In Act 4 Scene 4 of The Winter’s Tale Perdita and her adoptive family celebrate ‘the year growing ancient/ Not yet on summer’s death nor on the birth/ Of trembling winter.’ Perdita is dressed as the Queen of the Feast, her boyfriend (Prince) Florizel disguised as the humble shepherd Doricles. Perdita worries that King Polixenes, Florizel’s father, will pass by and discover their relationship – and while they’re dressed in a way that reverses their social positions. She says, Or how ShouldRead more


Chintz is a type of printed cotton cloth. The word comes from Hindi, chint, meaning ‘bright, clear, many-coloured, distinctively marked’ (the word cheetah has the same origin.) This leopard print chintz was designed by Rose Cumming (1887-1968), a Sydney-born textile designer and interior decorator who made her career in New York. Stranded there (while en route to Paris) in 1917 because of transport issues related to WWI, by 1921 Rose had a decorating business alongside an antique and fabric shop. She designed andRead more

Aloha Shirt – Greg Bear

“In the winter, I live in fleece, but come summer, Hawaiian shirts and silk. It always depends on the temperature and the weather… Since our cold conditions in the NW U.S. are not usually severe, I’m able to stick to one fabric or style for weeks at a time – not the same item, of course!” – Greg BearRead more

Wool Scarf – Rosalind Wyatt

“This scarf was hand-woven in Durban, South Africa – my Mum brought it back for me. I’ve had it for 15 years. It’s made of wool, and it’s become softer with use. It’s also really warm. It’s not necessarily something I would’ve chosen for myself but that doesn’t matter. “I just love it, and it has travelled with me, to Japan… I always take it with me when I’m travelling. There’s something so normal about it, and functional. I loveRead more

Flannie – Ben Walter

“This is the flannel shirt – in Tasmania, we say flannie – I am wearing at the moment, and so it is my favourite. Flannies are slightly warmer than regular shirts, which speaks powerfully to my island’s climate, but they are also the most comfortable thing on earth, the closest thing to loose and fuzzy skin, which is better than it sounds. They also provide allusions to certain undercurrents in Tasmanian – my friend Pete Hay would say Vandiemonian –Read more

Blue Jeans – Natasha Lester

“In Big Magic Elizabeth Gilbert talks about how she gets dressed to go to work – at her desk in her home – and some days she doesn’t feel like writing, so she puts perfume and make-up on, to seduce her creativity into appearing. It’s such an interesting idea. “When I’m in the middle of a book and I know I’ve got a full day of writing ahead and I need to immerse myself in that day of writing IRead more

zeitgeist – Jo Atherton

A word I find myself returning to is zeitgeist, a German word meaning spirit of the age. I think this is such an elegant way of expressing so many ideas, encompassed in two syllables. It sits nicely alongside my practice where I am attempting to capture the zeitgeist by intercepting the tideline. Literally, ‘time-spirit’, from zeit, ‘time’ and geist, ‘spirit’. The words for time and tide are from the same PIE source.   (Image courtesy of Jo Atherton)Read more


If something is tawdry it’s old and scrappy but worn as if it were elegant and beautiful. It’s the adjective use of the noun tawdry: a ‘tawdry’, until the late 17th century, was a woman’s necktie The word has been shortened several times: St. Audrey’s lace, a ribbon or necktie sold at the annual St. Audrey’s Day fair, held in Ely on October 17th, was altered in the mid-16th century to tawdry lace (keeping the t from saint). St. AudreyRead more

tutto il mondo e paese – Rosalind Wyatt

Harking back to my Italian heritage, this is an Italian proverb. I love the sound of it as well as the meaning. I discovered it last year in the inspiring Girard Collection at the Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe. It means, ‘people are the same the world over’ or ‘the whole world is my hometown’. It’s a vision of unity that I find inspiring and can be entirely practical in everyday life – it just depends on your perspective.Read more

kaleidoscope – Natasha Lester

Kaleidoscope means ‘observer of beautiful forms’ and was named by the inventor, scientist David Brewster. From Greek, kalos, ‘beautiful’ + eidos, ‘shape’ + skopos, ‘object of attention, to view’.   (Image: photo by Hudson Hintze)Read more


Sequins give a luminous quality to whatever they adorn: they’re luxurious and glamorous; it’s no surprise to discover the historical meaning of sequin is ‘a small gold coin’, either Italian or Turkish. The word starts with the Arabic sikkah ‘a minting die’. A minting or coin die is a type of mould – it contains the inverse of the image to be struck onto the coin. Prior to being minted, coins were made individually and engraved by hand. From sikkah the word moves to the Italian zecca ‘aRead more


Historically, genealogical charts showed ancestral line with a small, branched sign that looked like a bird’s footprint. Pedigree, from the Old French pied de gru, ‘foot of a crane’.    Read more

emptiness – John Mateer

In Buddhist and Taoist philosophy emptiness is a key concept, yet in English it becomes either something banal, ’empty of meaning’, or something haunting, frightening, bleak – almost as echoic and disturbing as the notion of death. But its more usual, shallower impression in English reminds me that language itself might give the impression of being shallow and slight even as it conveys concepts that can shape one’s world. Empty, From Old English, meaning ‘at leisure, not occupied; unmarried’, then later,Read more

summer thread

O’er faded heath-flowers spun, or thorny furze, The filmy Gossamer is lightly spread; – Charlotte Smith, from  Sonnet LXIII: The Gossamer Gossamer is the thread-like spider web seen on plants and in fields, most noticably in late autumn. From Middle English, gos (goose) and summer. Originally it refered to the time of year, when geese were in season, then the meaning changed to what could be observed at that time. A related word is the Swedish sommartrad,  ‘summer thread’.  Read more