Transformation: Pants to bags

Once upon a time, (well, it was just before the year 2000 began at a folk festival, actually), I bought this pair of Thai fishing pants.  I had never seen a garment like them before, and I had never owned anything hand woven before I made the big decision to buy them.  They have had some mending and a lot of wear, and finally, it has come to this.

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They once had a green pattern, but it has long since washed and worn away. They have been in the cupboard where garments for re-use go awaiting a good idea for a few months. This week I decided that this fabric was too worn to be the outer of a bag, but it would probably make a suitable inner lining. I cut them apart, ripping the beautifully finished seams away from the main fabric and cutting off the hems and tie. The bigger pieces readily made a lining for this bag, cut from fabric left over when I made a dear friend a cabbage print shirt.

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In the end, I sewed together the leftovers and ended up with enough to line two more bags.

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I can’t remember where I got this lovely batik fabric, but I think it was a garage sale. It was square, with a border around the edge. Perhaps a small table cloth?  Perhaps a wrap?

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Now it is three bags!

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As I looked at all that now remains of those much loved pants, I had a thought.  The seams and hems and tie would do a perfectly good job of tying up a dye bundle. And needless to say, I couldn’t stop at four bags!

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Filed under Sewing

So much string

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Part of our holiday was spent staying with a long standing and treasured friend in a beachside suburb of Sydney.  It was a wonderful time but also an unseasonably cold, wet and windy one, so there was more walking than swimming and more knitting time than I anticipated.  The plants along that coast are just perfect for basketry.  Or in my case, string making.  Here, dianellas growing right by the sea.

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Here, a garden that could not have been planned with more care if landscaped by basket weavers.  For the first time ever, I made string from pandanus leaves, while a bunch of us did a long cliff top walk.  Just glorious! I gave it to one of our lovely companions immediately she commented on it.  First she tried it as a necklace, and then she settled on adding it to her rather gorgeous hat.  Those orange parts are the base of the leaf… she liked them, and clearly they fit with her hat’s colour scheme

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I also made string with cordylines from here and there, picked up on walks, beginning when we were on the Mornington peninsula staying in a place with immensely long leaved cordyline.  I tried twining pieces of shell and coral picked up on the beach into the string (successfully!  I will do that again)… I taught someone else to make string.  I gave string away.  I left string in people’s homes to be found later.  I made string while sitting, chatting and walking.  I came home festooned with string.

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Then one night after we arrived home I was playing guitar and the string was very much in the way.  So I gave away all the looser string on my wrist and now I have just this left as a holiday memento.


Filed under Basketry

Cotton socks

My mother can’t do wool socks.  It took her a while to explain this to me. Partly because the first pair I knit her were made from crochet cotton (because I was ignorant and it was cheap and pretty).  Those socks may have violated some key principles of received sock knitting wisdom, but eventually she told me that they were her favourites, that she likes that they are short, and that she loves to wear them when she gardens.  The more complicated ones I knit from fabulous sock yarns made mostly of wool, she can neither wear nor bear to part with.  But I am glad she finally told me so I didn’t have to foist this curious arrangement on her with yet more unwearable pairs!2015-12-26 11.50.56

Quite some time ago I was wondering what might work for her and looking for a wool free sock yarn I had managed to find in the shop on some previous visit.  There was no more wool free sock yarn to be had that day in that place.  However, I came across this Misti alpaca, cotton and silk blend.  I cast on with enthusiasm, and then they sat languishing for months due to concern that I might not have enough yarn to finish them.  It is hard to say what it could be about a long period in the naughty corner that might cause more yarn to magically appear in the knitting bag, but apparently hope springs eternal!

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These socks came on holiday part finished, and they were completed in double quick time.  They have been handed over and now I’ve even had a cheery text from Mum which shows them on her feet.  She says they fit, and more importantly, that they are comfy!  I am sure  a moment after she took that snap, she whipped them off her too-hot feet and set them aside to wait for winter…

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Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing

Experiments with E Cinerea

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It all began with a trip to the Adelaide Hills to visit a friend who had just moved into a new house one weekend.  On the way, I saw a massive E Cinerea with a huge variety of leaf types and sizes.  On the way back, we made a brief stop to harvest a few of the leaves overhanging a car park.

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That evening, we went to my parents’ for dinner, and I asked my father if he had any metal disks.  He helpfully offered quite a range of recycled washers and then asked a lot of questions.  I underestimated his interest in understanding what I’m doing and how he could help me out!  This led him to suggest bottle tops (up there for thinking!  Why didn’t I have that thought? Surely I have heard this idea before…).  He also offered me clamps.  He really felt that bulldog clips (my suggestion) might not be strong enough.  He had a collection of tired old clamps he didn’t want, so I chose some and headed home with all kinds of ideas.

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There was ironing and folding and general faffing, until I crammed all I could into the pot.  The pot, it must be said, is not designed for G clamps in large sizes and numbers.

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I like the results a lot, though when you try any approach new to you, there is always a lot to experiment with. Perhaps the bulldog clips would actually be better?

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In this piece the holes in the piece of metal I used have allowed the dye bath in to create dots…

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I tried some silk…

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And I love these strips, inspired by Jude Hill’s indigo moons. Only different.  I found myself wondering what shape I would really like to create, and answering with the thought that the shape of a leaf is very difficult to improve upon.  I love leaves so much.  The second round hit the dye bath in double quick time!

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Filed under Dye Plants, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing

More summer preserving

The harvest is continuing round our place.  One friend dropped a bag of figs and grapes on the front doorstep.  I took a bag of plums over to hers on a run!

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Then I went to visit another friend who is house-bound after surgery, taking a care pack of salads and mains.  She asked me to deal with her nectarine tree.  It was so heavily laden!  I collected a huge bucket of fallen spoiled fruit (things such as this are known at our house as ‘chicken happiness’).  Then I picked fruit for my friend and another visitor, and then two more buckets.  Then I cleared fruit out of her neighbour’s gutter!  The tree was still covered in unripe fruit.

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I shared nectarines with two other households and then put our share in jars, since we have a young nectarine tree which is bearing enough to keep us in fresh fruit.  Oh, and there were more plums. Just one jar this time.

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There was also a handover of a HUGE bag of frozen hibiscus flowers from a dedicated friend, bless her heart!  They had to wait a couple of days, and then I decided it was time to use the only dependable looking big jar I had for them.  I wasn’t sure they would all fit, but in the end, with defrosting and squeezing … they did.

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In went fermented citrus peel water and aluminium foil water (thank you to India Flint for yet another ingenious use of kitchen discards that are neither worm happiness nor chicken happiness)… fabric, threads, and so on… (last week’s batch are here for size comparison).

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I filled another, smaller jar with kino from an E Sideroxylon I had been saving, and another (slightly less) large jar, albeit with a rusty lid which might not seal, with my mother’s dried coreopsis flowers. That was all the dye pot would take for processing.

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Three more for the pantry shelf.  It is so interesting to see such a deep green already developing in the hibiscus flower jar…







Filed under Dye Plants, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures

Holiday sock knitting

There came a point in our Late December-early January holiday travels when I turned to my beloved and admitted that I might run out of sock yarn.  Is this the time for a confession?  I pre-wrote posts that could auto-load while we were gone.  And I brought back a pile of knitted goodies which might take some time to show and tell.

But back to the holiday yarn shortage.  I had all the sock yarn I owned with me, except a mighty skein of handspun sock yarn that is finer than 4 ply (fingering).  I have lost my nerve on that for the time being.  I had reached the end of the sock yarn in my stash. I did have a lot of yarn with me, bound for things other than socks, but still.  I suspect I am harder company in the absence of sock yarn, because my beloved insisted on acquiring more as a Christmas gift, and fast!

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Pretty soon I had worked my public transport app skillz and got us to a yarn shop in Melbourne.  We left with three balls of sock yarn.  Nothing local or naturally dyed about it, ahem. Here the first sock is out at a lunch of kedgeree.

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What a fun knit the first pair were… holiday time is knitting time, so they were finished in Coogee at a friend’s house in super quick time. Needless to say the second pair were cast on without delay.

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And now this pair have gone to live with one of our treasured friends.  You have to love people who get a text message asking if they want a pair of hand knit socks and demanding to know the length of their foot who respond enthusiastically and with the required information.  You know, because socks are such urgent stuff.  In midsummer!

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Filed under Knitting

New year’s guerilla gardening

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Some of the guerilla plantings from last year are coming along very well indeed!  Shrubs are looking shrub like.  Ground covers are bushing out.

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I made two trips with silver leaved saltbush plants (two trips doubles the amount of water I can apply, and there is a parched planting nearby).  This is prime growing time for saltbush so hopefully they will take off!

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I have continued adding to this area. I think it is looking great, and I have larger plants in seedling form that I can add now that they will be protected.  There is another spot in the neighbourhood where a house has been bought and sold and the new owner really likes the plantings I have made beside his driveway.  He has given them little sticks so that no one can miss the fact of their existence, and my beloved has seen him watering them–and had a chat!  They are really growing well now.  And all of this is a comfort because last week the council came through weeding and tending, and the next day an entire planting of twenty or thirty plants began to wilt in the way that plants that have been poisoned do.  I have no idea why they decided on poison after almost a year in which they have come by several times.  The plants were getting to a nice solid size… and perhaps they were judged to be too big.  I guess a guerilla gardener has to take casualties in her stride and keep propagating…

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Filed under Neighbourhood pleasures

Seasonal preserving

Here in the wide brown land it is high summer and stone fruit is in season.  Settle down, all you folk in midwinter on the far side of the planet!  There has been an outbreak of illness and surgery in my extended family, and it was with regret that my father informed me that their blood plums would be ripening while my parents were away visiting and supporting those in need.  I draw your attention to the basket, evidently made by either my grandma or my grandpa on Mum’s side.

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My parents can really grow things.  Fruit, flowers, vegetables, ferns, natives… these plums are enormous!  They already had more than they could use, so I pulled out my Fowlers Vacola bottling outfit and set to work.  I think I now understand that this is what folk in North America call canning.  As a child, I was amazed to think people in the US had a way to put things in cans at home.  North American supplies are now available here along with those from Italy and other parts of Europe.  But this is what I grew up with.  I now understand it was quite an Anglo-Australian thing.  Friends with families from other parts of Europe sometimes used different processing and preservation methods and sometimes just used jars from anything consumed in their household to bottle fruit.

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I love that food preserving is becoming hip at the moment–a bit–but when I was a child it was viewed as a necessity by my family, along with making jam.  Now, this kind of equipment is readily available second hand and cheaply.  For my parents it was a huge outlay and we had the smallest, most basic kit available.  I scored the next model up (bigger but still basic) for a few dollars at a garage sale, something that could have saved my mother hours of what she clearly experienced as drudgery.

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Well, this time she can have some glowing ruby jars of stewed plums without any drudgery at all, bless her.  And while I was on the project I decided to clear the freezer out a bit and do a round of dye jars using India Flint’s Stuff, Steep and Store Method.

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Hibiscus flowers, daylily flowers, hollyhocks, and clean, scoured avocado peel (fresh from lunch).  Into the jars with pre-mordanted silk embroidery thread they went.

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In the whole scheme of summer preservation, I also collected mizuna seed, woad seed and some ruby saltbush seed and set up to save them.  There was such an abundance of woad seed, and purple dye is so amazing, I put up a jar of that too.  I am looking forward to trying the agrimony seed that Wendi of the Treasure has sent when the time is right.  And to opening these jars in the future!

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Filed under Natural dyeing

More summer socks

Sock knitting is an all year sport for me, and has been for years. And so, the procession of summer socks continues.  This yarn from Aotearoa/New Zealand is a lovely soft mix my beloved particularly appreciates.

These were finished before the holidays began, and duly handed over despite the first heat wave topping 40C!

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Filed under Natural dyeing

Transformation: Table cloth to shirt

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I have a thing about tablecloths.  Linen tablecloths, especially. I have turned them into shirts for years.  My favourite was a shirt made from two cloths in the same design (jugs and glasses with lemon slices) in two different sizes and colours.  I loved it so much I wore it into shreds.  Right now I have a plain white shirt made from a damask tablecloth with a chrysanthemum design on it, and a sleeveless shirt (tank?) made from a ‘Beautiful Western Australia’ tablecloth which is so well worn and washed now that it is disintegrating and it is getting harder to figure out what the landmarks and floral emblems on it are (and the pictures are really tough to work out).

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Just the same, this is the top I want to wear when it is reeeally hot.  And it had been 44C here at the time of writing.  This time I chose a linen tablecloth from the stash (with just a few holes!) and settled on worn out cotton kimono interfacing.

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I have never loved interfacing, and now that I have worked my way down through the stuff I have inherited making bags, I have very little left.  I’m waiting to see if I can resist buying it and use natural fibres instead, which must have been what people did in the past, where they interfaced at all.  This is a low drama experiment.

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I like it!  This is New Look 6666, no doubt long discontinued.  Now I have checked the envelope, I see the shop it was purchased from closed years ago, and there is a good chance that I bought it second hand in any case.

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It’s simple to sew and has a nicely faced finish that makes it very comfortable.  I have adjusted it slightly to make the neckline less wide.  So, hopefully, here is my new very hot day favourite shirt.

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Filed under Sewing