“late summer evenings” quilt

weeks after finishing my latest quilt i finally came around to take proper photos.

the quilt top is an antique linen serviette from france, bought from La Grosse Toile, used, mended, stained. the backing is merchant & mills linen renaissance. i hand quilted it with vintage embroidery thread that i hand dyed with indigo, tagetes, onions, pine and sequioa cones.

many of my ideas come from interacting with materials, often with no specific direction or predetermined goal. this usually means keeping textiles out and near me, handling them, folding and unfolding them, touching them every now and then, looking at them up close, spending time with them. when i received this antique french linen serviette, i immediately knew i did want to keep it intact and not cut it into pieces. it had small stains, mended areas and it had clearly had a history of everyday use, but the fabric was still strong. while i had intended to use it for a stitching or embroidery project, i was pondering a quilting project at the time and after spending some time with it, i found the size (100cm x 80cm) really fitting for a lap quilt.

the serviette spoke to me about rural surroundings, the last days of summer or the first days of autumn, where the sun still warms the land but the evenings are chilly once the sun has gone down, resting after a hot and long day of work, the golden light in august and september, terracotta floors, simple food, the smell of fresh sweat on human skin, goosebumps on sun-warmed arms, that time of year where your body still stores the heat of the summer but there’s a hint of autumn in the air and you try to hold on to those last moments of summer and light.

this quilt is meant to be put over your lap or wrapped around your shoulders on those kind of evenings. or to curl up under while listening to people talk, blackbirds singing their evening song and crickets chirping in the grass and the land slowly letting go of the day’s heat.

the linen serviette gives the quilt a wonderful heaviness, the fabric cool to the touch and immediately warming up to the skin. the plants i used for thread dyeing all carry the warmth of summer in them in one way or another.

i’m really happy with how the quilt turned out, and always and again suprised of how my first idea and the final pieces are often so far apart and still connected.

here are a few more images so you can see the textures and quality of the textiles:

sourcing textiles

i’m not sure if i ever have written explicitly about sourcing fabric and materials. so this is the first part of a series of posts where i plan to document my sourcing process as well as the information i find around some of the fabric or thread i find.

textiles are a material that store history and stories really well. not only fabric our clothes are made from, but also the material itself. cones or skeins of thread, bolts of fabric before they are made into a finished product, they also store their history, the history of the people who made them, the history of the area and the landscape they come from, the history of whole industries, many of them gone and taken to areas of the world where human labour is cheaper and laws are less protective of human and environmental health. and to be honest, also the cheaply produced fabric and clothes we can buy from fast fashion chains, they also store their stories of human suffering and exploitation.

most of the fabric and thread i work with is sourced second hand, meaning i look for vintage or antique materials, mostly bought from private people who sell their own stashes, or stashes they inherited from their mums or grandmums, stuff found in attics, deadstock from shops,… this means i can’t really plan what to buy, but over time i have found out what i like in terms of fabric to work with, materials, colours, patterns. the appeal of vintage and antique fabric and thread to me is mostly haptic, often these fabrics and thread have a different feel to them, the way they were manufactured was different to more modern processes, the fibers were different, and all this translates into a different tactile experience i enjoy a lot. just touching these pieces gives me a lot of joy and comfort.

sourcing like this requires patience, constantly learning about materials, a good amount of guesswork and probablility management (often i rely on blurry images to decide if a fabric is worth buying, or what material it is, or its age and quality). a lot of my project ideas come from the interaction with material. i often sit for a while with a newly sourced length of fabric, i watch it, i touch it, i manipulate it, then i often store it for a while, until an idea emerges. and more often than not, i do have a piece of fabric and threads i need for this particular idea to work. i think that’s really because material mostly inspires me, and it mostly are materials i have touched and spent some time with. also, the pieces of fabric in my stash impose their own limitations – i can’t go and buy more of that thread or fabric, simply because it’s all there is; hardly ever do i find the exact same material twice with the way i source. and this limitation also helps to define projects. sometimes it’s frustrating too, of course, when there’s the perfect fabric, but just not enough. but honestly, this mostly doesn’t happen. the fabrics and threads find their projects eventually.

another decision i made a longer while ago is to focus on local textiles. the most wonderful antique fabric from basically anywhere in the world is available 24 hours a day via the internet. and i fall for many of them, there is endless beauty in antique textile material and skill. but i also realized that i knew more about some foreign textiles than i knew about the textile history of europe or austria or vorarlberg, where i was born. as i began to look locally, it connected me back to the textile history in my family, made me appreciate the story of textiles in my area much more, and i felt a much deeper connection to the textiles i work with. some are childhood memories, like certain kinds of fabric my grandmas or my mum used, certain colours or patterns i remember that were trendy when i was a kid, or already vintage but as my grandma used them they became part of my memories, the feel of some of the local antique linen that makes me happy every time i touch it – i think these aspects made my work much more connected to myself. i still cherish and work with some pieces of fabric that are from far away regions of the world, like a small gifted piece of vintage japanese silk, that is a joy to work with, but my focus for sourcing has totally shifted to vintage and antique local and everyday fabric, patterns that feel timeless or even modern when taken out of their historical context, and a crafting or production process that is still visible and tangible, like true selvedges or old weaving pattern.

this all to give you some context into my thoughts and process when it comes to sourcing.

one of my latest find is a bolt of flannel dating to the mid-50ies. it still had the tags on with price, dimensions and design name, brand and stock take notes, which in this case made the dating really easy.

the storage marks and yellowing are very visible on the close up photos, which means the cloth will need a good soak for about 24 hours in warm water with baking soda (sodium hydrogencarbonate). then i’ll put them in the washing machine, again adding some baking soda, to rid it of all yellowing, sizing and smells (wasn’t a problem with this fabric, but sometimes old fabric stores all kind of smells).

while unfolding for soaking i found pencil marks added every 5 meters, i guess they were left there to speed up stock takes.

i usually keep all tags and ephemera that come with some fabric i find. some comes with no info at all, sometimes the previous owners share some of the origins, and sometimes tags and scribbled notes help with finding out more.

this fabric was made by herrburger & rhomberg, most likely in dornbirn, vorarlberg; the name of the design is glocker-flanell. the company itself does not exist anymore, as far as i know; a daughter company produces polyfill nowadays.

i think i’ll hand sew something cosy and comfortable with this really soon, only need to find the perfect pattern. i can also imagine this fabric as one side of a quilt, one that is perfect to keep warm and safe when the world is cold and harsh.

i wonder – what materials inspire your work? how do you source it? what qualities are important to you in the materials you work with?

tiny quilts III

a few more recent tiny quilts. the tops were some of my first patchworking experiments with patterns and colour. they had been lying around for over a year now, i think, and rather than leaving them as scraps, i decided to make them into finished objects – more tiny quilts.



front: vintage and reclaimed cotton; back: reclaimed cotton/linen mix; batting: cotton; quilted with vintage perle cotton thread by harlander ag.

front: vintage and reclaimed cotton; back: reclaimed cotton; batting: cotton; quilted with vintage perle cotton thread by harlander ag.

front: reclaimed linen and cotton; back: reclaimed cotton/linen mix; batting: wool broadcloth; quilted with vintage cotton thread, hand dyed with madder root.

front: new, vintage and reclaimed cotton; back: vintage italian cotton; batting: reclaimed flannel; quilted with vintage perle cotton thread by harlander ag.

pencil for size:

making these tiny quilts every now and then is something i have come to really enjoy. they don’t take long, encourage experimenting and play and they are just friendly little objects once they are finished.


CW: femicide, violence, murder

vintage & second hand embroidery thread and wool on antique linen. 67x31cm.

31 is the number of murdered women in austria for the year of 2021. 31 women killed, 30 of which – allegedly – by their (ex)partners, acquaintances or family members. (source: autonome österreichische frauenhäuser)

according to wikipedia, femicide is a hate crime term, broadly defined as “the intentional killing of women or girls because they are female”, though definitions vary depending on its cultural context. Feminist author Diana E. H. Russell was the first person to define and disseminate this term in modern times, in 1976. She defines the word as “the killing of females by males because they are female.” Other feminists place emphasis on the intention or purpose of the act being directed at females specifically because they are female. Others include the killing of females by females.”

at some point in spring of 2021, instead of helplessly following the news about every single case of yet another murdered woman, i decided to start keeping count; to fill a space with stitches for every woman killed.

this piece serves several purposes; it’s a way of keeping count, of documentation. it’s a way of sitting with emotions around gendered violence, women’s rights, gender stereotypes and the patriarchy. it is also a way of activism, making something visible, or as my friend marlies puts it, “das unbegreifliche berührbar machen” – which losely translates to “making the ungraspable tangible”. and it’s a coping strategy within the means of my work with textiles and threads.

most of this piece was stitched very intuitively. my approach was to read one or two sources, then choose a kind of thread, thread my needle and start stitching without planning or thinking ahead too much. usually my fingers find their way and a pattern surfaces, i just follow. so there is meaning in each and every stitched space, but mostly, if at all, only visible to me. which, at the same time i think leaves space for your own thoughts, emotions and associations when viewing or interacting with this piece.

17.1.2021, aschach an der steyr; 71 years
17.1.2021, anger bei weiz; 61 years
3.2.2021, wien; 45 years
23.2.2021, wien; 28 years
5.4.2021, wien; 35 years
22.3.2021, salzburg; 22 years
7.4.2021, graz; 38 years
22.4.2021, neulengbach; 64 years
29.4.2021, wien; 35 years
5.5.2021, wien; 72 years
6.5.2021, wals-siezenheim; 50 & 76 years
11.5.2021, vöcklabruck; 79 years
12.5.2021, wien; 36 years
26.6.2021, wien; 13 years
17.7.2021, wien; 36 years
21.7.2021, graz; 17 years
28.8.2021, fürstenbrunn – großgmain; 44 years
30.8.2021, maishofen; 71 years
13.9.2021, wien; 35 years
13.9.2021, wien; 37 years
20.10.2021, deutsch-brodersdorf; 42 years
29.10.2021, bürs; 47 years
8.11.2021, weerberg; 86 years
14.11.2021, wien; 37 years
16.11.2021, villach; 29 years
19.11.2021, innsbruck; 50 years
21.11.2021, eibesbrunn; 49 years
24.11.2021, innsbruck; 28 years
30.11.2021, wien; 60 years
16.12.2012, hohenems; 35 years

update 18.2.2022:

talisman/object of comfort

a first (hopefully in a series of more to come) talisman or object of comfort made after an idea and pattern by victoria gertenbach, whose work i find really inspiring.
if i remember correctly, i picked up the stone on the shore of lake constance. i covered it with bits and pieces of linen and cotton scraps; stitched with vintage buttonhole silk.

i find this way of embellishing and interacting with an object from nature a very calming process, and it adds another layer of meaning and memories on collected materials. i do have a habit of picking up things when going on walks, they may be visually attractive in some way, or i like the touch, feel and texture of them and playing with them while the are in my pockets, or just holding them; it’s a comforting thing to do. over the years, even though i only keep special ones, i have built up a small collection of various of these stones, pieces of wood, shells, sea glass pieces or other things, and i look forward to work a few more of them into a collaboration with nature and memory.

“afternoon sunshine” quilt

my second quilt. hand pieced from vintage fabric and merchand & mills linen (purple & green/yellow). i dyed the vintage fabric pieces myself, two of which are vintage handkerchief fabric from france (mouchoirs de cholet), and the third is vintage austrian linen (schneeberg webe, pottendorfer spinnerei und felixdorfer weberei aktiengesellschaft). the dye was made from sequoia cones and a mix of pine cones. the quilting thread is vintage embroidery thread, also plant dyed by me (tagetes, onion, pine and sequoia cones).

measurements are approx. 100cm x 100 cm.

more tiny quilts

two more tiny quilts have been added to the collection – one i made and forgot to share previously, and one i started in august and only finished now (in november). sometimes my open projects stay open for a long time until i feel the urge to finish them. but they are completed eventually.

both are hand pieced from scraps or second hand fabric, both have a flanell batting from an old bedsheet.

here’s the whole bunch of them. i suspect, the gang will keep growing…

array top

at the moment it feels like i’m slowly working through all the things i made and collected during summer time – my finished projects i never came around to share, my dyed fabrics and threads, the plants collected and dried for dyeing, all the summer memories stowed away for darker times with less sunlight and time outside.

summer felt quiet and peaceful, and only in looking back i realise how productive (not in a neo-liberal/capitalist sense) i really was. i spent so much time with the indigo vat, started and finished hand sewing and stitching projects, collected flowers and other dye materials, a regular creative practice, and i think that is also why the summer did feel so peaceful and bright. my focus was where it needed to be, my creative work was woven through my days and the rhythm of it all felt very right and natural. i think i need to remember that…

one of my hand sewing projects was a hand sewn version of the array top by papercut made from vintage/antique fabric. the fabric dates to some time between 1920 and 1950 according to the old lady i bought it from and a hidden away stock take note i found inside the bolt. it feels like a linen/cotton mix and sewed up really nicely.

it wears really nicely with leggins or jeans, and i like how the fabric seems to shift colour depending on how the light hits it. my arms are really long, so for a version with puffed up sleeves i’d need to cut the arms a bit longer, but that’s an easy alteration to make to the pattern. maybe a shirt version with puff sleeves in a cosy winter-y fabric at some point?

all photos taken and (c) by H. Oesterle

twining/cording with natural fibers

last winter i came across a short tutorial by zak foster on instagram on how to twine fibers into a cord, which, curious as i am, i needed to try right away. it’s an easy way to keep your fingers busy basically anywhere. i find it a very calming practice, as my fingers tend to search for things to fiddle around with (anything in my pockets, stuff i find an keep in my hands, surfaces i like the feel of,…). now i seem to have developed a habit of finding out if fibers cord well or not, and it somehow also feeds my foraging habit, not only trying to collect plants that yield dye, but also fibers that may or may not cord. my recent discovery are spider plant leaves (chlorophytum comosum) – i have several pots of them in my flat, and it turns out the dried leaves that i usually just throw away make a nice material for twining. foraging at home, how nice is that?!

my first experiments looked like this…

after learning that dandelion stems also make nice material for cording, i collected a bunch to dry them at home once they had bloomed and grown long stems.

turns out our clothes rack works really well for drying plant fibers

other fibers i have tried are rhubarb, rush, various grass species, of course it also works with thread

here’s some dried rush waiting to be rehydreted and corded

i don’t know where this will lead me, but it’s a nice way to play around with ideas, texture, materials, being present in nature, it sharpens my view of plants. and i also find it a very practical skill – making rope, twine, quickly tying something together, a bunch of flowers, closing a bag, wrapping a present…

if you want to have a try yourself, here’s a short tutorial i recorded in summer. let me know if you give it a go!

and a few more random inages of cordage experiments

and one quick last word on foraging – make sure you wait until the plants had a chance to let go of their seeds, don’t take too many from the same place, make sure the plants are not under any kind of protection or conservation status, make sure they are not harmful or toxic, and give thanks to nature when you take plants with you.