Stubborn cloth

You often hear writers talking about how characters in their novels develop a life of their own during the writing process. That I can understand. What has surprised me is that a piece of cloth I am currently stitching is exhibiting the same tendency.

After my exhibition in September 2020, I remembered some advice from a fellow artist, that to lessen the post-exhibition low he always painted a yellow painting. Good I thought, I have an old yellow microfibre cloth I can stitch on.

I had visions of all the shades of yellow blending harmoniously together …. the cloth had other ideas.

I learned quickly that this faded and pre-loved cloth had an amazing ability to absorb almost all varieties of yellow. It could suck in sunshine yellow, daisy yellow, and some tones disappeared into it’s surface completely. Apart from contrasting threads, the only thread to boldly resist this challenging cloth is an equally recalcitrant hi-vis yellow stranded thread I bought on a whim some months ago.

20 JANUARY 2021 – Still a work in progress. My post-exhibition piece started last year, de-railed by Christmas and other projects. So much stitching even in a piece 39 x 39 cm. And the back, more gloriously feral than ever, when I realised that the hi-vis threads were too slippery to stay firmly attached without additional stitching. So lots of ripping back and re-sewing.

Front side
The Feral side.

8 FEBRUARY 2021 – At last the end has been reached! The final lines of hi-vis yellow are in and I even stitched my name onto it. Resistant to the last it has developed a belly in the middle and refuses to sit flat.

Done and displayed over a cushion to hide it’s belly.
The ever feral side.

Various salvaged, donated and bought embroidery threads on found microfibre cloth.

Moving along

Today I have finally taken up my needle again and have had the pleasure of stitching these beautiful eucalyptus dyed silk squares sent to me by @bluedorritt as part of the Opening Stitches project.

Stitching on silk squares dyed with eucalyptus, original stitches by Sue Butler

It has been quite a frustrating being unable to stitch, and this project started to drift away from me.

A second silk square.

Now I am better I have had to reacquaint myself with the project.

A close up of the stitched square.

Somewhere along the line l had missed stitching these two squares that were sent to me some months ago. Fingers crossed that the paperwork tracking all the contributions has now been sorted out and I can get back to the making.

See my work over summer

To those of you living on the east coast of Australia, there are two opportunities to see my work during December and January.

Firstly I am exhibiting my textile work at the Gosford Regional Gallery, along with two artists from my home town of Newcastle (NSW) Eleanor Jane Robinson and Mandy Robinson. If you can make it to the opening on Friday 4 December at 6.00pm I may see you there.

Well Worn
4 December 2015 – 13 January 2016

Leonie Andrews, Eleanor Jane Robinson
and Mandy Robinson


36 Webb St, East Gosford NSW

Otherwise you can see one of my textile works that was selected into the Gold Coast Art Prize. The opening is on 5 December also at 6.00pm, but sadly I won’t be able to make the event.

Gold Coast Art Prize
5 December 2015 – 31 January 2016


135 Bundall Road, Surfers Paradise

(Personal) Treasures of the Australian War Memorial – Part 2

For Part 1 of my visit to the Australian War Memorial click here.

The second archive box I looked at held the ‘improvised pullover’ made by Bombadier L G Burnett. Burnett became a prisoner of war of the Japanese after fighting in Malaysia and Singapore. He volunteered, along with some 1,000 Allied POWs, to work on airfield construction in Burma and also subsequently worked on the Burma-Thailand railway project. This group was known as A Force. This jumper was made while Burnett was working on the railway and was kept by him through subsequent moves through Thailand until the end of the war.

Improvised pullover, BombadierL G Burnett, 2/10 Field Regiment, World War II

Improvised pullover, BombadierL G Burnett, 2/10 Field Regiment, World War II

What surprised both the curator and myself is how small the jumper is. Given this was made some time into his captivity I must assume that by this time Bombadier Burnett was probably quite malnourished. The text accompanying the online entry notes that this garment was worn by Bombadier Burnett during bouts of malaria and also when he suffered from dysentery so he could sleep outside close to the latrines.

As you can see from the image above the pullover is composed of different pieces of fabric. The central brown section is a scarf that was part of an Australian comfort package. The sleeves which are actually the legs of a pair of British long-johns he got in Singapore. Prior to them becoming part of the jumper, Bombadier Burnett used them, stuffed, as a pillow. The lower green section are Bombadier Burnett’s puttees. The puttees are made of a machine-knitted woollen fabric.

Unlike the previous knitted pullover with its skillful styling, this garment shows improvisation in the face of very scarce resources. The collar of the garment is made from part of a Japanese blanket and like the rest of the garment is attached with basic stitching.

The collar of Bombadier Burnetts pullover

The collar of Bombadier Burnetts pullover

While I couldn’t touch the pullover I was able to make notes and draw a schematic diagram of it.

Schematic of the Burnett pullover and various points of interest

Schematic of the Burnett pullover and various points of interest

The detail of the stitching shows utilitarian work with no particular signs of sewing experience. Basic stitches, running stitch and vertical stitching (possibly overhand) hold the sections together. Parts of the pullover are darned with scraps of wool. Various types of thread, sewing cotton, wool and some cotton twine are used across the garment. The central section has two diagonal rows of stitching which, I assume, form darts to better shape the pullover for fit.

Where the puttees (green) join the central section (fawn) of the Burnett garment.

Where the puttees (green) join the central section (fawn) of the Burnett garment.

I found Bombadier Burnett’s name in a list of released prisoners in the Nambour Chronicle and North Coast Advertiser of 21 September 1945. Bombadier Burnett was discharged from the army in January 1946.

Lionel Granville Burnett (1918-2012).

RELEASED WAR PRISONERS ON WAY HOME. (1945, September 21). Nambour Chronicle and North Coast Advertiser (Qld. : 1922 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved July 9, 2015, from

RELEASED WAR PRISONERS ON WAY HOME. (1945, September 21). Nambour Chronicle and North Coast Advertiser (Qld. : 1922 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved July 9, 2015, from

An interesting sideline to this story is that one of the commanding officers of A Force, Brigadier Arthur Varley MC and Bar, CO 22 Bde, instructed Jim Collins, one of the A Force POWs to make “portraits of fellow POWs, some of whom would not survive the war.” Collins made some 100 drawings. While there isn’t a drawing of Bombadier Burnett (that I could find), you can see some portraits of some of the A Force Allied POWs made by Jim Collins, which are also held in the AWM collection.