The Joy of Silks


Chinese silk jacket

I have a lifelong obsession with silk .  I thing it started when my father came back from China in 1948 with a little embroidered black silk jacket that fitted me as a two year old!  I still have it, now framed, a precious family heirloom.


TheLyon silksre is also my cupboard full of silk samples given to me in Lyon by the sister of a retired silk merchant. These scraps are a constant feature in my Woven Memories work.  Some have handwritten on them the name of a designer. The incredible virtuosity of silk is amazing to me. Taffeta, chiffon, satin, organza and crepe de Chine all feature in my collection! There is something unique and wonderful about the way silk catches the light too, always intensifying the glorious colours.




I am about to embark on a project called The Joy of Silks at the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in Sydney. I will be weaving in the foyer of the centre on Tuesday 9th, Wednesday 10th and Thursday 11th August from 10.00am to 4.00pm each day. I will be weaving with  scarves and ties in pinks and greens donated from far and wide, now torn or cut up ready to work with.

silk in balls 1

My weave design has gone through a number of iterations and I have finally settled on an approach which will show off the silks rather than hide them.  The weaving will become  a long banner to be hung at Lifehouse at the end of the project.

silk weaving 2

I will also be keeping a record of the donated scarves and ties in a book I’m using to record the development of the project – a copy of my book will be given to Lifehouse.


HOW TO GET INVOLVED If you would like to contribute a scarf or tie to the project from your own collection or from a family member, do some weaving,  or just come to have a look please do!  I would love to meet you!

Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, 119 – 143 Missendon Road, Camperdown, NSW 2050


Stories from Lyon – the garbage bag of silk

Lyon image

A garbage bag of silk scraps was the beginning of new directions in my weaving practice.  Quite by chance I was given this bag during my first visit to Lyon eleven years ago.    This first trip was instigated by my daughter – she was visiting a friend.   What would I do?  Well, I researched and discovered Lyon was the major silk weaving city in the world in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Their textile museum is unparalleled, both for the collection on display and the research archives:  .  I also found a textile artists’ network LaTrame de Soi , still as inspiring as ever!   Their President at the time, Inger Kristensen welcomed me and hosted me in so many ways over the next few years.

Early on Inger took me to visit the wonderful Atelier de Soierie  – still in operation.  There I met Emilie Moussiere who was hand painting exquisite velvet scarves as her ‘day job’.   She was an aspiring textile artist and jacquard weaver.  Just as I was about to leave I asked about scraps.  Were there any leftovers, bits of silk perhaps?  Emilie hurried away.  I think I imagined I would get a small handful if I was lucky.  But she came back with an enormous black garbage bag packed tightly with silk pieces.


The bag also contained many more wonderful and mysterious scraps: fake fur with stitched embroidery on the back, gold netting, lace and little pom poms.Non-silk scraps

I have been weaving on and off from my garbage bag ever since.  As I look again into my stash I realise it continues to offer riches and delights.  I use these silk scraps from Lyon in my Woven Memories work by inter-weaving them with the precious fabrics and clothes others bring to me.  Neck pieces, scarves and brooches often have elements from my garbage bag.  This was the beginning of my weaving with fabric scraps.


Eleven years on I still feel like I have a magical source of wonder that continues to inspire me and my textiles – thanks to Inger and Emilie.  You can see Emilie’s textile work at