The Making of Songlines….

I often have trouble producing an art work for a ‘themed ‘challenge. I overthink it and I find that my best work or, at least the work I am happiest with, comes from the heart. Would I like that quilt on my wall day in and day out, is the question I ask.  If it doesn’t fill me with joy, then invariably it doesn’t get finished! The theme for this challenge had been percolating in my head for a long time and it took an age before a clear idea formed. It nearly didn’t happen….. I was pretty involved in the preparations for my daughter’s wedding in early December and I knew that if I had it clear in my head by the time the wedding was over, then I should be able to get it finished!

People often comment that I produce work quite quickly, but it usually has been made in my head for several months before I actually begin work. Naturally, changes occur along the way but they are usually due to technical or construction issues that I encounter. It is unusual for me to take photos as I go, (I forget!) but I happened to use the camera a lot in the production of this piece as I needed to step back from it to see what I was actually making!

The beginning….I started with the thread embroidery.  I have never ever tried this before, but I had watched a video – so …. how hard could it be? I sketched my ‘elder’ straight onto the water soluble plastic – I used a double layer of the ‘plastic’, then I hooped it, dropped my feed dogs and away I went.

I soon realised that it was pretty hard to see what I was doing and thus get a perspective on the image being made. I started on the shoulder and the lower half of the body first mainly because I was a bit scared to do the face. Five colours of thread were used- black, two shades of grey, white and a little bit of brown in the hair and beard.

Taking photos helped – you can from the photos below that the moustache was wrong. This was much more noticeable in the photograph than when just looking at it. More stitching and more photos until I was happy.

You can also see that I have trimmed the plastic around the edge to get rid of the bulk before I soaked the finished piece in water to dissolve the plastic. Magically it all stayed together!

Next was the decision on which background fabric to use.  I auditioned two fabrics and both created a different vibe and I wasn’t sure which I preferred, so I keep both in the running.  I sketched some of my songline ‘circles’, more to get an idea of the size than anything else and pinned them on both the fabrics.

Steam- a-seam was ironed onto the back of my chosen fabrics. Circles were cut and then placed onto black fabric. – Each yielded two circles and on some I cut the black off the outside edge.


The coloured circles were stitched down except for the outside edge – This would be stitched when placed on the background. I then painted the dots using tsukineko inks. I made enough circles to be able to play with layout on the two backgrounds so I could compare and make a decision. This decision was aided by my siblings – I trust them for honest opinions and when in doubt I send them a photo with a question eg ‘which background’ and they reply and often I listen! The interconnected lines were initially cut from fabric that I found in my stash. I also made thread lines in ochre thread and also my ‘campfire’ symbols were thread embroidered (same method as I used for the elder) and I then played with the layout.

While this seemingly mechanical placement was happening, there was actually a method in my madness. The ochre threads are the dominant links between the orange circles. These orange circles are key points in my family story and in particular my daughter’s life. Kiriana has been teaching in remote Cape York for just over five years and the energy, the joy, the struggles and the children of the Cape have not only embedded themselves in her life but in the lives of all our family. Her fellow teachers are an absolute inspiration and I admire their dedication and sheer love of the land and the community. As with all songlines, a lot is hidden or is private to the outside viewer, but the symbols and the links all are symbolic in the telling of our story.

Once I was happy with the placement, it was time to quilt. I have taken a photo of my practice piece where you can see a couple of patterns that I played with but most of the decisions actually centred around the colour of the thread.


Once I had made those decisions, l quilted the piece through two layers, the top and the batting. I then pieced a background using the green fabric that I had auditioned for the front and used several of the circles to give interest. (I had lots!) I stitched around the outside of the coloured circles through the three layers to tie it all together. The thread embroidery was tacked onto some soft black wadding and was then hand-stitched to the background piece as well as through some of the contours to give depth. The facing binding method was used so I could keep the edges straight and also because I didn’t want to subject my thread embroidery to excessive manoeuvring. I then four plaited the headbands with raffia and hand-stitched them onto the finished quilt. Voila! it was finished and even a week early!!!



It is with great delight (and excitement), that I can announce that my quilt “Songlines” has been selected for Brenda Gael Smith’s ‘A Matter of Time’ Textiles Exhibition.
The inspiration, and subsequently the dedication, came from the amazing communities and teachers of the Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy.

The following is the my artist’s statement (in case you were wondering how it linked to the theme!). This week I will write a short post of how the quilt was made and the techniques I used…surprise, surprise I actually took some photos during the making…


(Dedicated to the teachers and communities of the Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy)

Time, in Aboriginal society, exists in a vertical relationship rather than in a horizontal sense. The past, present and future are all bound in the eternal ‘now’ of the Dreaming.  Time is not viewed in isolation but has an interconnectedness with the past and with the future. Everything that happens ‘in time’ has eternal implications and is elaborately interconnected.  Songlines are used to explain these connections.

My songline dreams of the day all Australians are connected harmoniously, and when the elder’s ancient songs are embraced, treasured and passed on, to a tolerant, united Australia – it’s just a Matter of Time.



Brief overview of techniques:

The elder is made entirely of thread and is appliqued onto the background. The ‘circles’ in the songlines are appliqued and painted. The  ochre connecting lines and the yellow ‘campsites’  or ‘resting places’ are also made as separate thread pieces which have been appliqued onto the quilt.  The background is free motion quilted using silver and a variegated thread.

a matter of time exhibition


and a wedding in the family….

2015 has been a bit of a multi tasking year; working full time and sewing at every possible moment, I have also been preparing for my daughter’s wedding – you know just the usual kind of stuff – decorations, printing, programs, flowers,  etc etc. Full on to say the least and further complicated by the fact that the wedding was in Northern New South Wales, Australia, in a magical place called Tylagum; I was in New Zealand, and Kiriana was in Cape York!! Still it was a wonderful Wedfest (despite the storms!) and I can’t believe the time I have on my hands now that it is all over! Head down, butt up now as I try and complete my entry for ‘A Matter of Time’ – deadline Jan 15th yikes!! It’s all in my head……… Anyway here are a couple of proud mother photos!

2015 Festival of Quilts

The 2015  Auckland Festival of Quilts was in a new venue (AMI Netball Stadium) which was really bright and the air flow was fantastic as it was a particular warm November!

Sporting a broken arm (thank goodness that happened the week after hand-in) I entered my ‘Turangawaewae’ quilt and my new ‘Korowai Ma’ (white cloak) into the Wall Hanging Sections.  I also entered into the children’s quilt section with ‘Little Monsters’ – which was not my pattern. Despite having been an UFO for some time, it ended up looking fantastic and I will remind every child that every sleeps under it, exactly how many hours of work were involved!  It was a Kelly Wulfsohn pattern – I love her designs, but man are they labour intensive!! ( and (

I will do a separate post on ‘Korowai Ma’ but all the winning quilts from the festival can be viewed at

little monsters

Little Monsters – 1st Place – Children’s Quilts

2015 Dorothy Collard Challenge

The Challenge for 2015 was ‘A NZ Book Title’. The Dorothy Collard Challenge is an Art Quilt Challenge and looks for ‘something different’ in the execution of the piece.

My quilt was based on the book by Chris Pugsley entitled ‘The Bloody Way Home’ and was awarded a merit prize and the viewer’s choice. The draw card, in also honesty, was that it was topical subject (Anzac Day being just around the corner) and the fact that the fabric used for the sky was spectacular (great to have a cool stash!!). The poppies were made of silk and then stitched onto the quilt.

The winner was ‘Tu’ made by Rona Keith, and merit prizes were also awarded to Alison Laurence and Debbie Jones. Below are their quilts (in order)  but all of the quilts can be viewed at


I’m back….sorry about the delay…. (long post!)

I realise that it has been a long time since my last post, but 2014 turned out to be a year that will not go down as one of my favourites! Tumultuous to say the least!  Anyway, this post will give a brief recount of 2014, as I look positively towards a smoother 2015!

April 2014 – The Dorothy Collard Challenge is an annual challenge run by the Auckland Quilt Guild – the theme was ‘The Space Between’ and there is an emphasis on ‘something different’ in the execution of the art pieces. I entered two pieces. The first was entitled ‘Two Sisters Quilting – my version of Picasso’s ‘Two Sisters Reading’, the current logo on this blog, and when I get a minute will replace it! This was made mainly with shot cottons, which added a depth to the quilt. I loved the way this quilt came together and replacing the original book with a 3D quilt reinforced the depth of field that I am currently trying to achieve in my quilt making. The rationale or the link between the quilt and the theme was that the mutual passion for quilting narrowed the space between two sisters.

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The second piece was entitled, ‘The Rose Between .. . ‘

This was a fun quilt – I had started knitting my discarded selvedge strips, knotting the strips together rather than stitching them. I had had no clear intention of what to do with them, but had simply been adding to the knitted rectangle whenever the selvedge basket started to overflow! I decided that it was time to do something with this floppy rectangle, so I cast off and dropped it onto my quilt table. I could see the shape of a dress if I squashed it in at the waist and then I decided that an ample cleavage was required. I unpicked the past few rows and knitted it up again with two strips, slightly shaping it as I went. The bust was padded and a rose was strategically placed in ‘The Space Between’. A fun throw away piece!

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Neither of these quilts tickled the judge’s fancy, but the exhibition was a delight to behold. The interpretation of ‘The Space Between’ was eclectic and fascinating.

A gallery of all of the quilts can be found at

The winning quilt was created by Patricia King and was entitled, ‘Seeing the Wood for the Trees’. Val Williams’s quilt, which I have included with her kind permission, was entitled “Retirement! How did I find time to work?”


Shortly after the Dorothy Collard Challenge, our Mum passed away very peacefully, after battling dementia for quite a few years. Apart from the sadness of the loss, my time was now no longer focused on dementia care and all the challenges that that brings. It was back in the paid work force for me!

Teacher librarianship as a career option is a rare commodity in New Zealand and jobs are certainly few and far between. I did manage to secure a position, but it meant that I had to move from my rural retreat and head back to the city.  Not a day goes past when I don’t cast my mind back to the tranquillity of the countryside, as our new neighbour’s started their home renovations the week after we moved in and the sounds of tui’s calling, sheep bleating and cows mooing have been replaced with the sounds of hammering, skill saws and screaming kids! This has been going on for six months and I found that my studio work has suffered. It is very hard for me to be creative in a less than tranquil environment!! Anyway, I managed to pull together two pieces for the Festival of Quilts  and was delighted with my second place in the Amateur Wall Hanging with ‘Roadblock’.


This was a piece that I had started when exploring ideas for  ‘Living Colour’, the exhibition of which starts in NZ at Symposium this weekend (very exciting!) However, my favourite piece was entitled ‘Pyjama Party’ and is hanging in my lounge at the moment. Hours of work went into that piece with nearly all of the predominately Kaffe fabrics cut up, flower by flower and then appliqued down with gold hologram thread. Perhaps it was a statement of where my brain was at the time! I love it  Mary thinks the flamingos need eyes and she may very well be right! In the meantime, it makes me smile and after the year I have had in 2014, that all I can ask for.


The following are a few photos that I took while constructing the flamingos.

group flamingos

Apart from quilting, I am often called upon by my daughter, who I unfortunately have not managed to teach to thread a needle, and who teaches in a remote community in Cape York, Australia to magically produce fun dresses for her to wear to school which will engage the kids she teaches. It is kind of a mass production but it is fun. This was last year’s supply and I am just completing this year’s collection. Must admit not having them in front of you to fit them simplifies matters –  we agreed on a style and I just cross my fingers that it works!!

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She is also getting married at the end of 2015, so wedding preparations are starting to get underway. Organising a wedding from Cape York & New Zealand to be held in Northern New South Wales, Australia could be fun. Watch the stress levels rise over the year!!!

Apart from the usual baby quilts, I don’t feel as though I have achieved very much in 2014. My older brother, Michael, who is charged with the task of naming my quilts, had the final say with the last two quilts I produced in 2014, both of which were displayed in a Modern Quilt Display at the Festival of Quilts. The grey and pink quilt he named – ‘Normally I Dress to the Left!’ (alternative title ‘Pink Fizz’) and the circular quilt was named ‘Harvest Moon Rising’.

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Well, that’s my catch-up and the clearing of my conscience. Next post will be from Symposium in Palmerston North. Mary and I are leaving early in the morning and are looking forward to our classes. I am attending Karen Stone’s & Rosalie Dace’s two day workshops so hopefully the creative juices will be reactivated!

Linen and roses quilt

Linen is starting to be the fabric of choice for backgrounds instead of plain cotton.  So when I found this gorgeous off white linen and a bundle of fat quarters in my stash from Quilt Gate that I had purchased quite a few years ago, they seemed a perfect fit.
The pattern is called ‘Vintage’ from Camille Roskelley’s book Simply Retro.
This book is great.  I’ve made several other quilts from this book.  Modern, yet with a vintage vibe and very well written.  She’s a clever lady.
So back to the quilt.  I finished it in time to give to my sister-in-law Jacqueline as a heartfelt ‘thank you’ for allowing us to stay with her in London while we did our OE.  She was a very generous and wonderful hostess and took us everywhere!
And of course it was quilted once again by Susan Trendall.