Liz Williamson

A Visible Thread

A Visible Thread:
Investigating Darning as a Source of Imagery for Contemporary Practice

Liz Williamson

2004 – Present

Darning is a domestic textiles skill that hovers between visibility and invisibility. Although much remembered and replicated on contemporary clothing as decoration, darning moves into the realm of invisibility when its documentation is considered. Darning is used to prolong the life of a favourite article, clothing or domestic object for necessity, sentimentality or on principle; it is a reparative, healing and restorative process.

Variously defined as repair or embellishment, most historical references describe the process as tiresome and exacting, requiring patience and accuracy to undertake; but when completed, the reward is a good conscience, satisfaction and contentment. Tracing these historical references, definitions and explanations of darning through to its impact on the cloth surface as an embellishment and the discussion of its visible/invisible nature, the transformation of ‘a darn’ has proved to be a rich source of visual data for Williamson’s practice in contemporary Jacquard woven textiles.

Encompassing both Western and Eastern references, domestic and institutional, local and culturally specific, Williamson investigates the apparent universality of darning technique.
Aspects of this research have been exhibited in: ‘A Visible Thread’ (Sydney: Ivan Dougherty Gallery, 2004), and ‘Smartworks’ (Sydney: The Powerhouse Museum, 2006), and presented at the Textile Society of America’s Appropriation, Acculturation, Transformation symposium in 2004.


Liz Williamson, Pale Darn 1 (2003). Wool, silk, cotton; 500 x 2100 x 180 mm. Photograph: Ian Hobbs

Liz Williamson, <i>Pale Darn 1</i> (2003). Wool, silk, cotton; 500 x 2100 x  180 mm. Photograph: Ian Hobbs
Liz Williamson, <i>Grey Edge</i> (2008). Wool, cotton; 280 x 2000 mm. Photograph: Ian Hobbs
Liz Williamson, <i>A Visible Thread</i> (2006). Ivan Dougherty Gallery, COFA, Paddington, NSW.  Photograph: Ian Hobbs