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

Tea and Lace with Liz

I have not been able to get to the computer this week but I will try to catch up on some news now. Last Friday Liz Ligeti invited me to  her home for tea and to talk lace (of course).  When I arrived, lacemaker Vicki Jones-Evans was also there, and of course Liz’s husband Alex, so we had a lot to talk about. After tea and cakes and a lot of chat getting to know each other,Liz got out her box of needlelace pieces, which is ready for her teaching trip to the USA next week, and some of her bobbin lace pieces as well.

What a treat!  Liz’s needlelace is stunning. So fine and beautifully worked. No wonder she is in demand as a teacher. Have a closer look at these few pieces. 


Liz and a beautifully worked needlelace sampler about 6” (15cms) in diameter.SAM_0624 

.A dress front or modesty piece which Liz wears from time to time.


This was designed by Liz as a table runner and is sometimes worn as a pair of lappets. It is mainly Bedfordshire Lace with three needlelace inserts.


And the well known cap from the front cover of Barbara Underwood’s Bedfordshire Lace book, but this time made in a dark navy which shows itself off well against Liz’s white hair.

Vicky Jones-Evans, whom I will meet again on next Saturday.SAM_0626

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Theatre and more lace

"Last night I had a ‘date’ with my son. He took me to dinner at an Asian restaurant in Melbourne, The Red Spice Road, and then we went to the Regent Theatre to see “Love Never Dies”. That is the sequel to “Phantom of the Opera” and is just as dramatic as the original and the music is also as wonderful and powerful. I thoroughly recommend it and having a nice young man to escort me made it even better.

I also remembered another one of David’s pieces of lace that impressed me. This small handkerchief-sized piece is made with a silk so fine that it is difficult to pick up and the silk in the centre is also so fine that it is transparent and if you breathe too hard when looking at it it will just blow away!


Wednesday, 13 July 2011

My visit to Ballarat

While on holiday here in Melbourne, I could not resist the chance to visit David Collyer in Ballarat. The trains to Ballarat are not running due to work on the track, so I took the bus. It is only an hour and a half and David met me at the station and we went to his cosy home. I found him to be a very charming man and we talked about lace and life for about 4 hours. He got out all his own hand-made lace and some antique lace and some lace and crochet work from his mother, grandmother and great grandmother. What a treat. I took a lot of photos and here are some of them to share with you.

Black Chantilly

A fantastic wide Chantilly edging make in the finest Pipers silk

Bookmark made by Miriam Gidron

This bookmark was made for a bookmark exchange by Miriam Gidron in Israel. It appears to be a mixture of Milanese lettering and edging with a Bucks point ground and Bruges leaves. I liked it.

Tonder wide lace edging

I remember David writing of making this wide Tonder edging, 2 or 3 years ago. It is a full square edging but does not have a fabric centre yet. So beautiful!

David's Chantilly Square

This square was designed by David from a Chantilly edging.

Buck's Point

A fantastic Bucks point spray of roses with a modern edging.

Buck's Point Eagle Doily

I can’t remember if this is Bucks Point or Tonder but I like the eagles. This was also redesigned by David from a straight edging, redrawn onto polar graph paper.

David at his huge pillow

The man himself at his giant lace pillow. 1 1/2 m square with a variety of blocks to move around.

My New Lace Blog

Hello there. I first learned to make bobbin lace in 1977 when I lived in the Bedfordshire village of Wootton in England for 8 years. With my husband and children, I moved to South Africa in 1979 which just happened to be as the Witwatersrand Lace Guild was being started up by Jean Horne. So I have been a member of the guild since it’s inception and I am still a member. Bobbin lace has generally taken over my life since then and the picture of our house, which was drawn by Mary Hughes, lacemaker and bobbin painter, who is now unfortunately unable to paint any more due to age-related macular degeneration, is generally known as the Lace Place as I have been making lace and giving lessons there for 32 years and supplying the other lacemakers of South Africa with the lace pillows, bobbins, books etc for a long time.

I have had to travel to Australia to visit my son and family to get him to set up this blog for me, and I hope to write about my life as a lacemaker and the South African lace scene and whatever I come across related to lace and other crafts.