My new years resolution for 2020 was to always have a creative project to work on. It started well. At Woodford Folk Festival I saw a naive drawing of an echidna on a woman’s t-shirt. In my little notebook, sketched in the style of what I had fleetingly seen. Back home, I took my resolution seriously. I drew three echidnas and loaded them into Photoshop, where I mirrored and swung the three drawings, and arranged them in a repeating pattern in a jig that would fit together, and printed an A4 transparency which I then exposed on a silk screen.
My friend and neighbour, Birgitte, took me to the Fabric Store in The Valley. I fell in love with a paprika-coloured linen, and imagined my echidnas roaming this fabric. I bought 2.4m of the fabric and immediately started printing, frame after painstaking frame, my pattern onto the fabric in white screen printing ink. The ink was thick and it took me a while to get the right viscosity for the print. It took me quite a number of weekends to fill the fabric with little white echidnas, because after squeezing ink through each frame it needed to dry before I could line up the the next section of the pattern without smudging the prior.
We went into covid lock-down before I was finished with printing the fabric. This was problematic because I felt I needed help with the next part of my project. You see, last year, I was at Artisan for the opening of an exhibition that was the outcome of a collaboration between printmakers from Hopevale and QUT fashion students. Hopevale happened to be one of the communities we were working with to develop State Library’s Spoken exhibition about Indigenous languages. I saw this amazing length of fabric, a straw coloured lined printed with large camp dogs in blue and yellow. Even though I had not sewn anything since I was 12 when I failed miserably at sewing a cotton skirt, I decided to buy this beautiful fabric for the purpose of sewing a dress for the opening of the exhibition. My mother-in-law had recently given me an old sewing machine, which promptly broke when I fired it up, but this gift had convinced me that I would be able to sew a dress. It was only because Birgitte, who is a fiend at sewing beautiful clothes, offered to help me that the camp dog dress ever became reality.
So when I was ready to sew the echidna dress, I felt a tad lost without Birgitte, though she was available on the telephone. I still had the pattern from the camp dog project, and emboldened I decided to modify it somewhat before I started cutting. Measure twice and cut once, Birgitte’s voice rang in my head. And it worked! I cut out the front and the back pieces, and two short sleeve pieces. Then I pieced them together, first with ample pins, and then with stitches on my new sewing machine.
I am proud of the result. Thanks to the artist whose work on a fellow festival goer’s t-shirt caught my eye, and inspired me to give it a go.