Fibres West retreat

Followers on IG will know that I have recently been at the Muresk Institute where I attended a Fibres West six day workshop. For those readers not from Western Australia, Muresk is an agricultural college, but began life as a farm belonging to the Dempster family. I stayed in Dempster Hall (sounds grander than it actually is) and the original Dempster Homestead was where we dined and danced. Yes we danced! Such fun, so exhausting, such good exercise.

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Dempster Homestead

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Bucolic scenery was everywhere we looked.

I was enrolled in a class called ” Old Fashion…Transformed, Dyed, Stitched with Aukje Boonstra from Tasmania as the tutor. I had really had no intention of participating in any of this, but my friend Marilyn gently urged me and I have to thank her – it was marvellous, every minute of it. Imagine: 140 women (and one man) all living together for nearly a week and all pursuing various forms of art. It was amazing. If you want to see the other workshops, here is the link. All the tutors are internationally renowned in their own right, and each did a short overview of their art and practice as part of the programme of events. The whole thing was inspirational. I also note that Fibres West have created a fabulous model for these workshops – there was a masseuse (I availed myself), Pat the Scissorman came one afternoon (I took my mother’s vintage German scissors), there was a bazaar from the various traders who took part, an ongoing garage sale to which I contributed but also from which I acquired a few things. Well, quite a lot really! There was an event which enabled participants to sell things and I missed everything that I really wanted, but did manage to buy something which will become a gift. Before I went I tried to imagine how we were going to fill our days, but they roared past.

We were sent several lists of things to take and I probably could have done with the trailer, but I managed to stuff pack it carefully in the car. I need to mention that I had more going home than I took, thanks to all those selling activities!

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So, back to my class. I think it was characterised by some crying, lots of laughing, laughing and crying, gnashing of teeth and (literally) rending of garments. I really struggled to ditch all the rules of grain and just cut and see where things took me. Our first activity was to make something from two pillow cases and we had 30 minutes to do it in. The pressure. We all took longer, especially me. Here is my effort. No waste and no cutting. This was after it had been dyed and please note the pocket!


One of the refashions that some of us did was to turn a man’s shirt into an apron.


All I did was to cut off the sleeves, the yoke,the collar and the buttonhole band. I cut the yoke in half and sewed it back on to the back of the shirt, pleating the body to ensure that it fitted me. This then became the front of the smock/apron. The collar became a shoulder and the buttonhole band the other shoulder. The bottom of one sleeve became a pocket and the front of the shirt became the back. I sewed the shirt label onto the yoke and changed out a few of the buttons with red buttons. I also used a little bit of red thread to highlight a few areas, but this is hard to see. I have only taken this off to leave the house (and not always then) as I love it so much.

I did another refashion but I don’t really care for it. I am going to rework it, so more on that one later.

The dyeing was fascinating. We scoured the grounds of Muresk for all the fallen leaves, buds, flowers and sticks and used things that we had brought with us too.  I had “acquired” some fresh coreopsis from a neighbour’s verge and rolled it into this white cotton tube dress, which was then put in a wattle dyebath.

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The coreopsis flowers generally go a strong yellow/orange colour but to my surprise they came out a really dark green. I can only think it had to do with the fact that I included the leaves. No matter, I really like this fabric. It’s a bit hard to see the details here with the light shining through, but you get the idea.IMG_5045

I dyed another white cotton tube dress (yes, I have quite the collection), and this time used flowers, seeds and leaves that we found near our classroom. This dress was dyed in Marri bark that I had brought from our holiday place in the South-West of Western Australia, and had been mordanted in alum. It’s wet in this photo and when it dried the patterning was more subtle but more interesting.


Both of these dresses have now been remade and I am very excited. I just need to do some finishing and then I shall blog them.

It was quite a week, and I shall definitely be attending again in two years time. I met lots of amazing, talented people some of whom follow my blog (and I hope you’re reading this and can relate to some of it).

A final photograph of our classroom. I chose a time when it was empty as I didn’t want to include people without permission. This was a busy place, sometimes still in action well into the evening. IMG_4976

Since coming home I have gone mad with the eco-dyeing, some of which is more successful than others. I have had some surprises and am busy making plans for future makes. Forget Spoonflower, I’m creating my own printed fabrics!




22 thoughts on “Fibres West retreat

  1. I’m sure the word you originally used was “nagged”! But I’m delighted you enjoyed it and loved what you produced. It was indeed a great week.

  2. Sounds like a wonderful week. I love your pillowcase top and those dresses…
    Are you solar dyeing your fabric? It’s probably the wrong time of year for you?
    Fabulous anyway

  3. That looks both great fun and very inspiring. I can’t wait to see what you make with what you learned/bought 😃

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