Warrnambool Tapestry Camp – summer 2013 (that’s January in Oz!)

We (my wife came down too for a week’s break) decided to use our seniors’ vouchers and get to Warrnambool by train and bus – and that would let my wife get to see the countryside for a change rather than concentrating on the road while she drives (I don’t drive – really). Flat basalt plain stretching westwards. Nobbly rocky chunks with stone strewn paddocks and hand-built  sharp edged stone walls. Ideas for compositions in sandy ochres and orangy reds…

I was surprised at the way Warrnambool seems to eat out a lot – at a number of very decent little cafes and restaurants like Figsellars, Images, Java, Logan’s, Brocky’s – it’s clearly no disadvantage to be in the country theses days!  The cafes were useful on the several days that it was both cold and rainy! And all roads lead down the hill to the Tafe College (Technical and Further Education) – which is a mix of preserved beautiful old buildings and the very new and refurbished:


Tapestry has just moved back into this central campus after a number of years’ ‘banishment’ to the Deakin University campus a at Sherwood, out of town. Not everything is fully set up yet – so dyeing will be deferred till later in the year.

It was great to meet tutors face to face for the first time – Cathy Hoffmann, Jude Stewart, Karen Richards and Sue Ferrari.  Cathy showed us a couple of her middle sized pieces including the Lake Mungo one (and in the library I found the brochure about her work on the Ballarat University tapestry).  Jude introduced us to the HUGE one of the bay that she worked on way back when – it’s hanging in the Lighthouse Theatre – and she also showed us the long historical strip tapestry she worked on, at Flagstaff Hill.

The four of them  presented, demonstrated and oversaw work on colour, drawing and mark-making ( this was a new area to me – mark-making – very great fun), history – and of course weaving:

Warrnambool weaving

As you can see, there was a variety of frames both wooden, metal, and combinations…

And then one met  fellow students. There were five first year, three second and two sixth – a good mix.  When you are face to face it is so easy to ask those little questions which seem to be too small to bother people with when you are away off-campus –  then when you do ask them it can lead into a discussion which illuminates several useful areas. And actually seeing how a professional does even little things – like holding the bobbin – and suddenly a light flashes!

As I noted before, we were doing a lot of other stuff than weaving, but even so all the first year seem to have done more than half of the first sampler – and none of their circles were squashed eggs. In second year, what with choosing the segment of historical wave we were going to do, making cartoons and warping up with 9 or even 6, we only got to doing most of the hem – we are hemming and not braiding.

The library catalogues and some material is available to us on-line, and the Tafe will send us books if we need them. Great.

A local wood-turner, Judith Sharrock makes and sells plain and brass-tipped bobbins (15 and 17 cm) for considerably less than one can get them in Melbourne!

All in all, this was a very rewarding experience and I look forward to the next one, even though it will probably be much shorter – a couple of days concentrating on dyeing.

9 thoughts on “Warrnambool Tapestry Camp – summer 2013 (that’s January in Oz!)

  1. Belinda

    I’ve been scouring my notebooks for a contact for Judith Sharrock but seem to have lost it. I suggest you get in touch with Jude Stewart at the Arts Dept of South West Tafe in Warrnambool and she should have Judith’s address or email . Judith’s bobbins are very nicely turned in a choice of woods, and in both bare and brass ends and she does also make quite long ones, but I find the points too wide for comfortable working. It’s a matter of taste I guess.

    I personally have never tried using butterflies or other non-bobbin techniques.

  2. Well if this your work as a beginner I look forward to seeing how you progress.

    Thank you for giving me such detailed information on your bobbin experiences! I’m usually a ‘fiddle with the fittings’ kind of woman but I just find the bobbins so superior to the other methods I’ve tried. But they’re so expensive from the tapestry workshop!

    I’m going to give your chopsticks method a go, I think. It sounds like a relatively small investment in order to discover if it works for me.

    Do you know of anywhere that Judith’s bobbins are available? I’d like to try a few of hers too.

  3. Belinda, thanks, but you should understand that my work is that of a beginner.

    On bobbins, Though I have used Judith’s, of the several types I’ve tried, the best for me have been the shorter brass-tipped Victorian Tapestry Workshop ones – though they are a bit more expensive.

    what I actually use in day to day practice are cut-down Japanese chopsticks – really and truly. Not the cheaper four-sided ones, but the slightly rounded ones. I cut them to about 15 cm, sand the cut end and sharpen the pointy end with a pencil sharpener. I have one brass tipped VTA bobbin at hand for packing down.

    As it is not uncommon to have to use maybe 20 bobbins on a piece you see that this is considerably cheaper than the real McCoy – though I admit to owning 18 manufactured bobbins – and over 50 chopstick ones.

    I tend to improvise whenever I can. Some people prefer not to fiddle with the fittings but get straight into the weaving – I don’t think there’ a right and wrong about it. Up to you. Best of luck!

  4. I am so happy to have stumbled across your blog in my search for a locally turned bobbin, Misha! Your tapestry work is incredible!

    Can I ask you if you have used Judith’s bobbins and how you find them? Thank you! 🙂

  5. Misha, I hope you can bring some of those bobbins to our group to show us. You can never have too many bobbins! It sounds like the days were well worth the trip. Hope you had a good break with your wife too.

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