Calm in the Chaos

Ironically, this is the title of an artwork I made, in a less chaotic time, for the inaugural Australian Textile Art Award. The exhibition opened last Friday, then the gallery immediately closed for an indefinite time due to the Corona Virus.

Last October, in what seems like another life, we spent a wonderful week at Lake Garda, Italy. We walked along the lake edge, caught ferries to lake side villages, ended the days with an Aperol Spritz and a delicious dinner.

My plan was to make work inspired by this beautiful lake, focusing on the enjoyment of life.

Artist Statement 

Big skies and large bodies of water calm me, I take a deep breath and sigh, all is right with the world. This work began after a lakeside holiday with a goal to reflect and inspire this simple joy in life. However, back home life got in the way, with responsibilities, interruptions, and the negative influences of social media and the news. Working through the many iterations of this piece has helped me accept that the chaos will continue, and that we need to look for the glimpses of calm amongst it.

Materials and Techniques

Materials – silk organza, silk dupion, recycled business ties, woolen blanket, polyester machine thread, embroidery thread. Techniques – Fabrics were printed and hand dyed, then layered together and machine stitched throughout. Some layers have been cut away. Colonial knots were then stitched throughout. Individual circles have been assembled with hand stitching.

MELD Retreat

I’ve just returned from a week away in Busselton with the MELD group. We spent most of our time planning and working on pieces for our upcoming exhibition in October 2014. Yes, only 7 months away!march 2014 068Busselton is one of my favourite places. The huge expanse of ocean and sky refreshes me and there is always something to inspire on our daily walks.march 2014 070march 2014 089 march 2014 090march 2014 094 march 2014 095 march 2014 096

I worked on a variety of projects, both developing ideas and finalizing pieces. This piece of rust and indigo dyed silk that I have cut up and hemmed, I think now resembles little landscapes.march 2014 120



Indigo Dreams

Indigo Dreams is my entry for the 2013 Australian Cotton Fibre Expo currently on display in Narrabri NSW.

Indigo Dreams Front

Indigo Dreams – Front

Indigo Dreams - Back

Indigo Dreams – Back










The piece is made from cotton voile which I have hand dyed in Indigo using simple resist techniques.  Each square has six layers of voile, machine stitched together with sections then cut away to fray and reveal additional patterning. Some sections have been hand stitched for an extra highlight.

Indigo Dreams - Detail 2

Indigo Dreams – Detail


Busy working

Screen 1

I’ve been very busy these past few weeks preparing work for some exhibitions.  Above are some texture rubbings applied in water soluble crayon onto silk screens. Below – some of the prints on grey silk.

Texture rubbing print 1

These we’re used in combination with other layers of silks, stitchIng, cutting away sections and fraying.

Below is another piece I am working on, from side on. It has 625 pins holding all the 1 inch squares in place until I am completely happy with the arrangement. Yes, there are 625 pieces to sew onto the canvas!

Pins 1

I had the great pleasure last weekend to attend a workshop by UK Shibori Artist, Jane Callender,  Jane presented two Shibori and Indigo dyeing workshops for WAFTA as well as a very comprehensive lecture on repeat pattern making and the Indigo Dyeing process. The workshop was a great immersion into many stitching, clamping and wrapping techniques by a master practitioner. I like many others, left the workshop wishing I could spend a few more days exploring all the techniques.

Shibori organza

Above is one of my workshop samples on silk organza, still holding the folds from the stitching. Prior to being washed.

The Hairy Golden Retriever

With the realisation that an exhibition application  was just around the corner, I’ve been cutting, sewing, cutting and fraying pieces of indigo dyed fabrics in every spare moment for the past two weeks. There’s nothing like a deadline to get the inspiration happening…I can’t really show any of this piece yet, although below is the dress I made last weekend from a piece of fabric I dyed a few weeks ago.  The dress was made when I needed a break to re-think the original indigo plan.

Red dyed dress

Yesterday we saw a production of “Joseph and His Technicolour Dream Coat” which our friend Cassie starred in the lead role of Joseph. Not only is she a great singer and actor, she made her own stunning dream coat with the help of her sewing teacher.


And although not entirely textile related, our ” Very Hairy Golden Retriever” turned 12 yesterday. The textile part refers to the amount of dog wool I could have spun throughout the years from his forever moulting coat! I’m told it is very warm…


Not bad looking for an old boy is he?

Indigo Dyeing

We visited our friends in Roleystone last week, partly so our son could photograph the bush and rocks on their property.  It was late in the afternoon and the light was lovely. I really liked the colours and textures on the rocks and then it quite difficult to stop photographing them…here are a few.

Rocks 6Rocks 5Rock 1Rocks 2Rocks 3Rocks 4

I’ve been working towards a layered and stitched piece in indigo dyed cotton voile. Below are the first fabrics I have dyed for the project.  I’ve used pegs, sushi mats, tongue depressors, rope and freezer clips as resists.

Indigo 3

Indigo 2

Indigo 3

I made the silk top below last year, it was dyed purple with white circles.  I think it’s vastly improved by a quick dunk in the indigo vat…I feel much more likely to wear it now!

Silk top

Indigo on pre-dyed silk

Colour Project – Indigo, Part 6

For my final indigo dyeing session I decided to experiment with some silks I had previously dyed, some over 20 years ago!

Using the sewing pin disks. Right – Scrunch dyed, not overly successful – it’s not much different to the start colour.

Fold and clamp on bright pink silk

Purple fabric rolled with a sushi mat

A very small piece of deep pink/red resisted with a large peg.

This is the most interesting piece – I found it in the bottom of the pot when I tipped out the exhausted dye over a week later…I think the fabric started out like the second piece above.

I recently came across the The Museum of Natural Dye Arts in Korea website, it has a great page on how to dye with Natural Indigo. Step by step pictures, plant to fabric.

Indigo dyeing has been one of the most enjoyable areas to explore during this colour project. I feel it is more likely to be incorporated into my work than any other technique I have played with…




Second Indigo Dye Bath

Colour Project – Indigo, Part 4

There is something about dyeing days with other people, the joy of the unveiling of a little folded or stitched package, the oohs and aahs… it is so much more fun. So I invited Liz, Margaret and Julie along for my second indigo dyeing session. We used the Synthetic Indigo vat from the previous week and I made up a Kraft Kolour Natural indigo vat as well. Julie brought along a previously mixed batch that had been exhausted, although still produced a very pale blue shade.







Margaret watching some of our pieces change from green to blue as the indigo comes in contact with the air. Below – Liz checking one of her pieces.



Liz dyed this crocheted top, it is forever fascinating to watch as the colour changes and deepens…

I threw in a couple of balls of crochet cotton. The one on the right started out as a cornflower blue and I have only half dipped it.

A couple of days later, this is the result when dry.

In this second dye bath I decided to try some of the more labour intensive stitch resist techniques in Shibori:The Inventive Art of Japanese Shaped Resist Dyeing by Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada, Mary Kellogg Rice and Jane Barton.

Chevron stripes (maki-nui shibori)

Half dip on silk wrapped around a sushi rolling mat.

Pegs again…

Japanese Larch (karamatsu shibori)


(hira-nui stitching)

Elastic bands above and clip below as seen in second photo.

Right (komasu shibori)

My First Indigo Dye Bath

Colour Project – Indigo, Part 3

Indigo dyeing has been somewhat of a mystery to me up until a few months ago when I attended a dyeing workshop with Trudi Pollard at her studio. Trudi had three well loved, long lived indigo vats for us to use. She took great care to keep them warm by the fire, told us about how temperamental indigo can be and she showed us how to very carefully slide the fabric into the vat without disturbing the surface too much so as not to expose the liquid to the air.

I have also been reading about praying to the Indigo god for a good dye vat…

So with some trepidation I prepared my own bath using Kraft Kolour Indigo power. I was delighted with the success of this first attempt…

Above – A Doughnut on cotton sheeting. This design is made by rolling fabric around a piece of thick rope and gathering the fabric together very tightly.

Also on cotton, this concertina folded fabric is then pegged along the folds.  Simple and effective…I use it quite often.

Another really simple method – scrunched up silk habutai tied with elastic bands. Right is a close up. The main aim of these samples was to show that the dye bath worked – So I didn’t spend a lot of time on the resist techniques.

This piece uses plastic packaging disks of cheap sewing pins. The pins are terrible, but the disks make great resists…this piece is about 70cm wide and I only had 4 disks, more disks would create more distinct circles.

Another smaller piece in Silk Dupion.

Plastic clips on Silk Organza. Below – Polyester Organza, both fabrics have been layered to show the depth of colour.