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Sunday, 22 July 2018

What three years of saying no to new clothes looks like

Colour combo love. My half-thrifted, half-handmade PJs
I got quite a shock when I went back through my posts to see when I basically stopped buying new clothes... It was January 2015 – three and a half years ago! No wonder things are starting to get dire in places. I haven't gone back to the audit document a lot, but it would be interesting to see whether it's decreased much in size. I am aiming to fit all my clothes into the wardrobe together without having to swap winter out for summer etc, but I'm still a way off that.

I haven't gone all minimalist and whittled my wardrobe down to a handful of items. While it might be a great online fad, I don't see how it's very sustainable – throwing out perfectly good clothes to keep only the ones you wear a lot. It just means you'd end up replacing them faster when you could have put clothes that aren't on high rotation into the mix to extend their life.

Nor have I gone on a making spree. Again, I think it's more important to look after my already considerable wardrobe and only replace when necessary using this approach.

There are few categories of clothing that I'm never going to buy secondhand, nor likely ever make, and that's the shoes and underwear. The first things to go have been the shoes, as they were fairly old to start. I replaced a pair of summer sandals last season and a pair of winter shoes this season, but other than that there's been nothing new*.

Falling apart at the seams

A few weeks ago, there came a perfect storm of clothing disintegration. First there was the pair jeans that had already been mended once – they're now back on the mending pile for another go. I was out to lunch with friends and took a giant step back onto the balcony, after having been for a bit of a wander, when there was an almighty rip. Thankfully we were about to go home anyway...
One woman's personal challenge to see how long she can go without buying new clothes by mending, making and thrifting.
Then I noticed the wear on this pink vest. I don't think I've ever worn out a knitted item before – except socks. I'll try some darning on this and see how it goes. It's a firm winter favourite so it would be great to extend its life.
One woman's personal challenge to see how long she can go without buying new clothes by mending, making and thrifting.
Then there were two pairs of pyjamas that completely wore through – in the same week. They're so threadbare now that they'll be added to the rag pile with better bits salvaged for upcycling in quilts.
One woman's personal challenge to see how long she can go without buying new clothes by mending, making and thrifting.
I'm clearly spending WAY too much time sitting around in my PJs these days. To solve this problem, I bought a flannel shirt from the op shop and some flannel fabric to make myself a new pair of PJ bottoms by cutting a pattern from one of the pairs that died.
One woman's personal challenge to see how long she can go without buying new clothes by mending, making and thrifting.

Better than shop-bought

It's the longest time since I've sewn a garment, but it only took an afternoon. I have to admit I got into them the minute I got home yesterday – they're so comfortable, and making them myself meant I actually got a pair of pants long enough for me.

I can see these ones will be in danger of wearing through too!
One woman's personal challenge to see how long she can go without buying new clothes by mending, making and thrifting.
There are so many great indie pattern makers out there these days and lots of online inspiration. Have you been getting back into making your own clothes?

*Except for the gym emergency back here.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

The textile art of Second Skin

Last month, Tenfold Textile Collective held its second group show in the very welcoming city of Ballarat. The exhibition was open Thurs – Sun for three weeks. We were really happy, and maybe a little surprised by the number of visitors we had, both locals and those making the trip up from Melbourne (or beyond).
Page 5 and Page 47, Tara Glastonbury
The works in the exhibition started with the notion of textiles as a second skin. Throughout our lives our skin is almost always in contact with textiles. From being wrapped in cloth at birth and again at death, using it as a protective layer, as an evolving form of self-expression and a statement of our values through the textiles we choose to use. We sit on cloth, sleep between its layers, decorate our homes with it and work with it.
Left: Lou Hicks, from Amour de soi series. Centre and right: Morgana Robb, Skin series (all three pics by Paul Hicks)
The pieces explored notions of identity, ageing, emotional expression and belonging, and featured natural fibres, found objects, recycled clothing, clay and plastic bags.
Rose Kulak, Fibreshed Scarves
My quilts (at top) are based on page layout grids. Taking my older working identity, or skin, as a design manager and fitting it to my newer skin as a quilt designer and maker. The rules and conventions of graphic design being made to fit quilt design. They are also a celebration of the freedom of having complete creative control rather than being dictated to by a client.
Claire Munnings, Shield Maiden (photo by Paul Hicks)
‘What do you do?’ is one of the first things we ask people we’ve newly met, and ‘How’s work going?’ for friends and family. How we earn a living is a large part of our identity in Australia. Not having an easy answer to these questions for the last few years has made for unsettling times, as I no longer fit into an accepted mould.
Korina Leoncio, Weathered series
The quilts are also made from another second skin – our clothing. Leftover toiles from my pattern making, clothes of mine that are no longer wearable, and donated pieces all went in to the works.
Lisa Mori, Slow 1, 2 and 3
No matter how early I start, I still seem to be sewing things at the last minute – it didn't help that I changed my mind so many times before settling on an idea for this one too.
It's a good discipline though. I've missed two other deadlines recently, for shows I would have liked to submit my quilts to, but juggling work alongside making means quilts don't always take priority. The Tenfold exhibitions are not deadlines that can be let go so easily, and for that I'm grateful.
Left: Sarah Williams, The Story Behind. Centre and right: Ana Petidis, Untitled Cloth
I've spoken to quite a few textile artists recently who've asked how we've come together as a group and how we manage to put on exhibitions. It's made me realise again how lucky it was for us to have magically landed in the same year to study. Beyond that though, it's keeping your eye out for gallery call-outs, ongoing proposal writing even when you've been rejected, and providing each other with motivation to continue. I hope some of the textile artists that visited our show are now tempted to organise their own... We're already back to writing proposals for 2019!
Jem Olsen, The Daily Disrupted

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Quiltcon wrap up

Stitch and Yarn's Quiltcon wrap up – was it worth it?
Do you know it's been a month since Quiltcon? I had planned to share more with you when I got back, but I went straight into a final production deadline in my real job and time has got away from me.

In some ways Quiltcon is like a quilt show you'd go to anywhere – a convention centre hung with lots of quilts, along with stallholders selling their wares. What made Quiltcon a stand out for me was that all the quilts showing were modern, most were made to hang on a wall rather than lie on a bed, and the inspiration I got from the quilts was mind-boggling.

Below is the first row of quilts you saw upon entering the show – the major award-winners. Best in show and so on – you can find the full list of award-winners here.
Stitch and Yarn's trip to Quilton – where the Blue Giant Quilt took out first place in the Handwork section. The pattern for the quilt is available from Etsy and Craftsy.
I arrived in Pasadena on Wednesday morning about 8am and realised I should have booked my hotel room for the day before as well to get some sleep. Thankfully the nice man at the front desk gave me a room straight away and I passed out for about five hours, having not slept at all on the flight from Sydney.

What made all the difference to my trip away was meeting some friendly faces on the first evening. Lorena Uriarte (pictured at front left), a regular Quiltcon attendee, arranged for all of us who had travelled from Australia to have dinner the night before Quiltcon started. It was so lovely knowing some people in the crowd during the following days.
A trip to Quiltcon – was it worth it? Click through to find out. Awards, lectures, quilts and more.
The next morning I attended the award ceremony. In truth, Quiltcon email you a couple of weeks beforehand to tell you that you've won something, but they don't tell you what and they swear you to secrecy. To win a first was a bit of a shock, especially with my first go at hand quilting. I spent the rest of the day in a bit of a daze. I got so much support from family and friends, my little online community, and people I'd only just met at the show, and, of course, it was amazing to be there in person. I was especially grateful to Sulky threads who sponsored the Handwork section. They made an effort to send a representative and also to give each of the winners in that category a collection of threads. Not every section had their sponsor attend, nor hand over something on the day and it wasn't quite the same for those winners when they got up on stage.
A trip to Quiltcon – was it worth it? Click through to find out. Awards, lectures, quilts and more.
After attending a lecture and having my photo taken in front of the Blue Giant by the Quiltcon photographer ('no' family, I still don't have the pic yet and I promise to share it when I do), I headed off to find my other quilt in show – 'What's your time worth?'. It's based on the background pattern of an Australian $50 note and is a comment on how little Australian artists earn from their practice. The note is pictured below.

A trip to Quiltcon – was it worth it? Click through to find out. Awards, lectures, quilts and more.
Quilts pictured left to right – Stephanie Skardal's maze quilt, 'Split' by Lee Sproull, 'Equality' by Carolina Oneto and 'What's your time worth?' by me.
In truth I probably could have made more of the lecture opportunities at Quiltcon, but after spending the whole day on Friday just looking at quilts, I couldn't sleep that night for the ideas whizzing around in my head. I honestly don't think I could have taken any more in.

The most memorable talk I went to was Jacquie Gering's 'Quilt as Desired'. I had bought her book 'Walk' a few months before the convention and it's been a real game-changer for me. Quilting was something I used to avoid but I'm also not a big fan of getting overly-detailed longarm quilting, so finding ways to get effects I liked on my home sewing machine has been a bit of a revelation. After the talk, I spent a lot of time looking at the quilting...

A trip to Quiltcon – was it worth it? Click through to find out. Awards, lectures, quilts and more.
Jacquie Gering's 'Division'
A trip to Quiltcon – was it worth it? Click through to find out. Awards, lectures, quilts and more.
Detail of 'Aura' by Nydia Kehnle
A trip to Quiltcon – was it worth it? Click through to find out. Awards, lectures, quilts and more.
Detail of the hand quilting on 'Strip Tease' by Jennifer Emry
A trip to Quiltcon – was it worth it? Click through to find out. Awards, lectures, quilts and more.
Detail of both hand and machine quilting on Diana Vandeyar's 'Grandmother's Life on Mars'
On the Saturday morning I did a volunteer stint and I'd absolutely recommend this for anyone attending Quiltcon. Not only do they need plenty of volunteers to run such a big event, but it's also a great way to meet people. My time went by in a flash greeting people at the doors. When this is what the queue looks like each morning you really have a lot of passes to scan!
So, was it worth getting on that plane? You bet! I probably wouldn't have had the same experience without the win, and I think if you're generally planning to go from Australia doing at least one day of workshops would be advisable, but for me, where I am right now in building my practice – it was perfect.

PS If you want to see more of the quilts check out my feed on Instagram or the #quiltcon2018 hashtag.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

2017 – the year that was

On my fridge is a whiteboard listing all the textile projects I want to complete in any given year. The projects are wiped off as they are finished, but the board keeps filling as I have new ideas. Projects are usually added wherever there is space, but I also take the board down every now and then to reassess priorities and write it all out again. Once a year this happens at a particular time, and that, of course, is the new year. So in the last week or two it's been wiped clean and written afresh.

Taking time at the beginning of the year to plan also makes me reflect on the year that's been. The projects I've made, the places I've travelled and the inspiration I've collected. So, before I share new projects and plans for 2018, I thought I might go back and have a look at 2017...


This was the month I finished the Blue Giant quilt. I got a bit smarter with this pattern release. I took better pictures, posted them on my Craftsy and Etsy shops and then linked them all through a couple of my boards on Pinterest. On Craftsy I also added it as a recent project. A while later Craftsy picked it up somewhere along the line and also pinned the images to a few of their boards. It's now been repinned thousands of times and still sells copies on an almost daily basis. So to Craftsy I'm forever grateful!
Denim quilt made with upcycled jeans. Buy the pattern and make your own


In February I started my ongoing jean pocket project. I had a bunch of leftover pocket areas from making the Blue Giant quilt and wanted to do something with them. As you'd know if you've visited here before, I'm concerned about the sustainability of the textile industry and I thought this project might highlight the wasteful nature of our current fashion consumption by contrasting it with the amount of time it actually takes to make things by hand, which let's face it, our clothes are, even if they're mostly not our hands. To see the rest of the pockets done so far, head over to my Instagram feed.
Stitch and Yarn's upcycled jean pocket project


For the last few years I've been juggling textiles with contract work which means I don't have a regular income. When Ace Camps released their new trips for the year, I figured I'd travelled last year and so I shouldn't spend money heading off again in 2017. Then I thought about it a bit more and realised it was 2015 when I'd last been away. I was also waiting for a contract to start up and decided there was no better way to pass the time – so off to Swaziland I went! I'm so glad I did – it was such a great little trip, the highlight being our three days spent at Baobab Batik. You can read more about that here.
African wax prints at the markets


In April I got serious about the last works I needed to submit for Seasonal Stories – a community exhibition that was part of the Wangaratta Textile Festival.
Taking part in the community exhibtion at Wangaratta Textile Festival


May was largely spent in Melbourne catching up with family and textile folk. Progress was made on many projects, but in particular, we began preparation in earnest for Tenfold Textile Collective's next exhibition. We photographed works and then over subsequent months, wrote applications and submitted them, which resulted in our acceptance at Backspace Gallery, Ballarat with a show planned for April this year. So excited to be exhibiting with this group again!
Tenfold Textile Collective's Second Skin exhibition


This month I nailed a sizeable work contract, so to celebrate I rented myself a studio! While this hasn't seen the textiles disappear from my apartment entirely (the knitting stays at home), and I do have times where the thing I need, to do whatever project I'm working on happens to be in the wrong location, it is an absolute joy to leave projects all over the floor, couch etc in the studio, shut the door on it, and not have to step over the mess in my working/personal life. Plus the light is divine!
The Stitch and Yarn studio
This is the tidiest the studio has ever been – in preparation for Inner West Studios' first birthday.


Oh how I miss my Melbourne textile gals! In July I got to spend a weekend with some of them at the Wangaratta Textile Festival. We talked, we walked, we ate, we planned and we gorged ourselves on textiles. The Wangaratta Textile Show itself was everything you'd hope for in a modern textile award – a mix of emerging, mid-career and established artists; a wide range of techniques and styles represented; concepts ranging from whimsy to deeply thought-provoking and craftsmanship at the level of mastery. There was just one problem, and most everyone I spoke to about the show had the same issue. In a show where 95 per cent of the entrants were women, it was a man who won the highest award. While the artist in question is no doubt very established with an impressive body of work that encompasses all of the above, the piece in this particular show did not.

We are obviously well and truly still in an age where an award feels the need to honour a man to be taken seriously.


In September 'What's your time worth?' the quilt I created for our last Tenfold Textile Collective show was exhibited as part of Art Quilt Australia 2017. Having not had the opportunity to see a show dedicated to art quilts, I took myself down to Launceston to check it out. The show didn't disappoint. It was so refreshing to see some really interesting and different works and know that this type of work is actually being done in Australia.
What's your time worth? quilt
'What's your time worth?'


This month wasn't about me, but about the Dior show at the NGV. While the Galliano numbers were the showstoppers in terms of wow factor and photo-worthiness, the real art and craftsmanship all belonged to Dior. The early wool suits were truly sublime.
Dior at the NGV
Yep, that was one of those Galliano numbers!


My Strip Weave quilt pattern was released in November. It was inspired by the Kente cloths I discovered while researching African textiles prior to my Swaziland trip, but this one is made from upcycled business shirts. It's a very flexible pattern that you can really experiment with, so I still have ideas for more versions that you'll no doubt see over the coming year or so.
Strip Weave quilt pattern made with upcycled business shirts


In December I came full circle with the news that the Blue Giant quilt had been chosen to hang at Quiltcon. It's a real thrill, so after a work deadline shifted and a lot of deliberation and advice-seeking, I've decided to follow it and 'What's your time worth?' over there to check out the show.

It's a ridiculously short trip I'm making, but you only live once! Any advice on how to make the most of things while I'm over there is gratefully received.
Blue giant denim quilt pattern
So that was 2017. I'm so glad I wrote it all out like this. By December I'm looking back at the year feeling like I didn't achieve or do much, but when I write it all down it makes me thankful for how far I've come, the people I've met on the way, the ones who share the textile journey with me the fact I get the opportunity to spend a good amount of my time doing something I love.

Happy 2018 everyone! I hope yours is full of exciting textile plans too.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Art quilts on show

It was such a treat to visit Art Quilt Australia's 2017 exhibition last weekend. It's not often you see art quilts exhibited in Australia – certainly not a whole exhibition dedicated to them*.

There was also a definite thrill in seeing my quilt hung amongst such spectacular pieces and I learnt a few lessons for next time, in terms of hanging and describing my work.

The exhibition is on until October 22, so I thought I'd show you a few of my favourites  – tempting those who are contemplating a visit, and sharing with those who can't. First are the quilts that immediately caught my eye from across the room – neither of which are done justice here – as it's their colours that are utterly striking.
Tara Glastonbury at Art Quilt Australia
Susan Mathews' quilt is just so pine-lime-splice delicious! It includes the techniques of dyeing, lino printing, screen printing, machine piecing and quilting, and is part of a large, ongoing series she is doing on the subject matter.
'Ode to Banksias 7', Susan Mathews
The next one that drew me in was Anna Brown's work – a piece reflecting the devastation of bushfire. It spoke to me with its charred and twisted shapes, some blackened and some ash white against that fearsome orange. The simplicity and irregularity of the hand quilting suited the natural subject matter perfectly.
'Canopy 6', Anna Brown
Then there were those quilts that I stood in front of for an age due to their techniques. Don't get me wrong, I loved the composition and use of colour as well, but the techniques really blew my mind. The first is by Sandra Champion. These were actually two large vertical panels hung side by side. Vertical doesn't work so well on a blog, and you'd miss what I'm trying to show you, so it's just a section pictured below.

That fabulous texture is made by printing, painting and hand-stitching tissue paper – namely repurposed dressmakers patterns – onto silk, then manipulating and fusing it to make a paper textile. Depending on their colour, the strips looked like gnarled trees, moss-covered rock surfaces or flowing water – and if you look really closely you can still see the pattern wording and lines.
'The Overland Track: Plains and Forests', Sandra Champion
The next one was Louise Wells' piece. Honestly, each of those little squares was an artwork in itself. The complete work is only 91cm (H) x 61cm (W), so that gives you some idea of the size of each of those squares.
'Dusk', Louise Wells
Below is the detail Рcreated using a reverse appliqu̩ technique on silk and polyester satins. I'm unsure, however, how each of the squares is attached to the next, or maybe they're just attached to the backing.
'Dusk' detail, Louise Wells
The next quilt is here for its sheer cleverness. Looking like some Cubist masterpiece is Glad Howard's quilt made entirely from men's suit jackets, both their wool exteriors and silk linings. Part of what took my fancy with this piece was no doubt the use of repurposed clothing, but the way the jackets have been used – making the most of everything including pockets, button flaps and labels – the composition and the quilting that adds another dimension to the piece, really made this a standout for me.
'Clothes Maketh the Man:The Inside Story', Glad Howard
Last, but not least, is Carolyn Sullivan's quilt. Carolyn had two pieces in the show and I have to say she is fast becoming my favourite Australian quilt artist. I really started paying attention when I saw her guest exhibition as part of the Sydney Quilt show earlier this year – a real highlight! It's her pieces that combine quilting with amazingly detailed hand stitching (as in the one pictured below) that I particularly love. They really showcase our unique landscape and flora creating a stitched language that is truly Australian.
'Red Grasses', Carolyn Sullivan
I hope you enjoyed this sneak peak of the show. I will post a couple more over on Instagram – more detail from these pieces and few extra faves, and there's a link here to the full exhibition. Don't forget to pop in if you find yourself in Launceston in the next few weeks!

*It was such a shame then that 'Dare to Differ', the Quilt Guild of South Australia's contemporary quilt exhibition, also a biennial, was on at exactly the same time. C'mon organisers, get together and sort it out so us quilt lovers can exhibit in and see both next time!