. These seemed to be the speciality of Uzbekistan, specifically Bukhara, where we were at the time.

She then went on to explain how and where the wool and camel hair carpets were made. (The wool carpets are generally made in Turkmenistan and the baby camel hair carpets (like ours) are generally made in Afghanistan). Interestingly these were generally much more to our taste which was just as well because it meant that it was more affordable - after a deep breath.

She also talked about the working conditions and went on to explain that their factories are internationally supervised to ensure no child labour is used and that the young women can nominate their own working hours as they are paid by the knot. This also helps protect their eyesight as it's very close work. (When the weavers are beginners they actually count the knots....more experienced and trusted employees have their work measured........)

No-one was working when we were there so Sabina gave us a quick demonstration using a silk carpet in progress.

She also explained about the diagrams or patterns used (set out like a cross stitch pattern)to create the traditional designs but went on the say that the girls can choose the colours themselves.....some apparently don't even need a pattern to follow.

Then to serious business......

Another high point was the Carpet Museum in Ashgabat, the Capital of Turkmenistan which was amazing - a world class facility being developed to preserve tradition and protect heritage. Unfortunately there weren't any postcards or printed matter on the collection so all I have is a few photos...... (Another place I could have spent hours and hours in.)

It has the largest handmade carpets in the world hanging on the walls in the entrance area. (The President and government keenly supports development and the standard of the modern architecture and museums and other facilities is testament to that - his photo around town on everything is testament to that....) They are huge - I didn't write down the stats but we are talking 30+ metres......

The guide we were supposed to have was with another group when we arrived so we were snaffled by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable Professor who jumped at the chance to practise her English and share her passion for carpets. Her parents, in particular her father, are apparently master weavers so she had a lot of information to share. (In fact she would have liked to have had us there for hours, as well. What a pity we had to rush off to our next attraction....)

We had a close look inside a yurt at the structure and carpets found inside - carpets on the walls, floor, carpet bags and cushions. Her talk was fascinating (and I'm pretty sure we weren't supposed to be in there, or take photos...)

(A little more detail.)

Our guide rushed some of us down to the basement where there were carpet weavers at work. These women were finishing off fringes......

Displays in the museum....... 

Bags for carrying household goods by camel or horse when on the move.

.................... and a demonstration by our ebullient guide.......

Weavers at work elsewhere.........

This piece above was in a museum but they are found everywhere in front yards, courtyards, hotels and restaurants - carpets in action......

At our hotel in Samarkand - how did they know it was my birthday?

And when we got back from my birthday dinner..........they were waiting......

.....including the 5th floor of a complex with restaurants, nightclub etc overlooking the night lights of Ashghabat.

.......or as a stage for performance or a fashion parade....

There were examples in the Applied Arts museums in each of the four countries we visited and carpets in use everywhere. At one point one of our fellow travellers looked at me and said, "You're there, aren't you?" So true....... romantic visions of the nomadic life flashed in front of my face, only to crash and burn a few days later when we were faced with icy weather, ( see 'I Met a Traveller'.
Other museum pieces.....

In mosques and mausoleums......


and guard posts.......


Sue xxxx