Saturday, 1 September 2012

Farewell to Melbourne

I can't believe that it is a year since I wrote on my blog. I will try to catch up briefly so that I can keep it up to date from then on.

I spent the whole of July 2011 in Australia, most of it in Melbourne and I just have to say something about the rest of my time there and some of the places I visited before moving on.
The Yarra river with the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the background
The old restored red trams are free to
hop-on hop-off on a circular route
The Victoria Parliament Building  
A modern tram

Here are just a few of the places I visited.

The Healesville Sanctuary is home to all indigenous animals

A very cuddly looking Wambat
Kangaroo at The Healesville Sanctuary

An emu in the bush
We also spent a few days at Phillip Island to see the penguins. Although it was the wrong time of year to see them we did see a few. It was also the wrong time of year to go to the beach but I had to go just to see it, what a beautiful sheltered bay.

And of course the Dandenong mountains. We went quite a few times and I must say that I have never tasted better scones, jam and cream in the Devon cream teas to which I quickly became addicted.
And then, all too soon, it was time to say goodbye to my son, daughter-in-law and 2 lovely grandchildren.  Can't wait to visit again!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Lesotho Tapestries

After being told at the Victorian Tapestry Workshop that it was the only tapestry workshop in the Southern Hemisphere, I thought I should tell you about the Lesotho Tapestries. Lesotho is a landlocked Mountain Kingdom in the middle of South Africa and is famous for the pure mohair wool tapestries made there. If you go to you will see the making of a Lesotho tapestry, from the spinning of the mohair through to the weaving of the tapestry on the loom to the finished roduct. Although the weavers of Lesotho do not have the fancy workshop and equipment that they have in Australia, the finished product is top quality. The designs are African, sometimes from the weaver's own artistic skill and sometimes from African artists.
If you also go to you will see weaver Marguerite Stephens discussing translating the artist William Kentridge's original concepts into intricate, large-scale tapestries. Located in Diepsloot (a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa), the Stephens Tapestry Studio employs a team of local weavers, spinners, and dyers who work on vertical looms using mohair spun in Swaziland.

Having witnessed first-hand one of the twentieth century's most contentious struggles—the dissolution of apartheid—William Kentridge brings the ambiguity and subtlety of personal experience to public subjects most often framed in narrowly defined terms. Using film, drawing, sculpture, animation, and performance, he transmutes sobering political events into powerful poetic allegories. Aware of myriad ways in which we construct the world by looking, Kentridge often uses optical illusions to extend his drawings-in-time into three dimensions.

The Victorian Tapestry Workshop in South Melbourne

After meeting the lacemakers of Melbourne, I was told that I must visit the Victorian Tapestry Workshop, so my daughter-in-law (along with 8-month old Ryan) drove us to Melbourne South for the free tour of the workshop. We arrived early for the tour so had a stroll around the surrounding streets doing some window shopping until it was time. There were only 2 other ladies attending but we had to wait for a bus of tourists to arrive, but they never did. so it was quite a personal tour.
Artist weavers working on a tapestry
with scores of coloured wools
tapestry in progress
with the weaving bobbins
One is not allowed to enter the workshop itself where the weavers are working on looms up to several meters wide, but there is a mezzanine level where one can look down on the whole workshop. It was established in 1976 by the government of Victoria and is one of very few such workshops worldwide, weaving tapestries in the traditional European way. Most tapestries are specially commisioned for art galleries, corporate foyers and boardroms, embassies, museums etc and each design is unique and designed by contemporary Australian artists. In the dying area, pure Australian wool is dyed to the exact shades required for each tapestry and the weavers are artists themselves reproducing the design in a woven wool tapestry.

The gentleman who gave the talk and showed us from the upper level what was going on in each area, was very knowledgeable and patient with all our questions but as it has been rather a long time since the visit, this is a very cursory report on it. I was so enthralled by it all that I forgot to take any photographs so I took these couple from the advertising leaflet. If you wish to find out more, go to .

I did buy some cones of the fine wool to use for making lace - possibly a scarf - when I get home. It was not easy to choose a colour from the array of 366 colours but I eventually settled on 3 shades of denim blue.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

A lacey afternoon with Leonie

A few days after the outing to Brighton, Leonie brought her lace around for me to see. I was amazed at the size of the box that she brought.  She is a very prolific lacemaker and loves using colour. The box was full of her lace and it took the whole afternoon to browse through them all.  I took lots of photos and here are a few of them  to illustrate Leonie and her style of lace - making lace is fun!

lovely in lilac

scrumptious in pumpkin
tatted glove and dolly bag
pretty in pink

beautiful tatting!
frilly tatting

Catching up!

Well I have been home from Australia for about 6 weeks now and it has been such a busy time that I have only just got around to writing about the rest of my holiday - before it becomes history. Being on holiday was sooo nice that it is difficult to get back into my normal life , especially as I had another holiday in Botswana, a week after returning from Australia, but I will get to that all in good time. Just be patient and I will try to catch up.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Australian Lace Guild, Victoria Branch, lace day

Saturday 23rd July was a lovely sunny day, made even better by being picked up by Leonie Masterson and Vicky and taken to Brighton for a lace day. There were about 40 lacemakers there and nearly everyone there had a lace pillow with them and those that didn’t were tatting, crocheting, knitting or embroidering lace.  Everyone was busy. I did not have any work to do but wore my scarf and saw that quite a few of the other lacemakers were wearing lace scarves in various techniques. I spent a very happy morning in the sales room, trying to decide what bobbins and other souvenirs my meagre South African Rands would buy. Luckily I had sold all the painted boSAM_0790bbins that I brought with me so felt free to make a few purchases. 
These are the painted bobbins that I  brought with me. they are painted by Paddy Waters (aged 82) in South Africa and are very special.

   These are the bobbins I bought from Josco Lace supplies They are in various woods with an Inlace Insert.
This one was a present from Leonie. It has a picture of a Quondong berry and leaves painted on it and a dried Quondong seed on it.     Thank you Leonie

                                                                                                          SAM_0697                     In the afternoon there was a short AGM and then a talk by a student of animation (sorry I did not get her name) who spoke about her short animated film with crocheted characters. She spoke of how she made the characters and did the animation and the film was very cute and suitable for children’s TV. Thanks to that she now has a contract for a TV series next year.
All in all it was a very pleasant day in convivial company

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Hasty Chaotic Scarf

About a week before leaving home for my holiday in Australia, I decided that I needed something lacey to wear.  It had to be something contemporary that I could do quickly and take with me to finish off.  After some thought I decided to do a scarf in a thick thread, with not too many bobbins and easy to do.  I looked at all the scarf patterns that I have and nothing seemed to fit the bill so,  as I have been doing a lot of chaotic ground recently and it grows quickly,  it seemed to be the thing to do.  Now for the thread. None of my lace threads seemed to be thick enough and I did not have time to go and buy something new, so I scratched all through my oddments of knitting wools and found some black double-knitting and some Twilleys Gold Dust in black and silver and purple and I rushed out and bought some “eyelash” thread for texture. After a couple of experiments I made a pricking of 20 pins across the top, spaced 1cm apart and pinholes down each side, spaced 2cm apart.  No pins in the centre are required.  24 pairs of bobbins were needed in a random mixture of those threads, to allow for 1 pair on each pin and  2 pairs in cloth stitch (CTC) across the top and down each side.

I used my large Flemish Pillow with 30cm wide blocks and once I got going I could do 15cms in one hour. This is real mile-a-minute lace.  I had not done much when I packed it into my suitcase, so I just took the lace and bobbins on 2 half-blocks 15cm by 30cm.  Once settled into my son’s house I had to find something to support the bobbins while I worked. In the end I used the lid off my granddaughter’s toy box and a rolled up towel surrounding the blocks.  It worked very well.

As the knitting wool was a bit stretchy I diluted some Moravia Starch with 10 parts water and sprayed it on each 15cm section as I made it. It  still shrunk a little but the chaotic ground holds it’s shape OK.

Chaotic ground is worked – double stitch (CTCT), half-stitch CT, repeated across the first row. then half-stitch (CT), double stitch(CTCT) across the second row, making sure that a half-stitch is below a double stitch and a double stitch is below a half stitch all the time. If you have not done it before it can be a bit disconcerting as it takes 3 or 4 rows before the ground starts to take shape and it can slide around a lot.  I did not put any pins in the middle as I wanted it to be a bit irregular.   If you want it to be more regular, work the double stitch as half-stitch, pin, half-stitch. Of course, then you need to work on a 45 degree ground of pin-holes. I started with 4m on each bobbin and the eyelash thread ran out when the lace was 1.6m long so that is the length of the scarf. The eyelash thread is not easy to pull up and tension, but at least it is now finished and ready to wear at the Love Lace exhibition at the Powerhouse museum in Sydney at the end of the month.  SAM_0487SAM_0488