Some fun with ATASDA

It has been nearly a year since I have blogged here and a year since my mum died. The past year was very mentally challenging and I feel I have just come out of a fog. Cleaning out 60 years of accumulated possessions was a very long process.

However I have not been idle as all that textiles art stuff is great therapy. I will work my way backwards and hopefully catch up on all the textile art of the past year. First up, last weekend we had a wonderful eco dyeing day in Melbourne with some of the ATASDA Victoria group. I unwrapped my bundles today and had some interesting results with the most vibrant being on some silk/wool broadcloth from Beautiful silks.

I also folded up some concertina book pages (A3 mixed media 210gsm) and experimented with a variety of garden prunings: ornamental grape leaves

Sheoak needles butterfly:

Purple leaved prunus, rose and E. cineria

Instead of string ties I tied up the bundles with silk sari strips

And my recently returned home recycled book called ‘Wild Silk’ from the ATASDA In the Making exhibition in Sydney. The theme of the exhibition was ‘Look Inside’ and I thought a book was ideal for that!

Many of my artworks relate to environmental themes and this relates to the two ways of sourcing silk threads/woven fabrics. The commercial production of mulberry silk entails feeding the cocoons in mass production and boiling the moths alive to preserve the single thread. On the other hand, ‘Wild silk’ allows silk worms to remain in their natural habitat with the cocoons being collected after the moths have exited (tussah silk).

Inside were more items to look inside!

Tussah silk paper ‘Chinese secrets’ (thread holders) boxes

A middle section for the tussah moth to hide:

And a little book with silk paper cover to read about making ethical and responsible choices when shopping for clothing:

The tussah moth joins a bogong moth in my growing moth family:

March 29, 2023 at 6:13 pm Leave a comment

Geelong Gallery Latest exhibitions

I managed to drop into the Geelong Gallery this week where they have an amazing group of exhibitions, as well as exhibits from their collection. The Gallery is beside our dome shaped library which is also a wonderful place to visit.

The first exhibit is based on the Ballet Russes costumes, designed by Picasso, re-imagined a century later by Sally Smart.

The next gallery exhibits photos by Ponch Hawkes of 500 nude women over 50. I love how Hawkes has captured the character of each of the women photographed.

I then went to the Diane Fogwell‘s exhibit ‘Prescience’ where you are surrounded by fifty-six large panels depicting regeneration and life cycles in the bush.

Another immersive experience is Barbara Campbell’s ‘ex-avibus‘. This exhibit includes markmaking of the long migration of shorebirds between the north and south ends of the earth as well as an audio.

A wonderful group of exhibitions well worth a visit.

April 5, 2022 at 8:05 pm Leave a comment

Bag and books

Another catch up on items made in 2021. Early in 2019 we had a mini workshop at GeeTAG on using Inktense pencils and crayons. I decided to research different sea stars and created a panel of 8 on cotton fabric. I have used 4 of these on the komebukuro bag I made of leftover and recycled denim fabric. I added hand stitch and beading. The drawstring is half kumihimo cord and half wrapped cord with beads Effie Mitrofanis style. The lining is a cotton sateen second.

Sateen lining

My bookmaking has come to a standstill in the last 6 months due to working long hours but these are two coptic binding books I made earlier in 2020. The covers are some of my handmade paper using t-shirt material and recycled paper. Each signature has two sheets of drawing paper with a sheet of watercolour paper in the middle. The signatures are also wrapped in a sheet of contrasting hand made paper. The handmade paper seems to tear a little with the coptic binding so I need to investigate that further. I am currently also investigating how to prevent the cardboard cover from showing through the handmade paper and came across the process of making bookcloth here using rice or kozo paper and wheat paste. I will have a try at covering first with rice paper followed by the handmade paper to see if that gives a better result.

Coptic binding

The beginning of 2022 will be spent reorganising the creative making spaces and giving away anything I will not be using in the future. Then it will be onto my WIP list.

January 6, 2022 at 11:37 am 2 comments

2021 Round off

For the last 6 months of 2021, I was working 3 part time jobs as once gain the research project for the PhD stalled due to Covid restrictions and lockdowns. The jobs were interesting and all consuming so not much was created on the textile front. Here are a few items that were completed:

This year we resurrected the ATASDA VIC group under the enthusiastic guidance of Caz Rogers as Convener. Due to Covid restrictions, we met once a month on zoom and completed a few challenges and swaps. Below you can see the results from our latest challenge/swap which was for an ATC on the theme ‘girl power’.

I forgot to take a photo of mine before they were posted, however this is the base fabric before they were handstitched with v’s in a variegated thread. The base is needlefelted and Free Machine Embroidered (FME) with ‘suffragette’ machine stitched all over.

The previous and first challenge was about ‘My Place’

Mine was the gum blossom as we are literally surrounded by gum trees, not a good thing if a bushfire ever comes through! Below are also my set of gum blossoms ready to be finished off and posted to the swap partners.

To announce the arrival of the VIC group into ATASDA we held an Australia wide challenge. Each member of ATASDA was posted a sheet of mulberry paper to make into a Paper bag shaped Luminary. There were some quite interesting and beautiful luminaries created. ATASDA members can view these on the website members’ gallery. Mine was based on the endangered orange bellied parrot which visits wetlands close by:

My upcycle is based on an apron I found in an op shop. I coffee dyed the apron, cut it up and tacked on some ecodyed and printed fabrics. I did attempt some shibori stitching but the coffee wasn’t strong enough to dye it clearly. I will make it into a ‘button bag’ and use up some of my collection of buttons. Quite often if I am ecodyeing I will pop some of the dye liquid in a jar and add some bits and pieces like threads and buttons:

Lots of hand stitching to go.

I was struggling for inspiration with the items I was given for the name badge when I saw some Art Deco brooches that gave me an idea, just waiting for my dremel to arrive!

January 5, 2022 at 7:24 pm Leave a comment

Ecology and the Bogong moth

There has been a bit of a flutter this year about the migration of the Bogong moth and one of its’ predators, the mountain pygmy possum. See the story at Melbourne Zoo here. I can remember many swarms of these large moths as a child. As we know, the ecological food web means the loss of one species has a domino effect on other species. Our GeeTAG group had a theme of wings for one of our meetings so I decided to make a giant bogong moth.

Normally a bogong moth is about 40mm in length, mine is about 3-4 times that size. I call him a macro moth.

The wings were coloured using tea dyed silk and drawing with inktense crayons and a mixture of water and aloe vera gel (stops the colour spreading too much). They were made like Stumpwork wings using copper wire stitched around the shapes with additional handstitching to create the markings. I also had fun stitching the raised stem stitch band on the wool felt body and using turkey work stitch for that great hairstyle!

Copper wire was also used for the legs and wrapped with thread for the proboscis. The eyes were some jet black glass buttons I bought a while back. With all their little segments they were perfect for the moths multiple eyes.

I am now thinking of creating a baby mountain pygmy possum to join the super sized moth in an exhibit.

December 5, 2021 at 6:04 pm Leave a comment

Apple leaves for dyeing and printing

As the apple tree was losing its last leaves I decided to collect those newly fallen and about to fall for a dyepot. I had planned to try to get a green dye from my deciduous fruit trees but left it a little late and most leaves were fallen and mushy after recent rain. That will have to be an experiment for next autumn (2022 here in the Southern Hemisphere).

Instead I added some of my collection of brown onions skins to bulk up the colour. I ended up with three stocking leg ‘tea’ bags of dye material and cooked these up for an hour, then left to rest overnight. The next morning I removed the ‘tea’ bags and heated up the liquid, added a few lengths of gauzy cotton and silk, some with apple leaves to imprint, to the the pot and gently simmered for an hour. The result was a variety of yellows from bright to mellow.

I then decided to use some pieces of op shop cream blanketing as there appeared to be still dye in the pot. These were tied in bundles some had red & brown onions skins tied inside, others had some untwisted copper electrical wire and gum leaves tied in. One piece was wrapped around a twisted copper pipe, the others were thick enough just to roll up and tie. The pot was heated up, the wool added and very gently cooked for an hour, turned off and left in the pot for two days (I was busy with other activities).

The gauzy materials were very subtle, the wool was quite vibrant-I wonder if the copper acted as mordant to make these intense colours and prints.

The interesting imprint of the copper pipe on the right
Onion skins and gum leaves imprinted
Copper wire and gum leaves

July 21, 2021 at 11:08 am 3 comments

Time for an update

When you are busy making, especially if it involves travelling, it is hard to find the time to blog. My most recent jaunt, undertaken with a little trepidation of a snap covid shutdown, was a flight to Sydney to enjoy a wonderful felted vessels workshop with Denise Lithgow organised by ATASDA. Denise is a very generous tutor who shared many of her techniques over that she employs in her wonderful award winning sculptural vessels.

The company of the creative and generous ATASDA members plus Denise’s delicious cakes and even champagne for a birthday celebration made this one of my most memorable workshops!

Denise and her husband Peter Griffen live and work in a quirky renovated factory in inner Sydney. As we worked we were surrounded by Peter’s colourful paintings (and floor) and characterful sculptures along with Denise’s amazing maxi sized vessels and machine embroidered artworks. All in all a totally fabulous art immersive experience!

Cracked bowl technique

A more adventurous piece incorporating many of Denise’s techniques has been put on hold due to other events but I am looking forward to getting back to it.

Another recent workshop was held by fellow GeeTAGger Kerrie Maloney on coptic bound sketchbooks. Although I had tried this binding technique before nothing beats a hands on tutorial with an expert and the company of other creatives. I have one sketchbook completed and one in process (which will be gifted). I can see, once I have mastered the basics, this will be a technique for further exploration. If you are local to Geelong, Kerrie is looking to start a bookbinding group to meet before our GeeTAG sessions. Contact us if you are interested.

Each signature is bound with a piece of interesting paper

Our latest GeeTAG session for May was great fun. Led by Gillian, we played with lots of drawing and printing materials on watercolour paper. I will be trying this on fabric soon.

May 22, 2021 at 2:56 pm Leave a comment

Making paper from jeans and tshirts

Thank you to Gail Stiffe for a wonderful workshop with the Papermakers of Victoria where we recycled old denim jeans and clothing plus tshirts to make some wonderfully coloured and textured papers. We also used resists to create pockets using 2 different sized deckles. Excellent fun and can highly recommend the POV workshops.

Variety of pocket options
Texture and two layered paper
Embedded contrast and teabag

March 26, 2021 at 11:12 am 1 comment

Treasure Trove Challenge

Another challenge I took part in last year was with ATASDA (Australian Textile and Surface Decoration Association) which included members Australia wide. Currently the challenge art pieces are on display at Epping Creative Centre and will travel to other venues as restrictions ease.

Members nominated to join the Challenge and were given a Challenge partner. Each person created their own ‘treasure’ in whatever textile medium they chose. The only limitation was a size one for posting. Once finished my treasure, based on a conch shell, was posted to my partner to create the ‘receptacle’ or treasure holder. You can view all the treasures and their receptacles on the ATASDA website galleries.

To create my shell I began with needlefelting, then wet felting to create the base ‘fabric’. The piece was free machine stitched, lined with natural dyed and twin needled silk, formed into the 3D shell and then handstitched and beaded.

My treasure partner used nuno felting to create a wonderful ‘stage’ for the shell:

January 10, 2021 at 9:27 pm 2 comments


The 2020 Biblio Art Prize at Blarney Books & Art is now open for viewing, both in Port Fairy and online.

The Biblio Art Prize began in 2009 and has become very popular, attracting entries from around Australia and overseas.  It was instigated by and continues to be run through Blarney Books and Art in Port Fairy, a quirky bookshop plus art gallery that is an institution in Victoria for locals and travellers alike. A book title is chosen from a hat and the entrant is expected to read and respond to the book in some way or form.

This year Blarney Books and Art chose to select books written by Australian authors for the art prompt. I was emailed The Labyrinth by Amanda Lohrey and promptly supported my local bookstore by buying the book. As one of the finalists my piece is included in both the online and physical exhibitions.

Title: Perfect Imperfection

Book Title: The Labyrinth by Amanda Lohrey

Medium: Textile Art: Goldwork, Free Machine Embroidery, Hand Embroidery.

Brief Statement:

This book brought to mind the Japanese aesthetic of wabi sabi, its complexity and imperfectness, which is reflected in all our lives. The book explores the elements of strength/resilience and kindness/softness.

The Labyrinth speaks to:

            How we care for others,

            How we respond to adversity,

            How we accept the imperfection of human nature.

The artwork started with a base of natural silk, strong yet soft. I painted the colours of sea and sky and used frottage to simulate the grey gravel of the zen garden. The soft cotton, repeated stitching is a meditation on the labyrinth, the metal of goldwork the strength that holds us all together. The twisted tree, reminiscent of my beach walks, represents the complexity of family relationships and the chairs the warmth and belonging of community.

A labyrinth is the opportunity to meditate on the perfect imperfection of life and living.


The piece is framed by Mulbury Framers in Highett who use beautiful reclaimed and recycled timber.

January 10, 2021 at 9:00 pm Leave a comment

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