Monthly Archives: May 2014

St Peter’s Cathedral – ecclesiastical embroidery


High altarSt Peter’s Anglican Cathedral stands proudly above the river Torrens, looking down on central Adelaide – an apt landmark for the City of Churches. Airlie Black, convenor of the Cathedral’s Needlework Guild and daughter of Thomas Thornton Reed, the sixth Bishop of Adelaide, took me on a tour of the Cathedral to learn more about their treasured collection of needlework. According to the church records the Guild of St Peter was formed in 1885. Among other things, their task was to take care of the altar linen and to make the choir robes. From 1879 to 1900 the Guild of St Paul, a group of expert needlewomen (most of them belonging to both groups) worked on the needlework items of the Cathedral. They made frontals, stoles, altar linen, cassocks, surplices, kneelers and more. Some of their handiwork is still in use today.

Admiring the Santa Ecclesia Banner

Admiring the Santa Ecclesia Banner

The Cathedral has an impressive collection of banners dating from 1895 to 1993. Some of the older ones, now too fragile for use, have been restored and stabilised and are on permanent display. The Santa Ecclesia Banner dating from 1902 was one of those on display this month. Although its richness and opulent silk embroidery are still obvious, it is in a state of disrepair and is currently awaiting restoration.

Santa Ecclesia Banner damage

Santa Ecclesia Banner damage





The Cathedral’s vestments are a sight to behold. Airlie opened drawer after drawer and door after door, revealing the most gorgeous sets of vestments – some old and some new; some with a great story and some who are still earning their story. One of my favourite sets is the Reed cope, mitre and hood. It was embroidered by the Sisters of Bethany in England in 1957 and presented to Bishop Reed by the students of the Anglican Schools in Adelaide. The cope is richly embroidered with a design depicting Australian plant, bird and animal life.

Reed cope with Australian themed embroidery

Reed cope with Australian themed embroidery

Airlie Black with the Noils Silk Mass set

Airlie Black with the Noils Silk Mass set

Another one of my favourites is the Noils Silk High Mass set with Aboriginal-style ornamental bands. It was designed by John and Ross Moriarty and made by Audrey Ball in 1987. According to Airlie, it is a favourite with the congregation too.

Altar of Lady Chapel. Lily themed kneelers visible in lower left corner

Altar of Lady Chapel. Lily themed kneelers visible in lower left corner

Throughout the cathedral, I saw many canvas-worked kneelers and cushions. Most of them have a terra cotta colour background to not compete with the equally beautiful floor mosaics. The set that appealed to me the most were the ones in the Lady Chapel, an intimate and serene space behind the high altar. These were designed by Kaye Lynas and made by the Cathedral Guild during 1986. They feature a lily – the symbol of Mary, mother of Jesus. This design is carved into the altar and is carried on through the linen and needlepoint in the chapel.

Ivory brocade silk frontal with velvet super frontal

Ivory brocade silk frontal with velvet super frontal




The most striking embroidered items in the Cathedral must be the altar frontals. On the day I visited the altar was covered with an ivory brocade silk frontal with a central ornately embroidered cross motif. It was topped with an equally ornate velvet super frontal. These items date from the Victorian era and had in recent years been restored by the Needlework Guild under the guidance of Mary Jose, an expert textile conservationist.

Guidons, colours, ensign and banners

Guidons, colours, ensign and banners

On the left-hand side of the main axis of the Cathedral, around the Christus Rex, below the William Pope window, is a fine display of twenty guidons, colours, ensign and banners. These have been laid up here by South Australian regiments and battalions for safe keeping in perpetuity. They are consecrated objects which were in times past looked upon by the members of their regiment as symbols of safe refuge. They represent a large slice of South Australia’s history as some date from pre-Federation days, some from World War I and some from World War II. They represent honour and sacrifice, and are grouped to show that loyalty to country is senior to loyalty to the regiment but central to that is the symbol of Ultimate Sacrifice.

It is the perfect place to end my tour of the Cathedral. I feel honoured to share in this rich history and tradition, and it makes me happy to know that history, religion and beauty can be brought together with fabric and thread.

With gratitude to Airlie Black who took the time to show me around and share her vast knowledge with me. Some of the information in this article was taken from St Peter’s Anglican Cathedral Adelaide Handbook 2008 and the Guidons, colours, ensign & banners pamphlet available from the Cathedral shop.

Latvian embroidery in Adelaide


Embroidered detail on cap

One of my favourite things about South Australia is the diversity of culture I experience every day. Although we are all Australian, every one of us brings something different to the community. That’s why the Migration Museum is one of my favourite places to visit. Not only are all the exhibits of high quality, many of them interactive, but I love the layout of the place. From big open spaces into narrow passages and small nooks, there are surprises around every corner.

Embroidered shirt sleeve

Embroidered shirt sleeve

And it is alive! Every exhibit exudes a presence – a life – a real person, with real experiences. Whether they were adventures or ordeals, they tell a story. The museum is always filled with people – families, school excursions and tourist groups. They can all relate to the stories in there, as ultimately it is their stories.


Needlelace on shirt collar

One cultural group who made a big impact in South Australia is the Latvian community. As soon as I saw the gorgeous embroidery in the special Latvian exhibition currently on at the museum, I had to know more! Presented by the Latvian Museum in Adelaide – the only one in Australia, the exhibition tells the story of the first Latvian migrants who settled here, predominantly after the Second World War. They have a rich musical tradition and an active Latvian school where they encourage their, now Australian, children to hold onto their language, heritage and unique traditions.


A beaded cap

Mara Kolomitsev, the curator at the Latvian Museum, explained some of the beautiful costumes to me. Latvia is divided into four areas – Latgale, Vidzeme, Kurzeme and Zemgale – each with their own style of traditional clothing. The women’s costumes consist of a woven skirt, heavily embroidered shirt and shawl, and knitted socks with leather shoes. Married women wear a richly embroidered cap and the maidens or unmarried women wear a crown. The crowns are sometimes made of fresh flowers and sometimes of ribbon, beads and embroidery embellished fabric. It is always beautiful and colourful. The men’s clothes are in general much simpler with less decoration and consist of woollen trousers and long jacket with a belt, a cotton shirt and a felt or leather hat.


Knitted mittens

In Latvia, it is tradition to present friends, family and loved ones with hand knitted mittens on important occasions such as birthdays, weddings and anniversaries. The knitting includes intricate patterns and symbols of family and cultural significance. There are many symbols, however, most designs are variations of a limited number of basic elements.  The patterns express religious and mystical ideas and evolved over centuries. It was believed that these symbols protected the wearer against evil spirits.


Collar detail

The Latvian exhibition is on at the Migration Museum until 12 June 2014.
The Latvian Museum is in Wayville, Adelaide

Are you an Australian from Latvian descent?  Do you own any embroidered or knitted heirlooms? I would love to see them. Please show and tell!

May is History Month in Adelaide. To learn more go to

(Note: these photos were all taken at the Latvian Museum as the lighting in the Migration Museum did not allow for good photography, but there are some beautiful pieces in that exhibition.)

Embroiderers’ Guild of South Australia Members Exhibition

Rather late than never, they say. This post has been sitting in my to-be-published folder for a while as it was originally meant to be published somewhere else. That didn’t happen, but seeing that there is so much talent displayed here I decided to share it here…

Touch of Venice bling mask


The Annual Members Exhibition of the Embroiderers’ Guild of South Australia was held during February and March as part of the very popular Adelaide Fringe 2014.

The theme, A Touch of Venice, inspired work of excellent quality and creativeness.

Every conceivable style of embroidery was represented – from the more formal counted thread work to the very elaborate beadwork, crewel, and stump work, as well as the more freestyle thread paintings. The works varied from open cloths and garments to framed masterpieces and even included a fair amount of three-dimensional works.

Una Palazzo Veneziano d'Oro

Una Palazzo Veneziano d’Oro

The Una Palazzo Veneziano d’Ora, an original masterpiece produced by the Linen Lace Group was surely the star of the show. The work was inspired by the incense burner from the San Marco Cathedral in Venice.

Carol Stacey from the Linen Lace Group tells us how it all came about:

“When people think of the embroidery techniques of Linen Lace they usually think of mats, doyleys and possibly cushions. The group wanted to show that there was much more you could do with these skills so decided to do a 3D project. As the theme was A Touch of Venice we were thinking of St Marks Square and the Winged Lion, but after seeing a picture of an incense burner from that period we were inspired. It took the group 18 months, a lot of samplers and a lot of discussions. New techniques and ways of doing things were learnt, original ideas were discarded as the project started taking shape and although we always knew we could do it we were not sure that we would complete it in time. It was a great collaborative effort and a lot of fun to do. We all learnt things and are keen to show that traditional techniques can be used to do wonderful creative modern embroidery.”

winning mask 2014

winning mask 2014

 This year 225 entries were received. Arrienne Wynen, President of the Guild, explains how the judging took place and which prizes were up for grabs:

“The Peg Sadler Award for Original Embroidery was established in 2008 by Peg’s family in memory of their mother. Peg was a long standing member and supporter of the Embroiderers’ Guild with a keen interest in design. This award seeks to recognise outstanding original design as well as excellence in technique. All styles of embroidery are eligible. This year, as the overall standard was very high, the judges decided to also award highly commended certificates. Of the 225 entries, 95 were original designs and qualified for consideration. As the exhibition had a Venetian theme it was decided to award a prize for the best mask, another difficult choice for the judges.”

Venetian Lace Box

Venetian Lace Box

The recipients of the awards are:

The Peg Saddler Award: The linen lace group – Una Palazzo Veneziano d’Ora
Mask competition: Barbara Mullan
Highly commended: Sheana Davies – Tresoro di Vida bejewelled box
Highly commended: Arrienne Wynen – Venetian Lace box

Highly commended: Pat Michell – Venetia – gondola shaped mask
Highly commended: Beryl Kerslake – Pigeon at St Mark’s – photo realism & 3D
Highly commended: Margaret Lee – Chinese embroidery of fish – Prosperity
Highly commended: Christine P Bishop – 17th-century book cover
People’s choice: Margaret Lee – Chinese embroidery of Border Collie- Morag

Pigeon at St Mark's

Pigeon at St Mark’s

To learn more about the Guild, its activities, classes and groups visit their website at