The wall hanging was made for John and Mavis Simpson as a wedding present in 1980. It measures 2.6 metres wide and is 1.5 metres long. It is woven on a huge loom. The warp threads are made of linen and the weft is made from wool from Dorothy’s sheep. Dorothy roved and dyed all the wool herself. There are only minimal amounts of commercial wool used in this wall hanging. It took Dorothy a few months to complete this work of art.

Dorothy, the Textiler

Dorothy was many things to lots of different people. I will outline part of her journey in textiles as I know it to be. Dorothy was creative, energetic, determined and never tired of producing beautiful quilts which she did for many members of her family as well as friends. Her work was very diversified and ranged from huge pieces of woven creations which were made on a loom that had to be dismantled to get it into her workshop area, and then reassembled, to king sized quilts, to little cot quilts. Some were useful such as mats for the floor while others were hung on the wall to be admired.

I imagine Dorothy’s love of textiles first started when she was a little girl when she learnt to sew on her Mum’s sewing machine in order to sew clothes for herself and siblings because it was far too expensive to buy ready-made clothes or pay someone else to do it. 

In the early days, Dorothy’s quilts were made of scraps (from worn out sheets, clothes that were no longer worn or left over fabric from a project)……..these days we call it “repurposing”. When weaving her pieces of work, Dorothy used her fleece from her own sheep. These took hours and hours to produce, as the wool had to be shorn from the sheep, combed, carded, washed, dyed and sometimes spun before being assembled into a finished product.

From being useful to simply admired, no medium was off limits. Dorothy even made several weavings out of old VHS tapes (you young ones would have no idea what this was) You name it, Dorothy used it.

Dorothy hated seeing anything go to waste and repurposing fabric, garments, or part thereof were high on Dorothy’s list of priorities. One task (she loved to see us all challenged and getting out of our comfort zone) Dorothy had the group partake of was to use a bagful of ‘bling’ that she had rescued from an op shop which the workers had cut off T-shirts etc, so that the leftover garments could be used as rags. This bag of ‘bling’ had to be turned into a new textile item such as a quilt.

“You can’t grow and develop if you are not learning” – Dorothy certainly lived by this. She attended numerous textile workshops, and by far the ones Dorothy loved the most were the ones conducted by world renown Australian Textile artist,  Ken Smith. His workshops consisted of shibori dyeing and free machine embroidery. Dorothy found Ken’s style of work not only very challenging (because his work was very neat and fastidious) but also inspiring and this enabled Dorothy to change direction with the type of quilts she produced. Dorothy became more adventurous and allowed the creative, artistic side of herself to really shine, so that she was able to produce stunning pieces or work that we textilers refer to as ‘arty farty’ instead of just the traditional quilts she had made so often in the past.

Dorothy’s textile ability was not limited to just making quilts. Dorothy was also a very fine milliner and she produced some stunning hats and fascinators.

Dorothy loved dyeing fabric and used all sorts of medium to obtain amazing results…………from leaves and fungi and other plant matter to commercial dyes………there was no limit to what Dorothy was capable of producing. As much as Dorothy loved producing textile items, she also loved teaching what she knew to other like minded people. 

Dorothy did quite a few pieces of work on consignment and this was always challenging for her, as she had hoped the client would be satisfied with her interpretation of their request. 

An exhibition of some of Dorothy’s masterpieces will be on display during the festival. 

N.B. The location of the exhibition was not available at time of printing.  Please check Jumpers and Jazz website for more information.

Written by Mavis Simpson 


Dorothy and her nephew Julian (aged 8) worked together to create this Farm Scene quilt.